The Connolley Problem, pt 3: A Time Span Problem

This involves the most elemental math situation: 95 days (a.k.a. 13 weeks, 4 days) and 176 pages.

The number of pages being the length of self-described ‘concerned citizen’ Dave Rado’s complaint to the UK television regulatory authority Ofcom over alleged bias in the 2007 Channel Four Television Corporation video “The Great Global Warming Swindle.” The 95 days figure is one calculated by this site for the time span covering Rado’s declaration a day after the broadcast that he would file a complaint, to the day he submitted it — Friday, March 9, 2007 to Monday, June 11, 2007, the date seen at Rado’s Complaint site Welcome page. Rado being the person I described in part 1 of this series who left out a critical item regarding his consultation with William Connolley about the complaint, and Rado being the same person in part 2 who did not reveal a critical detail about William Connolley anywhere within his complaint. Today’s post covers a fundamental problem with the number of people it takes to research and write 176 pages within this finite length of time.

Right off the bat, there is a basic problem with Rado’s own description of his involvement during that time span. He said, in what appears to be the lone description of the whole process, it took place over “a frantic three months” during which “most of my spare time was devoted to co-ordinating, editing, recruiting authors and peer reviewers, and managing the peer review process.” But notice what it said immediately prior to that: “Nathan Rive and Brian Jackson responded to my post and became my two co-lead authors.” How could a person be a co-lead author who, by his own admission, apparently did not spend the bulk of his time authoring at least a third of the complaint? In the “Backgrounds of the Authors of this Complaint” section, he reiterated this same ‘lack of writing’:

Mr Rado project-managed the compiling of this document and acted as editor.

Now, Rado does say in two places that he was typing up a transcript of the video, in his day-after-the-broadcast inquiry with William Connolley (note: Connolley’s Stoat blog is associated with the Australian-based ScienceBlogs, which lag a day behind in their time stamps relative to Rado’s UK location), and in his day-after-the-broadcast email to one person in the video.

If Rado was relegated to bashing out the transcript, who was left to author the complaint? His two co-lead authors Rive and Jackson, and the five Contributing Authors listed on pages 168-69 of his complaint, each of whom contributed limited amounts to the complaint.

• Dr Robert Marsh (those sections of this complaint that relate to IPCC Working Group I and to oceanography) and Professor Alistair Woodward (those sections of this complaint that relate to IPCC Working Group II and to the epidemiology and entomology content of the IPCC WG2 reports), Collectively, these two may have contributed no more than some paragraphs in pages 66, 84, 89 to 94, and 96. (Marsh is described in the Peer Review section as having reviewed sections he did not write, but the situation is much less clear in his Peer Review sign-off email)

• Dr Jonathan Kohler, and Monica Samec (those sections of this complaint that relate to alternative energy and development economics). Dr Kohler’s and Ms Samec’s contributions are probably all within Rado’s Ofcom complaint section 2.14, starting from page 102 to 113. If we, for matter of illustration, attribute that entire section to Kohler and Samec, and copy the non-transcript text (minus statements reproduced from other sources) into a word counter, it ends up to be around 3,760 words. Divide by two and you have 1880 words written by each. I’ll explain the reason for my word-counting exercise below.

• Dr Julie Doyle, (those sections of this complaint that relate to the Channel 4 programme’s criticisms of the media). Dr Doyle’s contributions are probably all within Rado’s Ofcom complaint section 2.0, starting from page 16 to 19, and section 2.11, pages 87 to 89. It is possible to attribute an additional eight paragraphs to Dr Doyle on pages 61, and 80-81. Using the same word-count exercise as the previous two contributing authors, Dr Doyle’s contribution could amount to a bit over 1,310 words – with a generous assumption that nothing was contributed by the three lead authors, Rado, Rive and Jackson.

See the direction this is headed? Five contributing authors who, under a potentially generous word count, contributed perhaps as much as 6,100 words to the complaint. The complaint is 176 pages in length. Some pages are over 530 words long, most seem to be around 420 words, and others containing charts or tables are in the mid 300s, while a few strangely short ones are around 200 words. Give them all a rough and possibly low average of 375 to 400 words per page, multiply that times 176 pages, and you have a complaint of between 66,000 and 70,400 words. Subtract a more generous round figure of 10,000 words contributed by the five contributing authors, and you have between 56,000 and over 60,000 words for the three lead authors to write, one of which – Rado – apparently spent most of his time not actually writing. Or, if that meant spare time away from writing, it nevertheless had to have transferred part of his writing workload onto his co-lead authors.

Remember the time frame here: 95 days, or 13 weeks, 4 days.

From my own experience of writing blog posts here – usually around 800 to 1200 words – and online articles going back to 2009, I can say it is an arduous time-consuming process to write such things. You need to formulate a coherent narrative, find and read material you refer to, fact-check whatever you find to make sure the reference is valid, polish the rough draft, etc. It takes me about five weekdays of usually 9 to 10 hours per day to put out a blog post. Using my own benchmark, if I was part of a three man team looking at a 60,000 word pile to be divided among us, I could crank out maybe 13,500 words from day one in thirteen and a half weeks. 6,500 words and six and a half weeks short of getting it submitted on time. Put me on seven days per week at the same 200 words per day – for 95 days, I still come up short by 1000 words, or by one week.

That’s from day 1 after the broadcast. The video transcription (pages 13 through 115, typically the minority text among lengthy rebuttal comments as seen in this example), had to be completed before any contributing authors could write effectively about it. The longest video passage I transcribed was the bit I used in my April 3, 2015 blog post, a mere three minutes in length, where I left out a couple of irrelevant sentences. It took more than an hour to do that, as I recall. “The Great Global Warming Swindle” is an hour and 15 minutes long. If Rado is no better at video transcribing than I am, that’s 3 minutes per hour in, say, 8 hours per day nonstop = 24 minutes per day, which turns out to be at minimum three full days. My guess it it would take him a week if not longer. But unless I missed that detail somewhere, he never mentioned the sheer tedium of slogging through it.

There’s one other critical item to consider: Ever since 2008, I had the luxury of unrestricted weekday time to write my pieces, and the luxury of my own savings and later the strings-free grants given to me by the Heartland Institute to use to pay for living expenses. Did Dave Rado, Nathan Rive and Brian Jackson have jobs, children, or other obligations limiting their writing time? If any one of them did, that just put a major dent in the available time to get 20,000 words per man written down. Erase at least a week for Rado to get the video transcript done and then take him out of the picture to do nothing more than ‘coordinating, editing, and some sort of management’, and it ends up looking like an eleven week time span where Rive and Jackson were saddled with each one writing whatever remained of 30,000 words, minus the amount of words the transcript occupies. Factor in time when draft sections are out for review among the twelve reviewers, returning with significant re-write suggestions requiring discussion and approval, and the time window becomes smaller. Ten weeks? Nine?

Does Rado offer any explanation within his Ofcom complaint web site how this monstrous writing feat was accomplished? In a page having no change from the site’s 2008 creation to the present time,

This article has not yet been written.

So the tale we are to believe is that three guys – or arguably just 2½, with minor help from others, bashed out something in the range of 60,000 words in 13 weeks and 4 days. Another opportunity to use a movie quote to drive home how badly a problem appears. From Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, when a fast-approaching blockage looms:

Between them and us, there’s not enough runway.

A fictional movie character hero sacrifices himself to make sure a gap gets no shorter. But a real life person can’t stop the advance of time. In this case, reporters or investigators might what to find out what it took to get the job done in the face of fatal under-staffing.
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Up next: “The Connolley Problem, pt 4: The Wunsch/RealClimate Thing”