There seems to be some excitement surrounding the paper by Lüdecke et al , recently published in Climate of the Past. I was the handling editor, and here I would like to clarify some points. As handling editor, I cannot obviously reveal details about the review process itself, which is only accessible to the chief-editors of the journal.
Climate of the Past is an open review journal.
The review process has two phases: the open phase, in which nominated reviewers (anonymously if they wish) and the public in general (non-anonymously) can submit comments on manuscripts. The authors may be then invited to submit a revised version, which is again evaluated by those same and/or additional reviewers. This second phase is not public. When a manuscript is submitted to Climate of the Past, call #1 is sent to the editors that match the key words provided by the authors. In no editor picks the manuscript the circle of editors that are called is subsequently widened. The last call is call #5 in which all editors receive a request to be handling editor. I picked the Lüdecke et al manuscript after call #4. It was quite obvious that there was no great excitement among editors to handle this manuscript, and I knew that the reason was probably that it could be controversial. Nevertheless, it was my area of expertise, and I decided to accept being the handling editor.
Manfred Mudelsse submitted a public comment to the manuscript by Lüdicke et al. in the open-review phase. Later, after the manuscript was accepted, after rounds of versions, he complained by email to Climate of the Past and publicly in Georg Hoffmann's blog that he had not been sent the revised versions for further review by him. He has also withdrawn his support for Climate of the Past as reviewer of any future manuscripts. Somewhat surprisingly, neither he nor Georg have cared to clarify a point that for me is quite relevant in this story: Manfred Mudelsse was invited to be an official reviewer of this manuscript. He did not accept the invitation. He has offered two versions of the reason why he did not accept: on February 26th , 2013 he explained that 'I rejected invitation to review owing to time shortage but then decided later (after reading the blogosphere) to join as guest commentator'); however , on September 27th 2012 he had written to me ' Lüdecke et al.: ich hatte gar nicht gemerkt/erinnert, dass ich als Referee vorgeschlagen war (oder gar das Review abgelehnt habe)'.
Why did Manfred forget to write, after almost 200 comments in Georg's blog, that he had rejected the nomination as official reviewer, and then only later when he become 'animated' by comments in Georg Hofmann's blog decided to,yes, become an official reviewer ?
When he published his guest comment in the open-review phase, I inquired why he had not responded to the official invitation, given that he did have an interest in reviewing the manuscript. Since I had nominated him in the first place, I tried to get him on board as official reviewer, but the journal rejected this possibility, and a posteriori I think this was a wise decision: in the moment he wrote a guest comment, he was contaminated, at least in my opinion, as an official reviewer, as it has become a priori clear that his review was going to be negative. Thereafter, I tried to nominate a reviewer that could replace him in his area of expertise: 4 further nominations were not accepted or not answered.
There were a few more public comments on this manuscript, most of them critical. However, as editor, I could not consider all these comments as independent reviews, since all of them stemmed from commentators of Georg Hoffmann's blog. I have a strong opinion that reviews of a paper have to be independent. One of the most negative breaches of the review process that we have seen pictured in the Climate Gate emails was the attempt by reviewers to agree on negative reviews, with the stated goal of bringing down a particular manuscript. As editor, my response is to give less weight to those comments that I do not consider to be independent, or to consider them as stemming from a single commenter. This is my subjective position, but I thing it is quite defensible. As a general comment, I think this is one of the weakness of the open-review process: the possibility to orchestrate a series of negative reviews that may have been prepared in collusion.
Many of the public comments on the blogosphere regarding the review process of this manuscript have been somewhat dismissive to the remaining two reviewers. I chose them, and I would have chosen them again. They are competent scientist that regularly publish in climate research journals. They may err as any one of us, but the are respected experts in this area of research, and read with care the subsequent versions of the manuscript and the public comments . They completed their reviews in good faith. Their reviews of the final version were fairly positive. To reject the manuscript at this stage, as Manfred and others may have wished, would be equivalent to whimsically dismissing the work of these 2 reviewers throughout almost 6 months of review process. At the very least, these reviewers are not less respected than Manfred Mudelsee, and definitively more respected in the area of time series analysis that all identified commentators that I could read in Georg Hofmann's blog What Manfred is requiring here is twofold: first that Climate of the Past breaches its own rules and sends the revised manuscript to a non-official reviewer for further review; second, that his opinion is given more weight that those of these two reviewers, a position that I honestly find not defensible. Any editor has been confronted by the situation in which reviews of a manuscript diverge, and he or she has to take a (subjective) decision, unavoidably disappointing one of the reviewers. If we all would react as Manfred has done, the review process could not possible.
All in all, in my subjective opinion, the review process in this case went according to all rules of Climate of the Past, and the Chief Editors have access to its entirety. All steps and decisions taken are documented and are traceable.
As I wrote to Geog and Manfred, if they do not agree with this particular paper, what they should do is to write a rebuttal paper. And more importantly, in general, they should not willingly omit relevant parts of the truth when they are criticizing some other person. There is clear adjective for this type of behaviour that I would prefer to omit here.