A Critic of Science Journalism Dons a Masquerade

By Keith Kloor | December 9, 2011 3:55 am

There are two recent critiques of science journalism that paint very different pictures of the profession. One of them, an editorial in Nature this week, is more broadly aimed at the news media in general, and decries “scientific ignorance of the press,” agenda-driven stories, and “journalism that favors attitude over accuracy.”  The criticism is directed at British newspaper reporters and editors:

With stories ranging from ludicrous (wind turbine attacked by aliens) to downright irresponsible (promoting the link between childhood vaccinations and autism), the fourth estate in the United Kingdom has hardly covered itself in glory when it comes to science and scientific issues.

Indeed, according to Sarah Mukherjee, a former BBC environmental correspondent, the struggle for UK journos on the enviro beat is to avoid being superficial and part of a herd. (Come to think of it, that’s a pretty universal struggle for everyone in the press.) But Nature, taking particular issue with the lack of rigor in science reporting, says

there is a sense that the situation is more acute in tabloid-driven Britain, particularly given the distasteful news-gathering techniques that are now under the microscope like never before.

I’m not familiar enough with science coverage in the UK media to have an opinion on Nature’s assessment. I’d be curious to hear what British science reporters or bloggers think.

Interestingly, David Whitehouse, another former BBC correspondent (1988-1998), has a different sort of beef with his colleagues. It boils down to this: science journalists were better at their jobs last century (like when he was at the BBC, I’m guessing):

There has never been a golden age of science journalism, but certainly there were more characters, better writers, more newsgathering zeal, and more originality in the recent past.

Well, as you might expect, these are “fighting words” to the average, self-respecting science journalist, which is how veteran science writer Paul Raeburn put it in his rebuttal at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker:

We’ve heard these criticisms before, and I should probably ignore them, but, as The Dude put it in The Big Lebowski, “This will not stand, man.”

The Dude would be proud. But Whitehouse also made it easy for Raeburn, who writes:

He [Whitehouse] begins his argument with the contention that “science, and communicating science, is too important to be left to the scientists.” It’s unclear whether he believes that, or whether he’s setting that up as an observation that he wants to challenge. In any case, as anyone who reads news online now knows, scientists are communicating to the public more broadly and effectively than ever before. Where once Carl Sagan stood, a thousand blogs now bloom. Science communication is clearly not too important to be left to the scientists.

Raeburn also observes that Whitehouse

makes the odd argument that the widespread availability of science news has led news outlets to become “bland clones” of one another. To me, the situation seems quite the opposite. With fewer restrictions on science news, the big news organizations can no longer manipulate the supply chain and dominate the coverage. With expanded competition, news organizations and science writers now have more incentive than ever to do good work.

Whitehouse, though, is on stronger footing when he accuses

many journalists being supporters of, and not reporters of, science. There is a big difference. Many have become advocates for science that are too close to the scientists they report on. Anyone who has downed an orange juice at a scientists and journalists bash will not have to look far to see them compete to see who can be the most sycophantic. At one such gathering I remarked, tactlessly, that I was surprised, and disappointed, that half of the scientists there didn’t hate half of the journalists! Scientists even run prizes for science journalists! Jonathan Leake, science and environment editor at the Sunday Times said recently, “Science in the daily media is too often reported in the same deferential way as political journalists used to report politics in the 1950s.” Because of this back slapping closeness, many journalists lack detachment and by implication judgment about the stories they cover.

Raeburn acknowledged these and other points:

Reporters are, as he says, far too dependent upon press releases. But that has always been true. And he says that too many science writers have become supporters, not reporters, of science. I’ve made the same argument myself. Writers and bloggers have every right to be supporters of science, if they choose, but we need a strong corps of reporters who see themselves as critics, shedding light in dark corners.

Raeburn then notes that the “only example” Whitehouse provides “to make his case is that of climate-change coverage.” Yes, that kinda jumped out at me, too. So I googled a bit to see what he might have written about the subject and this column in the New Statesman popped up from 2007. In it he explains why “global warming has stopped.” (To see how he arrived at this, you’ll have to go and read it for yourself.) Similarly, in 2010, Whitehouse wrote a piece for the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation and reproduced at WUWT, titled, “The climate coincidence: Why is the temperature unchanging?”

It turns out that Whitehouse does a lot of writing for the UK think tank that is a known clearinghouse for climate skeptic-oriented commentary and research. He is their science editor.

Strangely, this affiliation wasn’t mentioned in his bio for the Huffington Post piece.

Let me be clear: Whitehouse being the science editor for the Global Warming Foundation doesn’t (and shouldn’t) disqualify him from penning an opinion piece for anyone, including the Huffington Post. But it’s a bit peculiar that in a column critical of science journalists and climate reporting–that his connection to a climate skeptic think tank was not disclosed to Huffington Post readers.

One last thing. Whitehouse is absolutely on the mark with some of his points in the column, including this one:

Journalism is about not taking sides, or about being a cheerleader.

  • Louise

    Dr Curry posts sections of articles by Mark Whitehouse and Christopher Booker – both members of GWPF – without feeling the need to point out that they may not be completely neutral.

    http://judithcurry.com/2011/12/08/david-whitehouse-on-science-journalism/

  • Barry Woods

    just because you are not neutral, doesn’t mean that you can’t be right (or wrong!) on a particular issue..!

    a journalistic hazard, if you sppecialise… ie same criticisms could be laid a political journalists, business, etc..  ie get close to contacts, need the contacts, socialise with contacts…. then miss a big story? 

  • Keith Kloor

    Barry, your reflexive tribalism is kicking in, because you didn’t read my post close enough if you can’t see that I agree with some of his main points.

    So should his affiliation with GWPF have been included on that Huffpo column? I mean, if he wrote similar op-ed for WSJ or Guardian, it would be derelict of them not to include it, given the subject matter.

    So that begs the question: did he not see fit to include it or did Huffpo just leave it out. I’m kinda leaning towards the former.

  • Barry Woods

    keith.. i was responding to Louise, not you..!

    so maybe a reflexive assumption on your part.. i am very much against tribalism, and have publically criticised many sceptics, for reflexive tribal comments! 

  • Barry Woods

    Kieth.. i thought you article spot on…

    yes. i do think the huff, should  have included more of his bio.. ie no secret he’s written  for the gwpf.. maybe he’s annoyed that they haven’t as talking about the omission (I agree omission) means some people will focus on thta vs the content of his article.

    ‘aybe you could ask the huff, why not give this detail… as it is relevant, in exactly the same way as we havefound outas the current BBC’s science analyst was on the Advisory board of the Tyndall centre… and that was a much bigger omission.. ie not known,or declared until recent climategate 2 leak….
     

  • Barry Woods

    typing badly on a smartphone.. for some reason, i can’t relocate cursor, to correct any errors… 

  • http://www.davidwhitehouse.com David Whitehouse

    I have posted a comment on the Knight Science Journalism Tracker about this. Basically there isn’t enough space on Huff Post (I used it all up) for me to include all my qualifications, awards, outlets and affiliations. I don’t think that writing about climate science (and Mr Kloor is welcome to critique anything I write about climate science in his blog) does anything other than make me more informed about the problem. 

    Had Mr Kloor actually read my bio on Huff Post he would have seen that I only left the BBC a few years ago, not just during the last century as he snidely, and inaccurately, says.
     

  • Keith Kloor

    David Whitehouse (7)

    On your New Statesman byline from a few years ago, it reads 1988-1998. But I’ll make the change.

    In any case, you’re still avoiding the point: do you think it would be relevant to include mention of your current position at the Foundation in your bio of a piece that is critical of science journalists for climate reporting? If so, I imagine you could have easily shoehorned it in there, in place of one the other citations.

    I bet your Huffpo readers would be more informed of where you’re coming from with all this. Or would you prefer they not have that information? 

  • Nullius in Verba

    Affiliations and conflicts of interest are mainly relevant for argument from authority, and so are important to include when some form of authority or reputation is inherent in the channel of communication. Professional media organisations tend to set standards on that because they want to be trusted – their reputation for impartiality has financial value. Whether a blog is bothered about that depends, I suppose, on the blog. Do people trust something to be true because the HuffPo said it?

    My impression, gathered from other’s who have mentioned it, is that they are not, nor do they pretend to be, impartial – although what I’ve heard of their slant would suggest this is not their usual editorial line. And I would say that the article speaks for itself that it is written by a climate sceptic. It’s not hiding anything.

    Considered generally, while I would say it’s better to acknowledge potentially conflicting affiliations, not doing is such common practice that it seems better to advise that readers be mistrustful, than that writers should feel it necessary. A fuss was made recently over the WWF-affiliated IPCC authors, and those with connections to other environmental NGOs. Should the IPCC report have come with a prominent byline mentioning this? Should the “independent” enquiry into Climategate have mentioned that the enquiry chairman runs a windfarm company? Or that one of the most active members used to work in the same department as those investigated, and has toured the world giving lectures on climate change concern? Of course, one of the initial proposals for the committee did withdraw after it was pointed out he edited a journal heavily criticised in the fuss. Score one for integrity. But it is inevitable that people with interests in a topic will be the ones talking about it, and eventually the recitation of possible conflicts becomes distracting.

    Every time we saw one of CRU’s graphs, we’d have to scan past the list of nearly fifty sponsors, including oil companies, other energy companies (renewable and non-), environmental campaigners, and insurance salesmen. “Global Warming! (sponsored by Greenpeace)” It would get boring.
    So I’m a bit ambivalent about the affiliations issue.

    As for the rest of it, I think Whitehouse is wrong about several parts of his article. The science journalism of the past wasn’t any less respectful of scientists and I think they actually had more scientists doing the communicating, the difference was that they talked more about the content of the science, and how it works, rather than simply telling you what it does.
    It’s what’s usually referred to as “dumbing down”, which while a simplification, does have some truth to it. The attitude used to be “how can we explain this understandably?”, and while they sometimes failed – leaving it still too difficult for an average viewer – they catered for a broad range of audiences and did get a lot of it across. Nowadays the attitude seems to be “that’s too complicated to explain, what can we talk about instead?” You have to cater for the lowest common denominator. You’re not allowed to talk about equations – or even show too many of them. You can’t do calculations. You can’t get too technical.

    I recently watched a programme about Alan Turing. I learnt that he invented the computer, and broke codes during the war. I was told about the significance of his work on the future of computing, but we were not told how Turing’s computer worked. We were not told how it was programmed, or how you could try it out yourself, or how you could achieve such complicated results from something so simple. We were not told how he broke the codes – what methods he used. You was told it was all very clever, but you could not see how clever it was by seeing what he did. I think, at one time, science journalists would have tried. Instead, we got a lot of intrusive and irrelevant pseudo-psychological guff about his personal life.

    It’s because they no longer feel they can explain the science that they have to fall back on authority, and that’s where all the problems come from. They don’t ask how we know something, because they don’t need to ask, because they’re not going to tell the reader/viewer anyway. They don’t have to construct an argument, they simply report the latest results from the men in white coats. We know it’s true because a prestigious university with a good reputation has said it. Or a journal, or a boffin at a hi-tech company, or whatever. People the public respect without having to be told why.

    Whitehouse is saying that journalists are not asking questions, but it’s really that they’re not asking the right questions, because they’re telling, not explaining. Whitehouse says that they’re leaving it to the scientists to communicate, but really the problem is that they leave it to the university PR departments. Scientists don’t generally write press releases. They have this terrible habit of putting technical stuff in them, you know, which the PR people then have to strip out.

    The result of a few decades of this is that many among the general public wouldn’t recognise a scientific argument if they saw one, and they’ll now follow anything. Vaccines causing autism, pesticides causing cancer, food additives and GMOs and mobile phone masts and electricity pylons and nuclear power. It’s skin-cream-advert science.

    Until this “dumbing down” trend is reversed, the same problems will be repeated. The only way to stop people following every mad fad is to teach them how to distinguish the good from the bad. How to spot bluffers and frauds, by understanding what they are saying. And isn’t that a science journalist’s job?

  • Keith Kloor

    @9
    An authority who hawks his bonafides in an opinion column but conveniently leaves out a piece of information that would give his readers relevant information on the subject he is writing about is being disingenuous, at best, dishonest at worst. 

  • BBD

    Keith

    David Whitehouse knows exactly what he is doing. So don’t hold your breath waiting for straight answers.

  • biff33

    Shouldn’t Whitehouse’s line, quoted at the end of Keith’s post, read, “Science is not about”¦.”?

  • BBD

    KK

    You might just as well ask the GWPF who funds it.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #10,
    How does his argument depend on bona fides? Why is the information relevant?

    And isn’t it obvious in any case, from what he writes?

  • Marlowe Johnson

    For some reason whenever I think of the GWPF I always think of this person instead of Peiser and company.  6 degrees of Kevin Bacon and all that.

  • Anteros

    Did anybody else think that this last sentence –
    “Journalism is about not taking sides, or about being a cheerleader.”
    is confused and confusing? It seems to me the “about not” should be the other way around. For a while I couldn’t make sense of it. Perhaps a) I didn’t get enough sleep b) I’m being pedantic c) it is a US idiom with which I’m unfamiliar.


    The reason I focus on it is because to me it is the stand-out point of the article. If journalism is about not taking sides I wonder what Richard Black thinks he is doing at the BBC proclaiming to be able to ‘demolish’ sceptic arguments.


    Perhaps even more importantly than that, to not take some position on an issue like climate change is pretty much impossible. If you even report from an event, or quote a particular player or refer to a single paper, you have made choices that will seem biased and partisan to one or other group.


    Recent discussions here about the ‘middle’ have covered this ground – there probably isn’t a place that is viewed by all as in the middle – it doesn’t exist. So in that sense, degrees of impartiality are extremely hard to gauge, and once again I think if you’re irking roughly equal numbers of the extremists, you’re probably avoiding too much cheer-leading.


     

  • Alexander Harvey

    Keith, if you are interested.

    Journalists that depart the BBC can sometimes seem to have seen the light. They suddenly have opinions and sometimes their comments are at odds with their entire output whilst working for the BBC.

    BBC staff journalists cease to express opinion. You can hear them say the like of: “I work for the BBC so I don’t have opinions.”

    This is not restricted to their BBC output, their contract extends throughout their entire interaction with the public.

    Here is one quote from the BBC Editorial Guidelines:

    “External activities of individuals working for the BBC must not undermine the public’s perception of the impartiality, integrity, independence and objectivity of the BBC.  Nor should they bring the BBC into disrepute.”

    The guidelines extend to all their activities where they relate to their BBC output or the fact that they represent the BBC.

    Another quote:

    “The Agreement accompanying the BBC Charter requires us to do all we can to ensure controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality in our news and other output dealing with matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy.  But we go further than that, applying due impartiality to all subjects.  However, its requirements will vary.”

    The Guidelines ensure that the BBC do not need to give a profile of the interests of their journalists. By definition their journalists have no conflicts of interest. I believe in circumstances where a journalist has iterests that could be perceived to be conflicting, the journalist has to show why this is not so or abandon them.

    Now, this is generally not the case for other media outlets, and the listing other interests becomes important. That however is not really sufficient, if the interested reader is unaware of the significance of various interests. I think that is why why have both editors and editorial guidelines.

    Surely there is an editorial burden to assist the reader.

    So we have two situations and they are different. Not disclosing an interest to the editor and the editor choosing not to inform the readership. Editors edit, they are paid to make such judgements, or I hope they are. In the BBC case, it is straightforward, they do not have to say anything, they have internalised the problem and if they get it wrong both the editors and journalists can be held to account.

    I have no idea what the editorial guidelines for the Huffington Post or any other media outlets are. I will presume that they have them. If known, they should inform the readership as to the integrity of the content, and could be the first and last port of call regarding assessing the value of their journalism.

    For the purpose of this content I must say that I have never worked for the BBC nor am I wishing to do so. My notions of the BBC are subjective and would not stand up in a debate with anyone who does or has worked for the BBC. However I do hope to have shone sufficient light on the subject to allow anyone so interested to go and check it out for themselves.

    Alex


     

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @7 David Whitehouse:
    and Mr Kloor is welcome to critique anything I write about climate science in his blog

    I assume that this is open to all, not just Keith. If so, I’ll take issue with some of your “journalism” from the 2007 New Statesman article:
    “if the flatlining of temperature had occurred just five years earlier we would have no talk of global warming and perhaps, as happened in the 1970’s, we would fear a new Ice Age!”

    The “70s new ice age” myth was debunked years earlier, e.g. here.

    “For the past decade the world has not warmed. Global warming has stopped.”

    When you wrote that, were you simply unaware of its misleading nature (i.e. that it was far too short of a time period to be using to make any claims about GHG driven warming)?

    Thanks!

  • Keith Kloor

    @14,

    It’s only obvious to you, because you’re one of 987 people in the world who follow this debate intensely.

    The information is relevant for the majority of people who read that column with much less insider knowledge than yourself.

    Let me put it another way. His position at the leading UK climate skeptic think tank makes him a propagandist in the same mold of a Joe Romm at the Center for American Progress. Romm is listed at as the editor of Climate Progress (but of course is known as a climate blogger). Whitehouse is the science editor of GWF. If Romm is perceived to have an agenda (as he does), then so does Whitehouse. Additionally, both have written books and both have a Phd. Both work for partisan think tanks.

    So can you imagine if Romm penned a column on how renewable power can replace fossil fuels in 20 years for the Huffington Post (or anyone else), but didn’t see fit to include his present position as editor of a blog at a liberal think tank? That all his bio said was that he was the author of so and so books, a PhD, and previously served in the Energy Department (which he did)? Can you imagine the howls of outrage?

    But with Whitehouse, what do we get from you and presumably many of your like-minded soul travelers. A shrug of the shoulders. 

  • sharper00

    @13

    “How does his argument depend on bona fides? Why is the information relevant?”

    If Donald Trump wrote an article concluding people living on minimum wage have a pretty good life we would question both whether he had an experience of living on the minimum wage and whether he was actually acting out of self interest. He pay well also present facts and figures which can be independently evaluated for correctness and relevance but it’s reasonable to access whether Donald Trump deserves our attention on this topic. 

    When David Whitehouse writes an article about science journalist we have to decide if what he’s saying deserves our attention. We can make judgement about both what he says and he doesn’t say in doing so. He finds room to mention his scientific and journalistic experience but not his strong association with an organisation that has a definite point of view on what the outcome of climate science should be. 

  • sharper00

    Ooops #13 was Nullius in Verba when I wrote my comment, now it’s #14

  • Anteros

    I think Barry Woods got it right by saying that if the bio omission was deliberate it backfired [at least here..] because “some people will focus on that vs the content of his article”

    I agree with KK that if something similar had been omitted by Joe Romm in a similar article, there would have been quite a kerfuffle. I’d have jumped in, both feet first..
    biff33 @ 12 –
    I didn’t spot it – you got there before me -“Science is not about”¦.” :)



     

  • http://slipr.com Christopher Mims

    Wow, no wonder Whitehouse thinks journalists and scientists are too close — he doesn’t believe the scientists! I appreciate that, if nothing else, the internet makes everyone’s biases all the more apparent (or at least Googleable).

  • Alexander Harvey

    Keith #19:

    “It’s only obvious to you, because you’re one of 987 people in the world who follow this debate intensely.”

    How would acknowledging that he is:

    “science editor for the Global Warming Policy Foundation”

    inform anyone who was not following the debate intensely?

    Perhaps if it is pointed out that which one might infer from that.

    I cannot see what part of that phrase should cause one to reflect badly on it, unless one had a breadth of knowledge that would also allow one to judge the content anyway. Which bit is obviously an issue “science editor of the”, “Global Warming Policy”, or “Foundation”, all seem superficially OK. Together they may be opaque, and if so that could need to be pointed out.

    As I queried above: is it not an editorial consideration to point out to the reader the significance of his interests?

    Alex

  • Keith Kloor

    TB (18)

    To me, the two pieces I cited by Whitehouse (one for the New Statesmen, the other for the GWF) tells me everything I need to know about his bias. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @23
    Just finished reading the latest issue of SciAm.  You’ve got some nice articles in there, particularly on the liquid battery tech coming out MIT! The cover story on blunt force modeling was interesting too. The disagreements described in the article reminded me of the fundamental difference in philosophy between Google and Apple (i.e. open crowdsourcing vs. centralized QA/QC and high entry costs).  Time will tell who wins that particular battle, but I know where I’d put my money :)

  • Keith Kloor

    Alexander (24),

    A reader given that information is informed that he works presently as a “science editor” at a particular climate change related organization/think tank. So the reader now knows Whitehouse has a particular interest in climate change/climate science. That’s relevant. The reader might then proceed, if curious enough, to look up GWF via google and come across additional information about a place that Whitehouse hangs his hat. That’s relevant.

    Kinda not getting why such disclosure is not deemed very important in this case, but very much so in famous other instances where this issue has arisen. 

  • harrywr2

    So should his affiliation with GWPF have been included on that Huffpo column?
    Affiliation is always nice, but why would an affiliation with GWPF be any different then someone who receives/has received grant money from EPA , NASA, WWF or any other organization.
    The financial statements for the GWPF are here.

    http://www.thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/accounts.pdf
    129,000 UK pounds(roughly $200,000) isn’t an organization spending a lot of money.



  • NewYorkJ

    Whitehouse (through the GWPF) was also behind the recent “global warming has stopped” spin on the Muller study.

    http://www­.skeptical­science.co­m/baked-cu­rry-the-be­st-way-to-­hide-the-i­ncline.htm­l

    His track record is good evidence against his thesis.  His goal is pretty obvious: to minimize the weight that science should have and prop up the arguments of any crank with a contrarian view.  Creationists could make the same argument and sound just as convincing.

  • sharper00

    @28 harrywr2

    “Affiliation is always nice, but why would an affiliation with GWPF be any different then someone who receives/has received grant money from EPA , NASA, WWF or any other organization.”

    If they wrote an article mentioning their experience in spaceflight and calling on more funding for NASA but failed to mention they worked for NASA you’d consider that a bit odd. In fact you’d think they were trying to present themselves as knowledgeable and unbiased when they actually had a definite interest in a particular outcome. 

    Otherwise someone working as a scientist that accepts government grants in the normal fashion is not notable unless you want to argue that all government funded science is institutionally corrupt.  

    “129,000 UK pounds(roughly $200,000) isn’t an organization spending a lot of money.”

    They received over £500k ($780k) in funding of which only £8k came from membership fees. The origin of the rest is unknown. An individual linked to that organisation is calling for changes in how science is reported in the media and sadly running out of column space before he can get around to mentioning that link. 

  • Alexander Harvey

    Keith #27:

    Are we talking passed each other?

    I agree on the importance. I question how the significance should be communicated to the reader and whose job that is.

    What you seem to be suggesting is that journals should stand back from the issue and leave it to the author. Further that provided the author is factual it matters not that the significance is opaque.

    You mention part of the significance, “think tank” but not the reputation of that “think tank”.

    I am not saying that it is not important, quite the opposite.

    Perhaps the significance ought to be stated immediately under his byline where it would allow the reader to assess whether or not to read further.

    I do not know what his relationship with Huffington Post is, but I assumed it would be under some form of editorial control, at least as far as the title goes. Perhaps a parenthetised qualification (views from a climate ??????) whatever being appropriate.

    I do see the difficulty, it is an opinion piece with ramifications beyond its obvious content. Again a little editorial effort could be applied to make sure that it can be read without forensic diligence.

    I do not read the Huffington Post, I have no ideas as to what its stance is. If it has a bias then that can be commented on. If they have questionable editorial standards that could be questioned.

    If your object is to assist the general reader and you feel that some that read that journal might be being misled, I would suggest that you need to aim higher up the food chain.

    FWIW, His:

    “It’s about shaking the tree, about asking award questions”

    might indicate that there is little literate oversight.

    Alex

  • Keith Kloor

    Alexander (31)

    It is now clear from David W’s comments here (and at the Tracker site, where we are mostly engaging), that he did not include the information about his affiliation, for the reason he stated (he ran out of room).

    Sorry, I find that hard to believe. But whatever. If that’s the reason he wants to give, fine.

    So then the it falls to the oversight of the editor. I’m not familiar with HuffPo guidelines, but I do know they want to be taken seriously as a journalistic outfit. That means there should be transparency by authors–especially journalists.

    As to where his affiliation should be stated, ideally it would be right on the same page as his column, as few people will take the time to click on his name and view the more detailed biography he gives (the place where he ran out of room). But the style of the Huffington Post discourages such specificity on the actual column page, so at the least it should come on the secondary link.

    As to your last remark, I have already begun looking into the food chain. 

  • Alexander Harvey

    Keith:

    Hopefully still on topic:

    Have you checked out Monbiot’s “Registry of Interests” website page? Talk about going the extra mile for transparency!

    I wonder how many would balk at doing the same.

    Alex

  • Konrad

    Wait.  What is wrong with a journalist being a cheerleader?
    Seth Borenstein, Juliet Eilperin, Kate Sheppard, Fiona Harvey are committed and decent environmentalists. Why should they hide their preferences? Can they even do so?
    I would rather see a journalist’s bias than have him/her try to hide it. They are trying to do the right thing and you want to silence them.  Shame.

  • Keith Kloor

    Konrad (34),

    Not sure where you get that I am trying to silence anyone. I also admire the work of all the folks you name.

    That said, it is the duty of journalists (I’m speaking generally) to try to keep their biases in check, so that they don’t become uncritical cheerleaders. :) 

  • Konrad

    Fiona Harvey:
    “For the real villain ““ look behind Obama, to the Republican party.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/09/insider-view-durban-climate-conference
    That is taking sides about as much as sides can be taken! Do you object?

  • Barry Woods

    I agree with Keith, he would have beem wise to put his current activities in the bio. At the very least because we are talking about this, instead of what I thought was a good article, as Keith did (regardless of who wrote it, or who they are associated with)

    In the internet age, very wise just to state everything relevant..

    Amusingly, a commentator catches the Guardian doing something similar:

    An article with the author going after the USA at Durban (when China, India seem to me to beat least a big blocking points)
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/dec/08/durban-climate-change-conference

    is Kelly Rigg a dispaasionate neutral journalists:
    one commentator thinks not.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/13645803

    Shame The Guardian doesn’t have any information on the author – I guess we’re expected to assume that she’s a disinterested reporter… or we could try Googling.
    And what do we find in…erm, The Guardian?

    An environmental activist since 1982, Rigg went on to become director of Greenpeace International and is now the head of TckTckTck, the coalition of more than 200 NGOs pushing for a strong global deal on climate change.

    Anyone else remember when The Guardian wasn’t just the parish magazine of vested interests?
    —————

    with respect to the GWPF, lets all assume that they are funded (only 500k ?) by evil, capitalist, tobacco, fossil fuel funded b****ds that don’t care for their childrenns or grandchildrens future.. put that to one side and see if what Dr Whitehouse sauys has some merit.

    If George Monbiot can be called a nuclear shill (sadly whilst speaking of climate change deniers) in what I thought was a very good article, about green party irrationality, perhaps the grown ups can look past background and look at content

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/nov/22/christopher-busby-nuclear-green-party

    (I include Keithth as a grown up, just one I might disagree with occasionally)

    whenever someone labels people like ‘anti-science’ (or alarmist, or ‘watermelon’) do they really think that the public fall for it? or are just switched off by the language of political rhetoric.

  • Alexander Harvey

    I put “global warming policy foundation” into the BBC site’s search thingy to check if they had some comment on what people are saying about them.

    Unless the listings are not in the chronological order which they seem, they haven’t commented. However they did kindly provide a link to the recent Cristopher Booker Daily Mail piece on BBC bias.

    Obviously a case of BBC bias. Perhaps impartiality is the BBC’s bias.

    I have checked, and the BBC are allowed to express their BBC  opinion about themselves (but nothing much else). However I think that to do so requires a significant pay grade to spend significant time. (Perhaps the Mail piece will warrant that).

    It may be perceived that the BBC are a bit of a soft target simply because they have strict rules governing impartiality, they also have well defined channels for people to question their impartiality.

    Should people wishing to criticise, use those channels they might actually force the BBC to give their views on the matter, which would waste much time and money.

    Keith, at the next opportunity you could ask a BBC type as to whether they are a soft target, or even if they are allowed to answer such questions. :)

    Alex

  • Nullius in Verba

    #19,
    “It’s only obvious to you, because you’re one of 987 people in the world who follow this debate intensely.”
    You spotted it. “Yes, that kinda jumped out at me, too.” Are you one of the 987 as well, then?
    I think it is a lot more obvious to your average Joe than you might think. They might not know that he worked for a particular think-tank, but they recognise when something is written by a climate sceptic, just as they recognise immediately when something is written by a climate advocate. You don’t need to know that Al Gore owns a carbon credit company to spot from the way he talks that he’s a mite partisan on the subject!

    But in any case, my question was really about why it was relevant. If someone says “trust me, I’m independent” when they’re not, it’s relevant. If they rely on authority or reputation for impartiality, it’s relevant. But he just says what he thinks and you can either agree or not agree, based on the content of what he says. You said you agreed with much of what he said. I’m sure you’re not saying that because you’ve just taken his word for it! So where is the problem?

    The same goes for Joe Romm. If Joe pens an opinion piece, where he preaches at length about the wickedness of those sinful deniers, it’s totally irrelevant who he works for. If he claims to be an impartial, politically neutral scientific authority representing the mainstream, to be trusted on those grounds, it’s relevant. If he spends half his time denouncing the (mostly fictional) funding of sceptics by think-tanks and oil companies, then it’s still not strictly relevant but it is highly amusing to point out the funding network for pro-AGW presentation of information. If he tells you that all the funding is going to the sceptics, then it is again relevant.

    I’m not very bothered about the fact that Romm is paid to write what he does; I’m sure he would write the same sort of stuff even if he wasn’t paid. We all get to have free speech. And it would be ad hominem argument to use the fact he’s paid to dispute his views on climate change. It’s only relevant when claims of impartiality and the topic of funded advocacy are part of the discussion.

    You could take the similar case of Roger Harrabin at the BBC. He’s also a director of the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme, funded partly by the Tyndall centre at UEA. Do you think that when he reported on climate change or the events at UEA, he should have mentioned on all those BBC news articles that he co-ran an organisation devoted to getting more pro-action climate change news into media coverage, and had been funded by UEA’s Tyndall Centre to do so?

    Or is this another one of those shrugs of the shoulders?

  • Barry Woods

    39#
    You could take the similar case of Roger Harrabin at the BBC. He’s also a director of the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme, funded partly by the Tyndall centre at UEA. Do you think that when he reported on climate change or the events at UEA, he should have mentioned on all those BBC news articles that he co-ran an organisation devoted to getting more pro-action climate change news into media coverage, and had been funded by UEA’s Tyndall Centre to do so?

     
    Or is this another one of those shrugs of the shoulders
    ————
    Shrug shoulders, No not really..especially with the bit of relevant information missed out..

    Roger Harrabin was on the ADVISORY Board of the Tyndall Centre when CMEP was being funded, by the Tyndall Centre at UEA…..  Invited on at the same time as Greenpeace legend Bill Hare.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/11/27/climategate-2-impartiality-at-the-bbc/

  • Keith Kloor

    @39

    Where did I say I agreed with much of what he said? I agree with some of what he said, and which parts should be clear from the post. 

    You remind me of those lawyers that can argue convincingly on behalf of war criminals and mobsters. I’m always amazed when they can do it with a straight face.

    In your case, when someone on your side is demonstrably wrong, you always find a way to rationalize or move the goalposts. It’s why I rarely bother engaging with you.

    As to the issue at hand, again yet more evidence that transparency only goes one way for some. 

  • John Garrett

    One thing for sure””  National Public Radio is not unbiased in their reporting on climate. Richard Harris and Christopher Joyce make that very obvious.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #41,
    Some/much distinction noted. I acknowledge the error.

    What I think I said was “Considered generally, while I would say it’s better to acknowledge potentially conflicting affiliations, not doing is such common practice that it seems better to advise that readers be mistrustful, than that writers should feel it necessary.” I also said “As for the rest of it, I think Whitehouse is wrong about several parts of his article.” I’ve also argued that Romm’s funding is irrelevant to his views on climate science.

    So I’m not arguing unconditionally in support of my side. I’m trying to express a consistent position – that talk about funding as a way of discrediting or casting doubt on the content of an argument is ad hominem, whoever does it. And I freely acknowledge there are plenty on my side who do.

    As for one-sided, I’ve listed a series of analogous cases – the IPCC authors affiliated to the World Wildlife Fund, CRU sponsored by everyone from Shell to Greenpeace, BBC reporters working for climate advocacy lobbyists, offering you each time the opportunity to show that you’re not being one-sided about it either. I can’t help but notice you haven’t taken them.

    I’m not saying you should. You do of course have a right to be a partisan too. But I’d suggest a thought to the valuable role of the devil’s advocate. How can you know you’re right, if nobody has seriously considered the possibility that you might be wrong? How could you safely put away mobsters and war criminals unless they had been defended to the best of our ability?

    Doesn’t science progress only through our attempts to challenge it? Else, why does it need to be falsifiable?

  • Menth

    As for one-sided, I’ve listed a series of analogous cases ““ the IPCC authors affiliated to the World Wildlife Fund, CRU sponsored by everyone from Shell to Greenpeace, BBC reporters working for climate advocacy lobbyists, offering you each time the opportunity to show that you’re not being one-sided about it either. I can’t help but notice you haven’t taken them


    Agreed. Barry Woods also pointed out the Guardian doing the same thing though I see that article has since been amended to disclose the authors affiliations.

  • Pingback: Science communication | Climate Etc. | Communication Advancement()

  • EdG

    I read that Nature editorial yesterday. The irony was simply spectacular. Possibly unprecedented!

    Re the BBC, the proof of the pudding is in the reading or the watching. Here’s how Richard Black concludes his latest spun sermon on Durban:

    “Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo was among those escorted from the conference centre for leading the protest.
    “The United States delegation is right now organising, line-by-line, the means by which United Nations member states will be eradicated from the map,” he said.
    “I ask the proud American people, in whose name this is being done, to take just a moment today to consider what they would do if they learned that a conference of powers was plotting to wipe their great nation off the map, because for low-lying islands that is the future they face.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16118909

    As I recall, Naidoo was responsible for Greenpeace’s ‘we know where you live’ rant a while ago. Nice company.

  • Keith Kloor

    @43
    “Doesn’t science progress only through our attempts to challenge it?”

    Of course. But I distinguish between people who do that in good faith–in the interest of science–and those who pretend to but who really are operating from a partisan/ideological place–which is pretty much how I view you. I’ve read enough of your comments here and elsewhere to see that your socratic smoke really only blows one way. Thus my sense that you’re not really arguing in good faith. 

    For example, in the main post, I could have easily contrasted Whitehouse’s disingenuous lack of transparency with the kinds of analogous cases cited by you and other climate skeptics in the past. It would have been easy point scoring.

    But I don’t feel the need to make such explicit comparisons in every post, especially since my record as an independent sort of watchdog doesn’t favor one side or the other. (Maybe you missed my recent posts about the climategate emails or the ones earlier this year about Scientific American’s bizarre partnership with a non-profit advocacy climate change organization, to cite just some examples.)

    The point is, I don’t have any patience anymore for the kneejerk response I get when someone gets reflexively adversarial (or lawyerly, in your case) everytime I point out something that casts their side in an unfavorable light.

    And so here was another case where the first impulse by some (such as you) is to play down the infraction while at the same time bringing up similar infractions on the other side (well, what about this?!) and now, it appears, some sort of litmus test for me to respond to. I’m not playing that game.

    My record on this blog speaks for itself. You, on the hand, are never intellectually consistent. You invariably throw up lawyerly smoke. Show me that you can speak in plain English and admit when someone gets it wrong on your side, and maybe I’ll start to think differently about you. In other words, stop bullshitting. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time with me.    

  • EdG

    December 9. Time for celebration at this keyboard! Either Keith is very quick on the trigger today or I have just been liberated from Moderation Purgatory! 

    In the brave new world of seeking rational debate ‘in the middle’ I shall  endeavor to self-moderate and avoid throwing bombs.

    So Keith, if this is what has happened, to quote Elvis, thank ya, thank ya very much. Was hard to actively participate sometimes with that lag time.

    And just for the record folks, while I understand why this initially happened Keith never blocked any of my comments that didn’t arguably or obviously need to be blocked. 

  • BBD

    Since this is about non-disclosure, let’s think about why the GWPF refuses to identify its sponsors.

    The annual budget may be a modest £500k but it seems to be generating results.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/07/public-support-for-tackling-climate-change-declines-dramatically-in-uk/

    Cui bono?

  • Keith Kloor

    EdG,

    Yes, I liberated you last night. There are now only two or three I am keeping holed up in the basement somewhere of my “black site.” I think they’ve gone mute, as they are rarely heard from these days. Also proves that, unlike you, they are beyond rehabilitation. :)

    Please don’t prove me wrong. 

  • Menth

    Keith, I agree that you do a fair job of shining light on both sides of the climate debate and shouldn’t have to defend your credentials in that regard.
    That said, I don’t understand the disdain for NiV. While perhaps I don’t always agree with their perspective I find it’s always laid out in a rational, clear, non-insulting fashion, which is more than can be said of most in the climate blogosphere.

  • Matt B

    The most amazing part of this story is that a person affiliated with the GWPF had a story run in the Huffington Post. Kudos to Arianna! What’s next, Chris Booker in Rolling Stone? George Monbiot on Fox News? One can only hope……..

  • Keith Kloor

    Matt B

    I actually think he should be able to have a post like that in HuffPo, exactly as it is. Or even stronger if he wanted to make it so. I just think he shouldn’t pretend to readers to be something he’s not: just an ol’ wizened, ink-stained science reporter who’s speaking out on behalf of journalism. Sorry, he doesn’t get to play that while shilling for GWPF.  

    Menth (50)
    Just no patience for semantics or games. My interpretation of him is what it is. I don’t expect everyone to share it. 

  • Nullius in Verba

    #50,
    Actually, I’m pretty impressed that Keith is as tolerant as he is. There are a lot of places that don’t even allow sceptics to comment. I wouldn’t want my respect for Keith for doing that to get lost in the partisan jousting.

    There are quite a few places I’ve argued against sceptics, when I think they’ve got it wrong. And I’ve spent entirely too many hours of my life arguing against the “the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist” mob… But I doubt those would count, because the perspective I’ve put up in their place is hardly orthodox. It doesn’t matter. I’m not bothered by what other people think of me, and I have no complaints about Keith’s approach.

    In this case, while I shrugged at the affiliations thing as essentially ‘ad hominem’ thinking, I did spend an inordinate number of paragraphs saying why I thought Whitehouse had got it wrong. I’m not sure what “admit when someone gets it wrong on your side” would constitute, if “As for the rest of it, I think Whitehouse is wrong about several parts of his article.” doesn’t count. Perhaps it’s the wrong sort of wrong?

    But I’m happy with what I get. Respond to me or ignore me as you choose. I really don’t mind.

  • Keith Kloor

    @50 Well, since you’re being a good sport about my tongue lashing…

    It’s got nothing to do with anything right or wrong in his article. That stuff should be debated on its merits, and that’s exactly what Paul Raeburn did (very effectively) in his Tracker rebuttal, much of what I covered in this post.

    In fact, I deliberately put my objection to Whitehouse’s lack of disclosure at the very end of my post, so there could be some discussion about the legitimate critiques from him and Nature.

    My beef with him is sneaking this post into a major outlet and having it bounce around the internet without proper acknowledgment of his existing affiliation. This is a violation of journalistic norms that still happens from time to time and it should be called out, plain and simple. The way he’s dismissed this criticism is telling, in my mind, as well. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    “There are now only two or three I am keeping holed up in the basement somewhere of my “black site.” I think they’ve gone mute, as they are rarely heard from these days.”

    Christmas it seems has come early around these parts! 

  • EdG

    Keith – Completely off topic (bad start for my unmoderated era) but with your Archaeology hat on you will probably find this very interesting:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6061/1335.short

  • Matt B

    @55 KK,

    Agreed, affiliations with partisan organizations should be made clear. As others point out, your affiliations by themselves don’t make you wrong; saying the sun rises in the east is true whether you’re from NASA or the KKK. But, people have a right to know where you’re organizationally coming from & the reader is left to decide how much weight they place on that affiliation.

    I do wonder, however, whether Whitehouse gets a slot on HuffPo if they knew his affiliation with GWPF. Maybe they did know and if so my admiration for the HuffPo definitely increases. It does seem more likely, in line with your suspicion, that Whitehouse kept this information on the QT knowing that HuffPo will be much more likely to can his piece if they connected the dots. You directly asked Whitehouse that question and it remains unanswered; he will gain more credibility if he answers……….   

  • harrywr2

    sharper00 Says:
    December 9th, 2011 at 12:16 pm
    They received over £500k ($780k) in funding of which only £8k came from membership fees.
    The GWPF only spent £129,000 in the financial year that was reported.
    That’s enough for how many full time employees?

  • BBD

    harrywr2

    How many full-time employees are there? Many ‘think tanks’ seem to have few, if any. And why does this matter? Surely the question is where the money is coming from?

  • Alexander Harvey

    I will suggest that anyone who considers that the GWPF is primarily engaging in political activity to contact the Charity Commission, and to first read their regulations.

    For balance and fairness

    I will suggest that anyone who considers that Roger Harrabin has a conflict of interests leading to a failure to be impartial in his reporting for BBC, to contact the BBC, and to first read their editorial guidelines.

    Recourse to complaints regarding conduct does exist and would surely be more productive than merely disseminating them on the internet, if the purpose is to rectify a perceived wrong.

    Alex

  • Lewis Deane

    Keith, 

    I’m half way through digesting your post (sorry!) but it is not the tabloids that are the offenders – a section of press that is merely offensive, after all – but the ‘leading lights’ of the pride of British Journalism which report banal and stupid, for instance, statistical ‘studies’ as if they really had something to say – they very rarely do. Especially in medicine! 

  • Lewis Deane

    Now I’ve read it – I think the take should be (I’m not interested in personalities) don’t be lazy! In journalism, as in any other endeavour!

  • Lewis Deane

    Cross post from Ben Pile’s Climate resistance:

     I often think that rational argument and a thinking, well presented, “˜glows’ in the dark and, as it were, attracts the fireflies of people of bona voluntas. I’m sure it’s true, I’m determined that it’s true, but, sometimes, my, and other peoples, “˜determination’ fails. People I’m interested in (in this “˜narrow’ sense, I’m not interested in myself). It would be consoling, if it were true. No one is the “˜beeze knees’, when it comes to anything, but when I read what Nigel Lawson wrote, someone, who for us, in our young, old days, was a bete noir, write so passionately and correctly about this strange madness we are in and, I see the vitriol with it’s treated, I despair. We are in an upside down world. Are we on the loosing slide of history? Is what I considered “˜rationality’ obsolete, like Christianity or necromancy? But, then, I read your post or, perhaps, McIntyre’s (and others, more eclectic than is safe in acknowledging ““ like, for instance, the Asian Times Online, often wrong, often irritatingly wrong, but thoughtful), and, like the affect of a good, strong poem, I am returned to my “˜faith’. Thanks.

  • Lewis Deane

    Just as a note, and, in case I’m misunderstood, poetry is rigorous, rational thought given its proper form. Anything else is just garbage and doggerel.

  • huxley

    But I distinguish between people who do that in good faith”“in the interest of science”“and those who pretend to but who really are operating from a partisan/ideological place”“which is pretty much how I view you. I’ve read enough of your comments here and elsewhere to see that your socratic smoke really only blows one way. Thus my sense that you’re not really arguing in good faith.

    Keith @47: I couldn’t disagree more.

    In my estimation NIV is one of the most good faith commenters I’ve encountered online. Of course, he does have a point of view which he has arrived at in his thorough and painstaking way. His “lawyerly” comments are simply his rational style.

    However, if we are making global good faith judgments of participants, I will say that I understand that you believe you are an independent watchdog, but you have the classic journalist’s bias that you have no bias, while the truth is that you are deeply in the tank for the conventional liberal worldview, as in that recent post of yours comparing climate skepticism with neoconservativism in the Iraq War.

    I appreciate that you don’t ban commenters such as NIV and myself. I appreciate that you occasionally point out the inconsistencies of the climate orthodox. But that just means that you are somewhat more honest than your biased colleagues. It doesn’t win any prizes for objectivity or give you a privileged position to pass judgment on NIV.

  • Menth

    As much as I have realized how pervasive bias is in contemporary society I am growing skeptical of a persons ability to circumvent it. For example look at Chris Mooney’s obvious literacy in the prevalence of cognitive biases but a total inability to apply it to the political spectrum to which he is loyal. In terms of journalism(or science?) perhaps it just best to have a clear, above the table awareness of a journalist’s ideological loyalties instead of expecting a superhuman transcendence of motivated reasoning.

  • Lewis Deane

    Keith,

    Ignore the above post, since it will obviously be caught by your spam filter, even if it merely ‘tags’ a BBC article.

    Irefer to tadays BBC news that, to quote:
    UN climate talks heading to a deal
    Nations at the UN climate talks appear to be edging their way to agreeing that a process towards a new carbon-cutting deal should start in the New Year.
    The absurd conditionality of that sentence is not made up!
    O those New Year Resolutions ““ (how one can’t help recalling old “˜may days’ and “˜five year plans’! These seem to be the same people!) how much this absurd jamboree loves them!?

    This is what I mean by “˜bad’ poetry or “˜good’ reporting.  I mean Dr Pangloss  with his dark, Dr Pangloss glasses, or am I naive, a real Candide?

  • Lewis Deane

    Further (the formatting, above, failed me):

    The move marks a success for the ad-ho alliance formed between the EU and scores of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries.

    I kid you not. This is Pravda at it’s best! And you wonder, Keith, about British ‘journalism’? Who needs the tabloids?!

    By the way, the ‘alliance’ that the BBC is speaking of, certainly ‘ad-hoc’, last minute and meaningless, would that be the alliance between the recently defeated and the less recently defeated? Akin, in soccer, let us say, to an alliance between England and Russia? And equally as absurd?

  • Lewis Deane

    Sorry, this really is to wonderful to pass by:

    Not ‘would be a success’ but ‘marks’ a success, mark you! By the way, you better keep that url I gave you, they’ve already ‘disappeared’ it. Ah, history!

  • Lewis Deane

    #67 Menth,

    Chris Mooney’s ‘cognitive bias’ meme, something of a Siren’s tone I hear even the venerable Keith Kloor persuaded of, is just so much garbage, like that oxymoron ‘neuroscience’, or ‘behavioural psychology’, precisely because it is based on the same reductionist absurdities, reduced to the slimiest, slimmest of ‘evidence’. Such thinking is a misanthropic’s scoundrels thinking and the last refuge of the idiotic and the pretentious. It really must be Knocked on the head!

    Let me put it this way, do you remember the absurdly spurious accusations that Stalins enemies where accused of – ‘boigeois eclectism’, ‘infantile socialism’ etc etc. Or what HUAC said of Charlie Chaplin – ‘premature anti-fascism’?

    To reduce thought to ‘urges’ and ‘biases’ is to reduce ones own humanity. It is an inadequacy of ones ability to respect and argue rationally. It is ad hominen in essence.

  • Menth

    O/T but here’s an interesting video on human adaptability in paleoclimate environments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk&feature=relmfu
     

  • Menth

    Crap. While the previous link was good this was the one I meant to link to:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuFyxnM4nnI

  • Paul in Sweden

    KK #10

    I agree with your statement but the elephant in the room is constantly being ignored.

    The lack of transparency regarding the affiliations of ‘Climate Science’ authorities espoused by the PBS in the USA and especially the BBC & Guardian in the UK would have been better focal points as they have much larger and generally ill informed audiences.

    At home in the USA you could explore the affiliations of NSF representatives or you could expand on your previous posts on GMO(Grantham)& Bob Ward. Shouldn’t every article with regard to Bob Ward be prefaced that Bob Ward is sponsored by an Eco-Fund and he is to be likened to research institution pitch man funded by a tobacco company?

    (Don’t want to pick on Bob Ward but he is the most egregious example that popped in my mind and I know that you have written about him in the past Keith)

    KK, I do not want to diminish the pedestal that David Whitehouse has earned but how about you go after the big fish and the more widely broadcast and inked blatant assaults on our sensibility?

  • Keith Kloor

    Paul (74),

    When Bob Ward writes an op-ed (or a letter to the editor, as he is wont to do), I’m pretty sure he identifies where he works.

    My post doesn’t speak to the wider issue of identifying affiliations in stories that mention folks like Bob Ward or David Whitehouse. 

    But here’s a related thought: what if I was writing a broader article about science journalism and discussed various criticisms of climate reporting and quoted some of what Whitehouse said from his recent HuffPo column. Would it be appropriate of me to mention not just his credentials as a former BBC science correspondent but also his existing position as science editor at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, where he writes often about climate science?

    I’m thinking many of you would say yes. 

  • BBD

    Huxley



    In my estimation NIV is one of the most good faith commenters I’ve encountered online.


    I’m at a loss for words. Truly.


    It’s a shame that this thread is getting bogged down. A discussion of why the GWPF is concealing the sources of its funding would have been interesting.


    Does no one other than me wonder on whose behalf Whitehouse pens his distortions of climate science? Or what their motive might be? Or why they remain in the shadows?


    I had hoped that Whitehouse himself might have commented on this yesterday, but I suspect that was a little naive of me.

  • Louise

    Elsewhere I have had discussions with people about who has the ‘power’ in the climate change debate. Steven Mosher claims that it is the mainstream gatekeeper scientists. I think otherwise.

    These scientists are not writing opinion pieces for the MSM in the UK, they are not appearing on the BBC. However, the power to influence who gets elected (and so who gets to make policy) resides firmly with the popular press. For example, the Daily Mail gives 5 times more space to the Global Warming Policy Foundation than to any other source on climate http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2011/07/daily-mail-and-the-global-warming-policy-foundation

    The Daily Mail has a readership of over 2 million. The Daily Telegraph takes a similar view and frequently gives the GWPF a platform, readership ~1.7 million

    The Power to distort government policy resides with the media, not ‘the Team’.

  • Paul in Sweden

    Keith Kloor Says:
    December 10th, 2011 at 9:08 am

    “When Bob Ward writes an op-ed (or a letter to the editor, as he is wont to do), I’m pretty sure he identifies where he works.”

    Yes, Bob Ward does say where he works but he does not disclose that his institution is a PR front for an Eco-Fund.

    You, I and probably all of your readers know the players and their providence.

    Yes Kieth, your identifying an individual(David Whitehouse) that is seldom and unfortunately not represented in the media to the general public is of course valid. As a Native New Yorker like yourself I have a natural affinity towards you and I was concerned that you might have injured yourself tripping over the blatant examples that would have proven your point to a wider audience regarding transparency in journalism.

  • Keith Kloor

    Louise (77)

    This deserves to be addressed, but I only have a few minutes for now. You have it only partially right. The mainstream press frequently quotes “the mainstream gatekeeper scientists.” (And those quotes go to the most outspoken scientists, who are good with soundbites.) This is a pet peeve of mine.

    There should be a broader spectrum of climate science voices reflected. That wouldn’t change the overall picture of the consensus, but at the same time a great deal more nuance and context would be added. The question is: is that something you’re comfortable with?

    Whatever your answer may be, this is good fodder for a future post.  

  • Louise

    Keith @79 – I’d be happy with a broader spectrum of voices if these were in direct proportion to the number of climate scientists on each side of the debate. I see no value in false balance.

  • BBD

    Louise

    While I hear what KK says, I think you make a valid point about the disproportionate platform provided for GWPF misinformation by the DM and the Telegraph.

    I’d love to know the deep whys and wherefores behind that, too.

  • harrywr2

    BBD
    How many full-time employees are there? Many “˜think tanks’ seem to have few, if any. And why does this matter?
    It matters because it defines whether one is chasing a mouse or an elephant.
    Here is just the ‘help wanted’ listing for Joe Romm’s outfit.

    http://www.americanprogress.org/aboutus/jobs
    Here is the senior staff listing for the Center for American Progress

    http://www.americanprogress.org/aboutus/staff
    How many NGO representatives are at Durban? 1000’s?
    Here is financial information for the environmental defense fund
    http://www.edf.org/finances – Just a $98 million budget
    So in a room full of elephants the serious questions become ‘Who is paying the mouse?Did an astrophysicist  who does some work for a mouse properly declare that he does some work for a mouse?
    If I look at the UK Huffington Post Dr Whitehouse writes a number of  articles for the Huffington Post UK – most of it dealing with Astrophysics
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-david-whitehouse

  • Matt B

    @80 Louise – I agree with you completely, let’s give voice to the scientists in proportion to their views. But how to categorize these scientific views? The tastes great vs less filling positions miss what may be the majority viewpoint, so let’s divide the scientists as follows:

    Cat 1 – There’s nothing unusual happening to the climate, or alternatively the climate is being perturbed but long term risks are unlikely and will be minimal.

    Cat 2 – The climate is being perturbed but right now we have no real idea if the consequences are benign or catastrophic. More study is needed.

    Cat 3 – The climate is being perturbed and there is a high likelihood of catastrophic risk.

    Right now all the big mouths (and interesting sound bites) are from the Cat 1 & Cat 3 camps. Having these two groups slug it out makes for some sweet gridlock. Personally I have to believe that Cat 2 contains the majority of trained scientific people studying this issue but they’re position is boring! and not as much fun for the media.

  • OPatrick

    Keith:

    There should be a broader spectrum of climate science voices reflected. That wouldn’t change the overall picture of the consensus, but at the same time a great deal more nuance and context would be added

    I think we’d all love to see more scientists giving their views, which would certainly add more context, but would there necessarily be more nuance?

  • BBD

    harrywr2

    It matters because it defines whether one is chasing a mouse or an elephant.


    You seem to be missing the point. The GWPF is making itself felt:


    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/07/public-support-for-tackling-climate-change-declines-dramatically-in-uk/


    What matters here is who is paying for this influence, and what do they stand to gain? Perhaps most interestingly, why do they refuse to identify themselves?

  • Barry Woods

    79#

    Agree.. would like to here rather more of Richard Betts (Hadley Centre) than just Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre).. for example.

  • EdG

    On Bishop Hill’s blog I found a link to this review of “The Power Elite …written by the sociologist, C. Wright Mills, in 1956″ at wiki.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_Elite

    Includes this relevant view:

    “With the expansion of the means of mass persuasion (also known as “mass deception”), the public of the public opinion became the target of intense efforts of control, manipulation, and intimidation. Opinion-making (through mass media and compulsory education) therefore became an accepted technique of getting and holding on to power. They now guide our very experiences, construct our standards and sense of reality, wants, needs, identity, and self. Hence they destroy any expectation of reasonable exchange of opinion.
    The creation of a pseudo-world by the mass media is made possible by the structure of the society which enables people to choose only that which is of the same opinion as they are. The remote possibility of debate and discussion, let alone action, disappears as the experience of the public turns into that of the mass: narrower and limited to their routine and structural (out-of-their-own-control) environment from which they cannot escape.”

    From 1956! Now, 55 years later…

  • Jack Hughes

    Remember that the BBC has a louder voice in the UK than all the newspapers put together.

    And many people still think it is somehow “impartial and correct” because it is “official” – the same people who know that newspapers have all kind of biases.

    The BBC freely admits it is in the tank for the alarmists. 

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    Well, Louise doesnt do a very good job of presenting my position.
    My comments ( at Judith’s) were directed at the issue of tribalism.

    Here is some of what i’ve seen in the climategate mails. What I saw
    was the development of a bunker mentality. Don’t even bother arguing against this because Jones agrees. If you have an issue with that, take it up with Jones. That bunker mentality results in two things: the control of outbound messaging and  attempts to thwart their enemies ability to message. Lets start with the first. What we see in the mail are attempts to coordinate messaging and present a united front. internal dissent, the normal discourse of science, is shaped and formed for external consumption. Behind closed doors uncertainties can be expressed, but external communications are
    formed to give the appearance of consensus. A thin green line
    is established and  you are not allowed to cross it. Those who appear to cross the line are sanctioned or punished. They are seen as traitors to the cause. De Freitas and Curry would be good examples. So, institution power is exerted over members who publically voice the kind of concerns that are supposed to be kept behind closed doors. That is how tribes work. The other issue is the the control
    of what science is done. In “Doubt is their product”  david Micheals details how funding effects scientific results. The funding effect changes the questions asked, not the answers given. What this means for climate science is that the funding effect works not to bias the answers, but rather to narrow the  questions asked. A good example here is some of the work that Peter Webster talked to me about. Simply, there is work he would like to do studying natural variability, but those questions are not high on the agenda. CPU time is spent running GCMS out to 2300 instead. lindzen is also an example here, a while back he and some others asked me to help them put together computing facilities so they could test their ideas.
    basically, the trajectory of free inquiry is shaped by dollars and the dollars are directed by agendas. That doesnt give us bad answers, it just gives us a more narrow understanding than we would have otherwise. The team exerts its power over other team members in ways that some ( say Curry) find objectionable and deleterious to free inquiry. Sometimes that power gets abused. Papers that shouldn’t be published get pushed through for the cause, science that should be corrected goes un corrected. The best example of that backfiring is the Lamb diagram that made it into IPCC reports.
    As the mails show CRU knew that Lambs MWP chart was wrong, but they published the refutation in an obscure journal to protect
    Lamb’s reputation. In the end Folland put the chart in the report and skeptics have  had a field day with it ever since.
    The team also has the ability to control the ability of others to get published. This control is not complete, obviously; but they do go
    out of their way to make it hard for critics to publish. Odonnell is a fine example of this. We see this attitude toward publishing critical science in Tol’s criticism of Curry. Judith wants to host a free wheeling open dialogue. She publishes some garbage stuff ( like dragon slayers) to promote this open dialogue, believing that dialogue is better than suppression, even if it involves crackpot notions.
    My bias in all this is for more freedom and less control. I suppose I’m an anarchist.  

  • Matt B

    @89 Mosher,

    My bias in all this is for more freedom and less control. I suppose I’m an anarchist.  

    I have been reading your posts for the past few years. I have absolutely no doubt that you are anarchist. And I’m a fan…..keep on keeping on!


     

  • http://tallbloke.wordpress.com Rog Tallbloke

    “Writers and bloggers have every right to be supporters of science”

    ‘Science’  is not only the output of academic institutions.Just as  ‘Religion’ is not only the teachings of the church, mosque or synagogue.

    ‘Science’ is a personal odyssey which is (should be?) guided by an adherence to ‘the scientific method’.

    ‘Science’ is the output of a group combining/winnowing their results in an effort to achieve a consistent set of propositions which reflect reality.

    ‘Science’ is a corpus of knowledge which has been contributed to by  individuals and groups which has supplanted religion in some parts of the world as the purveyor of Truth about the reality of the physical world and the inner workings of the human mind.

    ‘Science’ has internicine struggles, revolutions, conspiratorial elements, hidden agendas, revealed agendas, biases and breakthroughs.
    ‘Science’ has a history and a pathology.
    ‘Science’ is a reflection of society at large. 

    Society at large is to some extent shaped by science.

    “Supporter of science”?

    Which bit of it? 

  • OPatrick

    Steven Mosher

    “What I saw was the development of a bunker mentality. Don’t even bother arguing against this because Jones agrees.”

    You do the standard manoeuver of taking something that has a grain of truth to it and spinning it into a narrative that goes far beyond anything it merits. To some degree we can see that the scientists involved have become over-defense as a result of repeated, unjustified attacks. This becomes:

    “Those who appear to cross the line are sanctioned or punished. They are seen as traitors to the cause. De Freitas and Curry would be good examples.”

    But in both cases there is genuine cause for concern about the way these individuals behave. You imply the response to them is entirely due to the bunker mentality, but whilst the response may be influenced, to a slight degree, by the acquired defensiveness it is not dictated by it. 

    “The team also has the ability to control the ability of others to get published. This control is not complete, obviously;”

    Not obvious in the first half of your comments though. Perhaps you are hoping that most readers will be nodding away so vigorously by this point that they can’t focus properly on these words.  

    “I suppose I’m an anarchist.”   

    I suppose you are something else. 

  • Lazar

    Readers can view themselves the papers approved by DeFreitas at Climate Research (first image, and Appendix A.1), and decide whether DeFreitas was competent enough for the task.
    The questions
    a) DeFreitas’ reason(s) for leaving CR
    b) The motives of those (if any) involved in his leaving
    c) His competence for the task
    d) The motivation of those editors of CR whom resigned during and after the controversy over Soon & Baliunas
    e) The motives of Mann et al.
    f) The effects of Mann et al.
    are roughly independent. As far as I’m aware, the only question resolved by the hacked emails is e), and only partly so.
    Peer review works (roughly). It is not freedom or anarchy.
    The ire of scientists over bad editorial decisions, and the ire of Mosher over political pressures, are checks and balances on peer review. Checks and balances are a good thing, right?

  • Lazar

    Steven writes…
    “basically, the trajectory of free inquiry is shaped by dollars and the dollars are directed by agendas. That doesnt give us bad answers, it just gives us a more narrow understanding than we would have otherwise”
    The claim is that a “more narrow understanding” necessarily results from “dollars […] directed by agendas” relative to what “we would have otherwise”.
    What is the “we would have otherwise” that is being contrasted? How would dollars be directed not by an “agenda”?

    My greater objection is to the term “narrow”. How is “narrow” being defined and whom gets to define it?
    Agenda a) promotes research into questions of set A.
    Agenda b) which is called what “we would have otherwise” promotes research into questions of set B.
    A and B are probably not mutually exclusive.
    Why ‘is’ A necessarily “more narrow” than B?
    Why is answering questions about climate change to 2300 “more narrow” than answering questions about natural variability?
    What is narrow?
    Who gets to decide?
    “A good example here is some of the work that Peter Webster talked to me about […] those questions are not high on the agenda […] Lindzen is also an example here”
    Doubtless all scientists would be disappointed with rejections of funding.
    Doubtless all scientists have proposals declined.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #93,
    Had a quick look at the linked document. It seems to make a reasonable case that the number of sceptical papers passing with other editors was lower than with DeFreitas, but it doesn’t show much evidence (besides some scores out of 3 the origins of which are not really explained, and that look a bit subjective) that the quality threshold was any different. It could as easily be interpreted as showing that other editors were gatekeeping sceptics out as showing DeFreitas was ‘pal’ing them in.

    Most of the commentary in the notes at the end seemed to be about proving that the papers were sceptical, not that they were especially wrong. There were a couple that did mention errors or problems, but again, to actually test the hypothesis, you’d have to review all the more conventional papers for problems to see if there was any difference in threshold. Everyone knows peer review isn’t infallible.

    One of those comments did stand out for me. It said of one paper: “It omits issues like: if sea-level rise eliminates beaches, tourism will not be helped.” Really? Someone seriously believes sea level rise could eliminate beaches? And we’re supposed to accept their judgement of the other papers after that?

    However, as a bibliography of many of the papers under discussion, the document appears to be quite useful. As you say, we would have to view all the papers ourselves (and another comparable sample of orthodox papers) to make that decision. I agree that the emails leave a lot of questions unanswered.

    Peer review aims to answer the editorial question “is this paper even worth looking at?” Journals effectively sell the service of collating the most interesting papers, for busy scientists to be able to keep up with the news. Peer review does not usually function as more than a cursory check on their accuracy or validity. (As we know, from some of the more orthodox papers that have passed it.) If a journal thinks there is an audience for sceptical papers, and a group of scientists who would find them interesting, isn’t it their function as a business to make sure they get published? What role should journals play in the scientific debate:- enablers, or participants?

  • grypo

    “It could as easily be interpreted as showing that other editors were gatekeeping sceptics out as showing DeFreitas was “˜pal’ing them in.”

    This doesn’t even  pass a basic logical sniff tests.  So you are saying it is just as likely that ALL the editors were doing a bad job, as it likely that ONE was?  Never mind that it doesn’t actually take any facts into account about other papers by other editors.

  • Lazar

    Nullius,
    I would add that it is the responsibility of journals to publish papers without prejudice to the type of answers that they provide, given that they answer questions of interest and that minimum standards for accuracy, validity, rigor and originality are met. “sceptical papers” suggests a type of answer. Combined with “make sure they get published”, that kind of reasoning makes me kinda uneasy. But I may be misinterpreting you.
    I would add that individuals have responsibilities to science and humanity, beyond their primary customers…

  • Nullius in Verba

    #96,
    A priori, one might reasonably expect a bias towards orthodoxy – for lots of reasons, most of them not dishonest.
    It’s equivalent to someone asking if it was just as likely that all the sceptics were submitting bad papers. Is it not more likely that you would get a mixture, some good, some bad, as you tend to do with any scientific topic?

    All you can say is that the correlation is unlikely to arise by pure chance, so an ‘unlikely’ event must by definition have occurred to cause it. I would agree that by itself the difficulty sceptics have getting published does not itself prove gatekeeping – even though the odds of every one of them independently and repeatedly producing only bad papers and only when they write on this subject is remote. Neither does it prove there is systematic, organised pressure on journals and editors to not publish sceptics, or to damage the careers and reputations of those that do. That’s why I proposed that a way to test this would be to systematically check the quality of the papers versus the proportions passed and rejected on each side.

    The difficulty, of course, is in constructing an unbiased measure of ‘quality’. Given our respective biases, we would need some form of outside arbitration to really tell.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #97,
    “I would add that it is the responsibility of journals to publish papers without prejudice to the type of answers that they provide, given that they answer questions of interest and that minimum standards for accuracy, validity, rigor and originality are met.”
    Also relevance, novelty, utility, and significance. But yes, I agree. I wouldn’t propose publishing sceptical papers simply because they are sceptical. In fact, that sort of boosting of any sceptical paper, irrespective of whether it is right or wrong, I find very annoying. There are a couple with somewhat obsessive fan clubs… But there are certainly scientists with an interest in quickly finding good quality sceptical papers, and it’s as valid as specialisation as any other specialist journal.

    In practice, climate blogs seem to serve the function reasonably well, in lieu of journals willing to take on the hassle. As with journals, different blogs have different degrees of reputation…

  • BBD

    What good quality sceptical papers have you found?

  • BBD

    Lazar

    I remember finding Mashey’s analysis of CdF’s editorial approvals persuasive and damning. On looking again, I see nothing has changed ;-)

  • Lazar

    Nullius,
    “there are certainly scientists with an interest in quickly finding good quality sceptical papers, and it’s as valid as specialisation as any other specialist journal”
    I think there would be considerable difficulties involving categorization. What would be the criteria for selecting relevant questions to be subject to the binary criteria of skeptic / non-skeptic positions? Why some questions and not others? What happens when a skeptical answer to one question is evidence for a non-skeptical position on another question in the same set? What happens when a skeptical answer contradicts a skeptical answer to the same question? What about answers which don’t fit either category?
    I think it is fairly uncontroversial that binary and mutually exclusive answers are not the most useful way of thinking about things, especially science. E.g. the move away from null hypothesis testing. I would worry that ‘skeptic’ and ‘non-skeptic’ journals would encourage such binary thinking. I would worry about the ghetoization of evidence. I would worry about skewing the weight of evidence in both directions.
    I get your point about search utility. But as you suggest that is something the internet could provide.

  • grypo

    “A priori, one might reasonably expect a bias towards orthodoxy ““ for lots of reasons, most of them not dishonest.”

    Actually, this is just not supportable by evidence in science journals. You are engaging in sophistry.

  • Lazar

    BBD,
    I’ve not read Mashey;’s report but I have read the first paper in the list marked “from pals” (Balling, Michaels, Knappenberger) and Soon & Baliunas.
    BMK contains some claims that are unsupported by the evidence presented in their paper. Claims which also fail the logic test. I think the acceptance of such claims lies well enough below what is considered normal that questioning the process is appropriate. The basic science tho is sound but uninteresting. Soon & Baliunas is somewhat similar, tho less glaring.
    I’ve also read von Storch’s reasons for resigning. I trust von Storch.
    With not much confidence, I would Bayesian bet that DeFreitas leaving was appropriate.
    The question doesn’t greatly interest me. It’s ancient history :-)

  • Nullius in Verba

    #102,
    “What happens when a skeptical answer to one question is evidence for a non-skeptical position on another question in the same set?”
    That would be fine. That’s interesting too.
    I wouldn’t want a journal exclusively sceptical. Just a place with a good chance of finding it.

  • OPatrick

    Please can we keep sceptical as ‘sceptical’. The conversation makes no sense otherwise.

  • BBD

    Lazar

    The question doesn’t greatly interest me. It’s ancient history

    Agreed. But the ‘sceptics’ are in an almighty froth about it again, thanks to the latest batch of emails. And some rather… misleading coverage of l’affaire de Freitas by a well-known contrarian blogger.

    It’s all a conspiracy, don’t you understand? The Team are keeping the shills out of the literature and it’s the scandal of our age.

  • BBD

    NiV

    Any news on those good quality ‘sceptical’ papers yet?

  • grypo

    The idea that journals don’t want to publish papers that are extraordinary or compelling or non-orthodox is one of the great skeptic canards that people who know better don’t challenge enough. Scientists and publishers don’t make a name by re-establishing known science.  Logically, it’s a bit easier to swallow, for the non-biased folks, that the vast amount of skeptic evidence that doesn’t get published doesn’t really exist.

  • Lazar

    BBD
    “the “˜sceptics’ are in an almighty froth about it again, thanks to the latest batch of emails. And some rather”¦ misleading coverage of l’affaire de Freitas by a well-known contrarian blogger”
    The Wattsies froth. They’re good at it. They enjoy it. Their headline was “Climategate 2.0 emails ““ They’re real and they’re spectacular!” Joy and froth! If they weren’t frothing, then I’d be worried.
     

  • BBD

    Lazar

    If they weren’t frothing, then I’d be worried.

    Now you mention it, so would I. 

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    RE 92:

    “You do the standard manoeuver of taking something that has a grain of truth to it and spinning it into a narrative that goes far beyond anything it merits. To some degree we can see that the scientists involved have become over-defense as a result of repeated, unjustified attacks. ”

    You have the chronology wrong. As I said, if you have an issue with the bunker mentality then take it up with Jones. That was his description not mine. In  feb of 2005 Jones had one outstanding
    request to him for data. One. That request was from Warwick Hughes. He has promised Hughes the data, but was taking his time
    responding. As of 2005, McIntyre had one request to data into Jones. A request made in 2002 and Jones sent him the data.
    As of 2005, Jones and Obsborn had no exposure what was happening on the internet. They were not the subject of any “attacks”. Mann, however, was being criticized in the press for refusing to share data. Hardly an attack. In this time frame Wigley asked Jones if he was aware of FOIA. Jones replied that he was and that if he was told to share data that he would rather destroy it first.
    Jones was not being attacked. Jones was not being hounded for data. The last mail Hughes sent him was in July of 2004. Yet, he contemplated destroying data rather than sharing it.

    Further, the inquiries themselves found that CRU brought trouble on themselves through their actions. So, this is not my view of things, this is the independent reviews conclusion. 

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    RE 94:

    Lazar, if you have an issue with the funding effect and how it
    slants the science that gets done then bring your issue to the author
    of “Doubt is their product”  The solution is also clear as detailed in his
    writings. It’s basically what we called for in the book. So do your homework, and explain how the funding effect works in medical research but doesnt work the same way in other types of research.
    If you believe that their is no funding effect, then by all means see if you can get that belief published. Maybe we can undo some of the controls we put into place on medical research if you are correct. But for my part, I’m happy to agree that there is a funding effect as studies show. Knock yourself out arguing against that consensus

  • Lazar

    Steven,
    As far as I’m aware, I don’t have an ‘issue’ with the funding effect.
    I’m mostly asking what *your* definitions of “narrow” and “[what] we would have otherwise” are, to understand your logic.
    If you answer is, the answers are in those books, well that’s fine. I respect the ‘go and read’ response. Those are books I want to read anyway, someday sometime…

  • OPatrick

    “As I said, if you have an issue with the bunker mentality then take it up with Jones.”

    I don’t have a particular issue with the idea of a ‘bunker mentality’, though I think it exaggerates the situation and over-defensiveness is a better description.

    I have an issue with you suggesting this became the reason for people like De Freitas and Curry being seen as “traitors to the cause” (another emotive exaggeration), as though there were no other justification for criticising them.

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    #100.

    The issue isnt really finding a good skeptical paper. Since I’m not a skeptic, I don’t think there can be good skeptical papers. What I do see is that papers that are critical of certain aspects of the science tend to be treated differently than papers that are supportive of certain positions.

    There is a simple test of this.

    Let’s take O’Donnell’s paper on Antarctica. After a fairly long and arduous review process the paper was finally published. Steig, a reviewer  believes that the paper is an improvment on the work he did. The authors view the paper as overturning some of Steig’s work. That’s an interesting debate. But let’s say that Steig is correct. Odonnell’s paper is an improvement to the science he did.

    Here is the test ( proposed by me when the paper got published)
    The test of tribalism will come down to how the Odonnell paper is treated in Ar5.

    Any predictions? will the better science be used, despite the fact that its authors are not part of the tribe, or will the tribe cite itself?

     

  • Lazar

    Steven,
    “Here is the test ( proposed by me when the paper got published)
    The test of tribalism will come down to how the Odonnell paper is treated in Ar5.
    Any predictions? will the better science be used, despite the fact that its authors are not part of the tribe, or will the tribe cite itself?”
    Or…
    Both O’Donnell and Steig are cited.
    Neither are cited.
    If you’re asking for or against…
    Steig gets cited and not O’Donnell
    I would bet against that outcome.

  • BBD

    steve mosher @ 116


    Any predictions? will the better science be used, despite the fact that its authors are not part of the tribe, or will the tribe cite itself?

    Does it matter, if the tribe is essentially right?

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    ‘Right’?  Who cares about ‘right’?

    The things we should focus on about climate science are personalities and politics…*right*, Mr. Mosher?

     

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    Let’s add ‘process’ too to make it three P’s.

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    And why are we talking about this anyway, when clearly the most incisive journalism on climate change this week (and any other week) came from The Onion:
    Report: Global Warming May Be Irreversible By 2006
     



     

  • BBD

    So no good quality sceptical papers then?

    Looks like mosher was right:

    The issue isnt really finding a good skeptical paper.

     

  • Nullius in Verba

    #122,
    BBD, the question was an obvious decoy, and I was busy with something else and not as inclined as usual to play, so I ignored it. You know as well as I do that there are plenty of decent sceptical papers. So given that, your intention in asking the question was presumably to disagree with whatever answer I gave and divert down an unfocussed multitude of technical rabbit holes and back-and-forth controversies. Or simply to rubbish the notion once again. I wasn’t bored enough to consider it worth the effort. Maybe next time.

    The original point was that despite making a great effort to show that DeFreitas had approved more sceptical papers than his colleagues, nothing had been presented to show that he was remiss in having done so. A gap in the logic you had apparently missed, and presumably wanted to distract attention from.

  • BBD

    NiV

    You know as well as I do that there are plenty of decent sceptical papers.

    No, you’ve got me there.

    The original point was that despite making a great effort to show that DeFreitas had approved more sceptical papers than his colleagues, nothing had been presented to show that he was remiss in having done so. A gap in the logic you had apparently missed, and presumably wanted to distract attention from.

    The gap in the logic occurs when there are no good quality sceptical papers to bolster your argument. What was CdF accepting? Where are these good quality sceptical papers?
     

  • Barry

    Science communication always seems to deteriorate into communication about particular scientists.
    In most professions, an argument stands on its own merits. In science (particularly climate science) it’s all about WHO made the argument. And readers can’t possibly judge whether an idea is worth considering unless they know which tribe produced that idea.
    Others debate. Climate scientists (and journalists) merely squabble.

  • Jeremy Harvey

    #116, mosher, it looks based on an excerpt from the zeroth draft of AR5, <a href=”http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/4356-3/”>quoted at Jeff Id’s</a>, as though you have a running chance of ‘winning’ your bet.
    On topic, I agree with Barry that it is unfortunate that no mention was made of Whitehouse’s affiliation. And I think people like Keith may find <a href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/philip-ball”>Philip Ball’s new weekly column in the Guardian</a> interesting. Philip is an interesting writer who used to be an editor in Nature, and also writes in a number of science magazines. He promises that in his new column, he is “going to try to be like an arts critic, but for science”.

  • al jones

    Kloor et al,

    You guys are a perfect example of what Dr Whitehouse was criticising, though the irony is, you don’t know it.

     

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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