How scientists view the public, the media and the political process

by Judith Curry

Here is the punchline of a new paper by Besley and Nisbet:

Most scientists in the US and UK blame public ignorance of science for flawed policy preferences and political choices. They tend to be critical of media coverage, yet rate favorably their own experience with the media.  Scientists say policy-makers and journalists are the most important groups to engage and view the public as having secondary importance in political decision-making. Among scientists, perceptions of science-related policy debates are likely to be influenced by ideology and like-minded information sources such as blogs.

How scientists view the public, the media and the political process

John C. Besley and Matthew Nisbet

Abstract. We review past studies on how scientists view the public, the goals of communication, the performance and impacts of the media, and the role of the public in policy decision-making. We add to these past findings by analyzing two recent large-scale surveys of scientists in the UK and US. These analyses show that scientists believe the public is uninformed about science and therefore prone to errors in judgment and policy preferences. Scientists are critical of media coverage generally, yet they also tend to rate favorably their own experience dealing with journalists, believing that such interactions are important both for promoting science literacy and for career advancement. Scientists believe strongly that they should have a role in public debates and view policy-makers as the most important group with which to engage. Few scientists view their role as an enabler of direct public participation in decision-making through formats such as deliberative meetings, and do not believe there are personal benefits for investing in these activities. Implications for future research are discussed, in particular the need to examine how ideology and selective information sources shape scientists’ views.

Public Understanding of Science published online 30 August 2011 DOI: 10.1177/0963662511418743 [link]

The paper is discussed online at Matthew Nisbet’s blog.

Motivation for the study:

As I described in a previous paper with Dietram Scheufele, it is increasingly important to understand how scientists form judgments about the public, the communication process, media coverage, and political decision-making. With strong levels of societal trust and admiration, scientists remain among the leading authorities called upon in policy debates to give media interviews, testify before political bodies or address public forums. In addition, as decision-makers at their organizations, many scientists are responsible for setting strategy, allocating resources and establishing communication priorities. Scientists also contribute to the framing of debates over topics such as climate change and stem cell research through blogging, political activism and other forms of public communication, shaping societal interpretations about why an issue might be a problem, who or what is to blame and what should be done.

How scientists view the public:

Almost universally, studies find that scientists believe the public is inadequately informed about science topics, including food risks, genetic modification, chemicals, and even aquaculture. Further, scientists believe that, except for a small minority, the public is uninterested in becoming more knowledgeable.

The consequence, and cause, of the public’s limited scientific sophistication has also been the subject of speculation by scientists. Several studies find that scientists view the public as non-rational and unsystematic in their thinking such that they rely on anecdotes and then overreact to minor risks. Others have found that scientists see the public as emotional, fear prone, overly focused on the sensational, self-interested and stubborn in the face of new evidence. Because of these perceived limits, scientists argue that scientific information needs to be simple, carefully worded, visual and entertaining.

Together, these findings reflect a traditional “deficit model” of science communication that assumes that scientific illiteracy is at the root of opposition to new technologies, environmental action and adequate science funding.

The pervasiveness of this mental model makes it very difficult to break away from the influence of these assumptions in popular debate and in strategic planning by scientists and their organizations.  Yet alternative models do exist, as summarized under the column specific to the “public engagement” model. (For more discussion, see also this article.)

How scientists view the media:

Scientists do not exclusively blame the public for its failings; they also blame the news media. The public is misguided, according to this argument, because it is inordinately swayed by biased or sensational news coverage.  Studies find that such coverage is often critiqued by scientists for emphasizing the views of interest groups, industry and other vocal minorities rather than those of scientists and other experts perceived as impartial and authoritative. Journalists’ lack of specialist training is also seen as the cause of poor scientific coverage.  Studies do, however, find that some scientists appear to recognize that different types of journalists can produce different types of content, that scientists sometimes lack the ability to communicate effectively to reporters, and that science can be difficult to adequately report.

The 2001 Mori/Wellcome Trust data show that a greater percentage of scientists believe the public trusts television documentaries (67%), television news (68%) and national newspaper journalists (49%) more than university scientists (39%). Scientists further believe that media coverage has influenced public opinion on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), genetically modified foods (GMOs) and human genetics, making the public more confused (59%, 58% and 43%, respectively) and more wary (59%, 69% and 68%, respectively).

Nevertheless, when asked about effective methods for communicating with the public about social and ethical implications of research, 48% said that being on television or the radio was the “most effective” means of communication. Another 26% said talking to television or radio journalists, and a further 26% said talking to national newspapers was the most effective communication method. Some 30% said writing for the national press themselves was the most effective method while smaller percentages mentioned writing for the popular science press (19%) or talking to local newspaper reporters.

The survey also asked about 16 motives for engaging with the media with more than 9 out of 10 respondents indicating the goal of “achieving a more positive attitude towards research” and more than 9 out of 10 scientists indicating the goal of “a better educated public.” In terms of factors weighing against interaction, 9 out of 10 respondents indicated the “risk of incorrect quotation” and 8 out of 10 cited the “unpredictability of journalists.”

How scientists’ view the public’s role in the political process:

Research on scientists’ views of the public relative to political decision-making has focused on two main themes: (1) the appropriate role of the public and (2) how the public should be engaged in public decision-making.

Scientists seem to walk a difficult line both in recognizing the right of citizens to play a role in decision-making while having reservations about the public’s capacity to do so. One study spoke of a scientist’s need to have the public provide “legitimacy and validation.” This position appeared to be operationalized as a duty to empower citizens to make good decisions. However, a good decision was understood as one that was consistent with scientists’ point of view, and empowerment was understood as education. In the end, these studies describe scientists as feeling frustrated when they believe their views receive inadequate attention.

Previous studies suggest that scientists tend to favor one-way communication with the public via the media, viewing engagement as chiefly about dissemination rather than two-way dialogue and active public participation in decisions.  One study, for example, notes many scientists view it as their responsibility to inform the public via the media about the benefits of nanotechnology because of the public money that goes towards research. This finding is consistent with those from the cross-national survey of researchers who reported that achieving “a more positive attitude towards research” and a “better educated public” as chief motivations for engaging with journalists.

Consistent with deficit model assumptions, in previous studies, scientists have described the primary reasons for engaging the public in terms of the need to increase citizen knowledge or allay unfounded fears.  Several studies also emphasize that scientists are willing to engage directly with citizens  but that such engagement is usually still framed in terms of providing information. The key difficulty may be that scientists often believe public debates should turn on logic and cost-benefit-analysis accounting whereas the public wants consideration of factors such as fairness, ethics and accountability.

A small quantitative study showed that scientists’ intention to engage with the public is predicted by attitudes about the process or activity (e.g., would it be enjoyable), social norm perceptions about what other scientists in the peer group are doing, and feelings of efficacy based on the belief that one has the skill and tools necessary to succeed.

From the discussion and conclusions:

Past studies provide clear evidence that scientists believe the public knows little about a range of scientific issues and that they see this knowledge deficit as shaping risk perceptions, policy preferences and decisions. Scientists further tend to blame media coverage for many of the public’s failings. Scientists’ negative views about the media, however, are matched by a positive impression of their own interactions and a belief that the media remain an effective means of public communication.

When it comes to policy debates, scientists recognize that they have a role to play in supporting public debate but emphasize a need to educate the public so that non-experts will make policy choices in line with the preferences of scientists. It also appears that scientists believe direct engagement with policy-makers is the most effective route for affecting policy outcomes. Only a small proportion of scientists appear to view their role as an enabler of public participation through formats such as deliberative meetings, and see few personal benefits for such engagement.

Third person effect” research may also prove useful to understanding the perceptions of scientists. This widely used theory suggests that a member of one social group will perceive media coverage (or a message) as not affecting them but will think the media coverage has influenced those socially distant from their group. It seems particularly relevant to scientists who, as we have reviewed, tend to view the wider public as mostly ill-informed about science if not often lacking competence. Such views seem likely to magnify concerns about slanted and biased media coverage that may lead to misplaced communication strategy on the part of scientists and their organizations.

JC’s comments:  I find this article to be very insightful, and it seems to explain in my mind some of the behaviours revealed by the Climategate emails.    The “deficit model” results in scientists dumbing down the evidence and the arguments, along with a perceived need for “consensus.”  Any negative media coverage is over interpreted, motivating gatekeeping and consensus enforcement, and general “misplaced communication strategy”.   The public is more interested in fairness, ethics and accountability than in the nuances of a scientific argument or the existence of a consensus.   Then the scientists are frustrated when their views receive inadequate attention.

I am a strong proponent of the “public engagement” approach, as a strategy for educating the public, building trust and accountability with public, and discussing the science and policy options from a range of perspectives.  I hope that Nisbet et al. will do a follow on article on “How scientists view the blogosphere,”  which I regard as a key element in public engagement.

192 responses to “How scientists view the public, the media and the political process

  1. I am a strong proponent of the “public engagement” approach, as a strategy for educating the public, building trust and accountability with public, and discussing the science and policy options from a range of perspectives.

    Judith: Thanks. This is why I consider your blog important.

    • Why not do a detailed study of the political inclinations and culture of the “consensus”, Climate academia and research and the IPCC??

      The objective public already knows, the advocate agw community doesn’t merit trust. It deserves contempt.

    • The problem is that scientists are to blame also. As can be seen in the video of the last Climate Reality, that I included in the following post

      http://ecotretas.blogspot.com/2011/09/it-is-rising.html

      you see a scientist, Paul Higgins, Associate Director of the American Meteorological Society Policy Program, stumbling. Than you see Allison Rogers, Miss Rhode Island 2006, giving an answer.

      Take a look at the video, and watch it as you were a normal person.

      Who would you believe?

      Ecotretas

  2. David Stooksbury

    Thank you for posting this Judy. As one who has been recently burned by politicians, I am currently a little jaded. I have found that most in the press real try to get the story, the science, correct. This is especially true in the print media.

    • Considering how grotesquely one sided and simplistic journalism covers global warming, anyone who thinks the the press is trying to actually get the story rather than tell a big lie is not really interested in the truth.

    • David, most of the “media” is in the tank of agw and is promotional arm of a movement. “Science” has been reduced to a talking point cover word (We’re the experts, appeal to central planning authority/IPCC etc.) by agw advocates to a large part.

      “Little” jaded doesn’t cover the nut for many on this board.

    • I disagree that the media in general gets the story correct let alone really trying to get it correct in the first place. Almost everything that I know from first hand experience is reported incorrectly, in print and in television.

      It is usual that both areas of the media feed off each other during any major event and serial errors can creep in, due possibly to a perceived need to rush to publish before someone else scoops them.

      My take on the media is that they can be appallingly sloppy with facts and that they generally lack tact and restraint when dealing with tragedy. For once, I feel quite pessimistic when I am thinking about the media.

      • I disagree, most in the media do try to get the story right. The problem is with sexing the story up, which is not the same thing. Climate change has a problem with some scientists sexing up the story then the journalists sexing that up, with all that sex, the Stooksbury’s of the world can get screwed.

        If you think about it, sex squared amplifies the tails. Once the politicians sex it up, sex cubed results in a hyperbolic curve, so the guy in the middle appears radically out of touch. :)

      • LOL but I’m not sure how a sexed up story can convey an original message that remains essentially true and correct to the public at large.

        The more hype the more noise that needs to be filtered in order for a reader or listener to receive the original message.

      • Peter, Peter, Peter, you must be a scientist kinda guy. I have written quite a few nice concise articles that gather dust. I can sex up a title and opening paragraph to grab attention, then state just the facts, people actually read those. We live in a blood leads society with tons of noise. Let the journalist play the media, scientists need to stick to science.

      • Dallas seems to think that everyone is accustomed to getting their information dressed up in sexy clothing otherwise they will not read what’s good for them!

        My experience tells me that once the sex drive is in train, almost all non-relevant information will be filtered out in favour of the main thing at hand: sex!

        But I could just be any bloke who generally cannot do more than one thing at a time and that has been an opinion that my wife of 44 years has of me. :)

      • Uh-huh. And what of the case where only one of the “tails” is mentioned?

    • Hi Stooks, thanks for stopping by. That was indeed a big, incomprehensible and undeserved burn.

    • David

      Were you really “burned by politicians” or did you fail to communicate openly and honestly about what some scientists are claiming is happening regarding the climate? In hindsight, shouldn’t you have?
      1. Been more communicative that scientists do not really KNOW that additional atmospheric CO2 is the primary cause of a warming planet?
      2. That the data that points out the potential “harms” of a warmer planet is very weak at best and we really do not yet understand what a potentially warmer planet would be like
      3. There is no immediate need for the US to take economically harmful actions to reduce CO2 emissions as those actions would have very little benefit to the overall situation.

      • David was burned by politicians, if you can allow me to answer for him. David has said very little at all publicly about AGW, CAGW, and policy solutions. I have always viewed him as somewhat skeptical, and definitely cognizant of the uncertainties.

      • Judith

        I understand that is your position, but how again was he burned? In the position he held why should he have been silent in regards to the points I raised? From what I read, he was not really silent but actually supported the position that the IPCC AR4 was correct and should be implemented

      • Rob,

        Stooks was serving as the Georgia State Climatologist. And there is a whole lot of local/state climatological needs (that Stooks was attending to) that are not related to climate change. Governor Deal acted as if the State Climatologist is a political appointee—which is not really (supposed) to be the case. I imagine that had Stooks been consulted by the Governor or his Administration on issues climatological (even concerning the ultimate disposition of the State Climatology Office), that a) things may have turned out differently, and b) even if they hadn’t, I doubt Stooks would have felt as if he had been “burned.”

        As I wrote in my recent MasterResource.org commentary:

        So, I’ll say it loud and clear—Georgia governor Nathan Deal made a poor decision in replacing David Stooksbury as Georgia State Climatologist. If politics were involved—then the decision was egregious. There is no better individual to serve the climate needs of the people of the state of Georgia. I am confident that everyone who has directly interacted with David Stooksbury (or with Pam Knox) would be in agreement. Clearly, Governor Deal never did.

        Both the “state” and the “State” of Georgia have lost a valuable resource.

        -Chip Knappenberger

      • Chip
        With all due respect, I disagree with your conclusion.

        Stooks may have done a large number of things very well in his position, but he also seems to have mislead the public in regard to understanding the current reliability of Climate Models to accurately predict future conditions. This failure on his part was a serious error and it was unreasonable to not want someone in that position who is misleading the public.

      • Most have been burned. The scientists by their vanities, anesthetized by CO2. Politicians by financiers and the urge to power. Financiers by their greed. The people by the madness of the crowd, crackling through the brush. Fire, kine friends, and snakes too!

        The bonfire’s just begun. It won’t be enough to keep us warm. We’re gonna have to dance, too.
        ==================

      • Dr. Curry,
        Anyone who serves in an appointed job at the pleasure of a decision maker is going to generally get canned over time.
        I am sure he is a nice guy. I like Dr. N-G here in Texas. He is a great guy and a good meteorlogist.
        I addressed this before and pointed out that more skeptical appointed cliamtologists have been canned- in Oregon, I believe. This is part of the game if you play in the political field.
        No great crime against science has happened here. It sounds like Dr. Stooksbury is just another person caught up in the AGW social mania. Life will go on, Georgia will survive, the good professor will keep his day job.
        For ruination b y politics, check out Dr. Oppenheimer of Los Alamos fame.
        And even there, he was not defrocked of his Princeton gig or put in jail.
        Keeping some perspective on this is important.
        After all, more than a few AGW promoters have wanted de-licensing and de-certification of professionals who did not toe the AGW calamity dogma closely enough.
        Stooksbury keeps his job and probably gets a nice profile in the NYT about how the wicked VRWC shoved him out of his job saving Georgia from CO2. Maybe even a book/movie deal. Heck, maybe his character will star in Straw Dogs 3, where the brave professor of meteorology gets to kill the wicked denialist scum for ravishing his wife in a an environmentally improper manner.

      • personally, i don’t care who is the state climatologist of GA. But the farmers and water resource managers in the state need a good state climatologist, and they had one in Stooks. The new state climatologist (whom I don’t know personally but understand that he is a Georgia Tech alum) doesn’t seem to know what he is in for, and was just as surprised as Stooks by the announcement. Not good news for the farmers in GA, I suspect.

      • Dr. Curry,
        I am certain Dr. Stooksbury is a very good professional.
        I was only trying to put some perspective on this, along with a little farcical reference to a recent bad movie.
        I think the farmers will muddle through somehow.
        this thread raises the interesting question of gov. Perry and his state climatologist. It is going to be worth watching how that relationship goes.
        A local ISD Supt. is apparently trying to worm his way into Perry’s confidence, but if he does will make certain that many of us who might otherwise support him change votes. If Perry treats Dr. N-G badly, I will think less of Perry as well.

      • Patrick J. Michaels come to mind.

      • David

        Were you really “burned by politicians” or did you fail to communicate openly and honestly about what some scientists are claiming is happening regarding the climate? In hindsight, shouldn’t you have?
        1. Been more communicative that scientists do not really KNOW that additional atmospheric CO2 is the primary cause of a warming planet?
        ####
        The problem here of course is that some scientists would claim that they DO know. You are expecting a state climatologist to make a statement about all scientists. At issue here is your definition of knowledge. You want Stooks to act as an arbiter of knowledge. I would say you are asking him to say something that is either false or uncertain.

        2. That the data that points out the potential “harms” of a warmer planet is very weak at best and we really do not yet understand what a potentially warmer planet would be like
        #######
        again. you are asking him to be an arbiter of epistemic claims. The harms of a 1 meter sea level rise are known to a fair degree of certainty.
        Our level of undertanding of what a warmer planet looks like is strong. Not certain.
        3. There is no immediate need for the US to take economically harmful actions to reduce CO2 emissions as those actions would have very little benefit to the overall situation.
        ####
        You are asking him to make policy statements he isnt qualified to make

      • Steve

        I appreciate your perspective although I disagree with your conclusion.
        1. I agree that some believe that CO2 is the major cause of warming, and I would agree that they might be correct. I would certainly not agree that the case is “settled science” and believe it is untruthful to claim otherwise. I would expect that the State Climatologist would publically state that there is still much to learn regarding how much additional CO2 is contributing to warming. If that public official is communicating to the public that they know that human released CO2 is the cause of virtually all warming, they have demonstrated a cause for replacement.
        2. You write-“Our level of undertanding of what a warmer planet looks like is strong. Not certain.” Please cite the source of the strong evidence you have of what a warmer planet will look like. Strong evidence would most certainly not include the current GCMs that cannot be demonstrated to accurately predict either temperature or precipitation. Please describe some of the harms vs benefits that your evidence shows for the US (as an example)
        3. It was Stooks who stated that we KNEW what a warmer world would look like and stated that it needed to be avoided. His statements would absolutely lead a generally poorly informed public to conclude that the IPCC AR4 is an accurate assessment and should be followed.
        I certainly realize this is a touchy subject for people like Judith and yourself, but I conclude that Stooks replacement was completely correct based upon listening to his statements.

      • Indeed. Particularly galling is the assertion of GCM conclusions over all contemporary and historical experience of the difference between warmer and cooler climates.

        The former are much to be preferred.

    • “I have found that most in the press real try to get the story, the science, correct. This is especially true in the print media.”

      Please, child. Please.

      Andrew

    • I went ahead and tried to do a little reading on Stooksbury’s comments.
      It seems he has repeatedly stated our climate models are consistent and tell us WE KNOW what is going to happen globally.

      Do you believe that is an accurate statement??? Wouldn’t his statements lead the public to believe that actions need to be taken that may well turn out to be unnecessary and highly expensive?

  3. Scientists heavily concentrate on science. At least I think that is what they should be doing. Why should they think they are better at public policy assessment than the general public who have to deal daily with the effects of government policy?

    • Because making an A in physics makes them experts on morality, economics, politics, public choice theory, and finance. Or perhaps it just makes them hubristic, pompous fools, blinded by their own arrogance and drunk on the illusion of their own competence. One or the other.

      • Hey, pretty concise as rants go, Stan. Raises the bar for us more long-winded ranters.

      • Physics has given us the ability to see the wonders of an unfolding universe and vast galaxy and our place in it with clarity and brilliance; the power to ascend to space and to speak to each other across the globe; the knowledge to engineer instruments of medical discovery and means to feed a world Malthus believed could not sustain more than 100 million people in total.

        Moralists have brought us genocidal religious warfare; economists developed oppressive communism; politicians are infamous for deception and unfairness; public choice theory gets a pass tonight, as Vaughan Pratt reminds us of the wit of brevity; and finance? Enron and Madoff, bailed out banks and bailed out fossil corporations.

        I’d say, looking at the scoreboard, Physics engenders better morality by and large than any of stan’s sacred cows, more economic prosperity, cleaner political options, oh, wait.. I’m missing the point in my hubristic pomposity because I’m blinded by arrogance and drunk on the illusion of competence.

        Except, my training’s in economics and finance. Physics is just a hobby I dabble in to keep me humble and remind me of the integrity and honor of the pure pursuits of discovery mankind is capable of.

      • That’s about as balanced as an IPCC assessment.

      • stan

        Well, if you want me to mention the outliers of Physics to counterbalance the case for integrity and honor, by all means, I could bring up Spencer and his ilk.

        But I’m trying to be nice.

      • Heh, you just about got a rant about Roy.
        ==============

      • “Physics engenders better morality”

        Physics by itself has never prevented a person from lying.

        Andrew

      • Andrew

        If they’re lying about Physics, in a peer-reviewed journal, they may lie and lie and not get caught for some time.

        But their odds are not so good as those of a politician lying on the election trail.

        And really, if they’re lying about something that isn’t Physics, it’s lying about stamp collecting.

        How important could it be, if it’s not Physics?

      • Michael Larkin

        Physics also brought us the means to blow the hell out of everyone on the planet. Scientists aren’t special people better than anyone else. Amongst them you will find some of the most arrogant, smuggest and insufferable twerps imaginable.

      • Yes, he should read Feynman on the A bomb.
        When he started the project he thought it was moral because the nazis were the enemy. When they were defeated, he explains that he didnt rethink his motivation. And he states that if he had rethought his motivation, that he would not have continued.

        Physics doesnt make you any more moral.
        I wont make any comments about Feynmans…. errr. reputation.. on campus

      • Michael Larkin

        Physics brought us the knowledge. The military-industrial complex brought us the means. That’s on our appointed defenders and our merchants and skilled tradesmen, as much as any Physicist.

        Scientists not only aren’t special people better than anyone else. They also realize this by exacting measures of aptitude and track record, observations and experimental design.

        Although the field does rather attract a special few arrogant, smug, insufferable twerps, it is true. I slipped through its fingers and ended up smug, arrogant and insufferable in business, though.

        What field did you end up in?

      • Bart R,
        Please go study some history based on what actually happened.
        Thanks,
        hunter

    • Because they really aren’t “heavily concentrating on science”. Within the serious academic world we are talking about people who relatively choose to major in “Government”. I’m sorry, this is light-weight field but the science lack of self-confidence is huge in the general population as being brow-beaten indicates.

      Hanging around Earth day rallies is a good first clue, total dependence on fear based government funding another. It’s taboo to talk about which party they are generally sucking up to around her as well, SHHHHH!!!

  4. steve fitzpatrick

    I can’t say I am surprised by the content of the article (much seems self evident from the public behavior of climate scientists). However, any clear definition of the issues involved (talking down/dumbing down, focus on politicians and journalists rather than citizens) is helpful. While it is true that many people will have neither the inclination nor aptitude to deal with the details, they most certainly can perceive when they are being treated like children; it is simply offensive, and doomed to failure.

    • Two issues jump out from the scientists’ assessments. One is that they feel the public are ignorant. The other is that they feel that two-way communication is unnecessary. Only “lecture mode” is of interest.

      This does not bode well for “improving understanding”.

      Oh, I guess there’s one more point, a consequence of the others. That they feel their time is best spent interacting with “policy-makers” — for whom we may read funding bureaucrats, and politicians.

      All three of those groups need, and are in line to receive, some sharp reality-shocks, as a consequence of having formed a closed circle, sped and fed in its acceleration revolutions by the public’s funds. Neither said public nor nature have unlimited patience with such hubris and self-serviing.

  5. The paper reflects an arrogance not normally seen outside of a religious institution.
    It is interesting that most scientists do not seem to recognize that they are frequently wrong.

    • Forget a religious “instituition” Hunter, think kool-aid and Jonestown.

      • This was a tragedy, but perhaps they heard what they wanted to hear. There is a precaution:
        “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true“. – Acts 17:11 (NIV)

        This may well apply outside “religious institutions”.

    • hunter,

      I identified with a lot of the paper and found myself agreeing with it. As a scientist, I do not consider myself as arrogant, however I don’t know what people say about me after I leave the room either. :)

      Since this paper does not appear to focus on ‘climate scientists’ but rather on scientists in general, I have to disagree with your assertion that scientists don’t recognize they are frequently wrong. On the contrary, in most fields of science, the prospect of being ‘wrong’ is forefront in a scientists mind, hence the reason extensive experiments are performed and data are collected to convince oneself you’re making the right observations which leads to understanding and finally making correct predictions. If you predict the wrong outcome… your credibility obviously suffers…. credibility is king in science.

      • Perhaps I should include, as a scientist, admitting mistakes, when you are mistaken about an observation or prediction, actually improves your credibility to others…. imagine that!

      • If you predict the wrong outcome… your credibility obviously suffers…. credibility is king in science.

        And the slower you are to acknowledge an error, the faster your credibility suffers. By rights that ought to hold for everyone, no matter which side of the debate they’re on.

        On this blog that’s not a concern for Hunter because for all but the choir he preaches to his credibility bottomed out a year ago. Like a few other stalwarts of this blog, he’s tone deaf to criticism.

        Which seems to go with the whole climate skepticism thing. If climate skeptics are all about “fairness, ethics and accountability,” maybe that’s why they’re unable to handle criticism, or even recognize it when it’s being applied to them. How could criticism be fair?

      • Vaughan

        I very much have enjoyed reading some of your posts, but for a bright guy, you have seemed to be extremely naive regarding how some are trying to feed information to the public in the US (and globally) on this issue.
        One side claims immediate extremely costly actions are required by the US in order to avoid a global catastrophe
        The other side has a variety of opinions, but does not accept that conclusion.

      • That would be true for science qua science. When you have a policy relevant consensus to feed, then the story line is different.

      • “That would be true for science qua science.”

        Isn’t this where we have to start in this discussion?

      • Not when politics is involved. http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/2011/09/judge-questions-honesty-interior-department-scientists

        ‘Truth’ is whatever helps the cause. Perception is reality. Start with the policy preference and work back to derive whatever the science needs to say to support the politics.

      • John,
        Do you not see where the aversion to being wrong is going to lead?
        This is a human problem, not a scientist problem.
        But scientists, thanks to tenure, political support and pal review get to avoid that better than most.
        Think of what is playing outin Virginia right now: The academic community is rallying around lawful releases of information for the most contrived reasons. Not just climate scientists- most of the community.
        The same scam is being repeated right now, nearly two years after climategate in the UK. Again the academic community is ralllying around the UEA and its transparent attempt to comply with the law.
        I would suggest that while credibility may be king, arrogance is emperor.

      • I really like ‘its transparent attempt to comply with the law’, hunter. The brilliance of the transparency from UVA, too, may blind us all.
        ===============

      • Kim, that boner is what happens when posting in s hurry. UEA is clearly & cynically dodging this since the leak.

      • hunter,

        The aversion to being ‘wrong’ is not lost on me and I completely agree it is a human problem not unique to scientists. My point above is that I can identify with the POV scientists have about the media and the public in general. The majority of the media and the public do not know the details behind most of any science that makes the news. I think that is an accurate assessment.

        I personally come from the POV that the media is ‘asymmetric’ on the coverage of climate change. (I hope Joshua doesn’t read that). We certainly see much more coverage on the certainty of AGW and CAGW than on the uncertainty related to it.

        WRT the Virgina and UAE situations, don’t you think the credibility of those resisting FOI are taking hits? I see your point about arrogance in the context you present it, but the credibility of the science is at stake here and IMO is where the damage is being done. As I stated above, not admitting to mistakes or not providing all the information needed to verify conclusions lowers ones credibility.

        I think we can get lost in a circular argument here hunter.

      • John C,
        We are largely in agreement.
        I have worked in regulated industries much of my career.
        The idea of doing to a request what UEA and UVA/Mann are doing is not conceivable.
        That a bunch of spolied academics are asserting they are not accountable to those who pay the bills is disgusting.

      • (I hope Joshua doesn’t read that).

        lol!

        How do you quantify the symmetry? Do you think that the coverage is out of balance with the balance in the perspective of scientists? How do you define “the media?” Do Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Fox News, Savage, Jones, Medved, Ingraham, Bennett, Drudge, WorldNet Daily, etc., count as “the media?”

      • John Carpenter

        Dang… I was hoping I wouldn’t have to get into this discussion with you. :)

        I can’t quantify the (a)symmetry, I am going by my personal experience wrt media outlets. I listen to NPR, read National Geographic occasionally, read the local newspaper, sometimes an article or two from NYT or WSJ. I am getting Rolling Stone again… for my teenage daughter…. I will watch 60 minutes and periodically O’Reilly. I don’t watch network news any longer. I try to be balanced with what I read and listen to wrt the political spectrum. On the whole my experience from the listed outlets is; GW is mostly A and we need to do something about it i.e. mitigate CO2 production, otherwise there will be more “fill in the blank” with the latest scary climate calamity.

        I consider the list of shows, sites and talking heads you provided as mostly conservative entertainment and not ‘news’. I don’t really pay much attention to any of them.

        For science related materials that are pertinent to the type of work I do I have several technical periodicals/journals that I keep up with. For climate science… I wish I could spend more time reading technical journals but typically spend most of my time on line reading various sites, CA and spend most of my time here reading JC’s posts and going to the various links etc….

        Joshua, there is not enough time in the day to read or watch everything I want… do my job (10 hour days), raise my kids, travel for business, play my music, walk the dog, help around the house, watch football etc… etc…. etc…. but my personal experience tells me there is an asymmetric handling of AGW coverage by the news media.

      • (replying to your post September 21, 2011 at 6:29 pm in reply to Joshua, which didn’t have a “Reply” option)

        Re asymmetry in Australia (said in local accent, people here would think I’m talking about a burial ground), media acceptance and promotion of the CAGW line is almost universal. Contra news and opinion is largely confined to The Australian, whose editorial line is that AGW is occurring and measures must be taken to reduce emissions. The Aus is one of the few organs here which will air both sides of an issue, and its readership (as reflected in the Letters page) has shown a sharp shift to the sceptical over the last few years.

  6. “Most scientists in the US and UK blame public ignorance of science for flawed policy preferences and political choices.”

    I certainly view “most” of climate science dominated by pompous and arrogant would-be authoritarians who don’t like their pseudoscience questioned. How about they present their arguments and stay out of “policy choices”??

    So if they are so gung-ho on public ignorance maybe they should disclose their political rap sheets which by in large will align with the rest of the Eco-left enclave of academia and the IPCC. You can see the same social pattern right in the first sentence. Most of the “media” are sock-puppets for the same disinformation cartel for the same common political agenda and inclination; all the government and expert management for the world they have decided among themselves. Once again we are left with the self-appointed “smartest people in the room” who in fact are self-serving and politically driven toads.

    Climate science is the WPA of academia and research, time to defund/investigate and cut it off at the knees.

  7. Dr. Curry,

    And how do we, the informed public, communicate our disappointment to scientists over their failures? When venture capitalists and private labs find that over half of published studies in top journals can’t be replicated, we see how bad the quality can be. That’s in studies the scientists KNOW will be replicated. If scientists screw up that bad when they know they will be checked, how bad is it in fields where they don’t expect to be checked? Especially when they go to great lengths to avoid being checked and know that their buddies will cover for them?

    What do scientists as a community have to say to people who are beginning to wonder if Jones, Mann, Rahmstorf, Briffa, Steig, et al are par for the course? That if all the work were vetted carefully by people with expertise in stats, software, etc., we’d find lots and lots of errors as egregious as those identified above.

    • The lack of self-awareness is a huge problem. We know from a number of studies and from history itself that scientists are particularly susceptible to the distortions which come from cognitive dissonance. Of all scientists, climate scientists today are the ones for whom the problem is most severe because of the enormous publicity they’ve sought and received. Is it possible to conceive of a knowledge professional for whom cognitive dissonance would be more pronounced than for an alarmist climate scientist today, especially one who has taken a visible role in pushing the politics? One merely needs to read some of the political rants penned by Mann or Hansen to see the effect.

      So we have people whose profession makes them far more susceptible to cognitive dissonance while at the same time making them far less willing to entertain the idea that they might be susceptible. Any informed member of the public would be wise to take anything these scientists have to say with a grain of salt. After all, this is the obvious lesson that emerges from a study of history and psychology. Yet, it is the scientists, refusing to acknowledge what any decent education would make plain, who indict the public for not allowing the scientists to steamroll them.

      An informed public knows that the scientists who have advanced the claim of CAGW are the ones who are least likely to be capable of acknowledging any work which disagrees with their claims. Even if they were inclined to try to be objective, it would be enormously difficult for them to achieve.

      And we know it.

  8. ooops….hit the post button too fast.
    Dr. Curry, you and those who engage openly and transparently are the true scientists. Instead of condescendingly dumbing down messages or spinning the, message to hide significant facts, just lay it out.

  9. Am I the only one that finds this bass ackwards? It is how the public, politicians and media view scientists that is the issue for the consensus. When I saw the title I expected to see a new version of this,
    http://sotak.info/sci.jpg

  10. I think that you will find that the public do not want to be ‘informed’, they lap up science when it is offered by the media, but they want it on their terms.
    Given that the public have a highly honed bullshit detector, which they need when examining the medias presentation of NEWS and politics, they use the same facility when they are ‘informed’ what science is and how much it will cost them.
    Typically, you can’t get researchers to shut up about their work and the majority are hop on the spot enthusiasts. Alas, now science is climate science and ‘green’ flavored ecology
    The public has an immense appetite for science and history, mostly they get pap.

  11. Seems to me that what’s missing in this study is an examination of the extent to which “most” of these “U.K. and US scientists” perceptions of their (model!) selves have contributed to their descent from their pre-Climategate pinnacle of influence – which these days seems to be happening faster than we thought!

    Where did these scientists acquire the skills that make them more of an expert in “logic and cost-benefit-analysis accounting” than the public whose views they apparently so disdain?

    And what has led them to the astounding conclusion that the movers and shakers in “political decision-making” circles are more scientifically-informed (and presumably, in their perceptions, less “ideological”) than members of the public?

  12. The survey was heavily weighted towards acedemia, right? As a scientist who works in industry, I agree that public (and politicians) ignorance of science leads to flawed policy preferences and political choices. But the policies that I prefer and my political choices might be very different from those of a typical acedemic scientist.

    Of course my views were shaped by my Human Ecology professors who 20 years ago were giving weekly lectures on every imaginable ecological disaster, including AGW. They always preached that we needed to take drastic political action or we would be doomed in the next 10-15 years. I suspected then and know now that they were wrong about everything.

    • I suspected then and know now that they were wrong about everything.

      Two schools of thought, both vigorous, have emerged on whether they were right or wrong. They appear to be becoming increasingly more polarized, witness the discussions on this blog.

      Whether the question is about humanity or physics, who’s right or wrong is not that simple. Every 19th century physicist “knew” that Newton was wrong about his corpuscular theory of light. The first 20th century physicist to see that he may have been right was Einstein, but it took more than a decade for other scientists to take Einstein’s side on this. Ironically Einstein’s own views on the matter were superseded two decades later by those who took his side.

      The schools of thought on whether your teachers were right or wrong are divided on such basic questions as whether water and food are becoming increasingly scarce resources. Those who’ve judged them to be wrong regard these as being in unlimited supply even as the planet’s population approaches 7 billion people. They mock Paul Ehrlich’s projection that hundreds of millions would starve, even as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 925 million as the number of malnourished people worldwide today, up from 780 million 15 years ago, saying “you’re lucky, you don’t have to worry about obesity.”

      Those numbers do not count those who died of starvation. The UN estimates that 10.9 million children starve to death each year. To put this in perspective, over the past decade that’s approximately 30,000 deaths due to starvation per death in the US due to terrorism.

      And that’s just children. Presumably some adults starved to death as well.

      Those are the statistics. If you don’t like them I have others. ;)

      • They die because of corrupt government, not because the world lacks the ability to feed them. If you predict that a reckless teen will die early because of his crazy driving, his death from cancer doesn’t confirm your prediction.

      • The schools of thought on whether your teachers were right or wrong are divided on such basic questions as whether water and food are becoming increasingly scarce resources. Those who’ve judged them to be wrong regard these as being in unlimited supply even as the planet’s population approaches 7 billion people. They mock Paul Ehrlich’s projection that hundreds of millions would starve, even as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 925 million as the number of malnourished people worldwide today, up from 780 million 15 years ago, saying “you’re lucky, you don’t have to worry about obesity.”

        Dr. Pratt: I’ve had a look at your CV and it’s impressive. I wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe with you on your turf. However, in this discussion you come across as yet another arrogant scientist who fails to notice how poorly he argues outside his specialization.

        Those of us who mock Dr. Ehrlich, your Stanford colleague, mock him because he predicted that a billion people or more were due to starve to death by the 1980s including 65 million(!) in the United States [ http://reason.com/archives/2000/05/01/earth-day-then-and-now ].

        Those things did not happen by a long shot. Quite the contrary. The world entered a remarkable run of prosperity, several decades long, and steadily reduced the rate of starvation even though world population grew by three billion people. Likewise the prevalence of those undernourished, which according to the UNFAO has decreased from 16% in 1990-1992 to 13% in 2005-2007 [ http://www.fao.org/economic/ess/ess-fs/fs-data/ess-fadata/en/ ].

        Of course it’s horrible that so many humans are undernourished or starve to death, but we are making progress. We have not experienced the huge die-off which Ehrlich predicted 40 years ago.

        Furthermore, no Ehrlich skeptic claims that water and food are in “unlimited supply.” We just say that there has been enough and likely will continue to be enough to feed humanity, and we note that the serious limitations are more a matter of politics, not the ecological limits claimed by Ehrlich Maybe Ehrlich and the Malthusians will be right eventually, but they were definitely wrong in 1970.

        Your comment distorted facts, presented strawmen, and in my opinion was a disgrace as a rational argument, and all the worse considering you are defending the authority of scientists.

      • Dr. Pratt,
        The only polarizatin are those who have convinced themselves even though Ehrlich and pals were totally wrong, they were right at some deeper level that only the sublimely enlightened can perceive.
        Those who think that facts mean facts and that predictions should be accurate before they are considered correct, beg to disagree.
        If you have chosen the first school of perception, that is your choice.

      • Dr. Pratt: I located the likely source of your FAO statistics in the wiki Starvation article. I notice that you neglected to include the information immediately following:

        It has also been recorded that the world already produces enough food to support the world’s population.

        As the definitions of starving and malnourished people are different, the number of starving people is different from that of malnourished. Generally, much fewer people are starving, than are malnourished. The numbers here may provide some indication, but should not be quoted as a number of starving people.

        The share of malnourished and of starving people in the world has been more or less continually decreasing for at least several centuries.[12] This is due to an increasing supply of food and to overall gains in economic efficiency. In 40 years, the share of malnourished people in the developing world has been more than halved. The share of starving people has decreased even faster. This improvement is expected to continue in the future.

        Checking your statistic that “10.9 million children starve to death each year,” I find that your number is wrong. According to UNICEF: “10.9 million children under five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths” ergo only ~6.5 million children die. Accuracy and honesty count.

        To recap, in the 1970s Dr. Paul Ehrlich made various public predictions that 100-200 million people would die each year until the population stabilized in the at some number around two billion or less. Some, like yourself and Ehrlich, have made the weak defense that several hundred million people have starved since 1970 — except that it took 40 years to do so and the world’s population has almost doubled in that time while making substantial gains in standard of living and reduced hunger.

        In other words, Ehrlich was spectacularly wrong. Your defense of Ehrlich is a breezy polemic that plays fast and loose with facts. It provides an ample illustration for the disdain many of us have for liberal scientists when it comes to environmental concerns.

        To answer your final Grouchoesque line, no, I don’t like your statistics, and if you have others I’d like you to cite them.

  13. Scientists are people too. Scientists are part of the public. If scientists find fault with the public, they should look back at themselves.

  14. I’m not a scientist but I get my information from like-minded information sources such as.blogs on the computer at the Holiday Inn I stayed at last night.
    ===================

  15. I like Wikipedia

  16. I am a strong proponent of the “public engagement” approach, as a strategy for educating the public, building trust and accountability with public, and discussing the science and policy options from a range of perspectives

    Judith, this approach can benefit scientists every bit as well as the public. The article attributes to scientists the belief that “the public is uninformed about science and therefore prone to errors in judgment and policy preferences.” Your blog renders a service to science by thoroughly substantiating this belief with the contributions of those who regularly display not only a lack of understanding of the science but an unquestioning disrespect for and disregard of anyone with scientific ability save perhaps Richard Lindzen, Fred Singer, and Roy Spencer.

    The key difficulty may be that scientists often believe public debates should turn on logic and cost-benefit-analysis accounting whereas the public wants consideration of factors such as fairness, ethics and accountability.

    This is a two-way street. Scientists should acknowledge what the public wants, but it should ask the public in turn to acknowledge what scientists want.

    I would put logic ahead of cost-benefit analyses, which segue into policy. Many, perhaps most, scientists are arguably not much better equipped to deal with policy than the public at large — as a scientist myself I know I’m not.

  17. The mass media love anecdotes, coincidences, and making causal connections. They will always get a single man on the street to get their opinion on a politician’s speech. Say there is a plane crash; it’s a certainty that they will find another to report on. Never has a daily stock market index change occurred without a definitive causal chain ascribed to it. Apply that to news, weather, sports, and repeat ad nauseum. That is the majority of the news.

    • Never has a daily stock market index change occurred without a definitive causal chain ascribed to it.

      Amen to that. I used to have a stockbroker, and was fascinated at first by his facile explanations of every market move. I abandoned him when his succession of bum steers made it apparent that the stockbroker’s job was to make me broker.

  18. I love this study. So far as I can see it is yet another variation on how the public is seen by a group of specialists who feel that their work is undervalued and misunderstood. I was working for the British Conservative Party when they went through a similar process. And as a historian I saw British historians go through the same thing in relation to history on TV.

    It is always the same. The specialists believe that they are right, superbly educated and better in every way than the public. Then they notice that their work is not taken seriously by the public who would rather read gossip magazines, go to a sports match or watch quiz shows on TV. The specialists then agonise as to why they and their work is undervalued and ignored. Usually they blame the media and the public in equal measure. Then they conclude that if only they changed their communication strategy all would be well and they could bask in the plaudits of the public, instead of those worthless sports stars getting all the glamour.

    It never occurs to them that the public in its wisdom values their work accurately and that it is they – the specialists – who overvalue their work.

    Self-awareness is the first step on the road to enlightenment. Scientists do not seem to have taken that first step yet.

    • It never occurs to them that the public in its wisdom values their work accurately and that it is they – the specialists – who overvalue their work.

      To what extent, would you say, Rupert? A factor of 1.5? 10? A million?

      Your worth as an historian is only in proportion to your accuracy in such estimates.

      And how does it come to pass that the public can estimate the value of scientific research more accurately than peer review? That would be believable if the work were uniformly worthless, is that what you’re saying here?

      • What you seem to be forgetting is that there are people out in the real world (as opposed to the ivory tower ‘climate scientists’) who are science-based professionals e.g health professionals, engineers etc. who are completely familiar with the scientific method. When we see the IAC’s critique of IPCC’s processes and procedures, Mann’s hockeystick, short-centring statistics, the infamous Yamal tree ring, ‘hide the decline’, ‘delete the emails’, peer-review morphed into pal-review, Steig’s take on Antarctic temperatures etc. the alarm bells ring out loud and we recognise a ‘snow job’ when we see it. The truth will out!

      • Of course the public can value scientific research more accurately than p**s poor peer review and example:

        1 Einstein postulates in his General Theory of relativity that light will be bent by gravity.

        2 Arthur Eddington carries out and experiment during a solar exclipse and proves this to be true.

        3 The public understand this and Einstein becomes world famous.

        Please notice the two actions fundamental to science Theory and Experiment.

        Unfortunately the Fiddlestick branch of climate scientists use neither they just guess?

      • Vaughan Pratt,
        I would estimate that climate scientists over value their importance to society by several billion dollars per year.

    • Michael Larkin

      Rupert,

      I loved your post.

    • Rupert,

      Some years back, the USA seemed awash in lawyer jokes. The august members of the Bar were aghast. A committee was convened. A conclusion was reached — the jokes were due to the fact that the public obviously did not understand the vital role played by attorneys in society. Clearly, the Bar needed to embark on an education campaign to instruct the ignorant public about how lawyers were the protectors of our Constitution and the defenders of our rights.

      Sounds familiar doesn’t it. Of course, the diagnosis — that the public didn’t understand what lawyers do — failed to account for one inconvenient little fact. Studies had shown that those who rarely, if ever, encountered lawyers in their daily lives had generally positive views of the profession. It was those who dealt with them all the time who had the most negative views.

  19. Witchcraft to the ignorant, …. Simple science to the learned

  20. How patronising can you get. The idea that the climate scientists are the clever ones and the public are dumb is quite astonishing. A scientist has no more right to have their political views heard than a dustman.

    Any deficit in the scientific understanding of certain members of the public is simply due to a deficit in the teaching of science.

    Climate scientists such as thise from the Fiddlestick Team have the wrong answers and because the public are not stupid they don’t believe a word they say.
    Climate science is no more relevant than reading the entrails of a dead polar bear.

  21. This is a very peculiar piece. It certainly doesn’t ‘ring true’ with me or any scientists that I know, or rather it goes a lot further than I would suggest is accurate.

    The sample size seems to be ~1500 people from various surveys dating back up to 6 years (to say that’s representative of the UK and US scientific establishments seems odd..). I’ve only had a quick look at the references, but I’d bet a shiny penny that this survey was based more on academic scientists than industry ones- it’s certainly an attitude I’d instantly recognise from most academics I’ve encountered. Industry scientists (from my experience) tend to be FAR more grounded.

    For my own two pence:

    The public: I think you have to be arrogant in the extreme to assume that the public cannot or do not understand the basics of most scientific work- and given time on a subject they are interested/involved in will get to a very reasonable level of understanding. This type of thinking pervades academic work and is directly responsible for the problems climate science now finds itself in.

    The public, such a nebulous term in this context, includes; engineers, doctors (MD), lawyers, accountants, businessmen, programmers, IT specialists etc etc. To suggest that they are incapable or disinterested reflects just as poorly on the questionnaires as those questioned.

    The wider public ARE prone to panic and misunderstandings surrounding the science, but I place that blame squarely at the feet of the next group:

    Media: I have had the misfortune to be directly involved in a few ‘media’ reporting’s through work and without exception, they’re misreported the facts, often at a very basic level. They’re usually very polite, charming even (as they’re after something), but without exception make errors. I can think of numerous instances where the media have misrepresented scientific work, findings or conclusions (in all fields).

    Further, all the media outlets are agenda driven, and as such the stories have a ‘slant’ which is then transferred onto the science being reported.

    The public have to rely on the media for their information on scientific matters. It’s the most accessible information source and they are (rather naively) trusted to report things accurately. The media have a LOT to answer for here.

    Further, the lack of ANY scientific qualifications for the major reporters on scientific matters is a disgrace. Many high profile journalists make very basic conclusive errors on scientific matters due to lack of relevant experience or training. You wouldn’t ask a builder to comment on economic drivers and factors, so why ask someone with only a language qualifications to comment on complex scientific matters?

    Politicians: Sigh. Don’t get me started. Most can’t see beyond 4 years and are more interested in political manoeuvring than anything scientists actually do. Though, again, (and with the exception of the few hard-line ideologically driven ones, I’m looking at you Mr Huhne) I see the media as the larger issue here.

    In a nutshell I find this piece to be accurate for only a subset of the scientific community, though as is often the case this subset tends to be the most vocal. If anything it posts a horrendous picture of science and scientists and those who actually identify with the points raised should be ashamed.

  22. Roddy Campbell

    From the abstract: ‘Scientists believe strongly that they should have a role in public debates and view policy-makers as the most important group with which to engage.’

    Why do they believe this strongly? A scientist researching, say, Arctic ice, and say he/she believes melting is in good part caused by AGW – what public policy debate can they join? They research ice, the overall effects of the AGW they believe to cause a change are way beyond their area, let alone the design of a ‘policy’ and understanding how it might work.

    I’m baffled. And, as someone said above, surely scientists realise they are often wrong?

  23. Communications is hard and good scientists are not necessarily good commuincators. Perhaps they need to look back in time …

    The Bell Laboratory Science Series was a series of educational films made for Bell Labs by Frank Capra, Walt Disney, and others. Each film explored a single subject in detail. The host of seven of the eight films was Dr. Research, played by Frank C. Baxter. In one of the films, The Alphabet Conspiracy, Baxter played essentially the same character, but with his name changed to Dr. Linguistics. The host for the last film in the series was Walt Disney.

    Each movie intertwined animation and live action to better explain the complexity of a particular subject.

  24. “I have found that most in the press real try to get the story, the science, correct. This is especially true in the print media.”

    This is laughable. Sorry. I don’t even know where to begin.

    • I worked in newspaper and radio journalism, left because it was too dishonest. The story was more important than the truth. But that was a long time ago.

  25. Judith,

    Science and scientists are too broad a term and covers many areas from medicine to physics to astrology.
    Many media will report “scientist say ” or “scientists confirm” or a “scientific study”…

    This then generates the mindset of ALL scientist were involved or approved of what the INDIVIDUAL or GROUP concluded.
    Does not have to make “common sense”, just that the “expert” was involved.
    Which then brings up the trust of the experts to be correct to what the public is paying them for.

  26. Lord Beaverbrook

    ‘I hope that Nisbet et al. will do a follow on article on “How scientists view the blogosphere,” which I regard as a key element in public engagement.’

    I hope that Nisbet et al, do an article on how the public and the blogosphere view scientists and their means and methods of communication.

  27. The “deficit model” results in scientists dumbing down the evidence and the arguments, along with a perceived need for “consensus.”

    Judith,

    Presumably your comment is, in large part, based on these paragraphs from the paper and Nisbet’s blog, which you have placed next to each other here:

    Because of these perceived limits, scientists argue that scientific information needs to be simple, carefully worded, visual and entertaining.

    Together, these findings reflect a traditional “deficit model” of science communication that assumes that scientific illiteracy is at the root of opposition to new technologies, environmental action and adequate science funding.

    But they are not adjacent in Nisbet’s work and I’m not sure your definitions of “deficit model” and “public engagement model” are in-tune with what the study has in mind. In many ways their “public engagement model” is dumbing down – the problem they see in the “deficit model” is that it is too concerned with technical details.

    Note one of the conclusions from their 2009 paper: ‘What are needed then are media strategies for “ going broad ” with science-related content, generating attention and interest among non-elite audiences.’

    Also see the table on Nisbet’s blog where “deficit” and “public engagement” models are defined:

    Deficit model: To improve scientific literacy (i.e. to fill in the “deficit” in the public’s technical understanding of an environmental problem)

    Public Engagement model: To connect an environmental problem to public values while building trust and empowering public participation.

    I guess there are different ways of looking at this but I can’t see how attempts to improve technical understanding and scientific literacy are ‘dumbing down’. Whereas the public engagement model seems to snugly fit the popular definition of that phrase.

  28. Judith Curry

    Nisbet’s punchline starts off with a hair-raiser:

    Most scientists in the US and UK blame public ignorance of science for flawed policy preferences and political choices

    .

    This statement, if true, reveals a very arrogant mind-set on the part of “most scientists”. The arrogance lies in the scientists’ assumption that they have the answers leading to correct “policy preferences and political choices”, but that the public is simply too stupid or uninformed to see the wisdom of these answers.

    Sorry.

    No sale.

    As you can see from this site and elsewhere, a good portion of the public is everything but “ignorant” when it come to the issues involved in the ongoing scientific and policy debate surrounding human-induced global warming.

    And many scientists, while they may have a very deep, detailed, “bug’s eye” knowledge of some part of climate-related science, may well be less informed than the general public on the overall scientific picture or the global policy or economic implications.

    The public does not need to know the details of how computer models were set up or all the theoretical formulas used in climate calculations. What the public needs to know is that it is being given an honest summary of the scientific findings, and that these are based on actual empirical data based on physical observations and/or reproducible experimentation wherever possible, rather than simply model simulations backed by theoretical deliberations.

    And IMO the public is not getting this.

    Instead it is getting hyped-up projections of impending disaster, based on lousy computer models fed with dubious assumptions in order to get an alarming result. In other words, model-generated BS.

    And it is getting this not only from a sensationalist press and a host of climate activist and lobby groups, but from the climate scientists themselves.

    Several studies find that scientists view the public as non-rational and unsystematic in their thinking such that they rely on anecdotes and then overreact to minor risks. Others have found that scientists see the public as emotional, fear prone, overly focused on the sensational, self-interested and stubborn in the face of new evidence.

    Because of these perceived limits, scientists argue that scientific information needs to be simple, carefully worded, visual and entertaining.

    In the case of “climate scientists” (i.e. IPCC supporters), add:

    ”…information needs to be simple, carefully worded, visual, entertaining and exaggerated to the point of being alarming and invoking fear”

    Since ”scientists view the public as non-rational”, they must appeal to ”irrational” (or emotional) reaction rather than provide ”rational” arguments. Included is the “consensus” myth and the argument to authority. And many members of the general public see through this approach.

    So Nesbit should blame the scientists – not the general public (or the media).

    You are right in writing:

    The public is more interested in fairness, ethics and accountability than in the nuances of a scientific argument or the existence of a consensus.

    You add:

    Then the scientists are frustrated when their views receive inadequate attention.

    Judith, as a member of the (more-or-less) informed general public, I can confirm to you that they have no one but themselves to blame for this, regardless of Nesbit’s rationalizations.

    Max

  29. However, a good decision was understood as one that was consistent with scientists’ point of view, and empowerment was understood as education. In the end, these studies describe scientists as feeling frustrated when they believe their views receive inadequate attention.

    This is the million dollar observation. Policy is driven by values, and no matter how well the public is educated on the science, there is no guarantee that they will share the same values as the scientists polled.

  30. I believe the “problem” the public sees with experts is no different than the problem experts see with the public. Evidence is reinforced by some in this blog. They believe their opinion is formulated on what is really important and by learning the “proper” information. Once formulated all other information is viewed as biased or otherwise invalid. As experts, it is perhaps even easier to dismiss dissenters as less informed and therefore not worth of consideration. We must all recognize, acknowledge and combat our own biases that constantly invade our thinking.

    Like many political movements, a scientific movement often needs a gifted communicator. Someone who can acknowledge problems and yet propose the most logical solutions in a way that seems honest and open to all opinions. When scientists go directly to the law makers without making their case to the public it tends to appear condescending, arrogant and dictatorial. Yet the public often lacks the attention span or perhaps time to become sufficiently versed (in nearly any topic). With sound bites being used to communicate, fear of saying anything that can be spliced and used to support the opposing opinion is obviously pervasive. No point of any opposing view can be slightly acknowledge for fear of being used by other viewpoint. As scientists (I come from medical not environmental) we must acknowledge that a good amount of our expert opinions are wrong and unfortunately we don’t yet know which ones are the wrong ones. That admission may allow other to open up to what we have to say.

    I don’t know how to get the press to cover in a more comprehensive fashion, how to get the public to listen longer and think openly, how to get policy makers to make rational policy using science fused with common sense (and less politically and ideologically motivated), and lastly to get scientist to admit we are ultimately making our best guesses based on today’s best information.

  31. Whenever attention turns to this topic, it seems to always get around to the rather Orwellian term of “false balance”. When it came up over at Keith Kloor’s back in July, Tim Lambert pointed to a Washington Post article as an example. He never got around to explaining how giving Singer one paragraph out of sixteen (and rebutting him in the immediately following paragraph) constituted “false balance”?

  32. As a member of the public I, for one, am extremely angry at the exaggeration and subsequent misreporting of the science.

    Ihave had to endure years of assertions implying certainty and “settled science” with respect to the CAGW hypothesis on broadcasts from NPR, PBS and the BBC, among others. I am going to have to endure another decade of rebroadcasts of PBS programs such as “NOVA” and “Nature” with their explicit incorporation of certitude. Worse, of course, is the fact that the brainwashing of gullible and impressionable adolescents continues. That does nothing but increase the odds of massive misallocation of scarce resources by politically-driven decision-makers.

  33. I think false balance is definitely a real phenomenon (obvious e.g. teaching of creationism in science classes) though certainly there will be false charges of false balance.

    The media don’t just cite opposing views out of consideration for balance though. They crave conflict and arguments to make pieces seem more interesting. I’ve even seen a few occasions where newspapers have quoted likeminded researchers as if they are in conflict. That is, they get interviews of two scientists, both saying similar things then split the quotes up so that it appears they’re arguing with each other. It’s fairly easy to do because scientists tend to speak in caveats.

    • Biases do creep into reporting, both consciously and unconsciously. As you noted, there are also instances where a story is given more “oomph” in order to draw eyeballs. None of this is new or unique to climate science reporting. That being said, hoisting the “false balance” banner in the way Tim Lambert did above (and he is far from the only offender), merely comes off as an attempt to “disappear” contrary claims. It’s counter-productive.

  34. Union of Concerned Scientists.

    Enough said.

  35. Why is it that it seems to me that Climate Science continues to plead a special case for their Science. Scientific Consensus and, very much more important, engineering consensus relative to development of practical implementation methods and procedures, exists for the following.

    1. Nuclear irradiation of all organic food would save lives and at the same time reduce the resources needed to produce foodstuffs through a significant reduction in food wastes.

    2. Nuclear power is at the present time the best alternative fuel source to fossil-fueled base-loaded electricity production.

    3. Genetically modified food crops have the same benefits as listed in 1 above.

    4. The proper use of DDT can very significantly reduce unnecessary deaths in less-developed countries.

    5. Development of lesser-developed countries through easy access to abundant electricity will very significantly reduce unnecessary deaths while at the same time reduce unnecessary use and destruction of natural resources.

    Plus, we have on the other hand this on-going complete debacle from a Climate Science, top-down-based-on-positions-of-authority-and-not-supported-by-the-science ‘solution':

    Use of biomass crops to reduce consumption of oil for transportation has very significant adverse impacts on the environment and more importantly on human populations through higher costs for food necessary for health and safety.

    When science gets mixed up with politics, science many times is the loser. Why does Climate Science continue to insist that it must win in the political arena. Empirical data clearly show that that is frequently not the case.

    In some cases those that proclaim that the Climate Science is not being treated with its proper respect are among those that have ensured that the consensus settled science and engineering behind items 1 through 5 above has been forgotten or mis-communicated.

    • For some people the supremacy of “science” is an end in itself. Much energy and emotion is expended over the issue of creationism/evolution, when in the end, it’s really irrelevant to all but a small circle of specialists. For some people though, it’s the most important issue in all of politics. Being on the “right” side of “science” is a tribal membership.

      • The tribal part is pretty interesting. You can see it in the “signaling” behavior displayed in the posts of bloggers who are entering the fray.

  36. How many want to know what the effete snobs of liberal academia really think about the rest of us? We know who these hoaxsters think.

    They are motley bunch of disconnected and insignificant little fascist, atheists who have aborted 1,000s of years of temporal evolution, only to find themselves and in the middle of a silly and insignificant little life that is completely devoid of meaning.

    They fill this yawning emptiness with their new faith: they suddenly are now gifted with this special societal wisdom whereby like-minded people like themselves can come together, form a consensus, and save the world from evil capitalist businessmen by opposing their creation of evil known as–> CO2.

  37. Meanwhile, scientists from across the world continued the exchange of emails via the cryolist. Ted Scambos, a senior scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, said: “I’m worried that the importance of the changes that are going on will be lost on the public, because the true value of what the ice sheet has lost compared to this 15% number sounds very small.”

    And he is right, because the true loss of permanent ice in Greenland from 1999-2011 is about 0.1%. This sounds miniscule. Why worry?

    An example of what is wrong with science in reporting a fact (truth if you will). He’s worried that the unwashed will not understand what large number .1% is.

  38. Indian, Brazilian, Russian and Chinese businessmen do not have to ask the doomsday preachers of the governmental-education complex for permission to emit CO2; and they don’t ask: they won’t ask and they don’t fear the AGW hoax and scare tactics: and, they really don’t care if the Democrat party turns an energy-deprived American economy into another GM and steps on the commercial freedom of Boeing.

  39. So we have information about scientists’ relationships with the public, and with the media. More interesting and important in my mind is their relationships with activist NGOs. IMO, the climate scene went off the rails when they got involved.

  40. I wonder if the AG of Virginia would agree that scientists believe good communications are important?

  41. AGW mindset in liberal academia is that Africans do not need to produce CO2 to stay alive; let them eat windmills.

  42. “Scientists view the public as non-rational and unsystematic in their thinking…”

    and

    “Scientists seem to walk a difficult line both in recognizing the right of citizens to play a role in decision-making while having reservations about the public’s capacity to do so.”

    So “scientists” doubt the public’s capacity to govern itself, while paying lip service to their “right” to do so. Accordingly, an elite should lecture them on what is proper, and communicate directly with “policy makers” (ie the governmental officials who fund their salaries and grants), to achieve the “right” result without having to deal with the ignorant electorate.

    It is hard to think of a better description of progressivism. The vanity that causes one to feel not just the need, but the entitlement to exercise power over others, who are just too dumb to decide for themselves.

    As William Buckley has been quoted as saying: “I would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the 2000 people on the Harvard faculty.”

    The problem with many modern scientists, and consensus climate scientists in particular, is not their communication skills. It is their unrestrained hubris. Fortunately, their ability to control the (U.S.) electorate is proving to be as illusory as their ability to control the climate.

  43. Based on the latest science, the Times Atlas is making an important update:
    http://www.haveeru.com.mv/english/details/38339

  44. Some scientists fail to understand what the public has a clear-headed understanding of–i.e., that global warming is a historical fact not the invention of academia.

    • Climate Change is a historical fact. Some of it is warming. A minority.
      (Wait ’till next year. – Chicago Cubs)

      • I think we have an even more fundamental problem. ‘Global Warming’ itself is not clearly defined. Or, when it is defined, it has no meaning, except in the abstract.

        Andrew

  45. Because of these perceived limits, scientists argue that scientific information needs to be simple, carefully worded, visual and entertaining.

    When’s the last time any public scientist has actually done that; specifically, saying that the controversy is over climate sensitivity, and all the rest is just details? The subject actually can be simplified quite a bit by cutting out a lot of peripheral and mostly irrelevant arguments, for example over the hockey stick, and whether the earth has or hasn’t warmed wince 1998, and instead focus on the simple essential point; it’s the climate sensitivity, stupid.

    Everything else is just confusing details.

    • PE
      I agree that sensitivity is the key issue regarding the amount of warming.

      Would you agree that we do not have any reliable information on the effect of any warming? What relaible information is there to show that the warmer world is not better for humanity?

      • That’s pretty much the long and the short of it, isn’t it?

        Really, as far as the public is concerned, nobody cares about paleo reconstructions. They really don’t. They don’t care about model outputs. What they care about is:

        1) What will happen to temperatures if we do nothing?
        2) What will that imply for things other than temperature, such as seal levels, weather, etc.?
        3) What are the choices?
        4) What will the choices’ costs in monetary terms?
        5) Will the choices that are being proffered by the experts work?
        6) Will the choices have side effects other than cost (i.e. electricity reliability)?
        7) Are the powers that be arbitrarily and capriciously excluding choices that might be better choices?

        Several other issues come to mind, such as who is making money off of the upheaval, but the key point is that nobody cares if the MWP was worldwide or European, they care about what they’re being herded into. And people aren’t cattle, they know when they’re being herded.

      • Agreed–which is why I keep trying to get people back to the basics on the issue.

        What makes people BELIEVE a warmer world is worse for humanity overall over the long term?

        People used to state (some still do) that the climate models show bad in this or that area, that all the glaizers would melt and sea level would rise and flood coastlines. Now we know that the models are not reliable to predict future conditions, sea level is not rising, etc, etc.

        Why is a warmer world necessarily worse? Can someone say what they fear today?

      • I’ve argued in the Aus media for several years that we need to seek info on these issues outside of the IPCC process. Very little progress as yet, and those who pursue such info are vilified by government et al. We do have a rigorous inquiry body, the Productivity Commission, but the ALP government ignores it because it knows that the evidence and analysis will invalidate its position. (I’m a former long-term UK Labour/ALP supporter rather than a genetically-averse right winger.)

      • 7+) One more. What happens if we give that much power to governments?

  46. I have never found the “public” as homogenous, let alone ignorant or discountable. I find people who believe they can group the public as ignorant and/or discountable as shysters; i.e., engaged in deceptive methods; trying to sell something of low value for a high price. Today, the person who cut my hair and asked where Stockholm was, or the bathroom contractor who talked about bow hunting when told I was interested in Climate Change; i.e., what the temperature and weather will be a 100 years from now, they smiled and asked if I were kidding. Their everyday experience told them that predictions of the future were…”I don’t know but…” fill in the blank. My personal experience with news media has been uniformly poor; almost always agenda driven, pushing a point that isn’t even in the data, outcome. I am initially excited that someone wants to know what I have done, only to be disappointed to hear how it came out in the press release, news broadcast, or editorial. Even when on TV, 30 minutes of filming gets cut to 23 seconds of sound bites that does not reflect what I had said. I was there to validate a producer’s bias; nothing more. I am reminded of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s quote: “Never fight with a news outlet that buys its print ink by the barrel.” As for scientists, and I am intermittently a scientist in my chosen field of endeavor, I find the greatest respect for John Q. Public and their ability to synthesize issues. They can be temporarily misled, but they generally figure out who the liars are pretty quick. And once they know who the liars are, the public doesn’t forget.

  47. Economics Research Fellow Paul Roderick Gregory observes:

    Soviet Politburo September 8, 1927

    “Trotsky: Let us present our platform to the party congress. What are you afraid of?

    Stalin: Comrade Trotsky demands equality between the Central Committee and his opposition group. In whose name do you speak so insolently?

    Trotsky ally: Why are you trying to hide our platform? What does this say about your courage?

    Stalin: We are not prepared to turn the party into a discussion club.”

    George Orwell, Animal Farm, Chapter 7

    “They had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.”

    E-mails from Phil Jones (East Anglia University)

    July 8, 2004
    “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

    March 11, 2003
    “I will be emailing the journal to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor.” . . .

    Highly recommend reading his article: Can We Really Call Climate Science A Science? to see how other researchers/scientists see “climate science”.

  48. If you want to understand where some scientist’s low opinions of the public and politicians come from:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14981921

    A week before the quake, they issued a reassuring statement, while also saying that it was not possible to predict whether a stronger quake would occur. They also recommended stricter enforcement of anti-seismic measures, particularly in building construction.

    In the minutes of their meeting, held on 31 March 2009, Mr Bosci, the former president of the National Institute of Geophysics, is reported to have told the group that just because a number of small tremors had been observed, it did not mean that a major earthquake was on its way.

    Mr Barberi, who headed the Serious Risks Commission, was also reported as concluding that there was “no reason to believe that a series of low-level tremors was a precursor to a larger event”.

    Which is true. Only five percent of such series – or less – precede serious earthquakes, and there’s no way to determine location or type. L’Aquila’s severity and loss of life was a one in ten thousand outcome, largely due shoddy construction practices.

    Alfredo Rossini, the Italian equivalent of district attorney, is taking seven seismologists to court for MANSLAUGHTER over the statements they issued critical of the building industry and civil authorities before the earthquake that killed on the order of 300 people.

    Criminal charges for not predicting an earthquake?!

    And they’re serious.

    How insane is that?

    • Manslaughter is indeed a “strange attractor” for the chaotic, non-linear probablity matrix of tectonic tremors – but hey, it works

      Or have I confused cause and effect here ?

      After all, if I mis-predict the characteristics of an orebody, and people have invested money on that mis-prediction, the lawyers come and take my house. So why not put geologists in jail for mis-predicting a lethal tremor ?

      For denizens of the US, /sardonicism

  49. No sooner do I post on the “4 Degrees” thread than I realize that post belongs here.

    I suspect many (most?) climate scientists under the age 50 got into that field because they had an a priori concern that mankind is destroying our environment. Certainly, such a person would think, a career in climate science would be a contribution to saving the world, which is a noble cause. Enter hubris of moral superiority.

    Next, most climate scientists are pretty smart, and know they are (always top-of-the-class, best test scores, etc.). They were almost always “right” when the rest of their (John Q. Public) classmates were wrong. Enter hubris of intellectual superiority.

    Third, most (by far) climate scientists owe their livelihood to funding that comes from the government. Enter hubris of class consciousness.

    Therefore, it is then almost inevitable that climate scientists would feel — if the above are how many define themselves — they have an obligation to use force (i.e., the government) to save others from themselves, especially when it is not at all clear they will do it on their own?

    And, it turns out beneficial to climate science and climate scientists that the science is really not “settled,” despite claims to that effect. If it were “settled,” they would have no moral superiority (everyone would agree with them), their intellectual capability would not be relevant, their incomes would drop.

    The truly moral climate scientist would honor his/ her fellow citizens by intentionally NOT talking to “decision makers,” but work hard to talk to his/ her fellow citizens; more importantly, he/ she would dialogue with them — avoiding the inevitably distorting process of “news” publication.

    As a “PS,” it is also because most of us Americans (and climate scientists, despite their intelligence and education are no different in this) have no clue how our (their) economic system works: what its strengths are (to recognize problems and respond), what its weaknesses are (being inevitably subserviant to the polity — through government). Most citizens have no understanding that greater wealth produces less pollution, not more. That more economic development reduces birthrates. And that the particular risks posed by global warming (even should it be a real trend and mostly AGW) are ones that our economic systems are particularly good at adjusting to naturally, at lower cost and disruption than mandated solutions would be from some central policy “decision maker.”

    So, add that last point to my three above (although not unique to climate scientists) as a reason why they are on “the wrong track” even if their science turns out to be right.

    The science larger community ought to censure those scientists who “talk to decision makers.” Scientists ought to have a credo, “I owe the fruit of my labor to my fellow citizens directly, and to no other individual or group, whether they pay me for my labor or not.” This would be a welcome revolution in thinking about the meaning and purpose of science.

  50. Scientists, particularly in some well publicised disciplines are extremely self centred and in some ways very selfish. They expect everybody else in our society to understand the nuances of their particular discipline but are so self centred and up themselves about their own importance that they fail to recognise that all those other citizens out there also have to meet a vast range of circumstances in trying to make a living that takes much time and effort out of their own lives as they go about their roles in society to bother too much about understanding the innumerable nuances of any science pronouncements that are often in conflict with one another.

    Scientists after all are only very ordinary people whom society , ie; all those other ignorant sheeple out there, have provided the wherewithal to both enable to become highly educated in expensive facilities provided by the taxes of the sheeple and to enable those same scientists to pursue their chosen profession with few restraints, a set of personal luxuries denied to most of the rest of the human race.
    Scientists expect us to bow and be humble towards them as they so often ensure that we are made subtly aware that they are of a superior intellect to the rest of us, something that comes through in the original comments extracts at the head of this post.
    What scientists don’t seem to have realised is that through the internet, society at large is finally and fast catching up with the dirt, the scrim, the doubts, the fraud, the plagiarising and the plain often very nasty politics that has always pervaded science and has always underlain science of every sort but has been hidden away for centuries behind the carefully cloistered walls of established science.
    Science and those practice it, through the all encompassing internet, are finally being brought down, warts and all, to the level of any other professional and business enterprise in our society.
    And science and scientists are finally being shown to the world for what they are, just another aspect of our culture and society that is no more and no less an essential part of any successful society than any other equally essential part.

    • Hate and envy of the educated is nothing new.

      Anti-intellectualism was a pillar of communist ideology — the murder of scientists, teachers, and artists was a feature of many revolutions — both left-wing and fascist revolutions shared this nasty feature.

      The internet may help the haters and the envious organize, but the essential dynamic is not in any way innovative.

    • An old saw has it that:
      A Specialist is one who knows more and more about less and less, until he finally knows everything about nothing.
      Whereas:
      A Generalist knows less and less about more and more, until he knows nothing about everything.
      (Pooh generally falls in the second camp.) :-)

  51. QUOTE:
    …In the 1980’s, Caldeira held a number of positions developing computer software for various clients in New York’s financial district…
    http://dge.stanford.edu/labs/caldeiralab/Caldeira_bio.html
    ____________________

    Fascinating. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen far too many instances of computer models of highly complex, multi-variable, non-linear systems being used to provide the patina of “science” to what was, in essence, nothing more than a sales pitch.

    God knows, we’ve seen what happened when “Wall Street” began to rely on these computer models rather than actually think.

    • In support of “we’ve seen what happened when “Wall Street” began to rely on these computer models”:

      The following link refers to the Financial Times, addressing theory and models, not climate science. The applicability, in my opinion, lies in building models that omit some drivers, and then being surprised when the models go off the rails.

      Cossin, Didier. 2011. Financial models create a false sense of security. Financial. Financial Times. September 5. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/af6d86de-d57a-11e0-9133-00144feab49a.html#axzz1XF6ggSZe

      • The applicability, in my opinion, lies in building models that omit some drivers, and then being surprised when the models go off the rails.

        Those kinds of Wall Street models exist for companies to make money off of them. If the modelers’ employers make money off of the modeling they stay happy (whether everything crashes and burns, they don’t care as long as they can get a piece of the action).

        The distinction is between that kind of modeling and the current raft of econophysics models which try to explain behaviors such as income disparity, trends in labor productivity, and impacts of cheap energy. That is the real science of economics, and the rest is just the art of finance, which may be no different that game theory.

  52. Scientists may wish to fix this, but Dr. Curry addressed this before in a more restricted case.
    Curry, Judith A. 2011. Climategate and American TV Meteorologists. Scientific. Climate Etc. September 22. http://judithcurry.com/2011/09/22/climategate-and-american-tv-meteorologists/#comment-114915

    There I submitted that too much “climate science” is conveyed to the public by marketing, where it is easily spotted by the public. It is then dismissed as more of the same.
    http://judithcurry.com/2011/09/22/climategate-and-american-tv-meteorologists/#comment-115219

    One problem is that the (hard pressed) print media get climate change stories from centralized sources (e.g., AP). The newspaper staff is not deep or broad enough to vet this stuff. The centralized story gets trickled down to the public.

    Inquiring minds visit Climate Etc. Thanks, Dr. Curry!