by Judith Curry
Lets conduct a thought experiment. Consider the differing reactions to the two Ludecke papers if the exact same papers had been written by:
a) Ludecke et al.
b) Michael Mann
c) Isaac Held
d) A graduate student
With Ludecke et al. as authors, the “convinced” made charges of purveying disinformation. The authors themselves were not so accused, but rather I was. The accusation of purveying disinformation seem generally to be associated not with the original authors, but with journalists, bloggers, or advocacy groups discussing or otherwise promoting the papers. Has anyone come across skeptics accusing a “warm” paper, or those publicizing such a paper, as promoting disinformation?
Now consider Michael Mann, favorite whipping boy of the skeptics, as author of these papers. I suspect that the research would be characterized as fraudulent. Fraud seems to be a favorite word of skeptics/deniers for denigrating a paper or author that they don’t like or is found to be deficient. Has anyone come across people from the warm side characterizing a paper with as fraud?
Now consider Isaac Held as author. I suspect that people from both sides would be probing the paper for nuggets of insight, which are expected from a Held paper.
And finally, if the author was a graduate student, and I had featured the paper here, I suspect that people from both sides would be making constructive suggestions and providing helpful hints.
Dare I suggest that Richard Tol reacted much more sharply to these papers than people in the U.S. because of his knowledge of EIKE (German group of skeptics)?
JC anecdotal example
To illustrate this issue, I will relate a personal experience in evaluating papers. During the heyday of the hurricane wars (2005/2006), my emotions were engaged in the debate because of the wild accusations that were being flung at us (Emanuel, Webster, Holland, Curry): we were doing this for the money, publicity, etc.
Following publication of the Emanuel and Webster papers, there was a huge flurry of papers related to the hurricane and global warming issue. I was asked by journalists to comment on most of these, and I was asked to review some of these. My first reaction to seeing a new paper was to assess which “side” the paper was on. I tended to be quite critical of most of these papers: I was inclined to be critical of people that had been critical of my work, and I didn’t want to see shoddy work that was seemingly supportive of our work get torn to pieces and so reflect poorly on our arguments.
This went on for several months before I understood that I was having an emotional reaction to these papers, and that this was getting in the way of an honest evaluation of the papers. Once I recognized this, it was pretty easy to get my objectivity back. In response to queries from journalists, I became critical of papers that seemingly supported our arguments if I felt the paper was weak. Journalists, expecting something different me, stopped quoting me in their articles, but continued to ask for my opinion.
During the review process of my paper Mixing Politics and Science in Testing the Hypothesis that Greenhouse Warming is Causing a Global Increase in Hurricane Intensity, the second round of reviews was extremely hostile (far more hostile than the first round) owing to a very controversial WSJ article that included an egregious misquote. The reviewers perception of the paper changed completely after the WSJ article (while the content of the paper changed only in response to addressing the reviewers’ comments).
Disinformation vs fraud
Basically, I am hypothesizing that the reaction to a paper is very much colored by the authors. Objective reactions are much more difficult if the authors are associated with advocacy groups or some sort of prior controversy.
I am further hypothesizing that the reaction is not symmetrical among people on both extremes of the debate. On the skeptical side, the accusations are focused on the author, whereas on the convinced side, the accusations are focused on people that enable/promote the paper (e.g. journal editors, bloggers, journalists, advocacy groups).
A possible explanation of this asymmetry is provided by the essay Talking Past Each Other, where skeptics are more focused on the science, and the “convinced” are more focused on the solutions. So the skeptical criticism is more focused on the science and the individual author, where as the convinced criticism kicks in if it looks like the paper will influence public opinion (presumably on policy).