by Judith Curry
Making clear what the real scientific dispute is about.
From an essay at Big Think – What is Scientific Mediation? (h/t Steve Mosher):
Scientific mediation works like this. You bring together one scientist from each point of view. Scientist A wants to do one thing, Scientist B wants the opposite. Then with the help of a mediator, they write a joint paper. And the purpose of the paper is to advise a government agency or a court.
They write a joint paper where they state the areas they agree on in order to narrow down the dispute, the fundamental points that they disagree about, and then – this is the trick – they have to agree on why they disagree.
They never have to agree on the merits, but they have to agree on why they disagree. And in doing that, with the help of a mediator, they really begin to understand each other’s position and what happens is that their personal biases surface. Because when the science is incomplete, and people are taking opposite sides, it’s because they’re filling in the gaps with their own persona biases and their political opinions. And that’s not what we need from scientists. We just want their scientific opinion. We want to get rid of all that other stuff. That’s not their job to tell us what to do politically when they’re advising the government.
So, this process removes all of that and it shows what’s really known, what’s not known and why people from different political leanings will fall in different places along this spectrum of possibilities and then that report makes clear to the nonscientists, either the agency or also the public, what the real scientific dispute is about.
Some of us have been arguing for something like this, but can it work for the climate change issue?
Climate Dialogue offers a platform for discussions between (climate) scientists on important climate topics that are of interest to both fellow scientists and the general public. The goal of the platform is to explore the full range of views that scientists have on these issues.
Each discussion will be kicked off by a short introduction written by the editorial staff, followed by a guest blog by two or more invited scientists. The scientists will start the discussion by reacting to each others’ arguments moderated by one of the members of the editorial staff. Once the discussion has reached the point where it is clear what the discussants agree or disagree on and why, the editioral staff will round off the discussion. The decision on when that point will have been reached is up to the editorial staff. It is not the goal of Climate Dialogue to reach a consensus, but to stimulate the discussion.
To round off the discussion on a particular topic, the Climate Dialogue editor will write a summary, describing the areas of agreement and disagreement between the discussants. The participants will be asked to approve this final article, the discussion between the experts on that topic will be closed and the editorial staff will open a new discussion on a different topic.
The public (including other climate scientists) is also free to comment, but for practical reasons these comments will be shown separately.
- Melting of the Arctic Sea Ice – Walt Meier, Judith Curry, Ron Lindsay
- Long-term persistence and trend significance – Rasmus Benestad, Demetris Koutsoyiannis, Armin Bunde
- Are regional models ready for prime time? – Bart van den Hurk, Jason Evans, Roger Pielke Sr.
- The (missing) tropical hot spot - Carl Mears, Steven Sherwood, John Christy
I participated in the first dialogue on sea ice. This one is notable because it is the only one that has a summary prepared by the moderators (summary of the summary is here). There are 3 levels of dialogue in response to the essays by the contributors: one dialogue for the contributors and moderators only, comments that are deemed relevant and topical, and comments that are deemed not on topic. In the dialogue between contributors and moderators, contributors are asked to comment on comments made in the other essays, and to clarify areas of agreement and disagreement. Overall, as a contributor, I found this to be a very worthwhile experience. I am not surprised that the moderators haven’t continued the model of preparing a summary, I know this took alot of work.
The main person at Climate Dialogue that I have communicated with is Dutch journalist Marcel Crok. Marcel told me that they were having trouble recruiting contributors/participants from the ‘consensus’ side (not from the skeptical side). Rather surprising that, with the 97% and all that (ha ha).
IMO, the IPCC consensus building process has many flaws, particularly for a topic as complex as climate change (see my paper No Consensus on Consensus.) The consensus building process acts to amplify personal biases, and marginalizes disagreement from either a majority opinion or the opinion of the loudest or most motivated person in the room.
Rather than the consensus approach, I have espoused an approach that lays out the evidence for, the evidence against, and describes the uncertainties. The idea of scientific mediation goes one step further, in terms of having the opponents clarify why they disagree.
Scientific mediation – I like it. And I applaud the efforts of Climate Dialogue along these lines, heres to hoping that we will see more of this sort of thing. Climate Dialogue takes a slightly different approach, with objective mediators (rather than the opponents actually doing this).
Re Climate Etc. In a given post, amidst all the noise, the arguments on both sides of a topic get aired. In the early days of the blog, I was often asked to provide a post discussion summary. I didn’t do this since it is too much work, and I am not an unbiased participant but wield authority over the blog.
In any event, we need to move beyond the consensus building approach in my opinion. Scientific mediation seems an approach worth trying.