Sociology of scientists discussion thread

by Judith Curry

This thread is “linky not thinky” on my part.  Over the past week, there have been some very interesting posts in the blogosphere that can be loosely grouped under a topic of “sociology of scientists,” many of which are relevant to previous Climate Etc. threads.

Evolving Thoughts has a very interesting article entitled “Attacks on Philosophy by Scientists.”

Panda’s Thumb has an article on science-religion nexus.  The comments are what is really interesting here: thoughtful, lucid, polite (take notes, denizens).

A provocative perspective on Climategate is provided at WUWT by Terence Kealey, vice chancellor, University of Buckingham.

Steve Mosher has a follow up post at WUWT on the Greg Craven story.

Randy Olson discusses the hollywood-ization of scientists and environmentalists (including bloggers).

Pursuent  to lies and damned lies, Bishop Hill cites an article on problems with peer review, by a former editor of the British Journal of  of Medicine.

What to do about all this?  Oliver Manuel provided a link to a very interesting essay entitled “American Science Decline: The Cause and the Cure.”

And finally, Andy Revkin at dotearth notes the recent advances in climate science brought by civilized exchange in the blogosphere (and the peer reviewed literature) with skeptics (notably bloggers.)  Gotta  love it.

178 responses to “Sociology of scientists discussion thread

  1. Edit note: “an article on problems with peer review, but a former editor of the British”
    by a former editor– perhaps?

  2. And what you thought about the recent article on RealClimate about the also recent little debate on the scientific method?

      • I read this, somebody got a dodgy article published and a lot of people publicly criticized it. I didn’t seen any analogies to say the hockey stick controversy or whatever else related to climate? Andy Revkin’s article is more relevant to the climate debate, IMO.

      • I see some value in looking at this particular episode as a case study of scientific controversy carried out in full public view. As far as I understand it the authors decided to go public – press conference and all – with their “breakthrough”, and then the backlash occured immediately after the front page headlines. The authors seemed ill-prepared to defend themselves in the arena which they had so eagerly seized for publicity purposes. As for the question of whether or not science is self-correcting, it’s an interesting topic but one which is likely to result in stalemate – plenty of examples and counter-arguments to go around.

      • Agreed, the choice was the authors to seek publicity on this. the big problem with peer review for the big journals like nature and science is that the ask they authors to recommend 5 reviewers, with scouts honor that there isn’t a close collaboration on conflict of interest. to often the majority of the reviewers end up coming from the author’s own list.

        The fact that the authors didnt know how to defend themselves in this arena and didn’t accuse their critics of being deniers, merchants of doubts or in the pay of oil companies is where we start to lose the analogy with some of the climate controversies.

  3. Just to point out that the Evolving Thoughts article was more a defence of Creationism than it was a defence of Philosophy in science. It committed a terrible faux pas as well:

    If “God exists” is a religious claim (and it surely is), why then is “God does not exist” not a religious claim? And if Creationism implies God exists and cannot therefore be taught, why then should science which implies God does not exist be taught?

    Science doesn’t imply God does not exist. It simply implies that, at least within the bounds of the regularities it defines, His intervention is not necessary.

    Anyway, you’ve already done a thread about religion, so I’ll leave it there :p.

  4. Thanks, for posting the link to Dr. Herndon’s essay on “American Science Decline: The Cause and the Cure.”

    In my opinion, anonymous peer review converted our once vibrant society of scientists into a society of sheep.

    The climate scandal simply exposed the problem that plagues government-funded science, including the National Academy of Sciences and research agencies that it controls through budget review for Congress.

    Best wishes for 2011!
    Oliver K. Manuel

  5. The peer review process seems to be a subject of recent interest:

    The above articles focus on problems in the fields of medical/biological science, but it’s obvious that the same problems can be found in climate science as well as other areas. It’s about time we started looking into the peer review problems revealed by “climategate”.

    • good article, thanks for the link

    • NAS has zero control and only occasional influence on federal research funding decisions. As for peer review, it is like democracy, the best mechanism we can come up with. If you have an alternative way to evaluate research proposals and journal articles I would like to hear about it.

      • I claim no expertise in this area at all, never having been directly or indirectly involved in any such decisions.

        But surely the glaringly obvious problem is that the ‘peers’ are not uninterested parties. By their very nature they have a direct personal interest in the outcome – either by channelling more funds into their own general area, increasing its visibility and importance, or by restricting the flow of money to those perceived as rivals or competitors.

        And we have seen in Climategate that however much the scientists may try to be objective (or not even bother to conceal their partiality) about a simple thing like allowing papers to be published at all, how much more so will their biases show when good green folding cash is involved.

        Lastly, if funding for climatological studies is peer-reviewed by fellow climatologists, they are going to be the last people in creation to say ‘actually chaps it all a load of hooey and we’d be better of spending the dosh on insulating people’s houses against the cold winters. We’re done here and are going off to do something really useful’

        With those points in mind it seems to me that almost any system you could devise would end up with a better resource allocation. Producer led systems by definition benefit the producers, not the general populace.

      • Latimer,

        HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

        You old fart!

      • There lies the problem.
        When you have the current mindset of absolute correct science in a certain field.
        Science is slowly understanding that in order for science to be absolutely correct, current boundaries MUST be taken away. Science LAWS of the past fail in history of a billion years ago due to different perameters involved to todays perameters. Mathematic formulas fail in an ever changing environment.
        Currently a new peer review system is not possible unless it is incorparated to all levels from mechanics, physicians, mathematicians, astrophysicists, etc.
        If a science is too far advanced in one field and covers many fields, then it can be looked at by many fields for the viability and have the right to make corrections so the person reviewing can understand what is presented.
        Then lies another problem of how much is being published.

      • Hi Joe

        As I still find it very difficult to grasp whatever it is that you think you are saying, I’m going to wait for the movie…and hope it has English subtitles.

      • Latimer,
        It is the understanding of how salt changed in the oceans to allow evaporation and why after 4.5 billion years, we still have valcanic activity.

        You’ll have the premier seat for the showing.

      • Gowan. Gimme a sneak preview. You know you want to. Gowan gowan, gowan!

        What did salt (any old chemical salt or just common sodium chloride salt??) do in the oceans and how did this allow evaporation? Like maybe pure water doesn’t evaporate without salt innit bro?

        And isn’t the answer to your point 2 called ‘radioactivity’?

        Sub-titled “More volocity, the greater the centrifugal force and compression of gases to liquids under the planetary surface.”
        On the surface, oceans are more dense with salt to prevent “evaporation” from occuring and flying off the planet.
        Evapoartion did not occur to 1 billion years ago. There was 1 Ice Age 2.5 billion years ago which had to be a meteor event as Ice Ages started occuring only a billion years ago. Plant and animal life did not start on the land surface until 410 million years ago.
        We have more atmospheric pressure today and the atmosphere is greater in height today than a billion years ago to the rotational speed of the planet is slowing.

      • Ummm

        If there was no evaporation, how did the glaciers get up to the high bits to form the Ice Age 2.5 billion years ago?

      • Only one Ice Age occured 2.5 billion years ago then nothing until one billion years ago when the string of Ice Ages started occuring.
        It had to be a meteor event in the oceans to bring up the vast amount of water vapour. This was even recorded in the Great Lakes basin of the 2.5 billion year Ice Age.

      • Joe,
        You appear to present an unending chain of comments, which are related to areas of physics known well already in 1950, when Herbert Goldstein’s Classical mechanics was first published (it’s the textbook of classical mechanics, when I learned about it about 15 years later).

        So far I have not seen in your messages any evidence of valid ideas not covered by classical knowledge of physics. The centrifugal force related to earth’s rotation is rather weak. It is observable in the small difference in apparent gravitation at equator compared to the poles. There is indeed a difference, but it is small. The gravitation is much stronger. The centrifugal force has only a really minuscule effect on the gradient of saltiness in oceans and this minuscule effect is to weaken slightly the opposite effect of gravity.

      • Pekka,
        Only in the observed science that did not use the mechanics of compression and storage of energy.
        Gases compressed into canisters to liquid has a great amount of force energy stored.
        A coil spring used with weights and motion on a circular plane generates the seen centrifugal force action.

      • Joe,
        Why do you repeat those sentences?

        What is their connection to climate?

        As far as can see, there is no connection at all.

      • Pekka,
        What makes water molecule unique?
        It is three gas molecules bonded together to have a greater density. It has some of the same characteristics of gases but is heavier and denser.
        This has to have energy in it to achieve this hold.

        You know what I am getting at?

      • joe,
        No. Definitely I do not know, where you are aiming to.

        Still I think that you have not given any evidence of something relevant.

        The properties of water are also longstanding knowledge.

      • Oh dear.

        First understand the difference between atoms and molecules.

        Then understand that no substance is ‘naturally’ a gas, a liquid or a solid. It all depends on the external circumstances it finds itself in.

        And commonsense will tell you that if you want to change water from a solid (ice) to a liquid (water) to gas (steam), you actually have to put *in* energy. Stick some ice cubes on a stove then warm them up. When it is boiling stick a cold plate in the steam. The steam condenses to water (drops) and the gives out heat…the plate warms up.

        So sorry me old pal me old beauty, you have it (as we highly technical people have it) ‘arse about face’.

      • Pekka, Latimer,
        Let us follow a new box…

        Down below.

  6. I’ve started Nassim Taleb’s labor of love, “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,” and find parallels to climate science jumping out at me.

    If you haven’t heard the term, a “Black Swan” is a highly improbable event that is unpredictable, carries massive impact and afterward is explained in a way that makes it seem as though it were predictable.

    Much of the problem with Black Swans is that our educated authorities are the most blind to the possibility of highly improbable events since they are expert in the ways of expected events and tend to mistake their models of the world for the reality of the world.

    Taleb terms this blindness as the “triplet of opacity”:

    “a. the illusion of understanding, or how everyone thinks he knows what is going on in a world that is more complicated (or random) than they realize;

    b. the retrospective distortion, or how we can assess matters only after the fact, as if they were in a rearview mirror (history seems clearer and more organized in history books than in empirical reality) and

    c. the overvaluation of factual information and the handicap of authoritative and learned people, particularly when they create categories…” (p. 8)

    I don’t dismiss the efforts of climate scientists to understand climate and warn us of potential problems ahead.

    I am skeptical though of their certainty that they have encapsulated the immensely complex and chaotic reality of earth’s climate with their models and then make rather glib pronouncement like “Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth’s Temperature” [ ].

    We have already seen their certainty shaken then concealed in the transition from the labels “global warming” to “climate change”, and now we have the new retrospective explanation emphasizing aerosols.

    Maybe climate scientists really have got climate change covered by their models and a few decades from now that will be clear. But the more I read about climate science and climate scientists, the more I get the sense of hubris, confirmation bias, group think, and the confusion of the map for the territory in the whole undertaking.

    • thanks for bringing up black swans, I have plans to include this in two future threads.

    • This old story about “global warming” being altered to “climate change” for political reasons is only partly correct – it was the conservatives who wanted (and got) the change. Since climate is always changing, “climate change” sounds a lot less scary than “global warming”, and so is more palatable to the Right.

      • Sorry, dear, but “climate change” was originated because “Global Warming” wasn’t happening. And it wasn’t the conservatives who changed it. Any more than it was the conservatives who initiated “global climate disruption”. Not sure I got that last “name” right – I’m still laughing too hard to pay attention to it. But I know Holdren isn’t a conservative.

        Maybe you’re not old enough to remember when it became “climate change”?

      • Look up Frank Luntz.

        Why has it always been (since 1988) the “IPCC”, not the “IPGW”?

      • Don’t get silly on me. Frank Luntz could suggest anything he wanted, but he had no power to actually change anything in the public perception. Only the scientists, politicians and media had the power to do that. And they weren’t sceptics – or conservatives.

        In 2001, the public knew it as Global Warming (note the caps).

      • Luntz’ career has been built on reframing and using the language as an effective means to deliver a political viewpoint. He came up with the phrase “death tax”. Don’t underestimate the power of language.

        Read this article and this is the memo in question.

      • And you really think the left wing media/politicians would change to CC because the conservatives thought it a good idea/less scary? ;-)

        I love the naivete.

      • Read the article and memo from Luntz.

      • A certificate warning for this site shows up here.

      • As I keep pointing out here and elsewhere, it’s now Climate Disruption.

  7. huxley,

    We have been working hard to make climate science more understandable to the general public, as well as to other climate scientists.

    We are well aware that the climate system is immensely complex, with multiply interacting components that exhibit chaotic behavior over a broad range of time and spatial scales. This complexity, however, does not mean that the climate system is incomprehensible.

    As we go on and describe in our “rather glib pronouncement “ (that Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth’s Temperature), the overall general behavior of the terrestrial climate system can be readily understood in terms of the basic concepts of (1) the terrestrial greenhouse effect, (2) what constitutes radiative forcing in the climate system, and (3) what constitutes climate feedbacks in the climate system.

    The climate experiment that we describe clearly shows that it is the non-condensing greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, O3, and CFCs) that provide the essential temperature support structure of the terrestrial greenhouse effect, without which, the feedback components (water vapor and clouds cannot sustain their atmospheric distributions). This experiment does not forecast how much global warming will occur in the coming decades, but it does provide an overview of how the climate system will respond to continued increases in greenhouse gas forcings.

    How best to frame (describe) climate science? Perhaps the choice in terminology might depend on the desired spin that is intended. Mathew C. Nisbet (framing-science) notes that conservative strategist Frank Luntz recommended that switching terms from “global warming” to “climate change” would be an effective way for climate skeptics to downplay the urgency of the issue, i.e., “global warming” is a term that was invented by climate scientists (Wally Broecker in 1975), while “climate change” is “something that happens all the time”.

    It makes good logical sense to associate the term “global warming” with the global warming (strengthening of the terrestrial greenhouse effect and the increase in global-mean surface temperature) that is caused by the continued increase in greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs), as was pointed out by Broecker. “Climate change” is the more general term (that includes global warming as a subset) that includes the radiative effects of other forcings, regional changes in temperature, precipitation, weather extremes, etc., and also the natural (unforced) variability of the climate system.

    • Richard S Courtney

      A Lacis:

      You assert;
      “The climate experiment that we describe clearly shows that it is the non-condensing greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, O3, and CFCs) that provide the essential temperature support structure of the terrestrial greenhouse effect, without which, the feedback components (water vapor and clouds cannot sustain their atmospheric distributions). This experiment does not forecast how much global warming will occur in the coming decades, but it does provide an overview of how the climate system will respond to continued increases in greenhouse gas forcings. ”

      Say what!?

      Please explain and reference this “experiment” that shows what you assert.

      And please note that a formalisation of an opinion as a set of computer algorithms is not an “experiment” which can “provide an overview of how the climate system will respond to continued increases in greenhouse gas forcings. ”


      • See Richard Feynman in the video below.

        Andy Lacis has done the “guess” bit, done some “computations” which don’t include the stuff we don’t know how to quantify yet, but the “experiment” bit presents a problem. The problem is that as Kevin Trenberth laments, the instrumentation isn’t giving sufficiently good resolution to enable us to determine whether the “guess” is any good or not.

    • 1) CH4 isn’t increasing very much at all.
      2) Innovative techniques giving us a better idea of short term variability in pre-industrial atmospheric co2 levels have been marginalised because they don’t fit the narrative, and Greenland ice core results have been ‘redrawn’ to fit Antarctic ice core results which flatten variation due to diffusion effects.

    • This does not include any motion, movement, dispersement or outside factors that can interact.
      We have a round planet, not a square room!

    • Dr Curry. I repeat that if you feel I am making a nuisance of myself in asking the same question until it gets answered satisfactorily, just let me know. I will respect your decision. I do feel, however, that it has not been answered on any previous thread…

      A Lacis,

      Frankly, I am amazed that you can find so many definitive statements on the function of CO2 in the global climate mechanisms on the basis of predictions from a computer simulation model.

      Do you have any real-world data to support your statement that “carbon dioxide accounts for about 20 percent of the greenhouse effect.”?

      Let me point out the illogicality of your conclusion.

      20% of the current GE (33 deg C) is 6.6 deg C. In 1850, the GE was lower by the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’ of 0.8 deg C, making it 32.2 deg C. 20% of that is 6.4 deg C. (In addition, a further 5% – ie 1.6 deg C of the GE in 1850 was from the other ‘non-condensing greenhouse gasses’, but let us concentrate on CO2.)

      Since 1850, the addition of a further 40% CO2 has – assuming all the warming is due to CO2 – led to a warming of 0.8 deg C. Please note the assumption.

      My next question may be obvious:

      If CO2 provides such ‘core support’ for the global temperature, why is the 40% increase not supported by a similarly significant observed temperature rise?

      Please bear in mind that the 0.8 deg C observed so far since 1850 includes ALL forcings and feedbacks.

      Currently, the observed temperature rise is not even sufficient to support the IPCC claim of 3 deg C ‘best estimate’ for climate sensitivity. With the logarithmic effect being lauded by so many on this forum, the chances of achieving 3 deg C for a doubling are looking remarkably low. This does not support the cAGW theory of ‘rapid and accelerating global warming’, particularly given the importance of CO2 asserted by your paper.

      Speaking as a member of the ‘general public’, you appear to be making definitive statements based on the assumption that your computer simulation is accurate.

      Where is your real-world proof?


      • And when you answer Arfur, could you please explain also why it is that from observation of the atmosphere of Mars, almost pure CO2, about 30 times more abundant (per unit surface area) than on Earth, and yet Mars’ black-body temp and mean surface temp are virtually the same: 210K.


      • Arfur Bryant


        I’m not holding my breath for an answer. Well, I did, but fainted…


    • A Lacis: I know that you and other climate scientists are aware that climate is complex and chaotic, and I understand that complex and chaotic are not equivalent to incomprehensible. Furthermore I am aware of the GHG and radiative forcing arguments and I don’t require a precis of that.

      You seem to have missed the basic import of my comment, which is that when a large group of experts agree on a model of reality they tend to be blind to other ways of seeing reality, and therefore their predictions may turn out useless because key aspects of reality were obscured by their model and their certainty in that model.

      For example, the world financial system is complex and chaotic and not incomprehensible. Financial experts were generally sure their models of that system were adequate to protect that system from serious risk. Yet we saw the world financial system melt down two years ago in spite of expert assurances that overall the system was secure.

      Yes, I know that you are an expert and possess great knowledge about the current models of climate science. I know you can discourse at great length about the intricacies of those models. But I’m asking how sure you are that those models really fit reality with sufficient coverage and accuracy that we can take climate science predictions for the year 2050, 2075 and 2100 to the bank. How sure are you that some important aspects of climate haven’t been missed or discounted that could turn out to play key roles in determining the climate?

      I’m asking about what you don’t know that you don’t know. It’s a hard question, but nonethless important.

      Here’s Eight Botched Environmental Forecasts mostly about climate. The response from current climate scientists is, “But we know so much more about climate than we did then,” which I don’t find reassuring.

      If the next ice age starts with this winter’s blizzards I don’t want to hear from climate scientists one or more decades from now, “But we know so much more about climate than we did then.”

    • We have been working hard to make climate science more understandable

      Like this-
      In a new paper by Xu et al., we concluded that black soot is contributing to the rapid melt of glaciers in the Himalayas. And continued, “business-as-usual” emissions of greenhouse gases and black soot will result in the loss of most Himalayan glaciers this century

      It’s seems the Himalayan Melt story kind of fell apart.
      Greenland Ice Cap Melting Faster Than Ever

      Seems contrary to this
      The ice core showed the Northern Hemisphere briefly emerged from the last ice age some 14,700 years ago with a 22-degree-Fahrenheit spike in just 50 years

      Here is a nice piece of education for kids.
      If the Arctic sea ice and ice covering Greenland were to melt, sea level would rise 20 feet (6 meters)!

      Scaring the nations children into believing they will drown from a Greenland Ice Melt that won’t occur in there lifetimes, or their grand childrens lifetime is education?

      • ‘We have been working hard to make climate science more understandable’
        Judging on the very poor quality of responses on this blog to some pretty fundamental Joe Sixpack type questions, then either:

        a. They have no idea how to communicate climate science other than appeal to their own authority or

        b. They have no idea, period.

        I have been quite surprised at just how narrow an understanding of climate science many of the professional contributors here have achieved. They may have great expertise in their own specialisation (though this too is not always obvious), but outside that they are fishes out of water.

        AGW theory relies on a set of propositions fitting together as a whole…few of the debaters here have the perspective to see the big picture, and many of the more sceptical amateur commentators have a better grasp than the supposed ‘experts’

        So of one thing I can be certain. The Science Is Not Settled.

        But my view has changed a little. Previously I thought that all who said that it was were deliberately trying to mislead. Now I am more charitable and think that some of them are just ignorant outside of their tiny little specialisation.

      • “Joe Sixpack” (how refreshingly proletarian, eh?) might approach the subject with a little more willingness to read and do some honest investigating, instead of your approach, which is to come up with a million excuses as to why you’re (at root) just plain lazy. You’re not even a “skeptic”, just a blabbermouth.

      • Whatever.

        Others can judge which of my two categories above your considered and professional response falls into. Or possibly come up with a third.

      • I’ve given you considered and professional – didn’t matter. You just like to argue, and that’s all.

      • Whatever.

  8. The Key To Science:

  9. I would like to add a link to this remarkable article in the New Yorker, concerning the scientific method:

    • David, thanks for your comment. We discussed the New Yorker piece at length on the previous thread Lies, Damned Lies, and Science (?). It is indeed very interesting, and has generated much discussion in the blogosphere.

  10. Richard S Courtney

    Dr Curry:

    In my opinion, no consideration of this subject is complete without inclusion of the interesting (and shocking) analysis by Richard Lindzen titled
    “Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?”
    which can be read at various places including


    • I just read the whole thing, it is very long, but well worth the read. I can’t imagine how I have never encountered this before. I have flagged this one to ponder more at a later time, he raises some very interesting issues.

    • A truly shocking read with read across to several of our recent threads. It puts the alarmists’ (specious) accusations about big oil into perspective.

    • Lindzen merely repeats a few well-known “skeptic” memes – managing to get in digs at Mann’s work, trying to play up his “Iris Effect” (IIRC, he’s pretty much abandoned it now because it just ain’t working) and then tossing in a few gratuitous potshots at various people. He also plumps for Durkin’s “TGGWS”, a noxious piece of propaganda It’s also a shame he uses Singer’s exploitation of a terminally ill Revelle to make a point. That whole episode was disgusting, but part and parcel of “skeptic” tactics.

      All in all, the piece is just Dick being Dick.

    • E. Zedillo’s 2005 Yale conference symposium (published 2008 as ‘Global warming: Looking beyond Kyoto’) includes a chapter by Lindzen entitled ‘Is the global warming alarm founded on fact?’, and a long response from Stefan Rahmstorf. Both articles, together with a rejoinder by Lindzen, are accessible online at…/Lindzen-Rahmstorf-Exchange.pdf
      I look forward to further incisive comments from D64!

      • A link that works is here.

        There’s also a nice debate between Lindzen and Dessler here. Lindzen gets smoked.

      • No he doesn’t, despite going up against a skilled propagandist who is seemingly willing to pull every trick he can, clean or otherwise out the book.

      • Well of course you think Lindzen (in that oh-so-sonorous style of his) “wins” – you’re too biased. And Dick needs to separate criticism of his work from personal attacks. He’s no martyr.

      • I’m biased? Really?

        Well, I’m not going to attempt to question your beliefs, because I know what an utterly hopeless pursuit that would be. Beliefs transcend all logic and reason, so we’ll just leave it at that.

        Happy New Year, btw

      • Derecho–

        “….Lindzen (in that oh-so sonorous style of his)…”
        Do you think Hansen, Schmidt, Mann, Bradley, Phil Jones, Schneider, Oreskes, et all come across any better? None of these individuals can be considered “martyrs” by any stretch of the imagination.

      • hr–

        The link doesn’t work. Could you repost it?

      • Apologies to Mescalero and others for my posting of a faulty link. And thanks to D64 for the correction. Much appreciated.

    • Richard S Courtney

      I presented my view that said;
      “In my opinion, no consideration of this subject is complete without inclusion of the interesting (and shocking) analysis by Richard Lindzen titled
      “Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?”
      which can be read at various places including

      Then I stood back and observed responses. And anybody can see what I see.

      Only RobB attempted any consideration of Lindzen’s analysis and he only made a statement of support.

      D64 made no consideration of Lindzen’s analysis, he provided an ad hom. against Lindzen, and he said some others have disputed Lindzen with links (but he made no mention of what they disputed). He did make one comment of a (sort of) factual nature when he wrote that Lindzen “uses Singer’s exploitation of a terminally ill Revelle to make a point. That whole episode was disgusting, but part and parcel of “skeptic” tactics.”

      The only “disgusting” thing about that is D64’s misrepresentation: Singer successfully sued for libel when the misrepresentation made by D64 was first made (as Lindzen’s analysis reports). However, D64’s misrepresentation is a good example of what D64 calls “skeptic tactics”; i.e. the skeptics tell the truth and people like him tell lies (as he did on this occasion) and often (like him) they do it from behind a shield of anonymity.

      I conclude that my opinion of the importance and relevance of Lindzen’s analysis is bolstered by the comments in response to my citing that analysis.


  11. Judith,
    What I am finding very interesting is the science thought process is changing. Even here!
    The core of science is slowly understanding that a vast amount of mistakes have been made and people REALLY do want to understand this planet.
    Generalized science is not good enough when looking for accuracy.

    Will we be able to have good predictions of weather in the future?
    Unlikely only for the fact of outside perameters are unpredictable that have an influence in what we will be able to control and understand such as sun activity, meteor collisions, volcanic activity, etc.
    Current weather pattern predictability is getting better but it will never be able to be absolutely accurate.

  12. I would like to address the forcing of research via the framing of NSF (and other funders) solicitations. While some of the grant solicitations are neutral and focus on basic science, there is a tendency over time for more of them to become “targeted” or aimed at solving a problem. When framed in this way, you are excluded if you do not believe the problem exists or is different than in the solicitation. Thus research on climate change is presumed to take for granted the IPCC POV. There is a similar bias in EPA solicitations. Even USDA has proposals about climate that include “education” to convince people to change their lifestyle (ie propaganda), which are to commence before the research is even completed. That is, the conclusion of the research to be done is already made. In education research, of course, there are all sorts of fads and assumptions built in to the grant agency documents. In the face of such bias, it is a very high hurdle to get funded unless one can hide the likely outcome. There is screening out of applicants before they even submit a proposal, which is why many of the prominent sceptics are retired or have an independent funding base.

    • You are right on target, Craig.

      Many large research projects are guided by collusion between federal grant agency bureaucrats and on-site bureaucrats whose jobs depend on their success at raising research funds. Scientists are mere puppets in this sham.

      Project descriptions are nonsensical propaganda. E.g., The Large Hadron Collider at CERN:

      “The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, . . . to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.”

      “Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, . . .Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions.”

      “There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, but what’s for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator, as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.”

      Translation: Bureaucrats and pseudo-physicists have absolutely no idea what will happen in the collision of opposing particle beams of protons at 7 teraelectronvolts (1.12 microjoules) per particle or lead nuclei at an energy of 574 TeV (92.0 µJ) per nucleus!

      While literally thousands of nuclear physicists were trying to find the “God” particle at the Tevatron in the United States (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Large) and at the Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland (CERN), Neutron repulsion was discovered in nuclear rest mass data [“Attraction and repulsion of nucleons: Sources of stellar energy”, Journal of Fusion Energy 19 (2001) 93-98]

      Neutron repulsion is the largest known source of nuclear energy, the one that powers the cosmos, active galactic centers, the Sun, and the energy source that caused the Sun to explode 5 Gyr ago to set the physical stage for the origin of life on Earth.

      With kind regards,
      Oliver K. Manuel
      Former NASA Principal
      Investigator for Apollo

  13. Terence Kealey’s essay defending the behavior of the Climategate “hockey team” is outstanding. I can’t think of a better argument to policymakers of the need to be very, very careful before acting on the claims of foolish/selfish/competitive/secret scientists regarding whatever current scientific fad has captured their fancy.

  14. randomengineer

    This is corollary to Dr Loehle’s post.

    Jerry Pournelle has made the observation that one problem comes in at the funding level, where grants are given to the prevailing POV and can reinforce any tendency for groupthink. His proposal, which I agree with, would be that a certain percentage of funding is ALWAYS available for studies etc outside the mainstream POV.

    Critics could point out that this would fund cranks, and yes, to be sure, some could well slip through the cracks. On the other hand a few safeguards ought to be sufficient. The premise here is that funding non-mainstream effort ought to still result in useful data, and if they’re correct, this is a plus.

    A case in point would be the Bussard polywell fusion device, currently funded at some extreme minimum by the US Navy. Handled correctly their funding ought to be at least triple of what it is now, allowing the investigators some breathing room and hopefully adding some speed to the effort. Even at triple or above funding, this would still be less than 0.1% of funding allocated to mainstream effort.

  15. randomengineer

    Speaking of sociology…

    Where is the Climate Rapid Reponse Team?

    Shouldn’t these people be defending science from extreme claims? Why just the skeptical claims? Why not egregious and gratuitous panty wetting claims?

    • The Climate Rapid Response Team responds to queries from the media and policy makers.

      • randomengineer

        Oh. And here I thought they rappelled in from green unobtanium powered helicopters, kitted in matching camo blazers and equipped with the latest in peer review. “Rapid Response” conjures imagery of Bruce Willis and a proactive approach. Maybe if they renamed it to Climate Answer Desk Team their mission would be clearer (albeit less sexy.) Good Heavens, even the Geek Squad has cute VW bugs and does house calls.

      • lol that’s funny. Thugh I’m having trouble conjuring Bruce Willis type images of “the Team” who quite possibly would be wearing caftans and sandals, not conducive to rapid action.

  16. Pekka, Latimer,
    H2O is 3 times heavier than a single gas molecule as it is 3 molecules bonded together. It takes more energy to lift this combination of molecules than a single gas. It does not disipate off this planet due to the heaviness of it, compared to a single gas. Being 3 gases, it is much more effected by heat and cold due to the area it covers to a single molecule.

    Motion of compressing gases to a liquid in a rotational setting. You need a BIG centrafuge just with normal air inside. A plunger type stopper and a weight. This centrafuge will compress the stopper with the weight in motion and compress the gases. Rotate it fast enough and the gases will turn to liquid.
    We live in a centrafuge setting on this planet with different layers of solid and gas areas.

    Are you starting to understand or am I still an alien?

    • Oh, I see now. Unfortunately, I don’t think this would pass muster for any but the pseudo-science scary blogs. But nice try!

    • Joe, I appreciate your curiosity with the most fascinating molecule H2O, but unless you can come up with some math or scientific evidence to support your statements, everyone is just going to call BS. Water is my thing and nothing you have said is consistent with my understanding of the properties of H2O at all. Sorry.

    • H2O is not ‘3 molecules bonded together’. I didn’t really bother reading the rest.

      Suggest that you start with a GCSE Chemistry book and understand a little about atoms and molecules, solids, liquids and gases. How these are affected by heat and pressure (eg in phase diagrams). Then you might venture into simple thermodynamics. Heat, entropy etc.

      Once you have done so, come back if you still observe natural phenomena that cannot be explained by ‘classical’ science. And people might listen.

      Until then toodle pip……

      • Confirmed. Begin at the beginning Joe. Once you have mastered the well understood properties of water, then you are well prepared to explore the unknown properties of water.

    • Okay guys,

      Simple question…
      Does your schooled theories hold up a billion years ago?

      Mine can be backed by mechanics and will hold up.

      • Well, perhaps, except for the somewhat original concept of the molecular structure of water. Reminds me of the classified ad offering a complete set of encyclopedias. No longer needed, new husband (or wife) knows effing everything. And they get to vote, too. Sigh.

      • ‘Does your schooled theories hold up a billion years ago?’


      • Show us the mechanics if you think differently.

    • Latimer,
      Your stating gases have no weight?
      Compressing them in a canister shows that they do.
      Is that not what water is compressed gases?

      As for numbers…hmmm
      300km/sec + 18.5 miles/sec + 1669.8km/hr is Solar systems forward movement plus the rotation pull around the sun plus the rotation of this planet on every molecule on this planet.
      Planetary slowdown is 1 sec a year X 1 billion years equals the rate of rotational speed in one year faster.
      This then changes the laws of relativity as those were created for this time period and not 1 billion years ago.

      So, you are stating that gases move on their own momentum without any physical mechanical motion?
      And 3 gases are not heavier than one?

      • Latimer Alder

        Go study the stuff that we have recommended. Especially the kinetic theory of gases, phase diagrams and as much Physical Chemistry and Thermodynamics as you can take. For a special treat, try

        I used to have regular tutorials with Peter and a mental workout with him was invigorating (and exhausting) in the extreme. It son ly 10 bucks, so would be worth spending your Christmas money on.

      • Latimer,
        Generalized good enough science and theories are currently the norm.
        Every point on this planet is uniquely different.
        Every point latitude and longitude are unique add in rotation and density differences and many other factors all working at the same time.
        Is the same factors in Texas going to effect Alaska?
        That is just on this planet.

      • Latimer Alder

        ‘Is the same factors in Texas going to effect Alaska?’


        As far as we can tell the Universe and the Laws of Physics are the same everywhere. To at least 1 part in 1,000,000,000 I believe. And across far far far greater distances than Texas to Alaska. But that’s some cosmology to add to your growing reading list.

      • Latimer,
        Time to fire up your brain synapsis.
        Our planet rotates 2 dimensionally as per a flat plained solar system. Unlike an atom, our planets energy exerts latitudely as per measuring the different latitides are different sizes from the equator to the poles. Weigh less at the equator compared to the poles due to centrifugal force is greater at the equator. Clouds and storms do not pass across the equator.
        Are you starting to get a glimpse of what I am saying?

  17. Joe and Oliver’s outside the box thinking provide good examples of why we only fund inside the box thinking. There are already a lot more serious proposals than can be funded. But it sounds like the folks here would favor a lottery where anyone can put in a proposal and the winners are selected by chance.

    • Without people thinking outside the box, you generate bad theories and very little new science is understood.
      If it “don’t have math it ain’t science” thinking.

  18. To pick up on something said earlier, peer review may be the best system despite its many flaws, but it’s design remains open-ended. Some sort of review seems preferable for a number of forms of publication and especially for funding, but the definition of “peer” can be negotiated – should it be anonymous or not, how extensive (what should the review entail? transparency? validation? replication?), and surely publication in journals and applying for government funds deserve some seperate consideration. The “science decline” article Manuel linked to advocates both evaluating applicants for funding based on their track record, and some sort of unspecified system for helping new researchers actually get a track record. There are many ways to improve the current systems, but these come with their own flaws.

    • The problem is not peer review, but anonymous peer review.

      Oliver K. Manuel

      • Okay, but if anonimity is gotten rid of, is the process fixed? Reviewers will be held more accountable, but they will also be more influenced by the author’s identity. This makes track record and institutional credibility more relevant, leading to a cycle where perceived credibility rewards itself.

      • Sorry, I failed to mention that we can distinguish between systems where the reviewers are anonymous, and where both authors and reviewers are.

      • Yes, Anonymous Peer Review is the Problem.

        In my opinion:

        1. Qualified reviewers will identify themselves.
        2. Unqualified reviewers should not be used.

        [Reviewers who are unwilling to identify themselves are, by my definition, not qualified to review. Anonymous reviewers gave us Climate-gate, NASA-gate, DOE-gate, NAS-gate, FRS-gate, and a few other gates yet to be exposed.]

        I reviewed many papers and rejected very few. In my opinion, if an author wants to display his/her foolishness publicly, that is okay.

        If author(s) and reviewer(s) disagree, why not let the passage of time decide which party was right?

        In case of unresolved differences of opinion, authors should be required to pay for the expense of publishing their paper and correct name together with the reviewer’s objections and correct name.

        Those are my recommendations.

        With kind regards,
        Oliver K. Manuel

        Authors should be allowed to override the opinions of reviewers, if:

        1. They are willing to pay publications costs for their article

      • Oliver, please explain how anonymity, or even peer review, created these supposed scandals. Your claim sounds as preposterous as your scientific claims (which may explain your antipathy for reviewers). Nor do I believe that there has been any decline in US science.

        In the meantime I will explain anonymity. It is for privacy and in extreme cases safety. There are at least 8,000 peer reviewed scientific journals worldwide, publishing on the order of 500,000 articles a year, each reviewed by three reviewers or so. Reviewers are volunteers so it it is a huge free effort, although being a reviewer counts on your CV.

        The typical high ranked journal rejects around 80% of submissions, so there are a very large number of unhappy authors. If reviewers were identified these unhappy people (like you) would bother them endlessly and few scientists would volunteer for this onerous duty. A cadre of professional reviewers might be an option but these people would hold enormous influence, not to mention adding a lot to already high subscription prices.

        It sounds like you want journals to publish everything that is submitted to them but that would defeat their purpose, which is to identify what appears to be the most important work in the field. In the industry this is called filtering. However, there is a new breed of so-called open access journals that are publishing everything sound that is submitted, on an author pays basis. PLoS One is an example, the pioneer in fact.

        However, submissions are still anonymously peer reviewed for methodological soundness (so don’t get your hopes up). Given that anyone can self publish by simply posting their article on their website, there is a simple way around your problem.

      • Oliver is right.

        Revealing reviewer identity will strip the process of publication itself as carrying any inherent scientific legitimacy, and shift it on to the underlying science.

        Anonymity on the other hand, offers the veil behind which the supposed harsh disagreements of science battles can be kept isolated from the niceties and professional interaction of everyday life.

        Anonymous peer-review is an essential stage of evolution in a scientific field.

        Anonymity in peer-review should not be coupled with reviewer discretion in recommending rejection or blockage of publication. Of course, conversely, reviewers should freely recommend rejection too – but their word should not be binding.

        Publication in its essence, is related to freedom of speech. There is no moral imperative against wrong science – scientists should be allowed to say wrong thing, stupid things and crazy things without any fear of a blemish on their personal reputation.

      • Shub, please see my response to Oliver above. I do not think you understand the nature of publication at the journal level. Each journal is a filter, looking for the best work, with the best journals having rejection rates of 80% or more. This is not a free speech issue.

      • From the climategate emails there seems to be some evidence that “Best Work” is at least sometimes defined by author rather than content.

      • David,
        As much as I understand you, this *is* a free speech issue.

        I do understand the nature of publication at the journal level. I have published papers myself.

        I would request you to give some thought to what I wrote.

      • Thank you, Shub.

        I am not good at communications, but you got the message!

        Now how can we communicate that the Sun and other stars are mere optical illusions?

        What we see are widely separated ions and atoms of waste products (91% H and 9% He) that emit light (Photons: hence Photosphere) as they are driven away from the energetic neutron star at the core.

        The Sun – Earth’s heat source – is NOT the photosphere.

        Most of the Sun’s mass is in its neutron core, about the size of Chicago.

        The waste products leave the photosphere and continue moving outward in the heliosphere that engulfs the Earth and all of the planets.

        As the dense, energetic neutron star is around jerked by gravitational interactions with planets, it shifts around inside the highly visible cloud of waste products that we call the photosphere.

        That produces the Sun cycles.

        Best wishes for 2011,

  19. I would like to focus on the sociology of knowledge claims. It is inherent in a scientific field for practitioners to believe that they have mastered (and in fact to have mastered) a body of knowledge. In developing fields, it is not clear that this body of knowledge is either internally consistent or precise. BUT: it will feel that way to insiders. The lack of consistency/precision only becomes apparent if you ask for specific predictions. For example, in cancer research, we know a great deal, but it is only possible to cure a handful of cancers. To point out this fact is not to deny biomedical science, but merely to acknowledge the complexity of the task which is not yet quite mastered. But in climate science, to point out that precise predictions are not yet possible is to provoke howls of “denier” or sonorous proclamations that “it is just physics”. I do not want a cancer doc who can regale me with his knowledge, I want one who can cure me. Similarly, I am not impressed with climate scientists who insist their knowledge is vast and deep–I want precision and accuracy. And it is doubly not impressive when those who ask for precision and accuracy are labeled with nasty labels.

    • randomengineer

      This is especially relevant in light of newfangled theories that upset the favoured theory apple cart, such as most cervical cancers being caused by HPV strains, rather than some mysterious voodoo combination of factors — stress level, exposure to chemicals, diet, blah blah blah (and can probably be modeled) — all of which are utter nonsense. It’s a viral infection.

      It’s now estimated by some that many more if not most cancers are likely to have infectious bio-agent causes, and even heart attacks are being linked to a certain viulent bacteria strain living in the mouth. Certainly the premise that we whipped infectious disease is incorrect.

      However, the punchline is that *everybody* posting here knows that going to burger king and eating a whopper is akin to ordering a heart attack on a plate. This is, of course, utterly wrong.

      My question to you is this: how much of knowledge claim belief is simple inertia?

  20. Can someone tell me how Scientology and Climate Science differ?

  21. Bruce Ames has pointed out that we have a lot of cures for rodent cancers. Unfortunately, the human population only contains a figurative subset of rats.

    • The comments of Orac tell clearly that:
      – confirmation bias is a real phenomenon;
      – scientists have known its existence for a long time;
      – it is more troublesome in some fields than in others;
      – for the scientific progress it is important that results are published already when they have not been extensively confirmed;
      – all users of scientific results should be aware of confirmation bias and of the inherent unreliability of early results.

      The confirmation bias is always worst in areas, where exploratory research dominates. It is much less significant in well established areas, where research aims at improving detailed knowledge on issues already rather well understood in general terms. Looking through the IPCC reports, it is obvious that a major part of climate science has already reached the phase, where the confirmation bias is not expected to be particularly serious. At the same time it can be also observed that the uncertainty of most new results is not at all understood by many users of these results. Therefore we can continuously read dramatic claims which have only very preliminary support from science.

      Jumping to the other parts of IPCC reports, it is clear that the content of WG2 is to a very large extent just such exploratory research, where the confirmation bias and the related selection bias are strong. A large part of the research is not published in peer reviewed journals and even less has been confirmed by independent work of other research groups. This makes it difficult to judge the reliability of any of the conclusions of WG2. Equally large, but somewhat different problems plague the WG3 report.

  22. Most of the comments in this thread seem to focus on the negative aspects of peer review (called refereeing by people in my field). There are some positive aspects, however.

    During a long career as a theoretical physicist I refereed more than a hundred papers in my areas of expertise. Two questions can be asked. Was refereeing worth the effort? Is there a worthwhile alternative to this process? Refereeing is considered part of a scientist’s professional responsibility, for which (in physics, at least) you are not paid.

    The only period during which I enjoyed refereeing was when I was a postdoc beginning my career. At that time it was a treat being asked to comment on the work of more senior researchers, and I spent a lot of time on each paper. This is a valuable part of the educational process for young scientists. As time went on, refereeing became more and more a pain, and I stopped doing it upon retirement. So why do it at all?

    First and foremost is to keep worthless and/or erroneous work out of the journals. There are non-scientists who are fascinated by quantum mechanics (my field) but know almost nothing about it. This doesn’t prevent them from proposing bizarre and untestable solutions to supposed problems. Some scientists don’t spend enough time checking the literature for related work, and simply repeat what others have done, while adding nothing new. Others are sloppy and their work contains fatal errors (such as being inconsistent with experimental data) that completely invalidate their work (physics is an experimental science, not philosophy). On very rare occasions I saw plagiarized work (all of which came from one individual). It is worthwhile to keep such things out of the literature. Bad work is fairly easy to referee.

    Most refereeing is far more mundane and tedious. A good referee will point out weak arguments, confusing derivations, poorly presented figures, missing references to important work, and other presentational problems. This results in a much clearer paper, and is advantageous to the author(s). Were most referees in my experience “good” in that sense? Possibly 2/3 to 3/4 were “good”. The rest were too focussed on their own contributions, and their egos got in the way. The best way to infuriate a referee is to omit a reference to his/her work! Some referees feel that your work overlaps their work too much, and you didn’t give them enough credit. A few seem angry that you solved a problem that they didn’t. Attacking someone else’s work in print often leads to confrontations, because journal editors will often send the paper to the person attacked in order to be refereed. These refereeing problems can usually be overcome, but are very time consuming and quite annoying. Every physicist has “idiot referee” stories. These cases are the worst abuse of the system.

    But overall I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives, which is why I continued to be part of the process. Ultimately each scientist is the only one responsible for his/her own work. Hiring, promotion, and peer respect depend almost entirely on one’s publications. Publishing a paper with errors can happen, but ultimately it is primarily damaging only to the authors’ reputations. If a referee catches a problem before publication, it is definitely to the advantage of the author(s).

    As far as anonymous peer review goes, I refused to referee any paper or proposal if anonymity was not guaranteed. In most cases one can figure out who a “bad” referee is, based on his/her comments. And yes, in many cases I told authors that I was the referee. A telephone conversation is the easiest way to iron out problems in a manuscript in a timely manner, IF the paper is worth publishing at all.

    I don’t know of any alternative that works better. A completely open system without any controls would require effort to wade through garbage. Even the ArXiv system [] that accumulates pre-publication manuscripts in many areas of physics, mathematics, etc. has gatekeepers to block some of the junk (but who do not make any attempt to referee the manuscripts). If forced to rate the current refereeing system (in physics) with a good/bad score I would guesstimate a score of 60/40 (more positive than negative).

    • Serious question.
      If you can show areas of physics incorrect, where do you go to?
      Theories upon theories to generate theories that have been backed by experimentation are abound. Some simple measurements can collapse many of theses areas. Or the mathematical calculations do not work when the perameters of an increased or decreased speed is incorporated.

      • Joe,
        If you can really show errors in well established theories of physics, you will soon be famous. Such claims require exceptionally good arguments as every well established theory is supported by very extensive evidence. Contrary to, what you seem to think, every journal would be extremely happy to publish such results, when they are well justified. Convincing the referees might be difficult, but not impossible.

      • Pekka,
        Our theories on a round planet would be okay IF the planet rotates simular to an atom. But it does not it rotates two dimensionally on a flat plane and the energies at the equator are quite different from the energies at the poles. So, EVERY point on this planet is unique and the generalized theories and LAWS are incorrect.
        If you could slice the planet by latitude, the density differences and energy difference are quite different. Just the measurement around each latitude is different to the rotational measurement of size.
        Now add tilting and the sun and this generates a vast amount of very complex situations.

      • Latimer Alder

        Start with doing the simple measurements that you suggest cannot be explained by classical physics. Once you have those, come back. At the moment you do not appear to have done any experiments and are working from a mental model only, with no verification/validation that it is right.

        Alternatively, with such qualifications, a career in climatology would seem to be highly suited to your talents…

      • So, the difference in gravity from the pole to equator have no meaning nor the cloudcover unable to pass across the equator.

      • Joe, this is the first I’ve heard that cloud cover cannot pass across the equator. That would certainly be a strange phenomenon. Do you have a link for that?

      • On WUWT, they have satelite feed that is VERY interesting to follow through time.
        Observed science by only a few who look.

      • Latimer Alder

        What makes you believe that gravity differs from pole to equator?

        Here’s the latest satellite map and it shows no such effect.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sorry forgot the link. My bad

      • Certainly there is a small difference in gravity at earth surface. The acceleration at the poles is about 9.832 m/s^2 and at the equator 9.780 m/s^2 when the centrifugal force is subtracted. Part of the difference is due to the flattened shape of the earth, which is also due to the centrifugal force.

        This difference is, however, so small that it has very little effect on climate. The main difference between the poles and the equator is of course in solar irradiance, which is also the reason for the equatorial convergence zone. This convergence zone must be the thing Joe is thinking, when writing that the clouds cannot go across the equator.

        It should also be clear to everybody that earths rotation has large effects on winds including he rotation around low pressure anticyclones.

        This all is true and well known. I fail to see any slightest evidence that Joe would have any new ideas with any significance.

      • Pekka,
        Were the measurement you have shown calibrated in a vacuum to take out what is atmospheric pressure?

        For the life of me, I cannot find the site that shows the running gravity changes. Or is it atmospheric pressure increase?
        This would mean the shell of the planet is slowing faster than the core.

        One blessing is that you are not claiming centrifugal force as a pseudo-science. I come across many physicists that claim this.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree that some sort of peer review for journals is necessary, and that it needs to be anonymous. The problems are more with the editors than individuals doing the reviews. Many of the most prestigious journals, as well as those with moderate impact factors, require that the authors submit the names of 5 recommended reviewers. Often, these are selected by the editors as reviewers, and often these end up being collaborators of the authors. Editors are often biased on certain topics (climate change is definitely one of them). So the combination of these two factors tends to bias what is in the more prestigious journals (scientists can get most papers published somewhere, eventually; the issue is the higher impact journals). I am less worried about papers with errors getting published than I am about the “gatekeeping” situations that make it more difficult for papers outside the mainstream to get published. To often in the climate debate, who gets published in the most prestigious journals and the number of citations is used as a metric for reliability and “truth” (see this PNAS article). So the issues in climate science are somewhat different from those in physics that you describe.

      I am personally in favor of the online discussion journal format, where all reviews are posted (anonymously if the reviewer requests) along with the editorial evaluation (whereby the editor is not anonymous). Accountability of the editors is the key issue IMO. If there is a crazy or biased review, a good editor should be able to filter that appropriately.

      • Judith,
        Prejudice is also a factor.
        Rather than looking at the work.

      • Note that if one gets to pick one’s reviewers then the issue of reviewers ganging up on new ideas should not arise. As for editors you are correct but this is how the system is supposed to work. A journal’s job is to say what is new and important in the area covered, and this is necessarily a matter of judgement. New ideas will always have to work to break in. There is an old saying that your work will be accepted when your students become editors.

        However, journals compete for scarce subscription money, which is a highly competitive market. So if journals miss important emerging new ideas they will lose subscriptions, or even go out of business. Like any market, the marketplace of ideas is self correcting in the long run. Government control is not a solution.

        The problems in climate science are unique because climate science has been captured by a political movement. The federal government does not have an announced position on string theory or the formation of galaxies, or a thousand other important science issues, as it does on AGW. Federal funding follows federal policy, so the science follows the funding and the journals follow the science. Blaming the journals is starting at the wrong end of the pipeline.

      • randomengineer

        The federal government does not have an announced position on string theory or the formation of galaxies, or a thousand other important science issues, as it does on AGW.

        Your “announced position” comment is applicable well outside the government.

        This is precisely the cause of raised eyebrows re the AGU deciding that it needed to stake a “position” on AGW to the effect of adding people to the board who would “communicate.” They seem to feel no need to have a “position” with any of the other myriad scientific endeavours, but somehow, climate science is different? Outside obvious political overtones, how so?

        Dr Curry has said that there’s no politics vis a vis the AGU, and I just can’t seem to fathom how it could be viewed otherwise. Merely not endorsing a politcial candidate running for office isn’t a measure of a lack of political intent. Announced positions suffices.

      • re reviewers, if an editor has one perspective, they will reject suggested reviewers with the other perspective that might be recommended. good point about the funding, this is really the issue. but its a chicken and egg issue. The problem with climate science wasn’t any better under the Bush administration.

      • Judy –
        As my wife pointed out yesterday, the peer review process requires a pool of qualified reviewers. Those who are qualified in a given field fall into two categories – the most qualified and the second tier. The top people tend to be very busy and not always available. And at times a review from this group might take anywhere up to 6 months.

        The second tier tends to be less knowledgeable but more available.

        But in any case, the numbers of available reviewers is limited, especially for complex, highly specialized papers. And the qualified reviewers are very often overloaded orunavailable.

        So… who is my wife? She was the interface between the AMS journals and the reviewers for 5 years. She knows that part of the process and the associated problems well.

      • interrrrrresting.

      • Interesting comment about the Administration equivalences. The “politics” involved here is the issue of more power for the government and its regulatory bodies or less. On a fundamental and global scale. It’s going to take rock-ribbed resistance to the temptation to build up your own purview to roll such control back.

  23. Maybe people in this community should read Bruno LaTour. He broke this ground a couple of decades ago.

    • I agree that Latour’s Science in Action is a should-read. It’s what really got me passionate about the sociology of science. Upon second consideration it certainly has its faults (see Andre Kukla’s book critiquing social constructivism) being perhaps a little too radical for its own good, but I think it still beats much of Latour’s later work.

    • A poisoned chalice. The “program” is to make all definitions of truth subject to the superior post-science adjudication of the enlightened. Who are guess who?
      The Scientific Method and its goals and ideals are revealed and portrayed as tools of Western Bourgeoisie. Yawn.

  24. John,
    I’m a little behind in my reading right now but this does look to be an interesting book. Thank you for suggesting it.

  25. Oliver’s suggested link is interesting: The author, J. Marvin Herndon, claims that “for the past four decades, despite ever-increasing science budgets, American science has continued to decline toward third-world status.” No evidence or explanation is given for this preposterous claim, but the author is a scientist whose work has been rejected by the community. Since his wild claim is not explained there is no way to see how his fixes are justified.

    In any case his fixes are radical, including abolishing the $4 billion or so scientific publishing industry in favor of a government portal. He says “The U.S. Government should consider establishing an e-journal with a specific template as the sole publication outlet for government supported science and technological results, which would be open as well to non-government-supported research publication. Therein each researcher would be able to publish his/her/their research results without any review, other than internal reviews and standards possibly imposed by the individual’s respective institution.” Almost all basic research is funded by the federal government. Apparently submitting articles to journals would be banned somehow. This is ridiculous.

    I would, however, like to point out that such a portal already exists (I helped create it). In addition to brief journal articles, all federal research projects require lengthy final reports and most of these reports are on-line at . They typically contain a lot more information than journal articles. More recently we have created a global portal, which includes, at . Here you can get results from France, China, etc., as well as the USA.

    He also complains about journals charging $40 per on-line article, to non-subscribers. Here’s a tip. If you see an article you are interested in, go to the author’s homepage (via Google) and it may be posted there. If not send an email request and they will almost always send it to you.

    • No.

      You are wrong. Absolutely wrong.

      Dr. J. Marvin Herndon is an accomplished scientist.

      I do not personally subscribe to all of Dr. Herndon’s ideas, but his work compares very favorably to the nonsense peddled as science by Al Gore and the UN’s IPCC.

      Even a child knows that you can’t possibly ignore Earth’s heat source and explain changes in Earth’s climate [See: “Earth’s Heat Source – The Sun].

      Sorry to speak so bluntly, David, but this government diet of scientific garbage has become distasteful.

      Oliver K. Manuel

  26. If anyone is interested in issues related to scientific publishing from the journal’s side, including peer review, as well as the business and technology aspects, then I recommend Scholarly Kitchen, the blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing: I am fairly active there. It is an interesting industry because half the publishers are for profit (corporations) and the other half are not for profit (associations and universities).

  27. Earlier in my Black Swan comment I expressed my belief that climate scientists shifted from “global warming” to “climate change” because of the lull in warming during the last ten or so years.

    A. Lacis responded:

    How best to frame (describe) climate science? Perhaps the choice in terminology might depend on the desired spin that is intended. Mathew C. Nisbet (framing-science) notes that conservative strategist Frank Luntz recommended that switching terms from “global warming” to “climate change” would be an effective way for climate skeptics to downplay the urgency of the issue, i.e., “global warming” is a term that was invented by climate scientists (Wally Broecker in 1975), while “climate change” is “something that happens all the time”.

    It makes good logical sense to associate the term “global warming” with the global warming (strengthening of the terrestrial greenhouse effect and the increase in global-mean surface temperature) that is caused by the continued increase in greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs), as was pointed out by Broecker. “Climate change” is the more general term (that includes global warming as a subset) that includes the radiative effects of other forcings, regional changes in temperature, precipitation, weather extremes, etc., and also the natural (unforced) variability of the climate system.

    These paragraphs have “climate change” in two ways — as a Luntz spin and as a valid distinction between the strict warming effects from GHGs and their overall effect on climate.

    I did some further research after midnight and discovered that the story is not simple which is common for language usage questions. Both “global warming” and “climate change” had been in use long before Luntz recommended the latter in 2002. I also can’t imagine that the climate scientists would have passively accepted a label from the Bush administration if they didn’t already find the term agreeable. The IPCC itself goes back to 1990.

    The best discussion I found was “Global warming vs. climate change, taxes vs. prices:
    Does word choice matter?”
    which suggested that “the choice of global warming vs. climate change has had little if any impact on national-level perceptions of the seriousness of the problem.”

  28. A question for climate change advocates: What nomenclature do you prefer for the GHG climate issue? Why?

    * global warming
    * anthropogenic global warming
    * climate change
    * global climate disruption
    * other?

    Like many skeptics I’m impatient with “climate change” because it seems either meaningless or question-begging, but I use the term because it seems to be the term preferred by non-skeptics.

  29. huxley;
    This has already been adjudicated by the readers of SDA: it’s “ICS”, for Irritable Climate Syndrome. Believers are “Syndomites”, or “Syndros” for short.

  30. From the outside, looking into to your academic science world it seems that being ‘published’ in a ‘reputable journal’ is an important career objective. So important that you are willing to believe that anonymous peer reviews and journal editors will keep the bad science from print.

    If so, the journal editors control your publication status just as tightly as the editors of the NY Times decides which news story to print. Surprisingly, some of you actually think arbitrary (or political) gate keeping is a good thing. Amazing! Only the elite are allowed to publish past this gate.

    Science Journals and their expensive gate keeping processes are headed to the same place as newspapers in the Internet age. I’m not sure that the final situation will be ‘good’ by your definition. Doesn’t matter because you can’t do anything to stop it. The Internet removes gatekeepers. Pimped up Journals won’t survive Internet transparency. The “information is scarce, pay me for it” business model no longer works for journals or newspapers.

    Dr. Curry seems to understand that the last 50 years of science practice have changed with Internet rules.

    • In some fields of science the information is scarce, but in others there is too much of it. Therefore the information will be filtered in one way or another. If it is not filtered by a publisher, it will be filtered by the readers – and they do it using minimal effort. Using minimal effort means often in practice reading only papers from most reputable institutions and from well known authors.

      The present system of peer review gives certainly some preference to better known institutions and authors, but it does not exclude others and it also helps less experienced authors in formulating their papers so that their message will be understood better.

      Paradoxically, I believe that the present system is more open to new entrants to get their results the attention that they deserve than a fully free for all system would be.

      Everybody can nowadays get his or her paper openly accessible, but getting the paper noticed is another matter. If the paper is both of real interest and understandable, the blogosphere opens also possibilities of reaching wider audience, but important results may die unnoticed, if the author cannot present them well enough.

      • Latimer Alder

        Nothing to stop a young scientist finding a more experienced guy to help write the paper. ‘Mentoring’ and ‘proteges’ are honourable traditions in many walks of life. I don’t see how that system would be threatened just by a more open system of publication.

        And I’d have more respect for the existing system if there was evidence that it is a truly neutral process, rather than just ‘pal review’.

      • Some of the young scientists are lucky enough to find a good mentor, who can help in writing a good article, some are not.

        For some strange reason the reviewers are often really of great help (while often they are not). The young scientist would not be likely to have any better mentors in absence of the good reviewers than in their presence.

    • Your rhetoric is familiar but it isn’t happening and isn’t going to because you do not understand what journals do. Almost everything gets published. What the journal system does is to sort it by topic and rank it by importance. These are the services that subscribers pay for. Blogs perform a very different function. Journals track the frontier. Neither journals nor newspapers are about to disappear.

  31. Cecil;
    The nature of general Internet culture and practice are only part of it; the simple technological capacity to publish (make known) world-wide instantaneously changes the game. However much the “purists” sneer at, e.g., arXiv, its “pre-proof” repository is an immensely potent by-pass of the gatekeepers. And there are many others.


    Skeptics and true-believers alike should take a look and see what could have been done differently, or earlier, or better, in the vaccine-autism controversy.

  33. Prof. Curry, this is OT but I couldn’t find an “Unthreaded” or a “Tips and Notes” a la WUWT. Is there one that I missed or is there another way of bringing to your attention a subject that is not in a current thread?



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  36. Dr. Curry,
    You have been oddly spammed.

    • “oddly” indeed! While skimming a bit of it, I caught this amusing computer translation of an English idiom:
      “reduce throat opposition” = cut-throat competition. The individual words are synonyms, almost, but the computer makes no sense.

      A common occurrence; witness AGW GCMs!

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    information that the service held on Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the former Kazakh prime minister. The report also contains

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    could have found its way into the hands of people whom the agency was monitoring.

    “If true, these allegations raise very serious concerns and I expect the government to investigate them,” he said.

    The Sunday Times has seen a copy of a report by Global Options Management, a firm of private security consultants with

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    The company is chaired by **********, who is an economic adviser to the Kazakhstan government and a director of the country’s

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    ********** has admitted in the past that he has had dealings with **********, the president’s daughter who is an opera

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    and has long taken commissions from foreign companies doing business in Kazakhstan.

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  40. Conflicting information on energy that powers the Sun, changes Earth’s climate, and sustains our lives [1-3] is a grave danger to National Security.

    The National Academy of Sciences was “established by an Act of Congress . . . signed by President Lincoln on March 3, 1863, . . . which calls upon the NAS to “investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art” whenever called upon to do so by any department of the government” [1].

    Now that we have a Republican House, I ask that you please join me in asking Congressional representatives to request a FULL and CANDID evaluation from NAS of conflicting information in [1-3], BEFORE approving more funds for government research.


    1. UN’s IPCC reports (1990-2007)

    2. Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate”, JFE 21, 193-198 (2002)

    3. “Neutron repulsion”, in press

    The time has come to stop arguing and for Congress to ask NAS to fulfill its responsibility to find out if experimental data and observations have been misrepresented.

    Oliver K. Manuel

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  51. Now, ~4.5 years after Climategate emails and documents were released, it appears that . . .

    Climategate exposed global abuse of the scientific method by members of the UN’s IPCC, the National Academies of Sciences of the US, UK, USSR, Sweden, Norway, Germany, etc. They now refuse to publicly address nine pages of precise experimental data (pages 19-27) that falsify their post-1945 models of the cosmos, the Sun, Earth’s climate and the atomic nucleus.

    Their present actions strongly suggest that past acts of deception were intentional.

    “A Journey to the Core of the Sun – Chapter 2: Acceptance of Reality