by Judith Curry
Over at Roger Pielke Jr’s blog, there is a guest essay by Sharon Friedman, who blogs at A New Century of Forest Planning. Her essay is on the topic of scientific integrity. She makes the following four recommendations:
Here are my four principles for improving the use of information in policy, (1) joint framing and design of research with policymakers (2) explicit consideration of the relevance of practitioner and other forms of knowledge (3) quality measures for scientific information (including QA/QC, data integrity and peer and practitioner review), and (3) transparency and openness of review of any information considered and its application to policy.
The bolded statement is of particular relevance to this topic. In the politics of climate expertise, which experts should be paid attention to?
Steve Schneider had very clear views on this, as evidenced in this interview with Rick Piltz shortly before his death, about the PNAS paper. It is the elite climate scientists (which includes geophysical scientists, ecologists and economists) as judged by their number of publications and citations. Many reputable scientists such as Syun Akasofu (a solar physicist and climate skeptic) were not included in the statistics because he had not published more than 20 papers that were judged to be on the topic of climate. Seems to me that Akasofu has more knowledge about detection and attribution than nearly all of the biologists and economists included in the “list”?
Given the breadth of the topic of climate change, its impacts, and policy options, it seems that considerable breadth of expertise is needed, i.e. “all hands needed on deck.” But there seems to be a turf battle over “which experts,” as evidenced by the PNAS paper and the continued appeal to the IPCC consensus.
When I first became aware of the emissions scenarios, to the extent that I assumed anything, I probably assumed that these were put together by the energy companies, since this is the sort of thing I assume that they would be quite knowledgable about. Hah! how naive of me.
Steve McIntyre has often made the claim that he has greater expertise on the statistical analysis of the paleo proxy data than many of the climate scientists conducting such analyses, and he’s probably right.
The blogosphere itself is challenging the politics of expertise. Jerome Ravetz states:
The well-known principle, ‘knowledge is power’ has its obverse, ‘ignorance is impotence’. And ignorance is maintained, or eventually overcome, by a variety of socio-technical means. With the invention of cheap printing on paper, the Bible could be widely read, and heretics became Reformers. The social activity of science as we know it expanded and grew through the age of printing. But knowledge was never entirely free, and the power-politics of scientific legitimacy remained quite stable for centuries. The practice of science has generally been restricted to a social elite and its occasional recruits, as it requires a prior academic education and a sufficiency of leisure and of material resources. With the new information technology, all that is changing rapidly. As we see from the ‘open source’ movement, many people play an active role in enjoyable technological development in the spare time that their job allows or even encourages. Moreover, all over IT there are blogs that exercise quality control on the industry’s productions. In this new knowledge industry, the workers can be as competent as the technicians and bosses. The new technologies of information enable the diffusion of scientific competence and the sharing of unofficial information, and hence give power to peer communities that are extended far beyond the Ph.D.s in the relevant subject-specialty. The most trenchant and effective critics of the ‘hockey stick’ statistics were a University-employed economist and a computer expert.
So back to Sharon Friedman’s statement “explicit consideration of the relevance of practitioner and other forms of knowledge.” I vote strongly in favor. If energy companies and the people participating in the technical climate blogs had been entrained into the process, I suspect that we would be much farther along in understanding the science, the impacts, and the risks.
Instead, elitism and turf protection of climate expertise in a political context has contributed to the situation we now find ourselves in, which is aptly illustrated in this youtube video entitled “Global Warming Panic Described.”
A diversity of voices and expertise is needed, and I look forward to your thoughts on how this might be accomplished.