Kardashian Index

by Judith Curry

I am concerned that phenomena similar to that of Kim Kardashian may also exist in the scientific community. I think it is possible that there are individuals who are famous for being famous.  – Neil Hall

If you are scratching your head wondering who Kim Kardashian is, she is a reality TV star with millions of fans and online followers.  When I first spotted tweets about the Kardashian factor, I rolled my eyes and ignored them.  I inadvertently  landed on an article about the Kardashian factor by following a tweet from Kirk Englehardt. Its interesting, sort of entertaining and irritating at the same time, but the article and the responses to it are raising some important issues.

The Kardashian Index: a measure of discrepant social media profile for scientists

Neil Hall

Abstract. In the era of social media there are now many different ways that a scientist can build their public profile; the publication of high-quality scientific papers being just one. While social media is a valuable tool for outreach and the sharing of ideas, there is a danger that this form of communication is gaining too high a value and that we are losing sight of key metrics of scientific value, such as citation indices. To help quantify this, I propose the ‘Kardashian Index’, a measure of discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers.

Published in Genome Biology [link] to complete paper.  Excerpts from the paper:

Consider Kim Kardashian; she comes from a privileged background and, despite having not achieved anything consequential in science, politics or the arts, she is one of the most followed people on twitter and among the most searched-for person on Google.

We are all aware that certain people are seemingly invited as keynote speakers, not because of their contributions to the published literature but because of who they are. In the age of social media there are people who have high-profile scientific blogs or twitter feeds but have not actually published many peer-reviewed papers of significance; in essence, scientists who are seen as leaders in their field simply because of their notoriety.

I don’t blame Kim Kardashian or her science equivalents for exploiting their fame, who wouldn’t? However, I think it’s time that we develop a metric that will clearly indicate if a scientist has an overblown public profile so that we can adjust our expectations of them accordingly. In order to quantify the problem and to devise a solution, I have compared the numbers of followers that research scientists have on twitter with the number of citations they have for their peer-reviewed work. This analysis has identified clear outliers, or Kardashians, within the scientific community. I propose a new metric, which I call the ‘Kardashian Index’, which allows a simple quantification of the over, or under, performance of a scientist on social media.

The K-index is illustrated in the following figure:


In an age dominated by the cult of celebrity we, as scientists, need to protect ourselves from mindlessly lauding shallow popularity and take an informed and critical view of the value we place on the opinion of our peers. Social media makes it very easy for people to build a seemingly impressive persona by essentially ‘shouting louder’ than others. Having an opinion on something does not make one an expert. 

I propose that all scientists calculate their own K-index on an annual basis and include it in their Twitter profile. Not only does this help others decide how much weight they should give to someone’s 140 character wisdom, it can also be an incentive – if your K-index gets above 5, then it’s time to get off Twitter and write those papers.

We the Kardashians

There is quite a twitter kerfuffle over this paper, with many blog posts responding to the KI.  This one in particular struck me, by neuroscientist Micha Allen:  We the Kardashians.  Excerpts:

I’m sure there were many scientists or scholars out there who amid the endless cycle of insane job pressure, publish or perish horse-racing, and blood feuding for grants thought, ‘gee I’d better just stop this publishing thing entirely and tweet instead’. Seriously though – this represents a fundamental and common misunderstand of the point of all this faffing about on the internet. Followers, impact, and notoriety are all poorly understood side-effects of this process; they are neither the means nor goal.  But I wouldn’t expect someone to understand that who clearly believes the end all point science is to produce papers in prestigious journals. Forget about less concrete (and misleading) contributions like freely shared code, data, or thoughts.

While a (sorta) funny joke, it is this point that is done the most disservice by Neil’s article. We (the Kardashians) are democratizing science. We are filtering the literally unending deluge of papers to try and find the most outrageous, the most interesting, and the most forgotten, so that they can see the light of day beyond wherever they were published and forgotten. We seek these papers to generate discussion and to garner attention where it is needed most. We are the academy’s newest, first line of defense, contextualizing results when the media runs wild with them. We tweet often because there is a lot to tweet, and we gain followers because the things we tweet are interesting. And we do all of this without the comfort of a lofty CV or high impact track record, with little concert assurance that it will even benefit us, all while still trying to produce the standard signs of success. And it may not seem like it now – but in time it will be clear that what we do is just as much a part of the scientific process as those lofty Nature papers.  Of course – we are only fallible human beings, trying to find and create utility within a new frontier. We may not be the filter science deserves – but we are the one it needs. Wear your Kardshian index with pride.

You have nothing to lose but your irrelevance

In apparent defense of the Kardashians, there is a NYTimes article from last February: Professors, We Need You!  Excerpts:

SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.

The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.

A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away.

“Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research,” said Will McCants, a Middle East specialist at the Brookings Institution. “This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine qua non for academic success is peer-reviewed publications, then academics who ‘waste their time’ writing for the masses will be penalized.”

Professors today have a growing number of tools available to educate the public, from online courses to blogs to social media. Yet academics have been slow to cast pearls through Twitter and Facebook. 

I write this in sorrow, for I considered an academic career and deeply admire the wisdom found on university campuses. So, professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks — we need you!

Social media and academia

Social media is changing the world, and academia hasn’t quite figured out what to do about it.  On issues relevant to public debate, social media is rivaling published academic research in its impact.  Social media is leveling the playing feed and democratizing science.

See this article interviewing Andrew Hoffman, University of Michigan Professor of Business, entitled Should professors engage in public debate?  His response:

“We should think about encouraging and training academics on how to engage in a public debate, how to talk to the media, and show them how to select the appropriate outlets,” Hoffman says. “I think the time is right.”

“We still have an apprentice model and you still have to earn your bones,” he says. “My advice to junior faculty would be to start slowly. Focus on the bread and butter, and get published in the academic journals. But keep your toe in the water. It’s not feasible to tell young professors to check their passions at the door and wait until they get tenure to reignite them.”

“I like to hover between the academic work and practice,” he says. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like doing research for academic journals and teaching. But I also try to bring that to the real world. I don’t want to measure my career just by counting citations. I want to actually have an impact, and I suspect others do, too.”

JC message to social scientists:  once again, I see an area that is ripe for scholarship by social scientists – documenting and understanding the use of social media by academic scholars.  The climate field is an interesting one – the population of established, senior climate scientists that are active in social media is small, but there is a growing number of young climate scientists on twitter.

JC reflections

Neil Hall’s article reflects an elite senior white male academic attitude – resentful of these ‘upstarts’ that are garnering attention (‘shallow popularity’) and influence without having ‘earned their bones’ and being blessed by the elite academics (‘the opinion of our peers’).  This democratization of academic influence, enabled by social media, is challenging the power and influence of the elite (senior) academics.

The skills required to be successful in social media include good writing/communication skills and the abilities to synthesize, integrate, and provide context.  Those who are most successful at social media also have a sense of humor and can connect to broader cultural issues – they also develop a trustworthy persona.  These are nontrivial skills, and they are general traits of people that have impact.  But these skills do not get recognized in academia.

I get zero academic credit or incentives for my blogging and tweeting.  This is not a knock on my institution, Georgia Tech:  GT tends to be relatively avant garde in such things.  For example, VP Stephen Fleming is very active on Twitter. Kirk Englehardt, Director of Research Communication and Marketing, is very active in social media.  Englehardt’s position is a new one, and he is leading the development of an Integrated Strategic Communication and Marketing Plan for Research.  So things might be changing, but as of right now, no academic credit  or other incentives are  given for such activities.

So, why do I do it?  I’m interested in having an impact beyond the narrow group of my academic peers – frankly, I don’t place much value on the opinion of my peers, especially since  many are mired in a cohesive moral community on the subject of climate change.  I want to  continue to explore social media as a tool for engaging with with public, group learning, exploring the science-policy interface, and pondering the many dimensions of the wicked climate problem. I would like to contribute to the public debate and support policy deliberations, I would like to educate a broader and larger group of people, and finally I would like to learn from people outside the group of my academic peers (and social media is a great way to network).  I am trying to provoke people to think outside the box of their own comfort zone on the complex subject of climate change. You would think that these are the things that a university faculty member should be doing (it sure seems like the kind of things we should be imparting to our students) – but no, instead we are rewarded for being recognized by our peers for traditional scholarly publications and for ‘playing the ivory tower game’ by the rules established by elite senior scientists.

Here’s how I do the calculus for my own intellectual activities.  As per google scholar, I have a total of 12,000 citations of my publications (since my first publication in 1983).  Climate Etc. gets on average about 12,000 ‘hits’ per day, and 300-400 comments.  I can spend my time blogging, discussing topics on which there is significant public interest, or I can write an academic paper, pay $1500 to get it published (hopefully in a high impact journal), so that 300 or so people can read it behind paywall. Since I am a senior tenured faculty member, I have the luxury of choosing to spend a significant amount of my time  on social media outreach and engagement, which is growing my impact as a scholar in ways that I think matter.

IMO academics should be rewarded both for traditional publication in journals and for having a broader impact in impact in social media.  Not surprisingly, young academics seem more interested in social media.  I expect that universities who want to attract and retain the best and brightest young scientists will have to be open to broadening the rewards system to reward impact beyond the ivory tower. Further, social media is also a great way to have an impact for academics who feel marginalized by ‘system’ or who just aren’t interested in playing the ‘ivory tower game’ established by the senior elites – academics who have an alternative vision and are committed to social media outreach.  Too often, those who are marginalized by the senior elites seem to be females and minorities.

So . . . here’s to seeing social media and the associated skill set  becoming better recognized within the academic system.  But PUHLEEZE, we need a new metric that does not dismiss social media impact as ‘shallow popularity’ or celebrity seeking by invoking the name of Kardashian.



257 responses to “Kardashian Index

  1. I have neither twitter or facebook. Logic and good science prevail no matter the media. I thought a “Kardashian” was a type of rug, sweater, or car when I first heard the name.

  2. Who are those 7 researchers in the circle K?

  3. Dave VanArsdale

    Kim’s explicit sex video was something of a springboard for her “fame”. The comparison of her depravity to some of those invested in CAGW is apt.

    • Time For An Ob

      “Climate porn”

    • ==> “The comparison of her depravity to some of those invested in CAGW is apt.”

      There we go, eh Judith? It only took 5 comments to see the benefits of your “extended peer review” of we get to see at your blog.

      Just think how impoverished we’d all be without it.

      • John Carpenter

        Heh, funny. But then, how many are browsing, reading, lurking, without leaving silly comments?

      • John Carpenter –

        ==> “But then, how many are browsing, reading, lurking, without leaving silly comments?”

        From what I’ve seen, orders of magnitude more.

        So then we get into the deeper weeds: trying to evaluate the benefits or detriments of social media among those who don’t even participate. At least with those who do participate we have more direct evidence.

        Looks like one big old uncertainty monster to me – perhaps people (including Judith) should be somewhat more circumspect before drawing conclusions.

      • John Carpenter

        “trying to evaluate the benefits or detriments of social media among those who don’t even participate. At least with those who do participate we have more direct evidence.”

        Well, maybe reading could be viewed as silent participation. As with any group, there are those who are more vocal than others. The less vocal still participate. Agreed it is hard to evaluate the overall tendencies when they don’t offer opinions. There is a lot of uncertainty, but it’s personal observation that starts the ball rolling on why things develop the way they do. Judy is making observations.

      • Actually, the people that comment at CE are a ~10% minority, most ‘participants’ are lurkers (some of lurkers engage with me via email). With regards to the comments: for any 1000 comments, 10% of the comments are typically made by 10 people (the population of this group of 10 varies with the topic).

      • John Carpenter –

        ==> “My interpretation of the Kardashian effect is challenging the Matthew effect whereby senior accredited scientists are losing influence relative to upstarts on social media, i.e. the platform for influence has been democratized by social media”

        Observation or conclusion? Kind of like the measurement vs. estimation debate, I suppose. Chicken vs. egg? Nature vs. Nurture? Adaptation vs. Mitigation?

        IMO – it is important to try to be careful about recognizing the dangers of observer bias – and one way is by trying to be explicit about uncertainty, to quantify uncertainty, about recognizing the potential for observer bias, and by seriously addressing critiques about potential biases? Blithely offering argument by assertion is not, IMO, particularly effective towards those goals. I am open to evidence showing otherwise, however.

        But in lieu of such evidence, when someone heavily invested in social media critiques its plus and minuses, then I would think they’d be well-served by dealing directly with the potential for observer bias (which of course also applies to those who are uninvolved in social media), and at least offer a serious counterargument to arguments about the potential detriments.

      • John Carpenter


        “Observation or conclusion? Kind of like the measurement vs. estimation debate, I suppose.”

        Observation. No conclusion was made. Judy said her interpretation of the KE is challenging the ME. I do not infer from that statement the KE has successfully challenged the ME and replaced it. It is open for debate…. she sees a potential shift. Maybe she’s the only one who see’s that or maybe it’s obvious to everyone. I would argue the former is more likely. She is connecting dots as she sees them. She also talks about skills required to successfully participate in social media. They are not all encompassing (as you pointed out elsewhere), but are further observations she makes.

        Heh, upon a second reading she does say

        “the platform for influence has been democratized by social media”

        Which sounds more like a conclusion…. Ok, point taken, but I believe my comment has merit.

        I am in total agreement that one needs to be careful to check for personal bias. But when one starts looking at a new thing, I don’t think initial observations made are how one may make their final conclusions… If final conclusions can even be made. Having others, such as yourself, critique or point out alternate views does help to broaden the visual horizon for the observer.

        My guess is Judy is more of a ‘glass half full’ type on this topic since she actively participates, so naturally she will see the advantages first. Seems pretty normal to me.

      • > she sees a potential shift.

        I like potential shift.

        Sounds like preemptive strike.

      • Hi Joshua, Maybe we should make you responsible for everything Michael says. Same principle, right? He’s your mini-me, after all.

    • If Michael Mann comes out with a sex tape, I am quitting the internet.

  4. I did read this above:

    SOME of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.

    The problem is that they only think on the left.
    Hear what Tom Harris said about them.

    • And, Also, Many of them refuse to debate. They call us names and refuse to talk to us or listen to us. There was a Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas, on July 7-9. The Left leaning professors and scientists were invited, but they did not show up. Years ago, University Professors were great Skeptics, they questioned everything. They lost that. We had three University Climate Scientist Professors lecture our NASA Alumni Group. We invited all of them and others to join our Climate Study Group. Only one agreed to work with us to learn more about Climate. One said we would not pass his basic Climate Class, because we do not blindly accept his word without question.

      Professors could be good, but only if they engage with those who disagree.

      • ==> “They call us names…”

        “…when the left are primarily climate alarmists….”

        Didn’t take long. About 4:37 into the clip.

      • Steven Mosher

        science isnt a debate.

        Let’s suppose you debated your theory with someone and the audience judged that you lost the debate. would you give up your theory?
        of course not.

      • “science isnt a debate”

        Anthropogenic climate change isn’t a science.



      • Matthew R Marler

        Steven Mosher: science isnt a debate.

        Let’s suppose you debated your theory with someone and the audience judged that you lost the debate. would you give up your theory?
        of course not.

        Really, Steven Mosher, you need to learn more history of science. Everything in science has been publicly debated. In “Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge” by Deborah Mayo you can read about the lively public debates about the Eddington Expedition of 1919. That’s just one important example.

        “You” may not give up “your” theory, or “you” may, but the viewing audience (including other experts, grant managers, graduate students, science journalists, voters, representatives, etc.) will eventually make up their minds and the “losing” side will lose adherents for a long time. This is why it is so important for people like Christopher Monckton of Brenchley to take the skeptical side in many, many public forums; and why it is important for you (the real you, not the abstract “you” of my opening sentence) to defend the details of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. In the long run, the people who refuse to debate will lose the debates.

      • I agree with MRM,

        One of the things science is supposed to do is present information in such a way that anyone who is interested in the matter can examine it. If science can’t bring joe sixpack along with understandable information (and subsequent debate), then it ain’t really science.


      • Certain sciences can be decided on truthiness by the public because the concepts are simple enough and the evidence is direct enough. Evolution is one and perhaps atomic theory would now pass the public test, having been taught at school. Other areas of controversy such a string theory, or the standard theory in particle physics, are where the public has no way to judge competing ideas and leaves it to the experts. Relativity and quantum mechanics are accepted ideas, not understood by much of the public. Climate science is somewhere between, where the public can fool themselves into thinking it is simple, but actually don’t understand enough or see enough evidence to decide between competing ideas. Despite many popular books on the subject, these can’t explain things at the basic level, and the public is much where they are with quantum mechanics when it comes to the fundamentals.

      • JimD,
        I don’t know how you get the idea that the public can decide the truthfulness of evolution? Polls show fairly consistantly that over 70% of the public believes either in god created man or god guided mans evolution with over 40% god created man. Human evolution garners only about 20%. Science lost the debate on that one a long time ago. Mosher must be right.

      • ordvic, OK, from that we learn that the public debate doesn’t always end up with the right answer, and should be considered irrelevant by scientists. It is also true that inbuilt belief systems correlate strongly with views on AGW. The public debate includes other factors than science when deciding on the science. It is not a clean scientific debate in that sense. This largely comes from a lack of full understanding that makes way for these internal belief systems.

      • JimD,
        I read what you said, twice and I agree completely.

      • The purpose of debate is not to win the debate.

        The purpose of debate is to get people on the different sides to think and reconsider.

        The win or lose is determined much later.

        The alarmists will, for the most part, not debate.

      • I don’t know how you get the idea that the public can decide the truthfulness of evolution?

        We trust a jury of 12 or whatever to decide the truthfulness of guilt and do sentence them to death, or life in prison, or years of prison or freedom.

        Yet you don’t trust the public to decide on matters of science.

        One of these ideas is flawed, or both are flawed.

      • GOOD ONE:

        we learn that the public debate doesn’t always end up with the right answer, and should be considered irrelevant by scientists.

        we learn that the science debate doesn’t always end up with the right answer, and should be considered irrelevant by the public.

      • Yes, I modified that statement about evolution after ordvic’s comment. There are some hard cores of people that will never accept certain truths regardless of the scientific evidence because it conflicts with their belief system. We see this resistance in several areas of scientific discovery.

      • In the long run, the people who refuse to debate will lose the debates.

        I really do hope this is true. The Consensus Alarmists and the Liberals who support them do really, really, refuse to discuss and/or debate.

      • This is beautiful:

        popesclimatetheory | August 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Reply
        ==> “they call us names….”


        popesclimatetheory | August 3, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
        The Consensus Alarmists


        popesclimatetheory | August 3, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
        The alarmists…,

      • Steven Mosher

        “Everything in science has been publicly debated.”

        not relevant.

        I said

        ‘science isnt a debate’

        Now of course MANY ( but not all) things in “science” may have been
        publically debated ( well some highly classified things never were)
        But the fact that they may or may not have been publicly debated is
        not relevant to my point.

        science isnt a debate.

        A debate is a piece of theatre. For example, it might be held in a hall.
        there are two sides. Science sometimes has N sides.

        In a debate there are two sides and rules for who goes first, how long you speak… etc etc.

        And there typically is a moderator.

        Now, you might find ocassions where two people debate an ISSUE in science. but that is not science. Nothing is advanced by this theatre.
        It is just theatre.

        Want a clue? Look at Nic Lewis and Steve mcintyre.
        They dont demand debates.
        They get the data.
        they do the math
        They publish.

        Blogs, debates, twitter, blah blah blah.

      • Steven Mosher

        The “popularization” and dumbing down of climate science for “joe six pack” consumption leads PRECISELY to some of the problems
        we have.

        Count the people who have been misled buy the “greenhouse” metaphor.

        Look at the damage done when people tried to “simplify” the climate gate issue.

        They got it wrong.

        public debates are a distraction. dumbing down science is a mistake.

      • Just a point of clarification, that there’s plenty of debate in empirical disciplines, and it is consequential to the fate of ideas, but this debate is between practioners in the journals… but most importantly, in front of audiences of practitioners in seminars and at workshops and conferences. Buzz and impact rarely come about simply by virtue of publication.

      • > Everything in science has been publicly debated.

        That there are debates in science does not imply that scientific knowledge results from public debates. There are more races in science than boxing matches. Considering that the Viscount only quarrels, he stands little chance in the long run. Just like his florid criticism of C13 based on textual nits, he can safely be ignored.

      • “The “popularization” and dumbing down of climate science for “joe six pack” consumption leads PRECISELY to some of the problems
        we have.”

        There’s a difference between “dumbing it down” and presenting something understandable.

        Climate science has chosen to present speculation as fact, and is having difficulty saying this much in a straightforward and understandable way, for political purposes.

        If science was allowed to speak this basic understandable information as loud publically as the alarmist propaganda, there would be no phony communication issue.


      • One other point. At least where I am, the public is welcome at all of our seminars. In fact I’ve put a couple of folks on our regular seminar mailing list when they asked for that. They came for awhile, and occasionally made comments or asked questions, but eventually tired of it. Still I will gladly add anyone to the email list, anyone at all. I imagine this is true of many seminar series.

    • “by the public”

      I think this is an unnecessary distinction. Science should be understandable by potentially anyone reasonable (public or otherwise). That’s why the demands on “scientific” information are higher than information obtained by other means. This is what separates speculation from science. Climate science deliberately broadens their definition of science to include speculation. Hence the mess.


      • Depends what you mean by “understand”. To what extent does the public need to know about radiative transfer or thermodynamics or the earth’s general atmospheric and ocean circulations to make a judgement on climate science. Usually they are just listening to the scientists argue it out in their own terms, but they don’t know enough to figure out whose argument has a stronger basis. It’s just shouting from the sidelines.

      • nottawa rafter

        Jim D
        I am keeping score of the scientific theories by how well the forecasts are doing relative to observational data. You can have the most rigorously sound and elegant theory, but if it is not matching what is happening, what do you really have. So far, there are a lot of equations that are just equations. Too many climate scientists have fallen in love with their theories and have forgotten what is going on around them. I see back peddling everywhere. I understand it will take several decades to determine who had the better theories, but right now those of the IPCC et al are not doing well.

      • “Depends what you mean by “understand”. To what extent does the public need to know about radiative transfer or thermodynamics ”

        It’s generally enough, for practical purposes, just to find out who is doing loads of lying and who is obstructing discovery.

      • nottawa, there are also pictures like this that show the theory is doing OK so far. Most people understand pictures, so I think this kind of thing helps.

      • thisisnotgoodtogo

        Yes, most people would see that since about 2000 CO2 is skyrocketing like never before but temperature is doing nothing.

      • nottawa rafter

        Jim D
        Your picture didn’t work. Another link please. Or describe what it showed.

      • Looks like woodfortrees is down.

      • Jim D
        Let us go back a few thousand years.
        Temperature is still inside the same bounds it has been in for ten thousand years. Temperature has not followed CO2 out of the bounds of the past. You could plot CO2 and any warming temperature together or you could plot CO2 and any cooling temperature together. Let us look at both. CO2 has only mostly gone up for 7000 years. Temperature continues to reach an upper bound and always goes down after that.

      • “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” ― Albert Einstein

    • Time For An Ob

      [science isn’t a debate.]

      That’s true – reproduceable results to testable hypotheses still rule.

      But by the nature of the experiment ( what will happen in 100 years ) is not directly testable ( at least now ), so we speculate.

      It is appropriate to throw rocks at the hypotheses of the thought experiments to see if they can withstand the challenge.

  5. => “The skills required to be successful in social media include good writing/communication skills and the abilities to synthesize, integrate, and provide context. Those who are most successful at social media also have a sense of humor and can connect to broader cultural issues – they also develop a trustworthy persona.”

    A rather….um….er…..eh….selective determination, Judith. I would imagine we could each come up with many, many examples where success via social media has no direct relationship to those characteristics you describe.

    The way to combat misleadingly simplistic arguments is not to offer similarly misleadingly simplistic arguments from an alternate perspective.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, there are pros and cons to the growing influence of social media to academic output? You know, the uncertainty monster and all that?

    It’s always interesting to observe when you see Mr. Monster and when you don’t.

    • And just to add – I’m sure that we could both come up with many, many other skills that contribute to “success” via social media that are quite different than those you listed.

      Just a few examples: simplistic and/or binary reasoning, hyperbolic rhetoric, appealing to extremist view points, etc.

      • Well, I would put Michael Mann’s tweets in this category (he has almost an order of magnitude more twitter followers than I do).

        Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.

      • Nice duck, Judith.

      • Joshua, the success one aims for can also depend on the audience. I could probably write a fake blog and take an extremist point of view and get a really nice extremist following as long as I used the right photographs.

      • Ah, yes, a direct answer becomes a duck and Joshua invokes the shadow of Michael Tobis. Why a duck? Perhaps tomorrow’s weary repetition of Joshua’s endless whines will shed light on this.


        Harpo would understand

      • curryja | August 3, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
        “..Michael Mann’s tweets…(he has almost an order of magnitude more twitter followers than I do).”

        I guess his following might point to several things;

        – he doesn’t have an “elite senior white male academic attitude”
        – he is part of “the democratization of academic influence, enabled by social media, is challenging the power and influence of the elite (senior) academics.”
        – he has “good writing/communication skills and the abilities to synthesize, integrate, and provide context…a sense of humor and can connect to broader cultural issues… a trustworthy persona”.
        – he has “…nontrivial skills, and they are general traits of people that have impact. But these skills do not get recognized in academia.”

        Sounds like a great guy!

      • > the success one aims for can also depend on the audience.

        I thought that was Joshua’s point.

    • George Turner

      Lindsay Lohan would be a good counterexample, but her legions of followers (including one of my former house mates) were just there to watch the train wreck. It was awesome.

      Last night while I was reading Climate Etc, one of my house mates was off taking selfies with SNL’s Jay Pharoah, while the other house mate was probably down in North Carolina partying with Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, and SNL’s Kirsten Wiig again. (They;re super nice)

      But since none of those celebrities knows much about climate, I chose to be here instead, with people who are even more famous and notable. Everyone in climate science (the most important topic of our age according to many prominent politicians) knows who the initials”JC” refers to, whereas KK, LL, JP, OW, ZG, and KW are just random letters.

  6. Judith, a paywalled paper only has on the order of 300 readers? That’s incredibly small.

    • This is a number I spotted somewhere. Obviously Nature and Science articles get a much higher readership. But even amongst journal subscribers, an individual might only read 2 articles per issue (skimming some other abstracts). I’ve also seen stats somewhere (can’t recall exactly), but only a relatively small fraction of journal publications get more than 10 citations. In any event, I would love to see more analyses of this kind of calculus.

      • Judith,
        If your #’s are close to being true, how is it that the academic/publishing business isn’t appalled? How is it they stay in business? How can they not feel they are failing big time? How can they be satisfied with such a small readership?
        Why don’t scientists publish their papers on blogs and invite anyone to criticize them where we could all see what is going on, and get a good look at the process of science instead of having it sterilized and presented as a fait accompli?

      • Well, I am trying in my own small way to push things in the direction you suggest. Open access to journal publications is a start, there is considerable pressure in this direction.

      • Sadly only tenured senior scientists like Judith can afford to think such thoughts. Those nearer the beginnings of their careers must publish in journals if they are to have any hope of becoming tenured senior scientists themselves. You get no credit for what you put on a blog.

      • I like what the PLOS1 fellow once said: People don’t read journals, they read papers. That’s me, exactly: I read what I’m sent, what people tell me about, and what I find online when searching specific topics. I do not read journals. Indeed, these days, by the time something I care about appears in print, 90% of the time I already read it in draft. It’s all buzz and talk now; the journal’s name and table of contents is epiphenomenal now.

      • Back in the 1980s, I used to go through the unbound journals in my field that came in to the library and read or skim anything that looked interesting, tracing back to important references if that looked like a good idea. When you are relatively ignorant as a young scholar, broad serendipitous reading is a good strategy for getting a sense of the broad context of issues, methods, schools of thought, etc. in the field. It may be a bad strategy for generating maximum publications, though.

        As I mentioned in an earlier comment, the low readership of peer-reviewed articles reflects not just the defects of those articles but an imbalance of incentives in which many are paid to write but few are paid to read. That, combined with decreased electronic publication costs, leads to the skyrocketing number of unread papers, books, conference volumes, etc. There’s almost a Borgesian quality to the corpus of academic research. Scientific progress would probably benefit from a rebalancing of incentives to promote review and contextualization articles. I’m not sure that Twitter barrages are the right kind of vehicle for this, but if they are used to attract attention to serious papers and manage to get them read, then that seems like a win to me.

  7. Judith –

    ==> “Climate Etc. gets on average about 12,000 ‘hits’ per day, and 300-400 comments.”

    Is that per day or per post? How recently was that stat assessed?

    • I’ve assessed the comment rate several times, using wordpress statistics. This past summer, the comment rate might be a little bit lower, but there have been times when the average daily rate has been 500+. There have also been periods where hits average higher than 15K/day (and periods when the hit rate is lower, when I’m not posting frequently).

      • I was wondering if the comment rate might have been down recently (particularly if you consider Zeke’s post as a bit of an outlier) – and if so, why that might be. I was kind of hoping that maybe it’s because of same o’l same ol’ fatigue.

      • The calendar. Mondays are the biggest day for hits/comments; weekends are the slowest. Holidays are very slow, summer is slow (most people are simply doing other things, rather than sitting at the computer, commenting on a blog).

        Comments/hits tend to be high if the post gets picked up by one of the big twitter or blog aggregator folks. This post was just retweeted by Instapundit, but I haven’t seen any traffic coming from instapundit yet. I’ll tweet this again on Monday a.m. to catch the folks that aren’t sitting at their computer on Sunday.

        I didn’t used to pay any attention to such things, but I am starting to pay more attention. Social media dynamics are interesting.

      • Josh, you must have a lot of stamina.

      • Seems to imply most people log on when they’re at work – slower interaction in summer and weekends. so much for a ‘protestant work ethic’ as we say in the UK.

      • “Seems to imply most people log on when they’re at work”

        Louise, did you see the federal workers browse internet porn all day story?


      • I had a really weird thing happen to me. I started a new blog in English with an article about multinationals in Venezuela and somehow it landed in the Occupy Wall Street Facebook page. So, I was famous for a couple of days until they realized I was anticommunist and wrote about penguins and roaches and all sorts of odd content. So now I have one follower and my most reliable readers are in Kazakhstan.

      • I was wondering if the comment rate might have been down recently (particularly if you consider Zeke’s post as a bit of an outlier) – and if so, why that might be. I was kind of hoping that maybe it’s because of same o’l same ol’ fatigue.

        Or maybe because you, Joshua, account for about 20% of the posts on every post? Your viewpoint, lack of interesting content, and petty sniping got old for me a long time ago.

        Feel free to counter with six to ten posts in a row that most everyone will skip over.

      • TerryMN –

        Thanks for reading. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

    • Steven Mosher

      Is that per day or per post? How recently was that stat assessed?

      was this verified by a third party,
      can I see your work
      what no error bars
      are those unique visitors
      prove the commments are not from bots

      blah blah blah

      do I get an A teacher?

      • Posts are per day. The stats are from wordpress.com. 12,000 hits does NOT correspond to unique visitors (typically unique visitors is ~5000/day.

      • Geez.

        You know, steven, I used to admire your loyalty – but I’m starting to wonder if your reflexive desire to defend Judith isn’t a tad creepy. It’s as if you think she’s not capable of advocating for herself. I can assure you, she does put on her big boy pants on occasion.

        I was asking because I thought I’d noticed a drop lately and wondered if her numbers showed a drop. Either way, a quick mental check looks like somewhere in the area of 320 comments per post over the last two months (less if you consider Zeke’s an outlier) . So maybe the number hasn’t dropped – depending on what time period she assessed to get the average she stated. But that’s also a really short time period to assess a trend, and it might also just be part of a larger cycle of fewer posts in the summer months.

        See, that’s how it works, steven – when you have a theory you look for related evidence. Now I am thinking that since Judith used a different time period for her assessment, there may not be any new trend.

        But if I offended you by asking her those questions, I am terribly sorry.
        I know how delicate are your sensibilities.

      • There is a certain rhythm to the climate blogosphere. I checked Alexa.com for the past year, there are some obvious spikes like Oct release of WG1 report, etc. I also checked WUWT and SkS; my blips match pretty closely those of SkS.

        Bottom line: the climate topic has been pretty boring in recent months, other than Obama’s climate action plan. This is why I have been writing about philosophy and sociology of science topics.

      • Sorry – that should be 320 per day. Obviously, more per post. An impressive number either way.

      • Jos hua

        I am never one of the most prolific commenters here! but in summer my modest output drops considerably. You only need a couple of dozen regulars to do the same and the overall numbers will dip.

        However, I think you are also right in your ‘same old same old’ comment. It’s not worth commenting and posting links when you know the ingrained views of the person you are debating with won’t be changed. It works from both sides of course. The food fights and bile are also off putting


      • Steven Mosher


        before you ask a question. DO SOME WORK.

        that is my one and only point.

        not defending curry.

        talk a walk over to WUWT. you will see me consistently advising people
        to do the same thing

        DO the WORK

        It takes a few minutes to scroll through posts and count commments.

        hell when I wrote climategate I read through every post and comment on climate audit. I didnt ask steve mc to do my work for me. the work
        was easy. I just did it.

        So I will tell you here, I will tell guys at WUWT, commenters at rank exploits
        the same fricking thing.

        Read more, comment less.

        or you could write a simple program to count comments.

      • “food fights…:

        That’s why I rarely engage in much dialogue. Way too frustrating. As opposed to many here, I know my mind’s open to a certain extent. How do I know? Because I’ve changed it numerous times over my life, including most recently concerning “climate change.” Yes, It’s painful to read “expert” commentary and opinion from people I disagree with vehemently, but I force myself to do it, I wonder how many others here can say the same.

        I have to add that to the extent I see evidence of open-mindedness it’s almost all on the skeptics side. Of the warmist/lukewarmist contingent, Mosher’s the only exception I can think of. Respect him greatly. Also of course, Judith.

        Anyone think the human telescope’s an open-minded guy? The “skeptical warmist?” Joshua? (hah!) That whole side’s a veritable rogue’s gallery of nastiness and motivated reasoning.

      • I find that I don’t have very much of value to contribute on Judith’s blog these days so my comment rate has dropped correspondingly. I still lurk and appreciate it when the few gems stand out from the quicksands of confirmation bias.

      • Bottom line: the climate topic has been pretty boring in recent months, other than especially Obama’s climate action plan. This is why I have been writing about philosophy and sociology of science topics.

        Fixed it.

      • Tonyb,

        The food fights and bile are also off putting.

        That’s likely the goal of many commenters.

  8. Hi Judith

    Scientists arguably need to interact in a number of ways including social ,media. However they will also at some point have to get in front of real people …

    here is part of a summary I wrote for posting here concerning the Climate conference at Exeter University a couple of months ago hosted by the University and the Met office and with a variety of IPCC reviewers talking. The most relevant bit is contained in the last paragraph.

    ——– —–
    “The panel for the evening Q and A consisted of Prof Chris Field, Prof Peter Cox, Prof Andy Challinor, Dr Richard Jones, Prof Christine Williams and Prof Thomas Stocker

    I was allowed to ask my question on natural variability but got a poor answer (see attached link to RGates)


    Prof Stocker gave an interesting reply concerning ocean heat content (also in this comment link)

    Obviously the uncertainties on measurement of ocean heat are very much greater than is normally publicly stated. You may remember that I commented to you that when I was reviewing the draft of AR5 that I complained that the IPCC refused 3 times to give me a reference to back up their stated assertion that the abyssal depths were well known to be warming. Apart from Purkiss (a very limited study) there appears to be no research at all to back up this claim and this seems to have been admitted to by Prof Stocker.

    It may give you food for thought as a possible new venture for your establishment, that it was proudly announced that the University has attracted over 16000 people on to its (Free) 8 week online climate change course!


    This is more than the number of students actually at the University which is rated at no 8 in the UK both officially and by students. My impression was that it was a very good university.

    Afterwards I was approached by Prof Richard Betts of the Met Office who had been a speaker earlier in the day. He was very friendly and interested in natural variability. Having also had cordial talks with John Kennedy previously, I suspect there is far more scepticism in the Met Office ranks than is realised, although the top bosses are ardent believers.

    Incidentally, with a couple of exceptions I thought the speakers quite poor. They mumbled, stumbled, gabbled, lost their place, failed to have a understandable narrative and often used indifferent graphics. Not that YOU would ever do any of those things of course when you make a presentation…..”

    —- —— —–.
    So I think there is a lot to be said for social media but even more for training in conventional presentations. I don’t know if there is any sort of course of this nature already for scientists?


    • “So I think there is a lot to be said for social media but even more for training in conventional presentations. I don’t know if there is any sort of course of this nature already for scientists?”

      This is partly personality and temperament and part training. Everyone won’t have the social and communication skills to pull off what Judith does, but certainly courses in communication and social media for scientists would seem a good direction for Graduate science programs.

      • Rgates

        A lot of scientists are interested n the research but not necessarily very good at putting it across. In the Uk and probably in the US many university lecturers see that as a means to an end, pursuing their research.

        Trouble is that getting their ideas over in an interesting manner is important especially in this age of high university tuition fees.

        Many lecturers communications skills in person in the lecture hall are hopeless and they aren’t suddenly gong to get better just because they become a public personality by way of being day, an IPCC reviewer.

        I can see that twitter and Facebook would be useful in promoting your business/ ideas/research but getting their material over to a physical audience- whether peers, students the media or politicians is a skill that seems to me to be largely missing.

        Come on Judith, looks to be a science communications course possibility here, together with a more sceptical version of Exeter university on line climate course


      • Peter Webster teaches a killer course on climate and global change. I will look to record the lectures and archive the ppt slides. He is teaching the course this fall, maybe I will have a post once per week on what is going on in the class, I will talk to Peter about this.

      • Judith

        Sounds interesting, look forward to updates

        I hope Peter has a history module within the course to give it context. All of these senate and congressional hearings, as did the Exeter event, seem to lack proper historic context so we can put climate changes into perspective.

        Incidentally any communications course ought to include writing.

        I read lots of papers for my research and most of them are dull, dense and poorly written.


      • To by, you should try reading in Spanish. The cultural norms in Spanish language technical universities require the students to write as much as possible. It helps if the material has little relevance to the subject at hand, and the citations have to take up about 20 % each line. The first tine I served as supervisor to the advisor to a graduate student I had a nervous breakdown when I realized she had written a 250 page book for a simple thesis about work she had done matching tracers with a dynamic model. That made me really selective about allowing our professionals to volunteer for that kind of work because reviewing that really wordy Spanish writing style is pure torture.

      • Fernando

        I think the heyday of scientific writing in a readable form was the period from around 1900 to 1970 or so.

        Here is one of my favourite authors, Gilles slocum, writing in 1956 on the co2 theory propounded by Callandar. It is an elegant demolition.



      • Dr Curry: MIT Open Courseware has many courses offered in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. I have plans to take the course titled Atmosphere, Ocean, and Climate Dynamics as soon as I get the text book. http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

      • i just went to the site, didn’t spot that course?

      • curryj “i just went to the site, didn’t spot that course?”

        it’s under environment courses – undergrad recommended

  9. Most needed is an ego index.

  10. Michael Mann performing research and publishing is similar to the work of Bruce Jenner’s plastic surgeon.

    No matter what he does it’s uglier and less human.

  11. Phyllograptus

    Kate Clancy has a post at her. Site discussing the K-index and her take on its underlying sexism


  12. Richard S.J. Tol

    The Kardashian Effect is more commonly referred to as the Matthew Effect, and it is typically attributed to Merton (1968, Science).

      • ==> “:whereby senior accredited scientists are losing influence relative to upstarts on social media,”

        What is the metric you are using to measure that loss of influence? Obviously, you must be referring to some kind of comprehensive effort to collect data in a large-scale, longitudinal survey. I mean certainly, you couldn’t simply be referring to anecdotal reasoning based on anecdotal observations by people who are heavily invested in confirming a particular bias (i.e., people who heavily participate in social media platforms such as yourself).

        Paging Mr. Monster. Paging Uncertain. T. Monster. Judith Curry on line #2.

      • Once again Joshua misses the “statement against interest” and “argument in the alternative” aspects of the argument. The very article Judith is critiquing, the antagonist, is the one asserting that Kardashian-like phonies are stealing influence from the respectable article-publishers. So it is the very guy decrying social-media influence (assuming it is real) to whom Judith is saying, hey, any such influence would be healthy democratization.

        If you want to go out and prove that this dispute is idle because Twitter and blogs don’t change anything anyone cares about, knock yourself out. But there is no difficulty with arguing conditionally or accepting the assumptions of your opponent for the sake of argument. Jeez.

    • Hmmm . . . we discussed the Matthew effect on this recent thread http://judithcurry.com/2014/07/23/the-raw-politics-of-science/

      “Robert K. Merton has announced the Matthew effect: an accredited scientist will find it easier to find a platform to express his opinions than an unknown scientist.”

      My interpretation of the Kardashian effect is challenging the Matthew effect whereby senior accredited scientists are losing influence relative to upstarts on social media, i.e. the platform for influence has been democratized by social media.

      • Richard S.J. Tol

        Sorry. I read to quickly.

        To me, the Kardashians are famous for being famous, and thus a perfect illustration of the Matthew Effect.

        I defined “celebrity index” in 2011. It is defined as the size of one’s mouth over one’s brain — as measured by media attention over citations. See http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2011/04/05/celebrity-economists/ Should have written it up. Kudos to Neil Hall.

      • What do you attribute your relatively high public profile to, Richard?

      • Richard S.J.Tol on August 3, 2014

        Sorry. I read to quickly

        He writes too quickly as well.

      • Josh, you read too much into that. It was Judy’s interpretation as to meaning and ‘whereby’ would, I would think, imply a supposition. It doesn’t require a metric it was just desciptive of her thinking. It could be right or wrong but it was only a frame work for meaning.

      • ordvic –

        Could be. But she wrote “whereby…are” and not “whereby…..would.”

        It could be easy to clarify: Whereby Judith would make it clear that she’s offering a potential framework and then discuss the evidence pro and con. Offering a framework and then assuming validity while ignoring potential counterarguments can be useful for describing ones thinking, but I’d suggest it is generally suboptimal – particularly in a polarized environment. Then again, it isn’t exactly clear to me what is optimal in a polarized environment.

  13. Matthew R Marler

    Isn’t Kim Kardashian also pretty or something? I see her photos (or her sisters’ photos) when I buy my groceries.

    Sometimes you just have to have a sense of humor, or at least composure, even about serious matters.

    This was a fun read.

    Now back to the statistical modeling of AMOC and the Bayesian pdf of the heat diffusion rate in the oceans.

    • I saw photos of kardashian while I was looking for photos of justin bieber having a fight in a restaurant here in Spain. The way she posed reminded me of Paris Hilton and Bo Derek. I guess I’ll leave it at that.

  14. Schrodinger's Cat

    I have to confess that the attraction of twitter is beyond my comprehension. I would not presume that anyone would read my tweets and I have better things to do than trawl through other peoples tweets looking for something of interest that would justify the time spent.

    Is it all worthwhile or a big waste of time?

    • Well, I used to think twitter was a waste of time. I started taking it seriously almost exactly a year ago . . . I was motivated by directing more traffic to the blog. It has rapidly developed into an invaluable source of information. The key is selecting who to follow. I picked a few people to follow, then looked to see who they were following. Then, as my posts became retweeted, more people followed me, and I follow about 5% of them back. I tend to drop people that tweet too much or just forward other people’s tweets. From my week in review post, all of those items were spotted on twitter.

      It doesn’t take too much time, I just scroll through quickly and click on say a dozen links per day, check my notifications to see if anyone is responding to me and engage in some chatter as the mood strikes me. It took a while before I really got the hang of it and found it to be really valuable.

      • I use twitter to follow the political opposition. It’s really interesting to see the networks formed between politicians and college professors, and some “think tanks”. It’s also possible to get a good idea of funding sources they use and find out where they are giving talks to plant people in their audience to ask difficult questions. You guys would be shocked if you saw the amount of petrodollars flowing out of Venezuela to buy US politicians, college professors, and talking heads. Here in Spain they have so much cash coming from Venezuela via a stooge bank they set up, they financed a new stealth communist party clone called Podemos and they got 6 % of the vote coming out of nowhere.

      • I’m curious to know how much russian and saudi manipulate environmental groups.

        I understand Poland is having a heck of a time getting frac’ing going because of russia supported opposition.

    • There are a few true twitter artists out there who can pack gems in 140 characters. Iowahawkblog is a good example. Kim ought to give it a try. S/he would be good at it.

  15. Kudos to you, Prof. Curry, for your social skills, courage, and thick skin in pursuing your pop-science efforts. Tenure helps….

    I added a couple of brief excerpts from this post to

    Incidentally, I once heard another senior, white male scientist condescendingly describing you as being helped by being a “good-looking woman.” Well, duh — he was an ugly, hairless old fart, whose identity is protected for his own good….

    Cheers — Pete Tillman

    • Hi Pete, thanks for the plug. As a grandmother who is 62 years old, I don’t get this kind of comment often :)

      • I’m 76.
        Most modern 62 year old grandmothers still look pretty darn good to me.
        And the smart, attractive 62 year old grandmothers stack up even better particularly when they are getting an increasing number of very honorable and well deserved mentions in the MSM.

  16. Excellent post with many dimensions. Certainly CE plays a role in the evolution of how science/policy/communication evolves from here onward. From the publishing of papers, to peer review, open access to data, and open discussions, CE represents a piece of the necessary way forward for science as an institution to evolve in a globally connected online world. In this regard Judith is a pioneer, and not a paper-Kardashian tiger–but a scientist with a respected and often cited publication history, and the social and communications skills to bridge the gap between the dusty cloistered and faltering old-boy science of the past, to help in the evolution of that sometimes embarrassing dinosaur to something much better, and certainly more open and honest.

  17. The world’s changing. Academics need to change too.

    Harumphinng and hurrawing about how terrible it is and how the young upstarts ought to know their place merely confirms the impression that this deeply conservative ‘profession’ will defend forever their ivory tower, its weird rituals and customs and the hierachies therein.

    But what they forget is that a highly defended tower – so secure that nothing can get in – is also a prison. Nobody can get out either.

  18. Thanks for the setup. I have 1753 scientific citations as counted by Google Scholar but only 6 followers on my Twitter feed. That puts me off the scale and into serious science land — how do like them apples ?

    • It would indicate you may not be particularly adept at the social/communication side of things. Judith is unique in that she’s got the science, social, and communication skill set in one package. It may in fact, have been inevitable that a woman scientist would be the first to combine all these skills.

      • John Carpenter

        “It would indicate you may not be particularly adept at the social/communication side of things.”

        Good observation.

      • Rgates

        It might help of webby wasn’t so rude to people. Who would want to follow him if he abuses them like he can do on this blog?. Shame really, as when he’s being polite he’s worth reading. That doesn’t mean to say I necessarily agree wth him but he does produce some interesting stuff.


      • OK, fair enough, but with 1750 science citations what does that say of my or my colleagues’ scientific communication skills?

        Probably not much either as communication skills don’t matter too much when one makes a discovery deemed important enough for someone else to cite.

        That’s the way that scientific research works in a nutshell. English as a second language is no impediment to getting the word out. Your scientific peers are generous enough to not let that get in the way.

      • And this place is essentially a Punch and Judy show. You have these verbally abusive Punch characters denying all scientific evidence, but the problem is that Judy never complains — the opposite of what happens in the puppet show.

        The Punches can be as outrageous as they want.

      • By not ‘punching’, some people are actually changing their minds through their participation here.

      • I don’t know about that, but the blogger Kate Clancy didn’t find the Kardashian joke too funny. She said:” So yes, he’s punching down, and that makes it not funny.”

        Plus it is all too close to the National Review’s current war on geeks, with Neil deGrasse Tyson the convenient punching bag.

    • 2,381 citations and zero twitter followers.
      I have 44 followers on research gate.

  19. David Springer

    It don’t matter. Every scientist can be Kim Kardashian if he wants after the singularity.


    • Said by the Punch character who wished that the earnest Joshua’s mother should have “strangled him in his crib”.

      What is wrong with these people?

      What kind of social media forum are you trying to create?

      This is not science, but a circus replete with clowns all around.

      • I don’t catch everything, but Springer is now in moderation. I agree that such comments are reprehensible, not to mention pointless.

      • No sweety. S p r i n g e r isn’t in moderation. His last name is blacklisted. Big difference. Trust me.

      • I once worked for a fella whose own father said he should have been strangled in his crib. So this was sad reality not happy clown stuff.

      • JC SNIP

        For reference:

        General comments about the state of the blog (e.g. too many clowns here) are allowed. Personal attacks on individual commenters are not allowed.

      • I made general comments about the state of the blog – pathetic, haphazard and misguided moderation.

        Clowns are just a part of a persistent pattern of aggression and abuse that has diminished the blog for far too long. Insults repeated above with Richard Toll as an example and with great frequency everywhere. With the very occasional superficial and trivial analysis – which is surely a better way of putting it than ‘spew’. One of the many low points of webby discourse.

        Again – as I said – I have better things to do with my time than to post measured responses only to see them disappear in some erratic moderation zeal.

      • Said by the Punch character …

        One wonders if consistency is a strength of Judy’s? Was Joshua right all along?

      • ==> “I agree that such comments are reprehensible, not to mention pointless.”

        Actually, I think that if you’re wearing big boy pants they have no meaningful impact, although they can be marginally informative – in the sense that they serve to remind us how polarized issues lead smart and knowledgeable adults to act like teenagers.

        Of course, nothing new about that – but seeing that kind of behavior so often should serve as a cautionary lesson about the potential to overvalue social media as an educational or scientific vehicle.

      • Attacks on someone’s personal life or other personal qualities have nothing to add to the climate debate

      • Judith –

        Attacks on someone’s personal life or other personal qualities have nothing to add to the climate debate

        The climate debate, as it were, is absolutely chockfulla attacks on participants’ personal life and other personal qualities. Look at practically any thread here or at any other climate debate-related blog and you will find, lo and behold, tons of such attacks.

        In fact, such attacks largely characterize much of the climate debate.

        Of course they don’t “add” anything (of value) to the debate, but they do help to inform us about the debate. As does the simple fact that they persist. As does the simple fact that they persist in being made by smart and knowledgeable adults acting like children.

        They have to inform us about the debate because because they are an inextricable part of the debate. Wishing that it were different serves no real purpose.

        Of course, those attacks are not unique to the climate debate – as they are ubiquitous with many other polarized issues that similarly overlap with cultural, political, psychological, or social identifications.

        And that is information, about the climate debate, also.

      • Without the insults and trivial snark about sceptics – we wouldn’t hear from Joshua again. That would certainly raise the standard.

      • David Springer

        It’s just a general lack of respect for the subject, Curry. Climate science is a circus. You and Mann are acts. When you’re in a circus clowns are a part of it. In other words, when it Rome, do as the Romans do.

    • Spring… comment was actually quite succinct and witty here – a rarity perhaps but there it is. Do I need to spell it out? Science transforming scientists into people with actual s_x appeal?

      webby’s was the usual laboured whines and insults.

      • David Springer

        Thanks Rob. Moderation suits me. This whole debate is so boring and repetitive and stupid. Curry and Mann are proof that evolution is alive and well. Selection pressure to be in the public eye now has formerly distinguished scientists punishing each by not following each other on twitter, defriending on facebook, and telling people like me that personal attacks add nothing to the debate. The debate itself is nothing so my contributions don’t change anything. Neither do Curry’s or Mann’s. They’ve evolved into 21st entertainers. Interactive intertube soap opera. Stand up comedians for the scientifically literate.

  20. So where do you think Albert Einstein’s “Kardashian Index” number would be?
    Renowned as perhaps the greatest scientist of the 20th. century he was the inspiration for millions of young students to pursue careers in science. But let’s not forget how he was also demonized for his outspoken views on American r acism, pacifism, nationalism and capitalism.
    “The economic anarchy of capitalist society [is] the real source of the evil”
    A. Einstein – 1949 – Physicist, Philosopher, Humanitarian

    Jack Smith

  21. Carl Sagan–e.g., more known for being known that for being right; and, ditto re Michael Mann.

    • Carl Sagan is an interesting case. I’m not sure what his scientific citation index is, according to Wikipedia he published 600 scientific papers and wrote 20 books. He was ostracized by the elites for his ‘celebrity’, and was never elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

      Since then, the tide has turned. Advocacy (well of the green variety) and public exposure in climate science seems to be a recipe for garnering external recognition, Michael Mann is a case in point.

      • Sagan got caught in the jealosy/envy/popsci star syndrome — but at least he made some serious $$$ along the way, no doubt easing the pain.

        He was also married (for a time) to Lynn Margulis, my favorite evolutionary biologist. Worth considerable effort to catch one of her talks, imo — or read her books.

  22. some related articles:

    Success for scientists in the academic job market is highly predictable

    that you can connect with the less PC:

    or with the stupidity model of organizations
    Research funding has become prone to bubble formation
    which in fact describe the building condition of a groupthink

    they all talk of one thing :
    interdependence, recursion, loop of opinion, called peer-review, funding panel, influencer, fear of dissentions, feer of ridicule, magazine editing policy focussed in protecting recognition…
    lead to a bubble/groupthink/functional_stupidity

    some call for za change, it is hopeless inside the looped system of opinion

    only exist is
    1- business/garage invention, but even venture capital is now controlled by SEC
    2- other culture, other system like Chinese
    which recently forced Nasa to test a variant http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-07/31/nasa-validates-impossible-space-drive

    prepare to epistemological bomb in 1-2 month, like something which is the symbol of bad science becoming real, and bigger business following the pink unicorn, not so pink. It will remind you something.
    What is happening on climate is nothing new, it is pathological science, the real one… the one of wegener(&schechtman&semmelweis&wright) not of galileo (who was a jerk insulting his moderately tolerant pope http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy )

    things get worse with time, not better

    • good links, thx

    • Interesting-looking links, which I have put aside to read at more leisure.

      Re groupthink : JC says in this post “I am trying to provoke people to think outside the box of their own comfort zone on the complex subject of climate change.”. That is very highly commendable, and it would be tremendously beneficial if it worked, but one of the major fears about the internet is (counterintuitively) its divisiveness – there is so much content that people only ever need to visit sites which they know will agree with what they already think. ie, the internet fosters groupthink. The same applies to social media in spades. So I see the move away from scientific journal publication towards blog and social media publication as a two-edged sword: it has the potential to bring science to many more people, but it also has the potential to promote agenda-driven ‘science’ and bury good science. That is where JC’s efforts – and her significant following – are so important.

  23. Geoff Sherrington

    Rather than an index based on tweeting, I would favour an index based on whatever blogs were set up by scientists, such as the Climate Etc you are reading now. The blog is more considered than the tweet.
    My take away favours The Curry or alternatively in deference to the earlier CA blog, the BigMac.
    More seriously, it is inevitable that Science will be impacted by growth of social media. It is not a trend that should be managed or manipulated. Let the chips fall where they will.
    We are seeing more of a related social trend, one that must be deplored. That trend places too much emphasis on selling the message. The effort should be directed at spreading the data and its meaning. We Scientists do Science, not communication, primarily.
    As usual, if a bad habit like this over selling happens, you can almost count on climate workers to lead the inglorious charge (present company excepted). We used to joke that most bad trends were born in Callifornia. Now, many seem born to Californian Global Warming tweeters.

  24. Just spotted on twitter:

    Vitaliy Katsenelson ‏@vitaliyk
    “We practitioners aren’t too fazed by remarks of academics—it would be like prostitutes listening to technical commentary by nuns”

    • This both counters some of my grave doubts about the trendiness in twitter, and captures a facet of a separate thoughtnaboutnthis absolutely fascinating and convoluted post. There was a hypocriphal saying in my first career, where I did well for many years by most objective standards until deciding to go from ‘group 2’ to ‘group 1’ at the urging of ‘group 1’ clients.
      Those that can, do.
      Those that cannot, consult.
      Those that cannot consult, teach.

      No offense meant to a great teacher, consultant, and doer in or hostess Dr. Curry. It was meant to illustrate the omplexity of the subjects of leadership, influence, and ultimate impact that are the core of advanced MBA curricula, where graduates are supposed to do but most of the ‘brightest’ end up consulting or teaching.

  25. Evans over at Jo nova volunteered that he makes $600 an hour as a climate modeler type, never have so few done so little for so few.

  26. Kim Kardashian? She’s not an alter ego of our beloved witticist, is she? More eye-liner than one-liner, I suppose.

  27. 97% of CE visitors want you to do Podcasts! (especially between you and Mosher).

    97% of Tech freshmen could set this up (with an App for future use) in nanoseconds.

    If you could ever land Mann (where the production set explodes at the end of the podcast) — guaranteed you’d go viral.

    • Mann v Curry on a live podcast? I think we might need seconds to hold the pistols.

  28. No matter how spurned the idea is because of its association with Kardashian I think scientists doing blogs and inviting comments is first class brilliant! The exposure to the thought processes of the best and the brightest cannot help but raise the level of everyone’s discourse (though I admit there are some comments on here that would prove me wrong). And it’s not just a one way street and it’s not just on one track that the benefits exist.
    Even the people on here that I find to be idiots are useful idiots in that they help to give texture and contour to the issues. (They challenge one’s understanding which is hugely useful). And when all of that takes place in an atmosphere of intelligence, knowledge, and education it’s addicting. It’s thrilling. It’s exciting.
    A blog from a scientist is a wonderful thing, a place to learn, to be challenged to participate in something that, for many of us who are not fellow academics, would simply not be possible.
    I don’t mean to gush, but I am extremely grateful for this blog and others like it for what I have gained is invaluable.

    • Thanks for your comment!

    • Just about what I wanted to say but written with more skill. All the scientists that make their ideas available for us to consider deserve some thanks.

      Even better when you can get scientists together to thrash out subjects in a completely open space. The Climate Dialogue discussion on climate sensitivity was one of the most stimulating climate science thingymabobs I’ve read this year.

    • Extremely well stated Daniel. I started following this blog 8 or 9 months ago and it has led me places I never would have thought to go. At age 67 having your eyes opened is an invigorating experience.

      I have never met Judith and don’t agree with everything she writes/says. None the less, I find her to be an amazing individual. Georgia Tech. is fortunate to have Judith Curry on the Faculty.

  29. The ivory tower academic system seems tremendously vulnerable to insistent narratives, like catastrophism in climate science. The more so as the system has become so vast and with so many specialisms. Presumably because scientists in each ‘cell’ believe far too uncritically the output of the nearby cells they input into their own research. Science in social media is maybe a blunt instrument, but it breaks down cell barriers, reintroducing realism and countering arbitrary consensus via cultural cross-currents. A good thing. But the old system upholds a lot of power structures now, so I guess resistance to the new is inevitable. As state institutions in the West once struggled to seperate themselves from the formal heirachies of religion, they may now have to seperate themselves from what has become the similarly powerful formal heirarchy of science.

  30. JC reflections ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

  31. A great deal of university student fees goes towards paying for the privilege to access publications (in the campus library or online), and most students don’t read anything close to ”what they have paid for”. And many universities have simply stopped buying hard copies of journals since hardly anyone is reading them, and the cost is astronomical. The move towards open online access is challenging the very existence of universities, and like many other forms of publications, such as newspapers, they are struggling to get a handle on how money is to be made. Ironic, isn’t it? The whole driver behind science progress is sharing information, yet it is the extremely efficient sharing of information that is the greatest threat to universities. Probably has something to do with the fact that smartest and cleverest people on the planet have absolutely nothing to do with universities…….because their successful. Do as I say, not as I do.

  32. ‘On reflection we see that the great writer’s authority consists of two elements. The first we may call, loosely, his sane humanness; that is, his trustworthiness as a judge of things. A stability rooted in the sum of those complex qualities of his character and personality (wisdom, generosity, compassion, strength of will) to which we respond, as we respond to what is best in our friends, with instant recognition and admiration, saying, “Yes, you’re right, that’s how it is!” The second element, or perhaps I should say force, is the writer’s absolute trust (not blind faith) in his own aesthetic judgments and instincts, a trust grounded partly in his intelligence and sensitivity – his ability to perceive and understand the world around him – and partly in his experience as a craftsman; that is (by his own harsh standards), his knowledge, drawn from long practice of what will work and what will not.’
    John Gardener – The Art of Fiction

    Never start with a quote – much better to finely craft a paragraph to cast attention forward to the bulk of the piece. But – apart from the message – John Gardeners words are redolent of those qualities of wisdom, generosity, compassion and strength of will that make reading an emotionally satisfying experience. The love of the subject shines through.

    It contrasts sharply with the narratives of the climate war – narratives in which both sides claim the imprimatur of objective science but are no more than arguments rehearsed and relentlessly repeated until they have a quality of symbolic illogic. Each sentence has the momentum of massive reinforcement from the mass of initiates. The point is not communication but mobilising the noisiest rabble. A war of the climate dogmas where the weapon of choice is shouting down the opposition. And how is any of it to be turned?

    Kardashianism – whilst modestly amusing in the passing way of wry – and dry – excursions into the annals of improbable research academics sometimes indulge in – has – objectively – an infinitesimal fraction of the social impact of the Kardashians. Rather than wisdom, generosity, compassion, strength of will – what’s comes across most strongly is a sense of wounded petulance in that their self-declared claims to authority are not taken more seriously. The truth is that no one outside the climate blogowar gives a rat’s arse. .

    What make it more ludicrous is that in climate science authority is based on illusion and delusion. The uncertainties are so great everywhere it is exposed to the light that it makes reaching hard and fast conclusions quite absurd. I have often quoted the IPCC to the effect that climate literally cannot be predicted as a result of it’s core property of dynamic complexity. This is a physical reality of these type of systems that set them qualitatively apart from simpler systems.

    It all seems ultimately frivolous and irrelevant. The great quest is and always has been myth making – and the problem is how to penetrate the zeitgeist – rather than the twitterverse – with an optimistic song of the future. Something along the lines of – The Day My Bum Went Psycho – but with world peace and cat videos.

    • Mr. Ellison, I find this a much deeper and more complex subject than you.
      Sure there are the wounded complaints that ‘ no one respects my hard won professorial authority any more.’ Mann comes to mind. Sure, there is fringe junk science like the Skydragon nonsense. And all shades in between of what are admittedly not even logical opposites. Infomercials.
      That is what makes this issue so wicked and so fascinating and so difficult.
      It boils down, I think, to one of two general perspectives. For those with neither the time nor the inclination (nor perhaps the ability given failures of basic education), who do you trust and how do you know to trust? After all, the wisdom of crowds says Kim Kardashian must be a brilliant person whose every opinion is well informed since so followed. So is Bono of U2, and so is George Clooney by such Twitter logic. False.
      For those who have dedicated their lives to scholarly research on some subject, papers published, citations, honoraria … are the indicia of merit and truth. By that equally false standard, Darwin was nobody and his theory false. By that standard, meteorologist Alfrd Wegener was wrong with his geological continental drift theory.

      The Internet and Twitter amplify without changing signal to noise. There are no noise filters of the sort that editors used to provide (supposedly) in a previous era. That makes this wicked problem much more wicked. As Cook’s consensus paper showed, ‘ a falsehood can now go around the world while truth is still getting its boots on’. And the now exposed editorial biases of National Geographic, Scientific American, the Guardian, NYT,… just make pre-existing editorial bias problems more evident than before.
      Blogs like Climate Etc. help, for those who are engaged. But not for those who are not yet still vote. There is probably much more societal learning via error and correction before this sorts out into some new ‘normal’.
      The printing press, Guttenberg’s bible, and the travails of the Reformation are the closest analogy that comes to mind. All very fascinating beyond climate science.
      Thanks to Judith for engaging these much larger issues.

      • Rud, good post except for the assumption that there will be “some new ‘normal’.” I suspect that the pace of technological and societal change is such that there will not be time for a new “normal” to become established. We need to learn how to live with a faster pace of change, to accept that constant change is the reality of existence.

      • ‘Although it has failed to produce its intended impact nevertheless the Kyoto Protocol has performed an important role. That role has been allegorical. Kyoto has permitted different groups to tell different stories about themselves to themselves and to others, often in superficially scientific language. But, as we are increasingly coming to understand, it is often not questions about science that are at stake in these discussions. The culturally potent idiom of the dispassionate scientific narrative is being employed to fight culture wars over competing social and ethical values. Nor is that to be seen as a defect. Of course choices between competing values are not made by relying upon scientific knowledge alone. What is wrong is to pretend that they are.’

        As John Gardner said: “Not everyone is capable of writhing junk fiction: It requires an authentic junk mind.” As far as science is concerned – the climate war is all junk engaged in by initiates in a battle to make the biggest noise. Accept that there is no certainty in a coupled, nonlinear system, you cease to be a climate zealot and the way forward is clear.

        By far the larger world is the zeitgeist that has always existed in a way that envelopes and transcends the twitterverse. This is the original network of minds within communities. Like books social media – and television and radio still – accelerates and amplifies communication through the network until now we have the opportunity to create a truly diverse, global-spanning culture.

        The way into that global-spanning culture is through myth making – as it always has been in human societies. Hence the emphasis on authenticity – although hopefully not junk authenticity. The Kardashians create a myth of themselves and their lives – almost Homeric in scope – from what I have heard. They visit unfamiliar realms of wealth and privilege. Kim’s wedding rehashes Pandora’s box. The Kardashian demi-gods labor with Sisyphus. You can get some elitist cred by dissing the Kardashians – but frankly you are full of it.

        Myth is integrating – it explains the world to ourselves in ways that are emotionally compelling. It needs add least a half hour of prime time to create a decent myth. I have my doubts that we can integrate anything and give it emotional resonance in 140 characters.

      • Skippy, if the 140 characters had to be a high-quality haiku, well… that would be different.

      • Challenge ice sharp cuts
        through climate charged summer steel
        tweets paused on an cusp

      • Challenge ice sharp cuts
        through climate charged summer steel
        tweets paused on a whoops

      • >The way into that global-spanning culture is through myth making

        Chief channels Barthes.

        Everything is possible.

      • Infinitely more Star Wars and the journey of a hero than petty bourgeoisie indoctrination.

    • Rob – FYI I got a Trojan warning at that wrong trousers link.

  33. Remember, it was not Kim Kardashian who was sufficiently idle-minded to come up with a K-index. Nor does Kim feel the answer to such frivolity is to get out there and “publish those papers”.

    Really, guys, we need that new IGY, where everyone gets wet feet and numb fingers and nobody get to write “here we demonstrate” or “here we propose”. Be haughty or be democratic, tweet or don’t tweet…but start finding stuff out about this big hot ball we live on and the other big hot ball nearby. That’s what us punters need from our boffins.

  34. “Neil Hall’s article reflects an elite senior white male academic attitude – resentful of these ‘upstarts’ that are garnering attention….”

    I must have read a different article. First he begins and ends by noting that women are unjustly less recognized in the scientific community than is warranted.

    “It may be no coincidence that all of these overlooked heroes were women. I will return to this later; ”


    “My introduction highlights the fact that women have a history of being ignored by the scientific community….”

    Not to mention: “Interestingly, in my analysis, very few women (only one in fact) had a highly inflated Twitter following, while most (11/14) had fewer followers than would be expected. Hence, most Kardashians are men!”

    Not to also mention the whole thing was a satire:

    “Finally, on a serious note….”

    And I read through a couple times looking for the racism and ageism and couldn’t find it.

    When one leaves the progressive tribe, it would be nice if one would also leave behind the tendency toward facile implications of racism and sexism.

    • I’m not making any accusations of racism or sexism. Rather, the elites in control of academia are predominantly white, male and senior. Female scientists don’t get nearly enough credit/recognition through normal academic channels, as Hall correctly points out. As per many blog responses to Hall’s articles, there are a lot of female Kardashians out there who are now getting some recognition via social media, something that Hall is dismissing as shallow popularity and celebrity seeking.

      • I hope that’s finally changing, as you feisty “climate babes” outlive the old farts….

        But wait, you have young idiots too: M. Mann, J. Cook, etc etc. Sigh.

      • OK, but the Hall quote from Gary M says that using the systematic data women do better via peer review than via Twitter. That says that the social-media universe is more hostile to women than the traditional academic route. Do you dispute Hall’s data or sampling?

      • Yes i do dispute this. If you go to blog search and google kardashian index, tons of women are writing about their relatively high Kardashian indices and their success in social media.

        Hall has a very small sample, from one discipline.

      • And you respond with anecdotes Judith.

      • So it may be a biology-only phenomenon that Hall found. On the other hand, I’d rather see a Hall-style study in other fields than go by a non-random sample of successful bloggers–that might miss the successful peer-review publishers and give a distorted picture. But you’re right that it is an open question in other fields.

  35. Maybe, on balance … open preferable ter closed …

  36. The reality of it is not every tweet is precious. The ratio of great tweets to tweets that represent a biological threat to one’s IQ is indistinguishable from
    1 / 1 google * infinity

  37. I often picture Climate Etc. as a salon hosted by, well, our hostess, inviting intelligent conversation on topics of interest. That not all the comments are especially intelligent or even civil is hardly Prof. Curry’s fault; as she has chosen not to post a bouncer by the door. Reaching and engaging an orders of magnitude broader audience of practitioners as well as an interested general public than would read a journal article is invaluable. Keep up the good work, Judith!

  38. Pingback: The Kardashian Index & Social Media Scientists | The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF)

  39. I am not yet sold on so called ‘social’ sites. They tend to force feed people social activity, whether they want it or not. Twitter may be ok and they have been sending me emails saying I should join. I have been waiting to hear of a major identity crime, but that is the last thing they would publicise. I have no desire to make Zuckerberg any richer. I think democracy in science is a long way off: in climate science. most of the people don’t have enough physics to judge right and wrong, even the experts are flummoxed. Science is for an elite who are willing to devote the effort, but I have always maintained that it is the job of the expert to explain his or her theories to anyone who will listen.
    You do have a problem when people won’t listen.

  40. I’m not sure whether Professor Steve Jones, author of the BBC Trusts Review of Impartiality and Accuracy of the BBC’s Coverage of Science, has a Twitter account, but he certainly deserves a spectacular Kardashian Index rating.

    His publication record is here:


    and don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

    But he’s certainly famous for publishing some well received popular science books and being the BBC’s pundit of choice on any programme dealing with science. He has modestly described himself as a ‘tired old media tart’.

    Nevertheless he became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2012.

  41. Me and a colleague, both science writers, once calculated what we called a hot air index for some prominent Dutch scientists. We compared their visibility on google vs google scholar. It was mainly to show that although they were regarded as the “experts” because they were in the media so often, their scientific track record was rather weak. But I agree with Judith that nowadays it should be encouraged that scientists are active on social media.

  42. Tomas Milanovic

    Further, social media is also a great way to have an impact for academics who feel marginalized by ‘system’ or who just aren’t interested in playing the ‘ivory tower game’ established by the senior elites – academics who have an alternative vision and are committed to social media outreach.
    I feel rather uncomfortable with that.
    Actually I find that these 2 notions (symbolically : twitter vs Nature) are orthogonal to each other.
    So any linear combination is allowed without any objective metrics that could distinguish between “bad scientist” vectors and “good scientist” vectors.
    More importantly I strongly distrust the notion that a tool or behaviour allowing to propagate “alternative” visions is uniformly a good thing.
    For instance I am following in a rather regular way publications in the QFT domain.
    On one side there is the ivory tower game which is where the mostly correct and rigorous arguments go and where, I would say, 95% of the progress is done. This a place where one would have the chance to read the famous and groundbreaking Planck’s 1901 article or Heisenberg’s matrix theory. This is where it pays to invest time because the % of correct ideas is very high so that one doesn’t have to check everything (but yes even here mistakes and blunders happen albeit with a low frequency).
    On the other side there are popular “books”, Youtubes, blogs & Co which in a large majority tend to present “alternative” visions of QM.
    For some strange reason philosophers (who have generally not the mandatory mathematical skills) flourish in this population.
    To make a long story short, a large number of people in this category are crackpots of both kinds – academical and non academical.
    In itself this is no problem – there have always been crackpots.
    The problem is that if one does f.ex a google search “Einstein was wrong”, one is stupefied by the amount of crackpots going public and winning sometimes a significant followership of people who genuinely believe that Lorenz invariance is wrong.
    And THIS is really a big problem – instead of progressing towards understanding these people actually contribute to a regression.
    Of course in the mass there are a few interesting sites but here the % are inversed as compared to the academic ivory tower channel – some 90% are garbage.So it takes time to find those that have an added value.
    To conclude – we had here on this blog a year ago or so a debate with an academic who felt marginalised and who decided to distribute his “alternative” opinions via social media.
    In this case I would say unfortunately the social media allowed him to do so.
    Yet after dozens of posts where I tried to engage him seriously (what he asked for) I had to conclude that he did severe mathematical mistakes and either couldn’t or wouldn’t accept to correct them.
    The interest I see in twitting/blogging is mainly to learn the rules of social interactions (where most scientists are desperately bad) and to hone the pedagogical skills with a real world sample of public.
    Certainly not for disseminating “alternative” visions which are like salt in cooking – to be used with extreme moderation.

    • David Wojick

      However, climate change and QM are very different, because the climate debate is both real and public, and it is centered on the issue of alternative views.

    • Good to see you back Tomas. I have always believed that small increments along the way is the most foolproof way forward in any scientific endeavour. Quantum leaps in logic don’t generally stand up to rigorous investigation and testing.

    • > The problem is that if one does f.ex a google search “Einstein was wrong”, one is stupefied by the amount of crackpots going public and winning sometimes a significant followership of people who genuinely believe that Lorenz invariance is wrong.

      You might also like:


      Tall One should go You Tube.

    • “Of course in the mass there are a few interesting sites but here the % are inversed as compared to the academic ivory tower channel – some 90% are garbage. So it takes time to find those that have an added value.”

      I agree with the general sentiment; I have observed that on the Web academics seem disinclined to give matters the depth of thought that many scientific subjects require. I have encountered only indifferent success in getting them to engage more than superficially.

      But I do not get the impression that 90% of the ivory-tower-channel papers are valuable; my impression is that such papers either give non-reproducible results, have severe statistical flaws, or draw conclusions that the adduced data do not dictate.

    • Hello Tomas. your reputation precedes you through positive referral, from a source I trust, to have an opinion such.

      I would like to contribute to the thread of thoughts you have initiated.

      If consensus/accepted science is the filter we intend to limit ourselves to, to solve a global problem, we should review their track record for providing solid answers to date:

      does time dilate?
      are there “magic forces” that attract or repel without a medium, across distances and timeframes as large as 14.5 billion years?
      what causes the wave distortion in the famous failed experiment by Michelson and Morely?
      what causes the movement pattern of the earth’s hotspots?
      what is dark energy or dark matter?
      who exactly has the right answer about the operation of black holes? (I heard Stephen Hawking has second guessed the theory he supported for 40 years.)
      why are there credentialed scientists looking to send light faster than C?
      why are there “impossible” yet existing, working EMdrives?
      where does “binding energy” go? And from whence does it return?
      why is there a perceived conflict between GR and QT? Is one or the other, or both, fundamentally slightly wrong?
      what was the global temperature for each of the last 30 years, one answer please.
      what defines the scope for determining planetary energy level? atmosphere and water?
      what sample size is valid in determining climatic influences?
      are we properly aware of past initiations on climate, and there current status and cycle time frame? eg bering strait?
      what impact does the motion of the heliosphere through the local interstellar medium have on solar energy level?
      is radioactive decay rate constant?
      can we count on the solidity of our ability to measure time, consistently and accurately?
      why does supercooled helium drip through glass?
      would a bottle of champagne, broken in space go to gas, chunk ice, or float around for a short time as globules of liquid? (i threw this one in, because I haven’t found an opinion on the matter I trust as a reliable source yet)
      oh, this is my favorite: How many degrees of our realized global surface temperature is created specifically by radioactive decay within the earth?
      (considering we concern ourselves to decimal points of temperature increase on the surface, per decade, the discord and vagueness of this answer and the margin of error it alone introduces is staggering!

      We can’t exaclty hold up current science as being beyond refute, in my opinion. More like swiss cheese.

      Nor can existing math necessarily be held up as being the definitive guage of validity. If it may be based on flawed information and constructs.

      And have we perhaps “painted ourselves into a corner” where our current beliefs are the reason we can’t see the truth when it pokes us in the belly and says hello?

      The term crackpot, could turn out to apply to most of current science, should a medium exist, omnipresently, explaining gravity away as a mechanical interaction, and not a force. ALL of physics could tumble. Knocked off by dark energy and dark matter. In one fell swoop.

      Crackpot, may be in the eye of the beholder. (it has often been that way in the past).

      I personally am not going to hold my breath, waiting for the academic institutes to suddenly step up and provide “the right answer”. I am not convinced they have the track record to show them capable.

      When the most important piece of the puzzle is found, you may find that the guy holding it, is merrily humming the Billy Joel tune:

      “You may be right, I may be crazy, but it just might be a lunatic you’re looking for”

  43. Being an old white male, I don’t have the same experience set as a young minority woman–or a woman of any subset, for that matter–so I can’t know what difficulties they may encounter. On the other hand, they don’t know what kinds I’ve encountered.

    Still, I have to recognize one disadvantage that we old white males don’t have: the disability of having an excuse. When I can’t get my views heard, I am forced to search for the real reason; I can’t blame it on being a minority or a woman. That greatly facilitates finding a solution.

    • A friend of mine went for a job interview for a Post-Doc position and the MAN interviewing her saw her engagement ring asked her
      “Are you thinking of becoming pregnant?”

      • Well, things are better now than in the bad old days. As a graduate student, I had to hide the fact that I had a child. As a department chair, I went whole hog on family friendly policies (to the benefit of both female and male faculty members).

  44. Want to win a political argument? Want to get your spouse to change a health habit? Want to get your story on page one? Flash a scientific study

    Most Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis

    Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. “People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual,” Dr. Ioannidis said.

  45. Kim Kardashian’s entry into the hallowed halls of anthropogenic global warming science was inevitable.

    On the plus side it actually raises the level of discourse. Kardashian, unlike anthropogenic global warming, is real. She can be measured and observed with little ambiguity. How refreshing.

  46. Craig Loehle

    One problem with academics entering the public debate is that they are so used to being in charge (of students) and smarter than everyone that they don’t think they have to make a good argument. You should just shut up and take notes. Engaging in debate requires making good arguments.

  47. Yikes, looks like ‘300’ was an overestimate. http://www.esa.org/esablog/meetings/making-your-science-matter/

    With about 2 million science papers published a year1, the question is, who’s really reading them. According to one study, up to half of all papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors2. That could mean an audience of three, folks! Surely all your toil in the lab and field is worth more than that.

    • Dear Dr.Curry,
      I suspect that there’s a lot of gobbledygook hiding behind those pay walls. What happens if the dam breaks?

      • KenW

        I read quite a few papers in the course of my own research. The pay walled ones I either sometimes buy, mostly get irritated at, or if they are important, read them at the met office library or ask someone to send me a copy.

        A very high percentage are complete waste of time, are badly written and are not worth a penny.


      • This is a big problem with media in general. The price is often too high for a subcription given the amount of media that will actually be read at one publication by a particular reader. The price per article is even higher. And this high premium doesn’t free the reader from incoveniences like log in, registration, auto-refreshes, banners, latency from excessive code, adds and tracking software, and (possibly the greatest evil in existence on the internet) pagination.

        What is needed is service that charges/pays a nominal fee per article regardless of publication. Perhaps an additional name-your-price option and rating option. Prices depend on positive ratings. A small fee to negatively rate and article an ensure that the publisher does not get paid for your view.

  48. if this study the NERA study concerning EPA Ozone regulations is correct, it won’t be long before debate debating issues is all we have money to do — like the Greeks — we’ll all be broke:

    “Manufacturing in the United States is making a comeback, and we’re reducing emissions at the same time, but tightening the current ozone standard to near unachievable levels would serve as a self-inflicted wound to the U.S. economy at the worst possible time,” says CEO Jay Timmons (NAM). “This rule would undermine our work to expand manufacturing in the United States, making it almost impossible to increase operations, create new jobs or keep pace internationally.”

  49. While social media is a valuable tool for outreach and the sharing of ideas, there is a danger that this form of communication is gaining too high a value and that we are losing sight of key metrics of scientific value, such as citation indices.


    Key metrics of scientific value … citation indices. FFS.


  50. Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman had great impact because they spoke and performed outside of the academic/scientific community. Would their impact have been even greater if the internet had been around then?

    And then there’s Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.

  51. WebTubHelioscope

    It’s the sun, stupid!

  52. “Famous for being famous” describes very aptly those who spend most of their days commenting on matters patently beyond their scientific competence. It does’t take a scientific poll to recognize them.

  53. Citations by themselves are not a terrific measure of value:


    There are huge divergences across fields and subfields in the number of citations per paper, for example. And many citations are pro forma rather than substantive, i.e. they toggle off a box to show that one is aware of the relevant literature but do not either cite to support the citing paper’s argument or cite to prepare a critique of the cited paper. And even many citations in “support” of one’s argument or assumptions break down when the original source is read.

  54. Tomas Milanovic

    Because you took the time and energy to ask questions, I would like to honor them by answering those I understand.
    does time dilate?
    Yes. It is the necessary consequence of the invariance of c. Experimental proofs exist.
    are there “magic forces” that attract or repel without a medium, across distances and timeframes as large as 14.5 billion years?
    It is much better to think in terms of fields than forces. Then yes, the quantum fields extend over scales you mention.
    what causes the wave distortion in the famous failed experiment by Michelson and Morely?
    I don’t know about any “distortion”. M&M is just a very classical wave interference experiment proving that light propagates at the same speed in all directions.
    what causes the movement pattern of the earth’s hotspots?
    Don’t know what you refer to. If it is something connected to the plate tectonics then its engine is the convection.
    what is dark energy or dark matter?
    What became called “dark energy” is a synonyme of the cosmological constant – it’s the energy density of vacuum. Dark matter is still unknown. It is probably constituted of supersymetric partners of “usual particles”. None heve been observed sofar. However follow closely the LHC when it restarts at max energy next year. There are some hints at supersymmetry so the answer may come fast. Or not.
    who exactly has the right answer about the operation of black holes? (I heard Stephen Hawking has second guessed the theory he supported for 40 years.)
    Black holes are just a necessary consequence of general relativity. So everybody who masters GR has the right answer. everybody agrees on the basics but here are (still) a few controversies about partial technicalities (f.ex information paradox etc).
    why are there credentialed scientists looking to send light faster than C?
    You have a name? If it exists then they are cracpots to me – I would put the Lorenz invariance right at the second place after the 2. law of thermodynamics as something that will stay as a fundamental law of nature for a VERY long time if not forever.
    why are there “impossible” yet existing, working EMdrives?
    I know nothing about that.
    where does “binding energy” go? And from whence does it return?
    What “binding energy” ? Generally “binding energy” is a synonyme of potential energy. And potential energy is just the energy of a field. Another case where it is simpler and faster to think in terms of field.
    why is there a perceived conflict between GR and QT? Is one or the other, or both, fundamentally slightly wrong?
    This one is propagated in many popular books, shows, Youtubes and blogs.
    Technically the conflict has been resolved by string theory already many years ago. But basically in the prehistory the problem was coming from the fact that the space-time in GR was curved while it was euclidean in QM. I am not competent enough in ST to explain in a non mathematic way how the “conflict” went away in ST.
    what was the global temperature for each of the last 30 years, one answer please.
    No idea. I don’t think that this parameter has relevance for anything. But it is surely easy to get the answer in Google. I also think that climate science is a very young branch of science and has not (yet) achieved maturity with a consistent, verified and predictive theory.
    is radioactive decay rate constant?
    Yes. But under extreme conditions, external factors may interfer with the decay so that the decay law is no more defineded by the strict proportionality of decay to the overal amount of particles. I know of no example but could imagine that f.ex very near to a black hole non linear things would happen.
    can we count on the solidity of our ability to measure time, consistently and accurately?
    Yes to a certain accuracy.
    would a bottle of champagne, broken in space go to gas, chunk ice, or float around for a short time as globules of liquid? (i threw this one in, because I haven’t found an opinion on the matter I trust as a reliable source yet)
    Ultimately it must finish in gaz because the pressure is 0. So it is sure that at P=0 and T = 3 K it cannot be a liquid. I have never thought about that problem but I think that there must be a transient – the sudden drop of pressure makes the liquid boil. But the gaz at this extremely low temperature may still partly recondense directly to solid (in small crystals ?) because the density had not enough time to drop to 0 and then the solid would sublimate again to gaz over a longer time.
    oh, this is my favorite: How many degrees of our realized global surface temperature is created specifically by radioactive decay within the earth?
    I am afraid this question is based on some misunderstanding (so shouldn’t be favorite for anything). The Earth’s interior has been cooling since its birth 5 billions years ago. And this will not stop. What the radioactive decay is doing is to slow down (slightly) this cooling. So the surface temperature is defined by the overal internal cooling trend which will go for billions of years and which is modulated by the Sun life cycle where the Sun increases its energy output also on very large time scales. On these 2 massive trends are superposed all kinds of microscopical perturbations due to oceanic cycles, atmosphere, clouds, biosphere etc etc. So the surface temperature can’t be decomposed in a sum saying this comes from here and this comes from there.

    • Dear Tomas,

      Please know that it is you that honour I, with your patient responses.

      My follow up took this long, because I worked really hard to make it minimal and concise.

      I having considered all of your answers. Especially C being a constant, and gravity needing to be considered a field.

      I have one new question.

      Under exactly what precise conditions, should the velocity (not speed) of light be considered exactly equal, exactly constant.

      Based on the Einsteinian principal of taking 55 minutes of 60, to think of the right question, before answering it to save his life, I believe this to be THAT question. In honour of Venn’s 180th anniversary, and his gift of the ability to think backwards (180 degrees), I beg of you to consider this question of ultimate importance in answering PRECISELY, because I believe that in this case, it can truly be said, the “Devil is in the Details”.

      I think we need to think a little more about what we know.

      p.s. NASA confirms the existence and quantification of Dark Energy, Dark Matter, in accordance with the mathematics of the 11 dimensional mathematics, to the best of my knowledge. This is what they publicly postulate (it is in accordance with your answer regarding the need to think of gravity in fields) A+ :-):

      Their note on the subject:
      NASA: “More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the Universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the Universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the Universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called “normal” matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the Universe. One explanation for dark energy is that it is a property of space. Albert Einstein was the first person to realize that empty space is not “nothing”. Space has amazing properties, many of which are just beginning to be understood. “

      Link here:

      So again, for clarities sake, I ask now only one pure question:


      Does that include fields of varying amounts of gravitational imbalance?

      AS a newfound curiosity, I have come across a new question I wonder about. Like the linking of average solar cycle ages to the barycenter of the solar system, I wonder if there is a relationship between the 26km/s that the earth revolves around the sun at, and the relative speed of the sun’s journey, relative to the Local Interstellar Medium, which at least coincidentally approximates 26km/s. And I wonder if anyone has explored that relationship? I do see some logic in asking if there is a relationship?

      Cheers, Tomas,
      And please know I see this as a joint journey of joyful exploration at this point. We are now “thinking” and “sharing” because you have made me ask the questions in my mind, the right way. Please continue. I listen now.

      And please know I am likely to be eternally grateful for your answers.

      And I think perhaps we will both have Peter Davies to thank, for suggesting my inquiries take the path they have, and suggesting I ask you my initial questions. Thank you Peter Davies and Tomas Milanovich, both. :-D

      Alistair Riddoch

    • I’ll try to limit myself to this one edit.

      I meant to say “in accordance with 11 dimensional string theory mathematics”,

      Which is the one that properly links string theory to relativity, if I am not mistaken?


      • OK one more. The whole post can be replaced with this one question:

        Is there a difference between the speed of light and the velocity of light? Or would that require it to have “mass-like” properties??


      • Can’t help myself, one last detail, and now I ask, not just Tomas and my friend Peter Davies, consider the question. Nor the readers of Climate Etc., nor the world at large. I think now my question is also worthy of Mr David Springer. A good measure of the questions validity, in my honest opinion.

        so Climate Etc, it’s host Judith Curry, my friend Peter Davies, Tomas my knowledgeable co-thinker, the world at large, and Mr. Springer, with thanks for your patience, and consideration, I ask this (hopefully last) version, of my bestest question:

        Is there a difference between the speed of light, and the velocity of light, and is it correct to assume that they are both equal and constant in relation to one another???

        (and does the helical lensing effect of light passing through a galaxy group, and the existence of dark matter and dark energy, as confirmed by NASA, necessitate the rethinking of which parts of Einstein’s work is correct, and which is not, and whether in fact we need believe that time bends, as opposed to the speed of light???? Because the popular answer to that question is the one I have NEVER liked.)

        Please allow me to extend my compliments to you all, for your participation and enthusiasm on this blog, you are all inspirations to the goodness of humanity, despite which side you believe. :-)

        Mr. Springer, I hope to shake your hand one day. As well as those of Peter, Tomas, Judith, Bob Covel, and Beth The Surf. :-)

        Cheers, y’all. ?;-)
        Over and out.

      • Is there a difference between the speed of light and the velocity of light?

        Velocity is a vector.

      • AK, thank you for considering the question, I think you have provided a valid part of the answer it calls for. ?;-)

  55. Tomas Milanovic

    But I do not get the impression that 90% of the ivory-tower-channel papers are valuable; my impression is that such papers either give non-reproducible results, have severe statistical flaws, or draw conclusions that the adduced data do not dictate.
    I fully agree with that and this is why I didn’t use the word “valuable”.
    I used “mostly correct and rigorous” and thought mostly about the QFT domain.
    Otherwise it seems quite trivially obvious that if there are indeed 2 millions papers/ year according to Judith’s estimate, then more than 90% perhaps even 99% are neither valuable nor interesting.
    Especially if you count in that mess the megatons of socio-historico-economico-psychological “papers”.
    Just as an example – the media in France went berserk some time ago that Diesel fuel was killing 15 000 people/year. All triumphantly wrote that there was a “study” and that the “scientists thought that”.
    A unanimous wailing that Diesel should be forbidden ensued.
    Yet not a single journalist gave references or analyzed the content of the “study”.
    So I spent a few hours to find it, read it and analyze it.
    The result was staggering. The study didn’t say what the media wrote it said. It used extremely doubtful empirical and statistical methods based on biased and probably non significant samples. It unduly generalised and extrapolated partial results.
    It was full of “this suggests”, “it cannot be excluded that”, “this may” etc.
    And there has been a mexican army of people having signed the “study” so that one could only wonder if they were really all paid by tax payers to produce this waste of trees.
    Especially in climate science there are thousands of 3 or 4 pagers every year that are without originality or value yet the people are churning them out like if there was no tomorrow.
    However while your reproach that the ivory tower doesn’t produce one Planck’s 1901 paper every year is fully legitimate, it stays that this channel is still the one where you may rely on the fact that most papers were not horribly maimed by incorrect mathematics and faulty reasonings.

  56. Doug Proctor

    Neil Hall has a point that JC is overlooking: when discussion about an issue becomes more important in the “researcher’s” life that continued study of the issue, i.e. you tweet more than you study or keep tweeting about the same thing, you are no longer moving ahead as a scientist but tilling ground previously farmed.

    Ehrlich still blathers about work he did a half-century ago. Suzuki still rides the coattails of a doctorate in genetics some 50 years ago. The professor like Mann who goes on and on and on about something he did 15 years ago is riding his personal wave, not contributing to the advance of knowledge.

    There is nothing wrong with being a teacher or a promoter or even, shudders, an activist. But each one takes away from being a researcher or a contributor to the advance of knowledge. Decide what you want to be and then suck it up.

    The Kardashian Index is, I suggest, an excellent idea for concern that the one you listen to, or the one you might have become, popular, socially powerful but intellectually stagnant and, possibly, currently counter-productive. Tweeting is not thinking in depth. Catchphrases and bon mots are cute and useful in calling attention to something, but they have developed a power outside their 147 characters. If your KI number gets high, it is time to review what you are doing (and it could be fine).

    Decide what you are or what you do. You can’t have the pleasures of both in-depth character and shallow-persona likeability. One takes the energy from the other.

    BTW, if your KI is abnormally low, you need to spread your insight out beyond the ivory wall: if nobody knows what you do or have done, you are going to disappear into the black hole at the end of it. Nobody wants that.

    • Good point. There are clearly some scientists whose mouths run off at warp speed, and who have over promoted their work. At some point people just get bored. For example Paul Ehrlich ‘only’ has about 4000 twitter followers; more than I have but not nearly as many as the currently really influential scientists have. Over playing your hand doesn’t really work when there is a plethora of interesting voices out there in social media land.

      • michael hart

        “Many respectable physicists said that they weren’t going to stand for this — partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sort of parties.” Douglas Adams

    • The “Kardashian Index” is a red herring. “Crowd psychology” is like “climate science”, lost in contemplating big forces, while the far more numerous little forces are each just as important.

      For instance, changing the mind of one reader of this blog could easily be an order of magnitude more important than changing the minds of all the Twitter followers in the world. If it’s the right mind.

      • Well said. +1

      • @Alistair Riddoch…

        Thanks. Not that it’s anything any perceptive person couldn’t figure out from my general comments here, or my blog. My opinion, that is, and how I use what time I can shoehorn free from work and social commitments. According to that opinion.

  57. Valar Morghulis

    Mann = Kardashian.

  58. That article barely scratches the issue.

    Such phenomena are too often not just happening, but may be a simple, straightforward consequence of ethnical networking.

    Anti-discrimination laws appear to be only applied to direct discirmination and not indirect discrimination of everyone else by special interest groups supporting themselves.

    And hence, comparing demographics of the population with that of the most influential sectors in a society, ethnical networking appears to be happening in arts, show-business, media, top-managements, finance and politics.

    This may be stopped by sharing key influential positions in society according to demographics. Of course, this would no longer be a totally open society selecting the best for each position, but probably more open than a society with hidden ethnical networking in the background.

    Then, I think the US may also have a chance to restore democracy and end the reign of their oligarchs.