Judith Curry: The Latest Travesty In ‘Consensus Enforcement’
The latest travesty in consensus ‘enforcement’, published by Nature.
There is a new paper published in Nature, entitled Discrepancies in scientific authority and media visibility of climate change scientists and contrarians..
Abstract. We juxtapose 386 prominent contrarians with 386 expert scientists by tracking their digital footprints across ∼200,000 research publications and ∼100,000 English-language digital and print media articles on climate change. Projecting these individuals across the same backdrop facilitates quantifying disparities in media visibility and scientific authority, and identifying organization patterns within their association networks. Here we show via direct comparison that contrarians are featured in 49% more media articles than scientists. Yet when comparing visibility in mainstream media sources only, we observe just a 1% excess visibility, which objectively demonstrates the crowding out of professional mainstream sources by the proliferation of new media sources, many of which contribute to the production and consumption of climate change disinformation at scale. These results demonstrate why climate scientists should increasingly exert their authority in scientific and public discourse, and why professional journalists and editors should adjust the disproportionate attention given to contrarians..
This ranks as the worst paper I have ever seen published in a reputable journal. The major methodological problems and dubious assumptions:.
- Category error to sort into contrarians and climate scientists, with contrarians including scientists, journalists and politicians.
- Apart from the category error, the two groups are incorrectly specified, with some climate scientists incorrectly designated as contrarians.
- Acceptance of the partisan, activist, non-scientist group DeSmog as a legitimate basis for categorizing scientists as ‘contrarian’
- Assumption that scientific expertise on the causes of climate change relates directly to the number of scientific citations.
- Assumption that it would be beneficial for the public debate on climate change for the ‘unheard’ but highly cited climate scientists to enter into the media fray.
- Assumption that scientists have special authority in policy debates on climate change
The real travesty is this press release issued by UC Merced:.
“It’s time to stop giving these people visibility, which can be easily spun into false authority,” Professor Alex Petersen said. “By tracking the digital traces of specific individuals in vast troves of publicly available media data, we developed methods to hold people and media outlets accountable for their roles in the climate-change-denialism movement, which has given rise to climate change misinformation at scale.”.
Here is the list of ‘contrarians’ identified in the paper [link].I am included prominently on the list, presumably arising from the DeSmog hit piece on me.
From the press release:
“Most of the contrarians are not scientists, and the ones who are have very thin credentials. They are not in the same league with top scientists. They aren’t even in the league of the average career climate scientist.” “giving them legitimacy they haven’t earned.”
Some of the prominent, currently active climate scientists on the list whose work I have learned from:
- Roy Spencer
- Richard Lindzen
- John Christy
- Roger Pielke Jr
- Roger Pielke Sr
- Richard Tol
- Ross McKitrick
- Nir Shaviv
- Garth Paltridge
- Nicola Scafetta
- Craig Loehle
- Scott Denning
- Nils Axel Morner
- William Cotton
- Vincent Courtillot
- Hendrik Tennekes
Note that this list of climate science ‘contrarians’ is heavily populated by experts in climate dynamics, i.e. how the climate system actually works.
The most comical categorization on this list is arguably Scott Denning, who strongly supports the IPCC Consensus, and gave a talk to this effect at an early Heartland Conference. Ironically, Scott Denning tweeted this article, apparently before he realized he was on the list of contrarians.