Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reposting: Ravetz on Climategate

Climategate: Plausibility and the blogosphere in the post-normal age.
Jerome Ravetz

This essay was first published by whatsupwith - and reprinted here with three mninor editorial changes.

   At the end of January 2010 two distinguished scientific institutions shared headlines with Tony Blair over accusations of the dishonest and possibly illegal manipulation of information.  Our 'Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035'  of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is matched by his 'dodgy dossier' of Saddam’s fictitious subversions.  We had the violations of the Freedom of Information Act at the University of East Anglia; he has the extraordinary 70-year gag rule on the David Kelly suicide file. There was 'the debate is over' on one side, and 'WMD beyond doubt' on the other. The parallels are significant and troubling, for on both sides they involve a betrayal of public trust.

    Politics will doubtless survive, for it is not a fiduciary institution; but for science the dangers are real.  Climategate is particularly significant because it cannot be blamed on the well-known malign influences from outside science, be they greedy corporations or an unscrupulous State.  This scandal, and the resulting crisis, was created by people within science who can be presumed to have been acting with the best of intentions.  In the event of a serious discrediting of the global-warming claims, public outrage would therefore be directed at the community of science itself, and (from within that community) at its leaders who were either ignorant or complicit until the scandal was blown open.  If we are to understand Climategate, and move towards a restoration of trust, we should consider the structural features of the situation that fostered and nurtured the damaging practices.  I believe that the ideas of Post-Normal Science (as developed by Silvio Funtowicz and myself) can help our understanding.

    There are deep problems of the management of uncertainty in science in the policy domain, that will not be resolved by more elaborate quantification.  In the gap between science and policy, the languages, their conventions and their implications are effectively incommensurable.  It takes determination and skill for a scientist who is committed to social responsibility, to avoid becoming a ‘stealth advocate’ (in the terms of Roger Pielke Jr.).  When the policy domain seems unwilling or unable to recognise plain and urgent truths about a problem, the contradictions between scientific probity and campaigning zeal become acute.  It is a perennial problem for all policy-relevant science, and it seems to have happened on a significant scale in the case of climate science.  The management of uncertainty and quality in such increasingly common situations is now an urgent task for the governance of science.

    We can begin to see what went seriously wrong when we examine what the leading practitioners of this ‘evangelical science’ of global warming (thanks to Angela Wilkinson) took to be the plain and urgent truth in their case.  This was not merely that there are signs of exceptional disturbance in the ecosphere due to human influence, nor even that the climate might well be changing more rapidly now than for a very long time.  Rather, they propounded, as a proven fact, Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming.  There is little room for uncertainty in this thesis; it effectively needs hockey-stick behaviour in all indicators of global temperature, so that it is all due to industrialisation.  Its iconic image is the steadily rising graph of CO2 concentrations over the past fifty years at the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii (with the implicit assumption that CO2  had always previously been at that starting level).  Since CO2 has long been known to be a greenhouse gas, with scientific theories quantifying its effects, the scientific case for this dangerous trend could seem to be overwhelmingly simple, direct, and conclusive.

    In retrospect, we can ask why this particular, really rather extreme view of the prospect, became the official one.  It seems that several causes conspired.  First, the early opposition to any claim of climate change was only partly scientific; the tactics of the opposing special interests were such as to induce the proponents to adopt a simple, forcefully argued position.  Then, once the position was adopted, its proponents became invested in it, and attached to it, in all sorts of ways, institutional and personal.  And I suspect that a simplified, even simplistic claim, was more comfortable for these scientists than one where complexity and uncertainty were acknowledged.  It is not merely a case of the politicians and public needing a simple, unequivocal message.  As Thomas Kuhn described ‘normal science’, which (as he said) nearly all scientists do all the time, it is puzzle-solving within an unquestioned framework or ‘paradigm’.  Issues of uncertainty and quality are not prominent in ‘normal’ scientific training, and so they are less easily conceived and managed by its practitioners.

    Now, as Kuhn saw, this ‘normal’ science has been enormously successful in enabling our unprecedented understanding and control of the world around us.  But his analysis related to the sciences of the laboratory, and by extension the technologies that could reproduce stable and controllable external conditions for their working.  Where the systems under study are complicated, complex or poorly understood, that ‘textbook’ style of investigation becomes less, sometimes much less, effective.  The near-meltdown of the world’s financial system can be blamed partly on naïvely reductionist economics and misapplied simplistic statistics.  The temptation among 'normal' scientists is to work as if their material is as simple as in the lab.  If nothing else, that is the path to a steady stream of publications, on which a scientific career now so critically depends.  The most obvious effect of this style is the proliferation of computer simulations, which give the appearance of solved puzzles even when neither data nor theory provide much support for the precision of their numerical outputs.  Under such circumstances, a refined appreciation of uncertainty in results is inhibited, and even awareness of quality of workmanship can be atrophied.

    In the course of the development of climate-change science, all sorts of loose ends were left unresolved and sometimes unattended.  Even the most fundamental quantitative parameter of all, the forcing factor relating the increase in mean temperature to a doubling of CO2, lies somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees, and is thus uncertain to within a factor of 3.  The precision (at about 2%) in the statements of the ‘safe limits’ of CO2 concentration, depending on calculations with this factor, is not easily justified.  Also, the predictive power of the global temperature models has been shown to depend more on the 'story line' than anything else, the end-of century increase in temperature ranging variously from a modest one degree to a catastrophic six.  And the 'hockey stick' picture of the past, so crucial for the strict version of the climate change story, has run into increasingly severe problems.  As an example, it relied totally on a small set of deeply uncertain tree-ring data for the Medieval period, to refute the historical evidence of a warming then; but it needed to discard that sort of data for recent decades, as they showed a sudden cooling from the 1960's onwards!  In the publication, the recent data from other sources were skilfully blended in so that the change was not obvious; that was the notorious 'Nature trick' of the CRU e-mails.

    Even worse, for the warming case to have political effect, a mere global average rise in temperature was not compelling enough.  So that people could appreciate the dangers, there needed to be predictions of future climate – or even weather – in the various regions of the world.  Given the gross uncertainties in even the aggregated models, regional forecasts are really beyond the limits of science.  And yet they have been provided, with various degrees of precision.  Those announced by the IPCC have become the most explosive.

    As all these anomalies and unsolved puzzles emerged, the neat, compelling picture became troubled and even confused.  In Kuhn’s analysis, this would be the start of a ‘pre-revolutionary’ phase of normal science.  But the political cause had been taken up by powerful advocates, like Al Gore.  We found ourselves in another crusading ‘War’, like those on (non-alcoholic) Drugs and ‘Terror’.  This new War, on Carbon, was equally simplistic, and equally prone to corruption and failure.  Global warming science became the core element of this major worldwide campaign to save the planet.  Any weakening of the scientific case would have amounted to a betrayal of the good cause, as well as a disruption of the growing research effort.  All critics, even those who were full members of the scientific peer community, had to be derided and dismissed.  As we learned from the CRU e-mails, they were not considered to be entitled to the normal courtesies of scientific sharing and debate.  Requests for information were stalled, and as one witty blogger has put it, 'peer review' was replaced by 'pal review'. 

    Even now, the catalogue of unscientific practices revealed in the mainstream media is very small in comparison to what is available on the blogosphere.  Details of shoddy science and dirty tricks abound.  By the end, the committed inner core were confessing to each other that global temperatures were falling, but it was far too late to change course.  The final stage of corruption, cover-up, had taken hold.  For the core scientists and the leaders of the scientific communities, as well as for nearly all the liberal media, 'the debate was over'.  Denying Climate Change received the same stigma as denying the Holocaust.  Even the trenchant criticisms of the most egregious errors in the IPCC reports were kept 'confidential'.  And then came the e-mails.

    We can understand the root cause of Climategate as a case of scientists constrained to attempt to do normal science in a post-normal situation. But climate change had never been a really 'normal’ science, because the policy implications were always present and strong, even overwhelming.  Indeed, if we look at the definition of 'post-normal science', we see how well it fits:  facts uncertain,values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent.  In needing to treat Planet Earth like a textbook exercise, the climate scientists were forced to break the rules of scientific etiquette and ethics, and to play scientific power-politics in a way that inevitably became corrupt.  The combination of non-critical ‘normal science’ with anti-critical ‘evangelical science’ was lethal. As in other ‘gate’ scandals, one incident served to pull a thread on a tissue of protective plausibilities and concealments, and eventually led to an unravelling.  What was in the e-mails could be largely explained in terms of embattled scientists fighting off malicious interference; but the materials ready and waiting on the blogosphere provided a background, and that is what converted a very minor scandal to a catastrophe.

    Consideration of those protective plausibilities can help to explain how the illusions could persist for so long until their sudden collapse.  The scientists were all reputable, they published in leading peer-reviewed journals, and their case was itself highly plausible and worthy in a general way.  Individual criticisms were, for the public and perhaps even for the broader scientific community, kept isolated and hence muffled and lacking in systematic significance.  And who could have imagined that at its core so much of the science was unsound?  The plausibility of the whole exercise was, as it were, bootstrapped.  I myself was alerted to weaknesses in the case by some caveats in Sir David King’s book The Hot Topic; and I had heard of the hockey-stick affair.  But even I was carried along by the bootstrapped plausibility, until the scandal broke. (I have benefited from the joint project on plausibility in science of colleagues in Oxford and at the Arizona State University).

    Part of the historic significance of Climategate is that the scandal was so effectively and quickly exposed.  Within a mere two months of the first reports in the mainstream media, the key East Anglia scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were discredited.  Even if only a fraction of their scientific claims were eventually refuted, their credibility as trustworthy scientists was lost.  To explain how it all happened so quickly and decisively, we have the confluence of two developments, one social and the other technical.  For the former, there is a lesson of Post-Normal Science, that we call the Extended Peer Community.  In traditional 'normal' science, the peer community, performing the functions of quality-assurance and governance, is strictly confined to the researchers who share the paradigm.  In the case of 'professional consultancy', the clients and/or sponsors also participate in governance.  We have argued that in the case of Post-Normal Science, the 'extended peer community', including all affected by the policy being implemented, must be fully involved.  Its particular contribution will depend on the nature of the core scientific problem, and also on the phase of investigation.  Detailed technical work is a task for experts, but quality-control on even that work can be done by those with much broader expertise.  And on issues like the definition of the problem itself, the selection of personnel, and crucially the ownership of the results, the extended peer community has full rights of participation.  This principle is effectively acknowledged in many jurisdictions, and for many policy-related problems.  The theory of Post-Normal Science goes beyond the official consensus in recognising 'extended facts', that might be local knowledge and values, as well as unoffficially obtained information.

    The task of creating and involving the extended peer community (generally known as 'participation') has been recognised as difficult, with its own contradictions and pitfalls.  It has grown haphazardly, with isolated successes and failures.  Hitherto, critics of scientific matters have been relegated to a sort of samizdat world, exchanging private letters or writing books that can easily be ignored (as not being peer-reviewed) by the ruling establishment.  This has generally been the fate of even the most distinguished and responsible climate-change critics, up to now.  A well-known expert in uncertainty management, Jeroen van der Sluijs, explicitly condemned the ‘overselling of certainty’ and predicted the impending destruction of trust; but he received no more attention than did Nikolas Taleb in warning of the ‘fat tails’ in the probability distributions of securities that led to the Credit Crunch. A prominent climate scientist, Mike Hulme, provided a profound analysis in Why We Disagree About Climate Change, in terms of complexity and uncertainty.  But since legitimate disagreement was deemed nonexistent, he too was ignored. he Even an authoritative and detailed critique of the Hockey Stick, in which the critics were vindicated, made no impression.

    To have a political effect, the ‘extended peers’ of science have traditionally needed to operate largely by means of activist pressure-groups using the media to create public alarm. In this case, since the global warmers had captured the moral high ground, criticism has remained scattered and ineffective, except on the blogosphere.  The position of Green activists is especially difficult, even tragic; they have been ‘extended peers’ who were co-opted into the ruling paradigm, which in retrospect can be seen as a decoy or diversion from the real, complex issues of sustainability, as shown by Mike Hulme.  Now they must do some very serious re-thinking about their position and their role.

    The importance of the new media of communications in mass politics, as in the various 'rainbow revolutions' is well attested.  To understand how the power-politics of science have changed in the case of Climategate, we can take a story from the book Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirkey.  There were two incidents in the Boston U.S.A. diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, involving the shuffling of paeodophile priests around parishes.  The first time, there was a criminal prosecution, with full exposure in the press, and then nothing happened.  The second time, the outraged parents got on their recently acquired cellphones and organised; and eventually Cardinal Archbishop Bernard  Francis Law (who had started as a courageous cleric in the ‘60’s) had to leave for Rome in disgrace.  The Climategate affair shows the  importance of the new IT for science, as an empowerment of the extended peer community. 

    The well-known principle, 'knowledge is power' has its obverse, 'ignorance is impotence'.  And ignorance is maintained, or eventually overcome, by a variety of socio-technical means.  With the invention of cheap printing on paper, the Bible could be widely read, and heretics became Reformers. The social activity of science as we know it expanded and grew through the age of printing.  But knowledge was never entirely free, and the power-politics of scientific legitimacy remained quite stable for centuries.  The practice of science has generally been restricted to a social elite and its occasional recruits, as it requires a prior academic education and a sufficiency of leisure and of material resources.  With the new information technology, all that is changing rapidly.  As we see from the 'open source' movement, many people play an active role in enjoyable technological development in the spare time that their job allows or even encourages.  Moreover, all over IT there are blogs that exercise quality control on the industry's productions.  In this new knowledge industry, the workers can be as competent as the technicians and bosses.  The new technologies of information enable the diffusion of scientific competence and the sharing of unofficial information, and hence give power to peer communities that are extended far beyond the Ph.D.s in the relevant subject-specialty.  The most trenchant and effective critics of the 'hockey stick' statistics were a University-employed economist and a computer expert.

    Like any other technology, IT is many-faceted.  It is easily misused and abused, and much of the content of the blogosphere is trivial or worse.  The right-wing political agendas of some climate sceptics, their bloggers and their backers, are quite well known.  But to use their background or motivation as an excuse for ignoring their arguments, is a betrayal of science.  The  blogosphere interacts with other media of communication, in the public and scientific domains.  Some parts are quite mainstream, others not.  The Climategate blogosphere is as varied in quality as any other.  Some leading scholars, like Roger Pielke, Jr. have had personal blogs for a long time.  Some blogs are carefully monitored, have a large readership and are sampled by the mainstream media (such as the one on which this is posted,  Others are less rigorous; but the same variation in quality can be found in the nominally peer-reviewed scientific literature.  Keeping up with the blogosphere requires different skills from keeping up with traditional literature; it is most useful to find a summarising blog that fits one's special interests, as well as a loyal correspondent, as (in my case) Roger ‘tallbloke’ Tattersall.

    Some mainstream publications are now saying nice things about the blogosphere.  Had such sentiments been expressed a while ago, the critical voices might have had a public hearing and the Climategate scandal might have been exposed before it became entrenched so disastrously.  And now the critical blogosphere does not need to be patronised.  Like any extension of political power, whether it be the right to believe, to protest, to vote, to form trades unions, or to be educated, it can lead to instabilities and abuses.  But now the extended peer community has a technological base, and the power-politics of science will be different.  I cannot predict how it will work out, but we can be confident that corruptions built on bootstrapped plausibility will be less likely in the future.

    There is an important philosophical dimension to Climategate, a question of the relation of personal scientific ethics to objective scientific facts.  The problem is created by the traditional image of science (as transmitted in scientific education) as ‘value-free’.  The personal commitments to integrity, that are necessary for the maintenance of scientific quality, receive no mention in the dominant philosophy of science. Kuhn's disenchanted picture of science was so troubling to the idealists (as Popper) because in his 'normal' science criticism had hardly any role.  For Kuhn, even the Mertonian principles of ethical behaviour were effectively dismissed as irrelevant.  Was this situation truly ‘normal’ – meaning either average or (worse) appropriate?  The examples of shoddy science exposed by the Climategate convey a troubling impression.  From the record, it appears that in this case, criticism and a sense of probity needed to be injected into the system by the extended peer community from the (mainly) external blogosphere.

    The total assurance of the mainstream scientists in their own correctness and in the intellectual and moral defects of their critics, is now in retrospect perceived as arrogance.  For their spokespersons to continue to make light of the damage to the scientific case, and to ignore the ethical dimension of Climategate, is to risk public outrage at a perceived unreformed arrogance. Nobody has said "I'm sorry." If there is a continuing stream of ever more detailed revelations, originating in the blogosphere but now being brought to a broader public, then the credibility of the established scientific authorities will continue to erode.  Do we face the prospect of the IPCC reports being totally dismissed as just more dodgy dossiers, and of hitherto trusted scientists being accused of negligence or worse?  There will be those who with their own motives will be promoting such a picture.  How can it be refuted?

    And what about the issue itself?  Are we really experiencing Anthropogenic Carbon-based Global Warming?  If the public loses faith in that claim, then the situation of science in our society will be altered for the worse. There is very unlikely to be a crucial experience that either confirms or refutes the claim; the post-normal situation is just too complex. The consensus is likely to depend on how much trust can still be put in science.  The whole vast edifice of policy commitments for Carbon reduction, with their many policy prescriptions and quite totalitarian moral exhortations, will be at risk of public rejection.  What sort of chaos would then result?  The consequences for science in our civilisation would be extraordinary. 

    To the extent that the improved management of uncertainty and ignorance can remedy the situation, some useful tools are at hand.  In the Netherlands, scholars and scientists have developed ‘Knowledge Quality Assessment’ methodologies for characterising uncertainty in ways that convey the richness of the phenomenon while still performing well as robust tools of analysis and communication.  Elsewhere, scholars are exploring methods for managing disagreement among scientists, so that such post-normal issues do not need to become so disastrously polarised.  A distinguished scholar, Sheila Jasanoff, has called for a culture of humility among scientists, itself a radical move towards a vision of a non-violent science.  Scientists who have been forced to work on the blogosphere have had the invaluable experience of exclusion and oppression; that could make it easier for them to accept that something is seriously wrong and then to engage in the challenging moral adventures of dealing with uncertainty and ignorance.  The new technologies of communications are revolutionising knowledge and power in many areas.  The extended peer community of science on the blogosphere will be playing its part in that process.  Let dialogue commence!

My thanks to numerous friends and colleagues for their loyal assistance through all the drafts of this essay.  The final review at a seminar at the Institute of Science, Innovation and Society at Oxford University was very valuable, particularly the intervention from ‘the man in the bus queue’. - Jerry Ravetz

More from Ravetz:
Ravetz, J., 2006: The no-nonsense guide to science, New Internationalist, Oxford, ISBN 10:904456-46-4, 132 pp.
Funtowicz, S.O. and J.R. Ravetz, 1985: Three types of risk assessment: a methodological analysis. In C. Whipple and V.T. Covello (eds): Risk Analysis in the Private Sector, New York, Plenum, 217-231


_Flin_ said...

There are a lot of things that really irritate me on this post:

1. Comparing denying AGW to denying the Holocaust is as much no-go as one can do. And apart from the sheer cruelty of doing so, the amount of evidence for the former is as vast and complete as for the latter, although not tattooed in it's victims skin.
2. The "scandal" is first and foremost the theft of private correspondence and making it publicly available. Strangely enough it was just the "right" people noticing it immediately. And not too strange it is, that these people start to sift through the vast amount of mail to find things that can be used on their privately funded crusade against the scientific consensus. And then these things are distortingly broadcasted out of context all over the world by a right wing radical friend's network of broadcasting networks.
3. These same people... well, what should I talk about MM that still bask in the glorious light of their one peer reviewed paper. Maybe this: They were the ones with the FIA inquiries. If someone, who is known to publicly discrediting the work of my colleagues, and who has never ever made one single positive contribution to my working community, would ask me to share my work... well, I would not give it to him. And the words I would use for someone whose sole intention is to vulture down on the work of others in order to destroy it, distort it, "audit" it in a technically flawed way, being proved over and over again to be wrong (and sometimes to be right, although with less consequences than he wished for)... These words would be about 10 times harsher than those used in the E-Mails.
You write about them "The most trenchant and effective critics of the 'hockey stick' statistics were a University-employed economist and a computer expert.". You forgot to mention "formerly employed by a mining company". And "financed by big oil". And "supported by the GOP, because these for the best people they could find that were shouting against AGW. And the only ones who wouldn't bring some kind of Jewish Illuminati Conspiracy to the table."
4. The temperature is not declining. If you compare current temperatures to the temperatures half a century ago, it is a joke to talk about declining temperatures. This decade was the hottest ever in the last 1000 years. What kind of decline is that supposed to be?
5. The MWP shows only that in the medieval it was warm for a brief period of time. But there was no AGW then. Because there weren't the CO2 levels we have now. And they are rising.
6. Wattsupwiththat? Oh yes. The pinnacle of 5 centuries of natural sciences. You got to be kidding me. Whats next? Heartland Foundation? E.I.K.E. Jena?

If the MMs of our world will be the ones who will be the most important ones in the scientific process, there will never be a Theory of Relativity or an Uncertainty Principle again.

_Flin_ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TCO said...

I found the article pretty boring. Maybe we need LESS social scientists. I think they blather without really being incisive.

P Gosselin said...

"...their privately funded crusade against the scientific consensus."
"...right wing radical friend's network..."
"...This decade was the hottest ever in the last 1000 years..."
Clearly these quotes come from a person who just refuses to see reality and suffers from "vast conspiracy" paranoia or something.
Get real.
The "hide the decline", "redefine peer-review", don't tell anyone there's an FOIA", "I'm kind of happy about John Daly's death", "get rid of the data", etc. e-mails mean nothing? I guess Jones lost his job because he's over-qualified and too honest?
Consensus! What a joke, There is no consensus. Live with it. The extreme AGW fundmentalists shot themselves in the foot time and again and have long since filed Chapter 11 on credibility.
You cried wolf too many times. No one belives you anymore. Start getting beck to science, and maybe people will start listening to you again.
But be warned: if you do get back to science, you'll probably sound like one of us well-networked oil-funded "sceptics".

Hans von Storch said...

Folks, may I suggest to resort to arguing - and not just ranting, please. Flin, you are possibly new here, but next time wait just an hour to calm down before typing in your otherwise welcome posting.

We appreciate to have an exchange, no problem when controversial, using arguments and not just assertions. - Hans

Hans von Storch said...

Quite remarkable, how differently people assess texts. For me Jerry Ravetz' analysis is one of the finest we had on this blog (does not mean that I agree to everything in it). Maybe, one needs to know a bit about Jerry's history.

Marco said...

All I need to know Ravetz essentially admits in his essay: he got most of his information through the filter called Roger Tattersall. As a result, at several points he repeats claims common to anti-AGW'ers, such as the requirement of "hockeysticks" and the somewhat fuzzy attack on the Mauna Loa CO2 record. And as a result he even suggests WUWT is a high quality science blog...

Hans von Storch said...

Marco, couldn't you try to read the manuscript open mindedly, and try to understand the logic behind it? Just trying, and not being satisfied that you found a few points which allows you to sort the manuscript in one of your mental boxes? As little intellectual exercise. Sometimes, opposing views provide some interesting hypotheses and insights. - Hans

Zajko said...

It was really great to read this, knowing Ravetz's previous work I was eager to see what he had to say about the recent developments.
I don't like the term "post-normal" science, in part because I disagree with Khun's characterization of "normal" science, but in all it does identify some of the important characteristics of the sort of knowledge we're talking about.
All too often it seems this debate gets polarized into accusations of lies and announcement of truth - it's nice to see a little nuance.
Also, this new relationship between some of the more established scientific institutions (peer-review) and the blogosphere is really interesting, and this piece inspired me to write a chapter about it.

Falk Schützenmeister said...

I know the work of Ravetz well. For this reason, I am puzzled by his comment. Is he saying that the blogospere is a case of extended peer review? Peers are a group of people who share common ideas, a professional culture, goals, and knowledge. Climate researchers and right wing bloggers are certainly not peers!

On the other hand, the dominant critique these days is that climate scientists, activists, and politicians have been too close (a peer group?). The logical conclusion would be that extended peer-review did not work in dealing with the uncertainties of climate research.

I think Ravetz' contribution to the debate is somewhat dishonest. He tries to save his approach by jumping on the bandwagon of climate research criticism. However, his ideas of post-normal science is part of the problem. They heavily influenced how politicians, research managers, and scientists working in policy-relevant fields think about the relationship between science and policy.

In the last 20 years, scholars in a field called science policy studies, made strong statements, that the boundaries between policy and science, between experts and lay people, between disciplines, etc. were blurring or dissolving. However they did not only observe this tendencies, they actively promoted them.

For this reason, I think social scientists should take the current problems as a vantage point for new research. They should not bend there old theories and present themselves as winner.

There are many social science fields that were ignored in the debate about the relationship between science and policy. One of it is modern organizational theory. The fact that the interaction between two realms of society or two organizations becomes more intense does not mean that they become the same. The control of the boundary and the limitation of uncontrolled influence are important strategies for success.

Werner Krauss said...

In my opinion, Jerome Ravetz presents many good ideas and topics that are worth being discussed. The current power-plays in climate science are highly interesting, and the blogosphere indeed changed the rules how they are played. The term post-normal may be useful to characterize the current situation. But what is actually the most challenging problem in this post-normal situation? Is it really only the inner-scientific scandals and their political effects that J. Ravetz so expertly talks about?

I don't think so. In my opinion, there is something more important at stake, that is, CLIMATE and its effects in the world we inhabit. The very object of climate science is the real victim of the current debates, which are all about the politics of science (and only sometimes about the politics of climate).

It is a fact that more than six billion people live in often times adverse and difficult climate conditions. In many places, vulnerability already is very high; so many things have to be done, to be explored, to be understood, to be improved. To focus on these very real problems would indeed be a wonderful task for climate science! It would maybe even help to solve some of the current problems inside climate science and put them into the place where they belong (which is often times the trash).

The public will easily 'survive' the current scandals - they are used to this. The only ones who believe in the overall honesty of science are - scientists (and they indeed have to!). However, the current challenges are to improve the understanding of regional climates; to work together with engineers, administrations and institutions, and to gain an understanding of climate change as a common societal experiment. In this understanding, climate scientists can be helpful, useful and really serve as honest brokers. But the precondition is to say good-bye to these public cockfights and institutional power plays in which 'public trust' more often than not is just a cheap argument. Jerome Ravetz's essay hopefully will help to get there.

Marco said...

@Hans von Storch:
I truly tried to read it with an open mind. But I found one after the other questionable remark ("relying on hockeysticks", one of the M&M's being a computer scientist, a hidden attack on the historical CO2 record, referring to WUWT as a quality science blog, etc.). That looks very much like someone who never really looked into the matter himself. And what surprise, Ravetz essentially admitted as such by thanking his 'filter': Roger Tattersall, a WUWT regular.

Of course, when the IPCC went into "post-normal science" (see note) was heavily criticised by the same people who now laud Ravetz' essay.

Note: referring to the extended peer community is what the IPCC essentially did when it included references to materials from WWF, Greenpeace, American Enterprise Institute, BP, magazine articles, etc.

itisi69 said...

The Church of AGW fell into it's own sword with the "peer reviewed" dogma. How many times has this excuse been used by the AGW Cabal in order to silence the opposition and referred to it's own research which was "pal reviewed" at best?

The institute of "Peer Reviewing" has been irriversibly eroded, discredited and devaluated, at least in climate science. That's what the alarmist climate scientists have achieved.

No matter what revisionists are desperately trying to re-establish "Pre Normal" science times, the genie is out of the bottle and things will not be as before.

First signs are already on the wall:

"Arizona will no longer participate in a groundbreaking attempt to limit greenhouse-gas emissions across the West, a change in policy by Gov. Jan Brewer that will include a review of all the state's efforts to combat climate change.

Brewer stopped short of pulling Arizona out of the multistate coalition that plans to regulate greenhouse gases starting in 2012. But she made it clear in an executive order that Arizona will not endorse the emission-control plan or any program that could raise costs for consumers and businesses."

_Flin_ said...

@P Gosselin:
Concerning "...This decade was the hottest ever in the last 1000 years...":
Since I am refusing to see reality, I am pretty sure that you will provide me with an abundance of peer reviewed paleoclimate studies that show that the global temperature anomalies that were measured in the last 10 years occur regularly over the course of the last 1000 years and are therefore nothing unusual. If you are not able to do so, well, then you might ask yourself the question about perception of reality.

I do not need to flee into conspiracy theories. I just have to look at the funding of Exxon, Sarah Scaife Foundation (Gulf Oil) or the Earheart Foundation (Bethlehem Steel and others) for the George C. Marshall Institute and at the ties of MM to George Marshall Institute. Which leads to asking myself whether this is science or rather lobbying and PR.

AGW is a scientific theory like Evolution. A theory that is founded on a lot of different findings. Be them physical, biological, meteorological.

It is real, and it is necessary to assess the scope and the implications of it. The Blogosphere seems to follow it's personal bias more than a sound, neutral and scientific approach. If there is criticism in scientific work, it should be published in a scientific paper. Otherwise no scientific work will be done anymore, because every scientist will only work to refute accusations from the blogosphere.

And btw.: Phil Jones did not "lose his job", but stepped down voluntarily and temporarily while the allegations agains him are investigated.

@Hans von Storch: I will see to calming my emotions before posting and will not post things that aren't easily proveable. Please excuse my emotional rant.

Mathis Hampel said...

I appreciate Ravetz comment, though I m sceptical about the notion of "post-normality" in science, since it requires some kind of rupture between normal and post-normal. Also it reminds me of so many "posts": post-colonialism, post-modernity, post-punk...which all seem to suffer from the same syndrom. I see no rupture which suddenly appeared the 80s/90s, I just see a historical evolution and world in which more of Latour's nonhumans (asbestos, carbon dioxide etc.) demand our attendance. Stakes and uncertainty have been high in earlier scientific work as well.

MikeR said...

"I am pretty sure that you will provide me with an abundance of peer reviewed paleoclimate studies that show that the global temperature anomalies that were measured in the last 10 years occur regularly over the course of the last 1000 years and are therefore nothing unusual." Is this not a matter of recent debate, about the MWP?

Falk Schützenmeister said...

I still believe their is little wrong with climate science (unless you want to criticize science as a whole). Some commentators in this blog (e.g. itis69) do not have an idea was peer review in practice means. In scientific journals, editors send an article usually out to TWO(!) and sometimes more anonymous reviewers. In the IPCC, hundreds of reviewers participated and they were not selected by anyone but themselves. A more inclusive peer-review process does not exist.

Scientific inaccuracies, mistakes, or unproven claims are published in papers all the time despite peer review. The statement that science is a cumulative, self-correcting process would not make any sense if it were different. It would be an interesting study to assess the rate of known errors in a random sample of scientific papers let's say from nature).

I believe most people in this blog would be truly surprised. I would bet that the number of errors per 4,000 pages would be much, much higher than what we see in the IPCC reports today.

Some commentators of what they call Climategate are - as Latour wrote recently ( - just puzzled that science is made by human beings. Many scientists behave strategically and the funding form corporations or social advocacy organizations is nothing special to climate research. Or would you say that the fight against cancer is illegitimate because the pharmaceutic industry heavily invests in it and will a make a lot of money in the future? That is all known. It is the institutional setting of science that supposedly works as a filter that compensates resulting biases over time.

However, climate scientists have a problem in their relationship to the public and to policy. One reason is that they presented themselves the unrealistic but common picture of science (e.g. in the introductory chapter of AR4 WG1), scientific certainty, rigor, and proof. Now they are measured against a myth that does not exist.

Scientists do not live in an ivory tower but in the office building next door. What you know form work (if you are not a scientists) happens also there.

Falk Schützenmeister said...

PS: Of course measures are needed that prevent an all to quick spill over of mistakes in the political arena. But again that is a problem of science in policy and not of science as such. (See also my guest contribution about decoupling some days ago.)

Werner Krauss said...

Well argued, Falk!

Falk Schützenmeister said...

Just to make sure that we have the full picture:

Falk Schützenmeister said...

Sorry, I might be annoying!

itisi69 said...

Falk, I believe you still live in the same ivory tower you insist that it doesn’t exist in climate science. It all sounds a little naïve what you write. In fact I’m asking myself have you been on this planet lately?

I may be a layman and you can address me with the usual pedantry like most (climate) scientists do, but facts speak louder than words.

Have you read the Climategate emails, especially on the subject peer review? Are you aware of the “peer review” process in the IPCC especially regarding the climate activist group contributions like WWF and Green Peace? Do you know that, for instance in Holland, the majority of the authors are from the very same activist groups? And are you aware of the fact that when a reviewer had doubts it was simply ignored, removed or even denied (Dr.Lal denied that Dr.Kaser contacted him about the Himalaya glacier gaffe). Did you know that Gerry North described the process as that they “didn’t do any research”, that they got 12 “people around the table” and “just kind of winged it.” He said “that’s what you do in that kind of expert panel”? Have you read what the Wegman report said about the Hockey Stick and peer review?

These are not errors, that’s just to easy an excuse. These are deliberate manipulation of the (scientifical) truth in order to achieve a stronger AGW message which politician has asked for. In fact climate science has prostituted themselves for more then a decade to the AGW message. If it was only a few bad apples, where were the others when it happened? Only a few brave climate scientists (Hans von Storch!) stood up and said “This Is No Climate Science!” Where were you, Falk? I see you’ve been around quite a lot giving lectures about “(Neue) Formen der Wissensproduktion” and “Klimaforschung: Disziplinarität und Interdisziplinarität”. And didn’t you wrote recently: “Im Herbst 2007 wurde das Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mit dem Friedensnobelpreis ausgezeichnet, eine Ehrung die nicht nur dem erreichten Konsens über die anthropogenen Ursachen des Klimawandels galt usw”? Did you believe AGW was the correct climate science? Have you raised your voice like Lindzen, Christy, the Pielkes, Spencer? Do you still believe Pachauri’s IPCC deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, or do you, like me, consider this the Chutzpah des Jahrhunderts?

As long as scientists as you still don’t understand the impact of the misdemeanour of the immensely powerful AGW cabal, still believe that apart form some scientists all is nice and dandy, then obviously you live in an Elfenturm. Your messages read like 20/20 hindsight, don’t you think a bit more self reflection is due?

itisi69 said...

BTW: you may also read Henk Tennekes final letter to the Executive Board of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

"But one can step outside. I did. There is light out there."

Falk Schützenmeister said...

I did not say everything is nice and dandy. I said quite the opposite. Science is messy as any human endeavor. And everyone who works in science knows career strategies, department policies, citation cartels etc., etc. Those thinks are gossip in the hallways and canteens (sometimes they are justified and sometimes not).

By the way, you are quite good in demagogy. In your citation, you write usw. where the actual message of the sentence starts. We have seen this method in the right-wing blogs all the time. I did not write anything else as I did above. And I repeat it:

Climate research is a huge achievement. Where else in society work so many people successfully together with so little formal organization? Of course, if there is not tolerance for the flaws of flat hierarchies and organizational chaos, this achievements could be lost.

The result would be a tightly controlled organization with coordinated PR policies (and strategies) and a professional management. They would be able to hide their shortcomings. Is that what you want? I hope the IPCC will not choose such strategy.

I suggest the opposite then you do. Instead of blaming the reality for not matching the mythical version of science, I suggest to get rid of this unrealistic view and analyze science as a deeply human endeavor.

By the way, your comments about peer review do not become more true if you repeat them.

1. PEER review means per definition a review by colleagues with the same professional ideals, education, knowledge, and shared goals to achieve better knowledge.

2. The IPCC expert review was entirely open. Of course, people from environmental organizations, but also from big corporations participated, and so did I: a sociologist without personal contacts in the climate community. It might be unbelievable but this is true. I think many critics did not participate because they did not want to be peers.

3. The fact that the IPCC authors had to answer every single review comment makes it possible to track them now. Otherwise skeptics would not even be able to construct their examples. In the meanwhile some of the reviewers protested against the use of their comments (and the connected answers) by skeptics. Most prominently Andrew Lacis (see comment 20) which was cited as a witness of the skeptics in this blog as well.

4. I will include a link to my own review contributions. I am sure you will just read the passages where I actually praise the IPCC (they asked for positive comments as well).

5. However, in I-178 I tried to make the point that the image of science presented in the introduction of AR4 was to idealistic. The answer was that the readership might not understand a more sophisticated approach. And sadly they were true.

Yes, facts speak louder than words. There are thousands of honest contributions to climate research. And many good people working in the field. About 18,000 papers are cited in the IPCC report. How many flaws were found? 10 or 20?

Hans Erren said...

What is the origing of the prescribing SRES scenarios?
Why was for the A2 scenario a 15 billion population size chosen?
Why were comments about Wahl and Ammann rejected in the IPCC report?
Why is land use change underplayed in the IPCC report?
Sure there is lots of peer reviewed climate science, it's just not visible in the IPCC reports.

Falk Schützenmeister said...


You have been around in the debate for quite awhile. Why did you not post your objections during the review process? At least, I do not find your name among the reviewers. Please correct me, if I am wrong.

This is rather a question than an accusation.

_Flin_ said...

@itsi69: I read Climate Blogs and I read the things being repeated the whole day through. Things like
- Phil Jones lost his job
- Temperature is declining since 1998
- The Briffa tree ring samples are cherry picked
- The MWP proves that our current situation is nothing unusual

The problem is: These statements are wrong. How can someone possibly take the arguments of someone serious who makes wrong statements all of the time?

While there are things that are true (like: the peer review process needs to be followed, collaboration with editors to get a better strategical foothold for enforcing one's own opinion is bad; or: data has to be shared and findings have to be reproduceable), these get overwashed by the abundance of all out false claims, wrong accusations of scientific misconduct, sloppy or amateurish data handling &c.

There is just no alternative to producing:
- reliable and reproducable interpretations of existing data
- sound models that try to predict future outcomes as reliably as possible
- conservative measurement and interpretation of findings
- unbiased and thorough work

If the people questioning AGW would care about these principles, and if these principles would be followed and cared for, it would be easier to take these people serious.

Yes, I read the Climategate E-Mails. No, I didn't like them. Some were just bad behaviour. Some gave the impression of misconduct in certain ways (like trying to influence the peer review process).

But: None gave the impression that the AGW Theory is seriously flawed.

So please leave me alone with "Climategate". I do not care. I want serious science, proveable, predictable, reproduceable.

And if someone is convinced that all these works are wrong he shall prove it. With models that make better predictions, with measurements that take everything into account, from urban heat islands to the MWP, with tree rings from all over the world, with ice cores, arctic fox wanderings &c. Just do it. But you won't. Because opinions and beliefs are not science.

Marco said...

I'm afraid you are once again caught out by the "filter" of some people.
For example
1. Are you aware that the IPCC report also links to information from British Petrol and the American Enterprise Institute?

2. Are you aware that Kaser stated he did NOT contact the WGII authors, but contacted the IPCC secretariate?

3. Are you aware that Gerald North has never been involved in the IPCC process? (Oh, and please provide a link that corroborates your quote, direct links to the quote itself, please)

4. Are you aware that those supposed "activist groups" in the Netherlands are organisations like the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute, and the Energy Research Institute? In other words, organisations that on a daily basis are involved in climate research and energy research. Why should they be excluded exactly? That's right, because they actually come to conclusions the 'skeptics' do not like.

Hans von Storch said...

I think the temperature is not rising since about 10 years but remains on a high level since then. On the other hand - the ten year mean temp of the last decade is the highest in the instrumental record, and - interestingly- correctly forecasted by Myles Allen in 1999 (!) in nature using GHG forcing.

Briffa, cherry picking - I do not know if his data is cherry picked. But after the ClimateGate e-mails is would not mind an independent check using other trees from a the same or a similar region.

The role of the e-mails is that they have made people (at least me) suspicious; the mails have opened a gate, which allows a much more open debate now. The gatekeepers are gone, or at least much weaker. This helps - so that now that part of "the science", for which really consensus has been achieved (i.e. ongoing warming beyond natural levels; need of GHGs zu explain warming; possibility to steer warming by emissions) can been freed from the baroque of additional controversial claims .

Hans von Storch said...

Falk, I value your postings, but there are few things, which you seem not to take seriously.

Presenting journalistic material, and writings by vested interests as valid basis for a scientific assessment is not a cavalier error. This is really bad, massively unprofessional - and is destroying the much needed confidence. The behaviour of the chair, "where the buck (should) stop(s)", is inacceptable for me.

Maybe what happened, or came into the open, to climate science may be nothing special in science; maybe it happens all the time. That would be sad. But in case of climate science it is a fact that climate science is directly and strongly influencing policy-making - beyond any democratic control. This makes climate science different. Any societal force needs critical attention by the public.

Because of this I consider Jerry's analysis of great value - climate science is is in a postnormal situation (high inherent uncertainty; high stakes). Whether Jerry's suggestion of how to deal with his situation are reasonable or if other approaches my be better, remains to be seen.

By the way, Dennis Bray and myself authored an analysis of climate science in 1999: Climate Science. An empirical example of postnormal science. Bull. Amer. Met. Soc. 80: 439-456 - and demonstrated using our empirical material from 1996 that climate science is in a postnormal phase. Our surveys since then do not indicate a change.

Hans von Storch said...

Sombody wrote "Pachauri’s IPCC ...[got] the Nobel Peace Prize". This is not correct. It was given to the IPCC, which had several chairs in the course of time, first of all Bert Bolin, and at the time of the award the unfortunate Indian gentleman. All four IPCC reports together where recognized in this way; also I got one of these documents, as many others who were lead authors in one of the four reports.

This does not mean that I consider the recognition adequate or deserved. It was a symbolic element in a political agenda, which did not sustainably boost the renommee of neither the IPCC nor the Norwegian parliament.

Werner Krauss said...

to Hans 31:

Hans von Storch, a fortunate German Herr, wrote:

'the unfortunate Indian gentleman'

Falk Schützenmeister said...

I do not say that the errors would be cavalier errors. I just say that the abuse of power, vanity, and political strategies appear wherever such a big number of people work together - yes, also in science! Without doubt democracy is necessary to reveal such problems and control misdemeanor. It is less suitable to decide about scientific facts.

And of course, the behavior of the chair (a relict of the Bush area after Watson and Bolin were pushed out) is unprofessional. But, by all sociological parameters the IPCC is effective. I do not know any other document than the IPCC reports that are produced by so many authors and contributors.

I do not believe in a solution based on more honesty. Of course, I also demand honesty from everyone involved. However, some social phenomena do not go away because of wishes.

And I also do not believe in a solution based on the blogosphere. Of course the current discussion is important. By the way it was never suppressed, it just did not have the news value as it does now. The other myth of the debate (sorry Hans you might not have presented it) is that IPCC scientists delivered what governments wanted. What? Do people remember that the last IPCC report was published in the Bush area? American scientists are in the majority in the field, the Chinese government was not keen of seeing evidence for global warming. Most European countries had conservative governments as well (not Britain). What one could accuse scientists is that they overstated because governments tended to be hostile. But not the other way around.

I understand, you are hoping that the debate between people on the web will end in a democratic consensus about the right version of climate science (and that this version will be superior to the IPCC). It would be pretty nice, however that is Utopian. By the way, in the American debate about media is a serious doubt whether the blogosphere is a gain in democracy. One reason is that PR companies and think tanks mock concerned citizens, manipulate the Volkszorn, etc. In short, manipulations by media is even more easy. You should look that up under the keyword “tea parties” that convinced a lot of people that health care is evil or that Obama is not an American.

You are concerned about the vested interests in the IPCC, how do you want to control the vested interests in the ongoing debate? In addition, the current debate probably cannot be reconciled at all. It will just go on and on and on. I think we will see this pretty soon in the Guardian version of the Climategate story. Either there will be never a final version or some comments need to be rejected (wait, didn’t we hear this before).

I think the solution are smart institutional setups to prevent such crises from happening, I think the IPCC itself and the authors of a recent paper in Nature are going in this direction. And using the stupid war terminology (see Guardian), bunker mentalities appear in times of asymmetric warfare.

The solution, is certainly not tearing down all institutional boundaries. Ravetz’ analysis – as he presented it in the early 1990s was indeed elegant and smart. Now he seems to sell the problem as solution.

By the way, I know the works of Dennis Bray. I invited him to a small workshop at UC Berkeley in 2008. The workshop called “How do we know what we know about climate change” was attended by an interesting mixture of social scientist and several IPCC authors present. I wish the current debate would have this quality. But everyone seems to know what went wrong, but nowhere is discussed how climate science actually works (or should work).

itisi69 said...

Seems I’ve hit some open nerves here. Too many items to address to, I will pick some out, if someone feels unanswered pls let me know.

It seems that the word denier has been replaced by “right wing blogger” since it has become not PC to use it anymore. Personally I’m not right wing just sceptic after I’ve been looking into the AGW the last 4 years. But if you feel better to be able to put people into boxes and calling them demagogists for telling the truth, be my guest.

I was referring to your remark that I don’t understand “peer review” and the fact that you accuse Ravetz of jumping on the bandwagon of climate research criticism. Unlike you Ravetz hits the core of the problem while you remain producing woolly statements and still believing there’s little wrong with climate science. It’s rather hypocrite accusing Ravetz jumping the bandwagon while most climate scientists like you have jumped on the AGW bandwagon. It’s the very incestuous “peer review” that helped AGW been blown up where it’s now.

People like Henk Tennekes have been forced out of their job, losing their pension, just because of their critical approach of the Church of AGW, that’s what annoys me. And if you and other climate scientists refuse to see that, then Climate Science have still a very long way to go and in the meantime have lost all the faith of the people who in fact will ask themselves do we really want to pay these new kazillions costing new megaflop computers which spew out wrong climate models?
AR4 was not idealistic, it was right out dangerously manipulating activism. It had nothing to do with science it claimed it was.
Only 10/20 of 18000? It’s only the tip of the melting ice berg.

Jones will not return to his old position, that’s for sure. And the MWP discussion since the Climategate Clysmata has now been resurrected, by Jones himself recently.
“Because opinions and beliefs are not science.”: cannot disagree with that.

“ Are you aware that the IPCC report also links to information from British Petrol and the American Enterprise Institute?” What’s your point? CRU was founded by BigOil amongst others.
“Are you aware that Kaser stated he did NOT contact the WGII authors, but contacted the IPCC secretariate?” Of course that makes a lot of difference, or does it? Kaser sent the letter to the secretariat which of course never passed it on Lal, yeah right.
“Are you aware that Gerald North has never been involved in the IPCC process? (Oh, and please provide a link that corroborates your quote, direct links to the quote itself, please)”
To use your own words: can you please corroborate my quote that I did say that North was involved in the IPCC process? I was referring to the “peer reviewing”process in general.
Oh and North’s quote, how about from the horses mouth :
“Are you aware that those supposed "activist groups" in the Netherlands are organisations like the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute, and the Energy Research Institute? In other words, organisations that on a daily basis are involved in climate research and energy research. Why should they be excluded exactly? That's right, because they actually come to conclusions the 'skeptics' do not like.”
Yes I’m fully aware of that, in fact the KNMI is a bastion of AGW activism which does not allow skeptic conclusions they don’t like, see my remarks about Henk Tennekes above (he was dismissed by KNMI). And so is the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and it’s British counterpart.

itisi69 said...

@Hans von Storch
“Sombody wrote "Pachauri’s IPCC ...[got] the Nobel Peace Prize".
Guilty as charged ;) Pachauri was stumbling over to collect the Prize, where he rejected all responsibility for the “errors”. What happened to the leaders who say “The Buck Stops Here”?
The Nobel Peace Prize is a highly political one, opposite to the other Nobel Prizes. This automatically gives the receiver an enormous amount of authority, which in this case is completely wrong, not to mention the other receiver.
@Hans von Storch
“Sombody wrote "Pachauri’s IPCC ...[got] the Nobel Peace Prize".
Guilty as charged ;) Pachauri was stumbling over to collect the Prize, where at the other hand he rejected all responsibility for the “errors”. What happened to the leaders who say “The Buck Stops Here”?
The Nobel Peace Prize is a highly political one, opposite to the other Nobel Prizes. This automatically gives the receiver an enormous amount of authority, which in this case is completely wrong, not to mention the other receiver.

For the rest I completely agree with your remarks. And once again I really appreciate the opportunity to vent my views on your blog.

Hans von Storch said...

itsi69 - I am afraid that you misinterpret what Henk Tennekes did. He left the academy, but did not loose his job (he is retired), he is not loosing his pension, and he had a range of reasons to leave the academy - at least in his statement, climate change did not play a dominant role, I remember.

Mr. Pachauri said "the buck stops here" in his recent nature interview.

There is an interesting BBC report out on Phil Jones. I wonder if the report is credible with respect to the quotes.

Marco said...

@Hans von Storch (and itisi69):
Tennekes was sent on an early pension. This does result in a lower pension, but not the absence of a pension.
That it was because of his skepticism of AGW is possible, and perhaps even plausible. However, this should be set into a broader perspective: Tennekes was a director of policy development, but at odds with just about all of his colleagues. This is a situation that is completely unworkable: the boss actively counteracts the developments in his own area. Imagine a whole group of people seeing a problem, and their boss telling them "all you want is more money, and you're wrong, too". A boss, notably, who had not been involved in research in the climate arena for many years (or, in many aspects, not at all).

Marco said...

I thought you linked the IPCC process to North's comments. If you did, fault on you, if you did not, fault on me. Of course, North wasn't talking about the peer review process in general either, but on how these committees supposedly work.

Regarding CRU getting money from "big oil": a specific research project which would benefitted the company. Gee, not exactly the same now, is it?

Regarding Kaser: indeed, they clearly never send it onwards. Unless you can provide proof they did, you are merely making unsubstantiated claims. Wrong procedure, and sent in during the printing process.

And finally on KNMI: people who actively contradict where the science is pointing, are seriously pissing off scientists who do the actual work. Does this make the KNMI "activist"? Only if you believe the vast majority of scientists are wrong, while the former scientists, now administrator (Tennekes) is right. It would make Hans von Storch an activist, too. Or Eduardo Zorita.

Reiner Grundmann said...

To come back to the Ravetz article
I think there is a potential confusion about postnormal science (PNS), both in the original theory and in the comments.

PNS is a descriptive and a normative model of the relation between science and policy making.
Unfortunately, in its original formulation (end ever since) there is the concept of extended peer review. This was designed to be a nice extension of the concept of "extended facts" (i.e. facts do not speak for themselves, are not certain but contested, need interpretation). Extended facts are, in my view, not a problem. The problem is the extended peer review as it leads to (wrong) ideas that science would be conducted with the inclusion of the lay public. I doubt that Funtowicz and Ravetz actually meant this at any point. I think they rather used it as analogy, saying that anyone who cares about a problem should be included in the decision making. This is fine by me.

It gets muddy when an interpretation creeps in that says 'lets have lay participation in science' -- but I have seen no example that this has been proposed at a practical level. What has been proposed are citizen juries, round tables, etc.

How does this bear on the IPCC? One could say there is lay participation in that governments have a say on the SPM. Not sure if PNS would think this a good idea. I don't. I think it messes up the message from the science experts and potentially provides delaying tactics or easy cop-outs for governments.

Or one could say that non-scientific sources have been used by the IPCC(grey literature) and that this is an example of PNS. This may be so, but it does not discredit PNS as such. If we were to discredit it on this basis, then by the same token we should condemn peer review per se, as it cannot prevent errors appearing in print. Lay knowledge is sometimes very helpful in reaching decisions (think about the financial crisis...)

Finally one could say that people should be included in political decisions about climate policies. If you look at some of the countries with the most ambitious policies (like the UK) you will find that next to no public consultation has taken place. The same is true with regard to countries that have no or lenient climate policies. This is the challenge for the future. Science decides nothing (skeptics and alarmists, please take note)

So is climate policy an example of PNS?
Yes, in that there is uncertainty, stakes are high and decisions urgent. And No, because at the institutional level there is nothing that resembles that "extended peer review", i.e. social inclusion of those interested in the outcome of the policy.

itisi69 said...

“He left the academy, but did not loose his job (he is retired), he is not loosing his pension,”
I’m afraid you’re describing the situation incorrect, hopefully out of ignorance. Tennekes boss Fijnaut personally told him that he would get him out on the street and reorganised his department in order to get him out. Tennekes did not leave KNMI voluntarily and by this his pension was prematurely ended which cost him dearly. KNMI even did not allow him a discharge on the base of “incomparability of minds”.
His job at KNMI was doomed as soon as he wrote a column twenty years ago questioning the reliability of the climate models instead of applying for more funds for the megaflop computers for his department. “No forecast is complete without a forecast of forecast skill”.
Tennekes urge to look for truth clearly did not match the KNMI group dogma.

Marco, I wish you would stop putting words into my mouth I’ve never said (are you a lawyer?). I was talking about peer review in general, not North. And of course he and his staff were discussing the next day menu.
“And finally on KNMI: people who actively contradict where the science is pointing, are seriously pissing off scientists who do the actual work. Does this make the KNMI "activist"? Only if you believe the vast majority of scientists are wrong, while the former scientists, now administrator (Tennekes) is right. It would make Hans von Storch an activist, too. Or Eduardo Zorita.” This makes makes no sense at all only showing you’re grasping at straws.

“Mr. Pachauri said "the buck stops here" in his recent nature interview.”
Well, the last thing I know is that he put the responsibility in the hands of of the panel’s former co-chairs Dr Martin Parry and Dr Osvaldo Canziani. “I don’t want to blame them, but typically the working group reports are managed by the co-chairs. Of course, the chair is there to facilitate things, but we have substantial amounts of delegation” he said.

corinna said...

>And finally on KNMI: people who actively contradict where the science is pointing, are seriously pissing off scientists who do the actual work.

Marco, is this really your idea about being a scientists? Because you did the work, no one has the right to contradict?

In think it is the other way round. You do some work, publish it and than the discussion can start.
............and everybody has the right to contribute to this discussion, that is why you publish.
If you cannot stand the debate without getting pissed off, than being scientist is not the right profession.


Marco said...

@Corinna (and to some extent itisi69):
A *scientific* debate is no problem at all. An *administrator*, no longer involved in the science at all (if *ever* at all), who actively works against his department *is* a problem. If your administrator e.g. actively lobbies against you getting the supercomputer you think you need to answer scientific question, *that* will piss you off to no end. If your science is proven wrong, few will be happy, but at least you have been able to test your hypothesis.

See the difference?
Debate in scientific literature, vs not even being able to get that far, because your boss does not support your research.

Marco said...

Perhaps you can explain exactly what you meant with your reference to North.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

I have posted my responses on my blog as
Rethinking expertise, following Collins and Evans and

Will blogs facilitate "extended peer review" as proposed by Ravetz?

I feel like an amateur theoretician of science-technology-society. I am afraid I am not good as a practitioner.

(I read Kellow's book because it was mentioned by Prof. von Storch on his web page in 2008.)

Reiner Grundmann said...

Silvio Funtowicz has emailed the following interesting comment which I post below with his permission. He replies to my comment above @39

Re your question about the fairness of your comment. I believe that the paragraphs below are correct although they fail to express the full significance of the extended peer community (epc) in its epistemological, ethical, methodological, political and instrumental dimensions.

"The problem is the extended peer review as it leads to (wrong) ideas that science would be conducted with the inclusion of the lay public. I doubt that Funtowicz and Ravetz actually meant this at any point. I think they rather used it as analogy, saying that anyone who cares about a problem should be included in the decision making."
"It gets muddy when an interpretation creeps in that says 'lets have lay participation in science' -- but I have seen no example that this has been proposed at a practical level. What has been proposed are citizen juries, round tables, etc."

If you go back to the PNS formulation you'll see that the epc follows our analysis of quality. We argue that extending the realm of knowledge production implies a need to also extend those involved in the assessment of quality processes.

There is also the aspect of "no closure" as in cosmology.

Today you see a variety of epc in action; for example, patient groups framing research programs or participating in testing.

We never said that you should run a focus group to decide on the laws of thermodynamics and how to number them. Still we say that involved communities have knowledge and resources which, when used, have the potential to make even the normal scientific practice more robust (Sellafield sheep-farmers, Louis Gibb's Love Canal story, Lyme disease,...).

There are other aspects of the epc which are relevant to science for governance and emergent science-based technologies and remember that, when we proposed epc's, the discourse of "participation" was not what it become later.

"So is climate policy an example of PNS?
Yes, in that there is uncertainty, stakes are high and decisions urgent. And No, because at the institutional level there is nothing that resembles that "extended peer review", i.e. social inclusion of those interested in the outcome of the policy. "

I fully agree with this assessment. Still it is interesting to note how and why the framing of the issue has evolved since the problem was in the province of atmospheric chemists, and this is surely the result of some type of epc.
Silvio Funtowicz, together with Jerry Ravetz, authored the influential idea of Post-Normal Science.