Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rob Maris: Skeptics Survey launched

A discussion in the posting „Das ist eine Verrohung des intellektuellen Niveaus“ from August, 3rd marked the birth of a new idea for a survey. There is big uncertainty about the scene of skeptics. We would like to know more about their motivation, to be precise: what do they think, how did they get to „skeptics", etc.
The survey has been set up by Rob Maris with the help of some skeptics, with grateful thanks to Peter Heller who contributed to the above mentioned discussion, and now contributed to the survey formulation.

The survey starts with some simple questions in order to get some general information. The core of the survey is represented by subsequent questions related to statements, issues and resources in the „climatosphere". There are ten questions, and the estimated time should be approx. 10 minutes to fill out the survey. The survey runs from today until Monday, October 11th (inclusive). Non-skeptics are asked to refrain from answering the survey: it is for "skeptics only".

The survey runs on a separate site. After expiry, the results will be summarized here, and detail statistics will be available on the survey site.


Anonymous said...

What do 'fellow scientist' and 'fellow engineer' mean?

Rob said...

those that are volunteers, postdoc students, and I'd also say students.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply, but I don't think that's a normal English use of the term 'fellow'. I think most science postdocs would class themselves as 'active scientists'.

And I don't understand your term 'volunteers' in this context.

What about people with a degree in science but who are not currently active (research) scientists? Maybe 'graduate scientist'?

You could ask your respondents for their highest science qualification (pre-16 school science, post-16, first degree, higher degree)? Then ask separately if they are currently active in research?

Rob said...

We don't want to go into that detail - does not serve the survey goal. You're native speaker? Please provide a suggestion for a better description for a simple scale description that categorizes in layman/student-postdoc/experienced/specialist. Goal is to have a *rough* impression of "expert" level. Minor things can be changed now.

Volunteer: interpreted as sort of (uncharged) job in the context of study.

(note: let us prevent this as getting a lengthy issue...)

Paul said...

I have problems with some of the wording.

One example:

"acyclic warming (human factor) is going on, but not through CO2 increase"

Does this mean:

Measurable anthropogenic warming is occurring(Land use, aerosols, irrigation...) but not through anthropogenic CO2 increases.

Uwe said...

Hi Paul!

I thought so.

Hans von Storch said...

I have to apologize that I was not careful enough in checking the details of the questions. Sorry, Hans.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting idea but there are some problems with the wording. Please get a native english speaker to check it. 'fellow scientist' is not a usual term. I think from your answer above you should say postdoc or student scientist.

Q2 should be worded "How long have you been interested..."

Q8 "I count myself to this sort of people" I don't know what this means. Does it mean "I regard myself as a skeptic"?

A general rule is that when you write a survey, people will always complain about the questions!

Are you going to advertise the survey on the skeptic blogs? (CA, WUWT, Air Vent, Bishop Hill...)

Peter Heller said...

When creating Q7 I thought of three categories of scientists (and engineers):

- active climate scientists
- active scientists in any other field
- scientists with an academic background (master, ph.d. or else), who do not work as scientists any more (which is the case for myself)

My wording has been changed to "fellow scientist" and I thought, this would describe the third category. Sorry, I am not a native speaker.

In Q8 the question "I count myself to this sort of people" is linked to the two topics above.

If you think of yourself as somebody having a "preoccupied opinion" (because of firm political convictions e.g.), then you have to choose "agree".

Rob said...

OK, all posts until now matters about the terms used:
Next time, we'll take care of review by natives and for now: when anybody hesitates about the checkbox to select: the question regarding layman/scientist/engineer is intended as to distinguish the approximate expert level in two academic branches, with the layman as "root".

Within 24 hours we have been registering over 100 full responses. So - when "only" a few amongst them have complaints/questions, that's acceptable. Basta!

John Lish said...

Found it a somewhat clunky survey and not really representing my sceptical position - I really wanted to rewrite some questions.

It will be interesting to see what analysis comes out of this.

Jeff Id said...

1 - B and C
2 - since 2008
3 - Everyone knows about AGW but Real climate was my first contact. I recognized the political aspects of the science well before studying the science itself.
4 - perfect question. I was discussing with Gavin about surface temps differential from satellite data, which I had seen somewhere. Now it might sound like I was interested before but only peripherally. I had no clue who gavin was or even that he worked in climate, only that he was short, seemed to know what he was talking about, and was extremely cocky. I felt sorry for him because of the nature of blog comments he was dealing with so I left.
I would say D.
5 - Skepticism is a state of mind, not a position. I've made no conclusions about what I expect for a warming trend. Actually right when I started blogging, I ran into Mann08 CPS. It took me literally two minutes to grasp the variance loss it would cause and the hockey stick shape would be guaranteed. No, I'm not kidding. Literally two minutes. - So then after several months of bashing it on the internet, I began to wonder why this stuff can get published. Why aren't climatologists tossing this guy's work out the window. It was a very unfortunate entrance into climate science because there is good stuff, unfortunately the blatantly bad also gets published as long as it reaches the correct conclusion.
So E for 5
6 - I am more skeptical now than ever. MMH10 shows models at 2-4X trend, spencer with evidence for positive feedback, climategate, and a host of other things.
7- I'm an aeronautical engineer who owns an unsubsidized green company.

Just thought I'd leave that bit as a further explanation for my answers.

Jonathan said...

The questions are a bit odd, but I could decipher most of them - except for the "I count myself to this sort of people" which eluded me entirely. So I marked that one as no opinion.

Stan said...

The questions were awkward. One particular example - there seemed no option to explain how I and many others I know came to be skeptics re climate. We start out with a generally skeptical attitude because: 1) personal experience has demonstrated that "experts" of all kinds routinely suffer from hubris which leads to unwarranted certainty (see Economists, Wall Street financial models, et al). 2) environmentalists have a long history of hyping doom and gloom scenarios that were totally wrong. 3) the political evolution of climate alarmism was extremely suspicious.

With this starting mindset, the political campaign eventually forced us to become more familiar with the particulars of climate science. In my case, the supposed experts were even more incompetent than I expected. No one had ever thought to check the instruments. They were never calibrated and siting failed basic standards. No one replicated or even audited anyone else's work (amazing). Data wasn't even shared. Gross statistical errors were rampant. When pointed out, they weren't corrected. Quality control for the databases was non-existent. Secrecy abounded.

In sum, it is obvious that the fundamental principles of the scientific method have been abandoned. I'm a climate skeptic because far too many of the experts have been conclusively demonstrated to be incompetent, and the other "experts" have done nothing to police the field (thus calling into question their own competence).

Public policy should never be made on the basis of a process so fatally infected with incompetence.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hans von Storch said...

We know by now that some questions have been formulated in a manner that some do not like. we also know that this survey will not come up with a representative description of opinions hold among skeptics (a group which is not well defined) - the purpose is to get an impression of the opinions hold, which may serve as a base for a general orientation, and a better thought of systematic survey.
Given this, I will delete the previous comment and following comments just complaining again about wording (as Rob said: basta!).

Anonymous said...

My, my, aren't we thin-skinned?!
Sorry if I gave offense, but as written your survey is of questionable value since so many of the questions are unclear. Do it properly or don't do it at all.

Hans von Storch said...

If you want to discuss with me, give a name.
The point ist that repeating endlessly is useless.

Hans von Storch said...

Die Deutsche Bank ist eingetreten in die Bemühungen, Skeptiker von ihren Vorbehalten abzubringen. Ein Leser schickte diesen Link zu einem Text für diesen Zweck:

plazamoyua said...

I realize it's very difficult to write questionnaire which makes me happy, so I will not complain.

Thanks any case for asking. Are you thinking, next time, in asking the alarmists? What do they think, how did they get to "alarmists", etc. There is enough room in the zoo.

Anonymous said...

Hans, I think that the propaganda, false claims, straw men and misrepresentations of the skeptic arguments in the Deutsche Bank article will have the opposite effect - it will strengthen skepticism.

If anybody wants a genuine insight into the thinking of skeptics, they should look at the fascinating 'Reader Background' thread at Jeff Id's Air Vent blog.

I have done the survey and I see that Jeff has announced it on his blog so that should help you to get a good response.

Rob said...

@ Plazamoyua (20): For this counterquestion to come around is only a matter of time. Well, here you are! Why not a survey for alarmists/warmists? Let me first recall the posting referred to on top of this page ("nastifying intellectual level (in disputes)"), comment 7:
"Skeptics represent a very diverse folk and get to their rejection of today's climatic mainstream opinion while having completely different reasons for this".
I think this is the core sentence regarding the idea for a skeptics survey. I think, the other way round it is more difficult to create a survey. The pole difference (alarmists - skeptics poles) is quite asymmetric. So it is not sufficient to copy & paste some questions, and to invert others. If anybody feels committed to write a concept - welcome. According to the wisdom that the own camp is blind at its uglyness such a survey should be conducted by skeptics with the help of warmists.
My personal feeling is that such a survey would look not attractive for warmists to fill out. That makes it even more a challenge...
And why not: this time the dogs must stay outside, next time the cats?

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm late because I filled out the form already yesterday.

I also couldn't explain how I got a so called "climate sceptic".

I think it all started with books about Waldsterben, with the FCKW-discussion etc... But climate itself was not discussed in such an extreme and agressive way in the beginning.

I remember that many wellknown german scientists had serious doubts and expressed them on german tv. They have become very quiet, or just (seem to) parrot now what we know from the usual main stream "climate fighters".

The mean problem for me is, that as a lay man I don't believe a liar.

In environmental science there have been so many lies and people from Greenpeace etc. tried to silence their opponents, which were often well respected scientists.

For instance: Who is right about the swine flu vaccination? The WHO or the non scientists?

Who was right about the ozone hole? BSE? etc ...

You can still read that there was no exaggerated panic for BSE or Waldsterben. And the same people are also true AGW-believers.

Ok, back to climate science. Those non scientist "Oeko"-warriors made me become a climate sceptic. I'm not even sure, if they were scientists or not ... Funny, isn't it? They were anonymous "Forenteilnehmer" and sometimes really were climate scientists. At least one of them ;-)))

But long before I discussed global warming on the "Spektrum der Wissenschaft"forum and most people there were nice. I must even say VERY nice!

Another problem with the survey were the climate blogs.

I know that real climate is run by the most famous climate scientists and Climateaudit by a statistician. I couldn't express my feeling about real climate. Its better science but I don't trust one single person on that blog. Ok, that sounds unfair. But it is so. Sad but true!

Ok enough talk. Now you understand why this survey may give some odd results.

Good idea

Thanks alot

Friedhelm said...

@Hans von Storch(19)
..."Die Deutsche Bank ist eingetreten in die Bemühungen, Skeptiker von ihren Vorbehalten abzubringen. Ein Leser schickte diesen Link....."

Finanzinstitute haben in kontroversen naturwissenschaftlichen Debatten nichts zu suchen, geschweige denn eindeutige Stellungen für bestimmtes Positionen zu beziehen!
In ihrem Versuch, "skeptische" Inversoren aufzuklären, offenbart die DBank unmissverständlich, welche Klimaentwicklung ihrer Geschäftsstrategie dienlich ist -und deswegen zu fördern/verteidigen gilt. Meines Erachtens ist der Schuss nach hinten losgegangen: denkende "Skeptiker" werden in ihrer Meinung nur bestärkt.
Gibt es ein ähnliches Papier der Münchner Rück?

Zur Umfrage: Ich finde sie innovativ und nützlich.

sHx said...

Thank you whoever reminded Reader Background thread at Jeff Id's blog. It is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to take a peek at the bios and mindset of the CAGW sceptic community. Never realised there were so many people who decided to look into sceptic arguments precisely because they were irked by petulant and snarky responses to criticism by climate doomsayers. Link:

As for the survey, I answered to the best of my understanding of the questions. Questions could have been formulated and worded better.

ghost said...

what is this CAGW? I think, the C stands for catastropic... But, what is considered as CAGW? A climate sensivity of 3K/doubling Co2? A projected sea level rise of more than 50,80,100cm till 2100? Who are proponents of CAGW and why? Which research results are CAGW and why? Are the IPCC reports CAGW results and why? Is Prof von Storch a CAGW scientist and why or why not? Questions over questions.

Until now, the C is very weakly defined. Is there a question in the survey to solve this problem? I have observed this C trend for some time. Former AGW skeptics are CAGW skeptics now. What is the reason that you changed your mind?

Leonard Weinstein said...

The previous AGW main position was that AGW was a major problem. That is it was in fact CAGW. When skeptics found those arguments flawed, but agreed that there was likey some small warming effect, the warmest claimed they had won the debate. In order to separate reasonable claims from excessive ones the use of CAGW was introduced to distinguish it from small and likely unimportant human caused warming.

Dennis Bray said...

Just a few questions:

1. Is skepticism dichotomous?
2. Are there not degrees of skepticism?
3. If I question between a 1 degree or 2 degree rise in temperature, am I a skeptic?
4. Isn't skepticism an integral part of science?
5. Does less than 100% agreement in something indicate skepticism.
6. If I believe 100% in one conclusion, say regarding temperature rise, and only 50% with conclusions, say regarding precipitation, am I a skeptic or just a precipitation skeptic?

Until ooperational defintions are provided for the terms and concepts it is impossible to understand just what is trying to be determined. And only then would it be possible to develop meaningful questions.

Peter Heller said...

Dennis, the survey is directed to people describing themselves as "sceptics", independent of any overall definition.

It will open up the opportunity to create such a definition. A definition acceptable by most of the "sceptics" - thats my hope.

I have seen some preliminary results and I think that my hope will be fulfilled. And some people will be surprised.

PolyistTCOandbanned said...

At this point, I don't even know if I am a skeptic any more. When I came to CA in 2005 (or 6, can't recall), was intrigued with the math and the point of view (I am politically conservative and the image of a citizen finding flaws in "big science" is romantic.) But my tendancy is to push on all ideas, especially those that are in my point of view. And then based on how things hold up, I learn something. Was NOT impressed by McI wrt such challenges. When key issues were raised, one would find flaws and differences with what he was saying. Also, even worse, he was evasive.

So at this point, I don't know what I am.