The next assessment Report of the Working Group I of the IPCC is due in September 2013. It will only consider papers that have been published before March 2013 . In my opinion, this cut-off dates is at odds with the spirit of the IPCC.
First an insider confession. These cut-off dates usually circulate widely among the the scientific community. In theory, it should not be so. The IPCC Reports are assumed to condense the scientific knowledge that is deeded to be useful for policy makers. Individual scientist not involved in the IPCC should be totally oblivion of these dates. The IPCC Reports are not aimed at them, and if they are not contributing the IPCC process, they should have no vested interest whatsoever on what the IPCC Reports actually contain. However, scientist being humans, each of us takes some pride when our own papers are cited by the IPCC and even more so if they are placed on a prominent place in the report. This is why most climate scientist will never read the IPCC report, but nevertheless know the cut-off dates quite well, and orientate their publication strategies along those lines.
But are those cut-off dates, so close to the final publication date of the Report, really reasonable or even beneficial ? If I was a policy maker I would not be so strongly interested that the Report contains the latest study describing the influence of climate on Mexican frogs, but rather I would require robust, clear and comprehensible information about the main conclusions of climate research. A paper published in March 2013 will have barely been discussed, refuted or confirmed by September 2013.
I ignore the reasons for these tight cut-off dates, or even the reasons for their existence. One could assume that there is at some level a confusion between what constitutes established science and published science , but I am sure that the responsible scientist in the IPCC know this difference very well. I am, however, not that sure that policy makers grasp this subtle but important difference.
Would it not be much more reasonable that IPCC authors focus on established science regardless of the stamped date of publication ? To be honest, I was quite amazed to see in the drafts of the circulating IPCC reports references to studies 'in preparation', of course in preparation by the authors of the Report themselves.