Thursday, April 7, 2011

Climate scientists speak about themselves: Interview series in the Newsletter of AGU's Atmospheric Science Section

Since mid 2009 I am doing interviews with interesting atmospheric scientists - not those, who are often mentioned in the media, but scientists who excel by their work, scientists who had an interesting "career". The interviews are published in the quarterly Newsletter of the Atmospheric Science Section of AGU.

Typically I ask four standard questions, namely
  • What would you consider the most two significant achievements in your career?
  • When you look back in time, what where the most significant, exciting or surprising developments in atmospheric science?
  • Is there a politicization of atmospheric science?
  • What constitutes “good” science?
plus four to five questions more specific to the interviewee.

So far, there are nine interviews, three females namely Aristita Busuioc from Romania, Nanne Weber from the Netherland and Gabi Hegerl from (now:) Scotland. The six males were Rene Laprise (Canada), Raino Heino (Finland), Heinz Wanner (Switzerland), Christoph Kottmeier (Germany), Roger Pielke sr. (USA) and Alan Robock (USA).

When interested, look up the online-Newsletters or the list of interviews on my web-page.

The list will be continued.

1 comment:

Werner Krauss said...

Hans, thanks for posting and - even more - having conducted these interviews! I just read the one in the latest issue, with Gabi Hegerl.

I really found it very agreeable to read through that conversation which is not structured along the usual skeptic / alarmist divide; instead, we have the opportunity to follow the admirable career of a great climate scientist. The interview and her thoughtful comments and answers create a sense of respect for both her achievements and climate science in general. Something that is often missed when climate science is discussed in the heat of the debates.

From her personal experience, she opens up scientific practice and shows that there are different ways to practice 'good' or 'objective' science:

"Integrating family and children is, of course, not the only problem women face. I believe (...) that on average, women express themselves differently, and prefer collaborative to competitive situations more than men. This is
sometimes interpreted as weakness. I have sometimes felt ignored with suggestions only to hear a male’s identical suggestion enthusiastically welcomed. That experience seems not to be unique to me. There also sometimes seems to be a prejudice of what makes excellent science – the lone author paper challenging prior beliefs is still valued particularly high in some circles. I find collaborative papers, maybe with an interdisciplinary authorship, that address an interesting problem as completely as possible, at least as useful type of science, and one that I enjoy more."

I like this answer, which immediately evokes the memory of many situations, persons, and conflicts that make up everyday science. It's a good start to think about science as a practice, where 'cultural' influences and scientific autonomy permanently have to be balanced.

The same is true when she is asked about the politicization of science:

"of course the results of climate science are politically relevant. Although that makes it difficult to
keep politics out of it, I believe that society and science benefit from some level of separation of science and politics. That is true for climate science to the same extent as for other sciences."

Gender and scientific practice; politics and science; private life and career patterns - everything has to be balanced in a permanent effort. The balance and separation is not given per se; it is something that has to be achieved.

That's what I took from reading the interview; thanks to both, Mrs. Hegerl and Hans!