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Climate expertise?

June 29, 2010

How does one measure expertise in a subject area?

According to a graduate student in biology and his co-authors (committee members?), climate change expertise is established by publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Really?

I disagree.  Think about the term “peer-reviewed”.  Other scientists read submitted papers and recommend which papers should get published.  Sometimes they suggest changes before publication.  Sometimes they completely reject a paper.

Authors of papers which contradict the majority are less likely to get published.  This self-perpetuates as authors who are published are more likely to recommend papers which agree with their own conclusions.  The same thing happens with funding.  Studies seeking to verify what everyone already “knows” to be true are more likely to be funded than studies seeking to challenge accepted wisdom.

One could argue that  single paper published by a scientist who has evidence disproving anthropogenic global warming is equivalent to many papers published by someone supported AGW.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Scott Down permalink
    June 29, 2010 12:00 pm

    This is so important, not just for AGW (although certainly it applies), but for all strains of study and knowledge. In many ways, Ivory Tower (Ivy Tower?) academics are more secure in their tenures than even religious, political [governmental] and judicial colleagues.

    Knowledge should not be sequestered to the academic ‘elite’ any more than power should be sequestered to the government, money should be sequestered to big business, or spirituality should be sequestered to religious institutions.

    As you probably know by now, I believe that these institutions are unavoidable, natural (whatever that means), and – probably – even offer some benefits. Of course, I also believe that they are all the same as each other. But when it gets to the point that the knowledge, power, money or whatever cannot be accessed by individuals or small organisations because the high and mighty have decided it ought to be so, that is the beginning of the end.

    The rational academic has steered us to improper conclusions and unnecessary destruction through self-perpetuation as many times as the infallible church, the incorruptible government, the valiant charity, the profitable transnational corporation, the hard-working, philanthropic industrialist, the benevolent dictator, or the mighty god…

    All information should be presented as though it is unproven and reviewed with scepticism; we are all biased, we are all blind to our biases, and we all under-compensate for the extent of our blindness. And we shouldn’t for a second think that a degree or a title changes this.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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