Bias in science

There are quite often claims that there are significant biases in science and that this is strongly influencing research results. Typically this is based on known problems in certain fields; the replication crisis in psychology, or the failure to publish negative results in medicine. My problem with this is that how research is conducted can vary greatly across different disciplines, and so using isolated examples to infer a major problem across all research areas may not be justified.

Joshua, however, has made me aware of a paper that does a [m]eta-assessment of bias in science, by Fanelli, Costas, and Ioannidis (also discussed in this article). They looked at a large sample of meta-analyses that considered a number of different bias-related patterns, and also considered various risk factors. The basic results was essentially that

The magnitude of these biases varied widely across fields and was overall relatively small. However, we consistently observed a significant risk of small, early, and highly cited studies to overestimate effects and of studies not published in peer-reviewed journals to underestimate them.

So, the biggest biases were associated with small studies that reported effects of large magnitude, studies published early because of an extreme results, studies that ended up being highly cited (although I’m not sure how this can be a bias, given that this can’t be known in advance), and studies published in the non-peer-reviewed literature, but the effect was relatively small and varied widely across fields. In fact, the paper explicitly says that, when testing the various bias-related patterns,

[t]he ratio of studies concluding in favor vs. against a tested hypothesis increases, moving from the physical, to the biological and to the social sciences, suggesting that research fields with higher noise-to-signal ratio and lower methodological consensus might be more exposed to positive-outcome bias.

So, the magnitude of the bias is lower in the physical sciences, compared to the social sciences.

The paper also considered various risk factors (such as pressure to publish, or career level) and mostly found that there was no relationship between these and the presence of bias. The size of the team and the distance between collaborators were two that did have some influence, but most of the others had little effect. I found this quite interesting, because my own view was that part of the problem was the system in which the researchers operate, and this suggests that this plays little role. If anything, it seems as though most of the bias comes from researchers getting excited by what appear to be interesting results, rather than them seeing a way to advance their careers through publishing results that might be biased.

Overall, the paper concludes with

Our results should reassure scientists that the scientific enterprise is not in jeopardy, that our understanding of bias in science is improving and that efforts to improve scientific reliability are addressing the right priorities.

When it comes to dealing with bias, the paper made – in my view – some interesting points

However, our results also suggest that feasibility and costs of interventions to attenuate distortions in the literature might need to be discussed on a discipline and topic-specific basis and adapted to the specific conditions of individual fields. Besides a general recommendation to interpret with caution results of small, highly cited, and early studies, there may be no one-size fits-all solution that can rid science efficiently of even the most common forms of bias.

I think the latter is an important point. Science is a human endeavour and so will always be influenced by human flaws. Even though we should be aiming to reduce bias as much as possible, we can’t expect perfection and if the magnitude of bias is small (as this paper suggests) then we should be careful of introducing all sorts of possible solutions that might do little to actually solve the problem, are only relevant in certain circumstances, and might end up doing more harm than good. Being aware of where bias is most likely to exist (small studies, for example) is probably a good place to start.

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142 Responses to Bias in science

  1. This seems all very reasonable, but you mention something curious:

    “.. studies published early because of an extreme results, studies that ended up being highly cited (although I’m not sure how this can be a bias, given that this can’t be known in advance)..”

    Maybe there are cases where an “extreme result” taps into a pre-existing hope in the readers (as opposed to the researchers), or secondary consumers who read the sexed-up news of it – like ‘an extra glass of red wine will be good for your heart’ – and so in a sense, there is a pre-existing bias amongst them, us, at least. Cheers.

    I think there may be a more insidious bias at work amongst many people – a liking of established ideas being challenged and overturned. This desire is exacerbated by our always-on, fast news world. Scientists often say they admire and love an established theory, but would love to be the one to overturn it. This is of course misunderstood by journalists and professional ‘commentators’, who imagine this happens often and is easy to achieve, whereas often it takes many years to complete a research programme. Normal science is an aggregation of evidence and results that may be wonderful, but is rarely revolutionary in the sense the philosophers of science like to obsess on.

    A wider question is how do we make the slow process of normal science interesting to a media obsessed with dramatic discoveries? I think the process itself is fascinating, perhaps even more so sometimes than the results themselves!

  2. I think the process itself is fascinating, perhaps even more so sometimes than the results themselves!

    I agree. Sometimes I think that we focus a bit too much on trying to present interesting scientific results to the public, and too little time trying to explain the overall process, which is not only interesting, but also important for understanding the importance of the results that are presented.

  3. Chris says:

    It’s good to see that Ioannidis has produced a rather more measured study than his massively-widely misinterpreted and appallingly titled “Why most published research findings are false” which, incidentally, exhibits one of the classical biases on his list in the just published paper:

    “Early-extremes effect: when extreme or controversial findings are published early just because they are astonishing.”

    Personally speaking I think biases in the physical, biophysical (and even biomedical) sciences are mostly kept in check due to their direct proximity to the natural world under investigation (there is a reality out there!) and the fact that for anything of any importance there are multiple researcher likely working on the subject and many more who will assess any interesting novel findings.

    Of his list of biases, I don’t see much of a problem with “grey literature bias” at least for science (even if it might contribute to the torrents of pseudoscientific nonsense on the internet and some newspapers). Quite rightfully one should be a little skeptical of stuff in PhD theses (for example) – why not wait for the published paper? Likewise with “conference proceedings” and “personal communications”. These are all bound to be arenas where over-preliminary analyses may be deposited and you’d have to be rather naive to throw a lot of resources at following up some of these (‘though you might consider it worth the effort).

    I don’t have a problem with “Early extreme effects” even if Ioannidis’s effort mentioned above has been a particularly pernicious example. A good example is the arsenic-in-DNA study in Science a few years back. My impression is that that little episode resulted in everyone becoming quite quickly informed about an interesting topic and learning that categorically arsenic can’t substitute for phosphorus in DNA at any meaningful level. A good example of a rather extreme biased position being kept in check by post-publication peer review and subsequent experiment.

  4. Chris,
    Yes, I also get the impression that some of what is regarded as biases are really just a natural consequence of the scientific process. We don’t get the “right” answer straight away and it’s important to publish results that may later turn out to be “wrong” (or not quite right). It’s part of how our understanding evolves. Of course, the studies should also include a discussion of possible issue with what’s been published, but most do.

  5. What about “Seepage” and the biases that are forced by strategic campaigns of misinformation?

  6. citizenschallenge,
    I think “seepage” is a tricky issue because it’s not inherently bad for what scientists research to be influenced by what’s of public interest. I’m, however, not quite sure what you mean by “biases that are forced by strategic campaigns of misinformation”.

  7. izen says:

    @-” I’m, however, not quite sure what you mean by “biases that are forced by strategic campaigns of misinformation”.”

    Prime example of strategically generated seepage.

    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n3/full/nclimate2938.html
    “It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.”

  8. izen,
    I think most climate scientists recognise that the warming in the early 21st century was slower than was expected (based on climate models). Some of the terminology is possibly problematic (pause/hiatus when it didn’t really pause) but it still seemed an interesting thing to look it. Of course, it’s been over-hyped by some who want to pretend that it indicates some major challenge to our understanding of AGW and how it’s been discussed hasn’t been consistent (is it relative to previous surface temperature trends, or relative to what models suggested, and it’s not always been made clear that it refers to surface temperatures only). However, I don’t see any real problem with researchers trying to understand it.

  9. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Do we tend to focus on the trees (eg., scientific bias) in the forest of manmade climate change because the forest is so daunting?

  10. Willard says:

    Contrarians’ reactions to Ioannidis’ class illustrate the bias very well.

    How the notion of bias is misrepresented in ClimateBall too.

  11. JH,
    I think done focus on it because they study scientists and the scientific process. Others because it provides a possible reason to undermine the scientific evidence.

  12. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: I understand.

    I was just venting a general frustration about how easy it is for us (myself Included), to collectively and individually focus on the trees and not the forest. As we all know, manmade climate change is rapidly spinning out of control relative to mankind’s ability to mitigate and adapt. I genuinely fear that my children and grandchildren are facing a future global environment of hell and high water.

    No matter how we slice and dice the staggering challenge we face, time is not on our side.

  13. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    I agree that the rate of warming, or the distribution between land, sea and air of the energy accumulating from a rising forcing (T.E. would quibble about the second derivative!) is a matter of scientific interest. How that interest, and research is reported and framed has been shaped by seepage. The result is what can look like reasonable scientific language, but because of a carefully established misleading context that language can be parsed in general terms that confirm the misinformation.

    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/elevator-pitch-to-coauthors-fyfe2016.html
    Has a characteristically trenchant breakdown of the Fyfe paper, and I expect Willard could analyse is more elegantly, but as anyone who has encountered natural language programming, LISP or linguistics will recognise there are standard ways in which the brain derives meaning from declarative statements.
    So taking the first two sentences of the Fyfe paper abstract –

    It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.

    – Remove the duplicate descriptors and qualifiers to get the core meaning.

    It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown – is unsupported by observations.
    The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.

    In science refuting a hypothesis is not automatically considered to imply the opposite is True. But in general discourse this is rhetorical trope, a litotes. We often intend to strongly imply our positive beliefs by repudiating its converse. So the derived meaning is –

    The evidence presented here -supports- the early-2000s global warming slowdown.

    Scientifically informed reading will allow the fact it was part of the surface that exhibited a slowdown, not all global warming, and that the underlying dispute is about statistical methodology as much as anything.
    But in general discourse the take-away is another ‘nail in the coffin’ of the AGW cumulative trend theory because of the strategically generated contextual bias from the ‘No warming since… crowd.

  14. izen,

    But in general discourse the take-away is another ‘nail in the coffin’ of the AGW cumulative trend theory because of the strategically generated contextual bias from the ‘No warming since… crowd.

    This is an interesting issue, because I think there are some in the scientific community who think that they shouldn’t care about how what they write will be represented publicly (if others are going to misrepresent it, then there’s nothing they can do) and others who think we should be careful about how we present our research. I’m in the latter camp; if there is a way to present results that is still consistent with the analysis, but that would make it more diffult to misrepresent, then we should try to take this into account.

  15. Joshua says:

    izen –

    =={ The result is what can look like reasonable scientific language, but because of a carefully established misleading context that language can be parsed in general terms that confirm the misinformation. }==

    If I wanted to write an abstract to inflame and exaggerate controversy around the relatively short term slowdown in the longer-term rate of warming excluding OHC and considering SATs only, , then I might write it in the fashion that abstract was written.

    It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming, has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims.

    Whaaa?

    “It has been claimed…”?

    Claimed by who? Monckton? Anthony? Judith? Lamar? What are those claims, exactly?

    “…has been overstated…”?

    Overstated by who? What did they say that was claimed to be an overstatement? What was the qualifications of how the accusation of overstatement was quantified and qualified?

    “…lacks sound scientific basis…?

    What was the justification offered for how these “overstated claims” lacked scientific basis?

    …and on and on..

    Of course, it may well be that the details are all laid out in the introduction of the paper, and in being an abstract, it would be unfair to expect a lot of specificity….but that abstract is, IMO, pretty poor as a scientific treatment of controversy. It seems to me to be gratuitously provocative. I don’t think it is merely a problem of scientific language that could be misinterpreted. It seems to me like sloppy syntax.

  16. JCH says:

    One of the scientists who took Fyfe and ran it up the flagpole, so Lamar Smith could wave it too, and one of the co-authors of the Fyfe paper square off in congress this week.

  17. Chris says:

    citzenchallenge and Izen re:

    “@-” I’m, however, not quite sure what you mean by “biases that are forced by strategic campaigns of misinformation”.

    Prime example of strategically generated seepage.”

    In what sense is Fyfe et al. “seepage”? Fyfe et al is a straightforward analysis of an observation that surface warming didn’t increase very much in the first decade and a bit more, of the 21st century (Cowtan and Way, cited in the paper, notwithstanding). It’s an example of scientists exploring a phenomenon in the natural world to increase understanding:

    “Our goal here is to move beyond purely statistical aspects of the slowdown, and to focus instead on improving process understanding and assessing whether the observed trends are consistent with our expectations based on climate models.”

    That the paper may have been misused and misrepresented is unfortunate. But one can’t expect scientists not to analyze things that are calling out for analysis simply because one doesn’t like the implications, or the possibility that the work might be misrepresented. If scientists filtered their research plans in that way, that would be bias.

  18. izen says:

    I am tempted to agree. But as Willard has pointed out before attributing motive or reasons to a text is problematic. Is Fyfe TRYING to be provocative, or merely(?) a ‘sloppy’ writer…
    It is easier and safer to describe the practical effects of the text than try to divine what meaning the author(s) intended or why.

    But I am suggesting that whatever the reasons or motives the abstract was written that way, it IS a reaction to the “No Warming since…’ manufactured context.
    Seepage.

  19. Chris says:

    Joshua:

    “Of course, it may well be that the details are all laid out in the introduction of the paper”

    Yup, spot on (in the Introduction and elsewhere in the paper).

    I agree with you that the abstract is somewhat blunt and might be seen as provocative. But the abstract seems to me to be justified by the data and analyses presented in the paper. Should scientists bias their presentations to take into account the possibilities for misrepresentation?… should published papers now accommodate a notion that the authors are not addressing broadly like-minded individuals with an interest in understanding the natural world (and in this case our potential for perturbing natural systems)?

  20. izen says:

    last post was a reply to Joshua – “It seems to me to be gratuitously provocative. I don’t think it is merely a problem of scientific language that could be misinterpreted. It seems to me like sloppy syntax.”

    But it seems to work for JCH and CHRIS too!

  21. Chris says:

    izen I suspect that Fyfe et al (not just Fyfe, there are 11 authors who agreed on the presentation of the paper) were being somewhat provocative.

    Perhaps we’re seeing an interesting clash of modern cultural imperatives. Much as Ioannides chose a disgraceful and unjustifiable title for his paper (“Why most published research findings are false”), in the interests, most likely, of self-promotion, so Fyfe et al. chose a rather trenchant abstract. All scientists are unfortunately nowadays under a certain pressure to “big-up” the relevance of their work. In a world where the substance of the data and its interpretations are properly addressed this might not matter so much. Perhaps (one has to be careful addressing motives) Fyfe considered they were speaking meaningfully to fellow scientists and let their guard slip a little in relation to the possibilities for misrepresentation.

  22. izen says:

    @-Chris
    “…should published papers now accommodate a notion that the authors are not addressing broadly like-minded individuals with an interest in understanding the natural world (and in this case our potential for perturbing natural systems)?”

    No, they should avoid such foolishness.
    Especially when it involves, as made clear in the first sentences of the abstract, that they are addressing the claims and counter-claims seeping in from a fake controversy manufactured by the claim that – ‘No warming since…’ faction.
    Unless you think Viscount Monckton may be one of the “broadly like-minded individuals with an interest in understanding the natural world”

  23. Chris says:

    Izen, it works for me since I’ve read the paper as well as the abstract (and thanks for the CAPITALIZATION of my name!). .

    Perhaps you need to define what you mean by “seepage”. The analyses that Fyfe et al. partially contradict are in papers published in the scientific literature, including, for example, references 4, 8 and 9:

    4. Karl, T. R. et al. Science 348, 1469–1472 (2015).
    8. Lewandowsky, S., Risbey, J. S. & Oreskes, N. Sci. Rep. 5, 16784 (2015).
    9. Rajaratnam, B., Romano, J., Tsiang, M. & Diffenbaugh, N. S. Climatic Change 133, 129–140 (2015).

    People publish stuff and interpretations in the scientific literature (res 4, 8, and 9, for example). Fyfe et al. do an analysis and come to a different interpretation.

    That’s science isn’t it??? where’s this so-called “seepage”?

  24. Chris says:

    izen, is it not you that is exhibiting bias here? You’re addressing what is (to my mind) a straightforward scientific mini-disagreement through a filter of factionalization. What has “Viscount Monckton” got to do with this? If I look at the surface temperature record:

    https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/

    or:

    there’s a rather significant period in the early 21st century where surface temperatures didn’t increase rather much. Are scientists supposed to bias their research, pretend this didn’t happen, and avoid studying it so as not to disturb some sensibilities about the dismal contributions of a bunch of science misrepresenters?

  25. Chris says:

    OK, well I didn’t expect the Hadcrut temperature record to be displayed in all its glory! thought I was just posting a link to it…

  26. The problem was not with the technical information!
    The problem was in how it was presented. Seepage was evident in the repetitive use of seepage – well, can someone explain why “hiatus” was used 13 times, when hiatus means stopped and nothing stopped?
    (izen at March 26, 2017 – 4:13 pm – thanks for noticing it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just posting to myself. http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/elevator-pitch-to-coauthors-fyfe2016.html)

    Clarify the process so people can ‘appreciate’ what you’re talking about.
    ______________________
    Regarding the Big Hiatus
    Sulfate aerosols reflected the sun’s energy back into space before it had the opportunity to be converted into the infrared energy that fuels our climate system. >>>Thus a cooling trend in the GMST and the global system.
    The little Faux Hiatus
    The heat was moved into the oceans where ~90% of our climate system’s heat resides, thus it was absorbed into the global climate system – even if not registering in the GMST estimate.
    ______________________
    What was the point in going after Lewandowsky’s paper – and worst, not acknowledging the massive strategic disinformation campaign surrounding the recent faux hiatus and how the faux hiatus has been artificially hyper-inflated with a significance it does not warrant?
    ______________________
    Fyfe2016 ¶18 “Superimposed on this forced anthropogenic response are small signals of solar irradiance changes, cooling and recovery from volcanic eruptions and internal variability.”
    A standout sentence. Build on to it. Internal variability, that is various vectors of heat transport.
    > Come up with some illustrative paragraphs that convey the notion of our dynamic global heat/moisture distribution engine, rather than showing up with a list.
    ______________________
    For leaders and policy makers, scientists should be making crystal clear that the deviation was trivial and inconsequential compared to our understanding of the climate system’s response to increasing the planet’s “atmospheric insulation regulator” GHGs, instead Fyfe paper fills their heads with “hiatus” and more excuses.
    ______________________________________________
    Why was the introduction to Fyfe et al. 2016 so confusing?
    “It has been claimed that the early-2000s global warming (b) slowdown or hiatus (a)(e), characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming (c), has been overstated, lacks sound scientific basis, or is unsupported by observations. The evidence presented here contradicts these claims (d).”
    _______________________________________________________

    Why the labyrinthian phrasing? Simplify wording. Clarify meaning.

    (a) Creates a false equivalence between “slowdown” and “hiatus” – hiatus means STOPPED! Warming never stopped!

    (b) Creates a false equivalence between “global warming” and “global mean surface temperatures.”

    (c) Furthermore: “early-2000s global warming slowdown or hiatus, characterized by a reduced rate of global surface warming” – implies “surface” warming slowdown is a symptom of a “global” warming slowdown.

    (d) “Evidence presented here contradicts these claims.” One could easily conclude this is saying: the “hiatus” (that is global warming stopping) is not contradicted,

    … which is exactly what the contrarian PR machine was hoping they could twist any science into. Why make it so easy?

    (e) Why even use the politically charged term “hiatus” beyond a footnote? What possible purpose does it serve other than to fatally wound clarity and invite gross misinterpretation?

    This paper seems to me a textbook example of “seepage” in action. Namely, unconsciously adapting the contrarian’s script.

  27. I do it every time :-(. – sorry ” Seepage was evident in the repetitive use of “Hiatus” !!! …

  28. Chris says:

    citizenscience, I don’t think that can be right. As I indicated just above

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/bias-in-science/#comment-93376

    Fyfe et al. are addressing interpretations published in the scientific literature. It’s a scientific analysis addressing a rather minor difference in scientific interpretation. They used the term “hiatus” 13 time since the subject of their paper is the temporary slowdown in surface temperature increase in the first ~13-14 years of the 21st century. They used the term hiatus since it encompasses the phenomenon quite well (hiatus- “a pause or break in continuity in a sequence or activity”). If “X” is the topic of your paper you’re very likely to use the term “X” rather often in your paper!

    Otherwise quite a lot of your long post seems to be a reinterpretation of statements in Fyfe et al. to match a rather factionalized point of view. Why not just read Fyfe et al and let their words say what they mean without attempting to twist them into your chosen narrative. That is bias!

  29. Chris says:

    citizenschallenge (not “citizenscience”…sorry!), I might add the question why you have decided you can make an executive decision about the meaning of “hiatus”? (“well, can someone explain why “hiatus” was used 13 times, when hiatus means stopped….”)?

    That’s not how Fyfe et al use the term. The refer to the hiatus as “a slowdown”. They say “The observed rate of global surface warming since the turn of this century has been considerably less than the average simulated rate.”.

    Do you think that phenomenon are entirely defined by the words we use to describe them? Might it not make some sense to read what the paper says rather than base your argument on a semantic interpretation of the meaning of particular words even when the authors have rather clearly defined what they mean by the usage of a particular word?

  30. izen says:

    @-citizenschallenge
    “This paper seems to me a textbook example of “seepage” in action. Namely, unconsciously adapting the contrarian’s script.”

    It is usually futile to deduce the mental state of the writer, or the level of conscious intent behind the text.
    However I doubt the adoption of the terms and framing of the issue as one of a Hiatus, slow-down or pause is unconscious. I strongly suspect that this paper, as with the papers it cites (Karl, Lewandowsky, Rajaratnam) are intentionally REACTING to the widespread framing of a pause, hiatus… slowdown.
    In response to Chris, that is where Monckton, Christy, Curry and of course Humlum become relevant.
    While the technical details of the Fyfe paper may be scientifically ‘clean’ I think the language used was intended, consciously, as a response to the prevailing manufactured trope of – ‘No Warming Since…’
    Seepage.

    The irony is that it was published in the beginning of a year that rather renders the whole argument moot.

  31. BBD says:

    Ah well, Chris, you know the score. The deniers, sorry, contrarians made such a song and dance about the slowdown in the rater of surface warming you’d think that they’d uncovered a massive bias in climate science. You know, an alarmist, warmist bias.

    And after a while people started to get defensive about this (not to mention some very shaky arguments about climate sensitivity based on a decade of tropospheric temps). And now here we are, polarised and scrapping among ourselves while a sizeable chunk of the public is no doubt more confused than ever.

  32. Chris says:

    “In response to Chris, that is where Monckton, Christy, Curry and of course Humlum become relevant.”

    OK so scientists should bias their analyses and presentations to accommodate science misrepresenters? Would have thought Monckton was entirely irrelevant btw, but perhaps the more we introduce him into topics where he has no relevance the more relevant he becomes [*].

    [*]brings to mind the very nice poem by C. P. Cavafy:

    Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
    (How serious people’s faces have become.)
    Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
    everyone going home so lost in thought?

    Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
    And some who have just returned from the border say
    there are no barbarians any longer.

    And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
    They were, those people, a kind of solution.

  33. BBD says:

    There are barbarians, Chris. Really, there are.

  34. Chris says:

    yes I totally agree BBD. In that light I quite like the paper by Fyfe et al since they basically just said it like they saw it. They didn’t pander to any particular faction (except maybe to their own vanity a little as we all do [Ecclesiastes, since I’m in a literary mood]).

    In my opinion an unbiased presentation of scientific evidence is what’s got the best chance of addressing difficult and controversial issues. If it’s misrepresented or twisted then that’s too bad. Not sure what the answer is but hopefully at some point realities will start to impact on public opinion…

  35. Chris says:

    bbd I also agree that there really are barbarians!

  36. In my opinion an unbiased presentation of scientific evidence is what’s got the best chance of addressing difficult and controversial issues.

    Indeed, but I do think that people should consider trying to write in a way that is less likely to be misrepresented (or makes it harder to do so) and that doesn’t change what’s being presented. Of course, it’s probably impossible to avoid completely, so shouldn’t strongly influence how it’s presented, but I can’t think of any reason not to at least be aware of this.

  37. izen says:

    @-Chris
    thanks for the C. P. Cavafy.
    He is echoing C S Lewis I suspect.
    The warning that if we claim there IS a terrible outside danger, when that belief is false, (barbarians at the gate, catastrophic climate change, satanic abuse in the pizza joint) we are faced with the subsidence of the moral high ground we thought we stood on.

    there is a bias to be guarded against in framing AGW as existentially catastrophic. There are worse threats to human civilisation. Or at least far more alarmist ones.!
    But there is a bias in framing AGW as a hoax perpetrated by nazi eco-fascists (Monckton) China, (Trump) ,or Richard Strong (Balls!). As reality overwhelms their imaginary climate conspiracy, will they admit to error?

    I have considerably more confidence in the ability of one ‘side’ on this issue to adapt to changing information than the other.

  38. Chris says:

    “Indeed, but I do think that people should consider trying to write in a way that is less likely to be misrepresented (or makes it harder to do so) and that doesn’t change what’s being presented.”

    Yes possibly, but that seems like a probably unfulfillable burden. Surely scientists should strive to write such that their words convey the meaning the intend. If there are individuals determined to misrepresent them then misrepresentation is going to happen, and there’s probably not much one can do about it.

    It’s interesting that your general post about bias has crystallised around a paper which seems to me to be an example of (what in any other context would be) a rather unbiased analyses… in this case of what is undeniably a slowdown in global surface warming in the early decade and a bit of the 21st century (see Hadcrut record in post above).

    Incidentally, I wonder whether Fyfe and Mann and Santer et al. have got a little fed up of factionalised points of view and the possibilities for misinterpretation and chosen to simply put their interpretations on the line [but we shouldn’t attempt to assign motives]?

  39. Mal Adapted says:

    OP, quoting Fanelli et al. :

    [t]he ratio of studies concluding in favor vs. against a tested hypothesis increases, moving from the physical, to the biological and to the social sciences,

    IMHO, this is the key distinction that doesn’t get made in response to “some science is biased, so climate science is biased” claims by motivated AGW deniers. Climate science is almost exclusively physical science, the same kind of science that tells a petroleum producer where to drill for oil or gas.

    Relative to the social sciences, climate-science data are empirically “harder”, making inter-subjective verification more stable. The data are easily “audited”, having the form of relatively precise quantitative measurements with known rates of observational error rates and clear chains of custody, of physical phenomena (called “weather” for the most part) anyone can observe independently. The statistical calculations that show trends are performed by standard, well-debugged algorithms, also readily audited.

    Now: for the non-scientifically-trained public, “bias” means “personal emotional preference for particular outcomes”. In reality, even an undisciplined climate scientist would have difficulty skewing results in favor of a personal preference. Nor is it plausible that any such bias in individual investigators will not be detected and squashed by the peer community for that sub-discipline, because they all share the same personal emotional preference.

    Alas, as far as the non-scientifically-trained public is concerned, climate science is no less rife with bias than economics is [ducks erasers thrown by lurking economists]. In the public eye, Mike Mann’s lawsuit could very well be about suppressing “scientific debate” and evidence of bias on his part, when it’s actually about malicious accusations by the well-funded AGW-Denial industry, against a designated victim under the Serengeti strategy.

  40. Chris,

    Yes possibly, but that seems like a probably unfulfillable burden. Surely scientists should strive to write such that their words convey the meaning the intend.

    Ultimately, yes, this should be the key determining factor.

    Incidentally, I wonder whether Fyfe and Mann and Santer et al. have got a little fed up of factionalised points of view and the possibilities for misinterpretation and chosen to simply put their interpretations on the line [but we shouldn’t attempt to assign motives]?

    Possibly, and it’s not as if they’re not well aware of how what they write can be mis-interpreted. Who am I to question what they ultimately decided to write 😉

  41. Chris says:

    “In reality, even an undisciplined climate scientist would have difficulty skewing results in favor of a personal preference.

    hmmmm… how about Lindzen and Choi (2009) addressed here:

    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/staff/trenbert/trenberth.papers/TFOW_LC_GRL2010_GL042314.pdf

    or: Chylek and Lohmann (2008) addressed here:

    http://www.clim-past.net/5/143/2009/

    Quite a few examples from the nether regions of climate science. However these are mostly winkled out and addressed in post-pub peer review as these examples. Science is quite good at dealing with significant bias even if the bias may impact on public perceptions…

  42. russellseitz says:

    Given a :

    significant risk of small, early, and highly cited studies to overestimate effectsl

    those bent on front-loading public polocy controversy with scary results would be remiss not to both aim high at flagship publications for initial and review article publication, and in exerting themselves to both find co-authors and achieve office in the organizations that publish them.

  43. BBD says:

    You’re not suggesting a conspiracy of some kind?

  44. Let’s say:
    We measured X to be 4 with a confidence interval of 0 to 10.
    We measured Y to be 6 with a confidence interval of 0 to 10.

    I can understand when an innocent person says that Y is larger than X.

    I would expect a well-trained scientist to say: we cannot tell.

    (I would expect a climate “sceptic” to at least pretend to be an innocent person.)

  45. John Hartz says:

    BBD: You wrote:

    And now here we are, polarised and scrapping among ourselves while a sizeable chunk of the public is no doubt more confused than ever.

    I’m not convinced that all of the time and energy expended on comment threads has much of an impact on how climate science and climate scientists are perceived by the general public.

  46. Mal Adapted says:

    Now, when pseudo-skeptics assert that the lopsided consensus of working climate scientists on anthropogenic global warming is “biased”, there are a couple of alleged motives. One is financial: scientists are only initforthegold, and they’ll get more grant money as long as they continue to show warming. It’s not clear whether all, or only some, climate scientists are doing this.

    Another alleged bias is political: the consensus is skewed by an emotional antipathy, shared by all members of the climate science community, against “freedom”, leading to a shared tendency to find warming where none exists so as to justify repressive government intervention. IOW, climate scientists are collectively perpetrating a hoax launched 190 years ago, with remarkable forethought, and enlisting thousands of trained, disciplined free-thinkers around the world through the present day, for the sake of a collectivist ideology.

    In either case, the data presented by the conspiracists aren’t very hard at all, and verification is inter-subjectively unstable. Yet somehow Donald Trump is now POTUS.

  47. John Hartz says:

    The following caught my eye and bears upon this discussion…

    Science, more than many fields, feeds on a collaborative spirit. Former staffers from President Barack Obama’s science office have taken this to heart: They are fanning out, finding jobs in academia, at nonprofits and elsewhere, but they continue to work together, largely behind the scenes. This science diaspora, as one former staffer called it, is ready to both push forward on the ambitious science-related agendas of the previous administration, and to defend against the attacks on science emanating from the new White House.

    “There was a pretty explicit sense of community-building as people walked out the door,” said Kumar Garg, who served as a senior adviser inside Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). “People have this really strong sense of mission that they want to carry forward.”

    Obama’s science diaspora prepares for a fight by Dave Levitan, Speaking of Science, Washington Post, March 24, 2017

  48. Mal Adapted says:

    John Hartz:

    [former Obama science staffers] push forward on the ambitious science-related agendas of the previous administration, and to defend against the attacks on science emanating from the new White House.

    That’s personally gratifying to me 8^D! I’m confident the “ambitious science-related agendas” don’t hinge on engineered evidence for AGW.

  49. Mal Adapted says:

    Chris, on the relative difficulty of biasing results in climate science:

    Quite a few examples from the nether regions of climate science. However these are mostly winkled out and addressed in post-pub peer review as these examples. Science is quite good at dealing with significant bias even if the bias may impact on public perceptions…

    What I’m sayin’.

  50. Ken Fabian says:

    It seems obvious to me that terminology does influence perceptions and poorly chosen terminology does lead to misunderstandings, especially, but not only for those outside a specialty. If it’s a matter of scientific curiosity without policy implications – eg in evolutionary anthropology to refer to “hairlessness” in humans when hairs are present but just small in size or “functionally hairless” when hairs don’t function as insulation but are still fully functional as the “principle anatomical unit of cutaneous sensibility” – then popular misunderstanding arising from misleading terminology (“humans are mostly hairless” and “body hair is functionless”) are not going to have any great worldly impact. Those (probably very few) academics and scientists working on related matters ought to know what the terms really mean, although I suspect some have fallen into error as a consequence of this less than best terminology. Climate change, on the other hand, is something of great every day significance and misunderstandings are having serious life and death consequences, leading to mistakes that are effectively irreversible.

    For better or worse the global average surface temperature has become the standard metric used to inform the public and policy makers about the existence, extent and progression of climate change. As such it must be used with care. Even if the terms “pause” or “hiatus” are well defined within publications using them that broader usage make it almost inevitable that they would be (mis)taken as indicating global warming itself had stopped or paused and leave many laypeople with the impression it is a phenomena that comes and goes over relatively short periods. I would hope for better attention to detail from policy makers – and be disappointed; a significant number, given the appalling politicking, would (and did) seize on it with relish. I suspect it’s true that regardless of terminology the political resistance to accepting climate responsibility would continue but I think much misunderstanding and unwanted, distracting, time wasting and policy impeding public debate could have been avoided with better choice of terminology that embodies as much clarity as can be achieved, with awareness of wider usage.

  51. Chris says: March 26, 2017 at 7:00 pm – “I might add the question why you have decided you can make an executive decision about the meaning of “hiatus”?”

    When I look up “hiatus” in the dictionary, I find: “a pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process.” ~~~
    Was there a gap or pause in our atmosphere’s radiative properties?
    Did access heat continue accumulating within our global climate system?
    Did global temperature records continue breaking, right on through today?

  52. Chris says: March 26, 2017 at 7:00 pm
    “Do you think that phenomenon are entirely defined by the words we use to describe them? Might it not make some sense to read what the paper says rather than base your argument on a semantic interpretation of the meaning of particular words even when the authors have rather clearly defined what they mean by the usage of a particular word?” ~~~

    I did read the whole paper and it knocked me on ass. Since that first complete reading I’ve read it a number times struggling to understand why it came across so hideously even though a couple of my scientific heroes were co-authors. I made it clear that I was reading it as a non-scientist, but that my unschooled impression deserves to be taken serious for a moment.

    All one needs do is google a few relevant search terms to see what kind of craziness is being claimed about the Fyfe paper – to know something went terribly wrong with it.
    ————————————————
    izen says:
    March 26, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    “@-citizenschallenge – This paper seems to me a textbook example of “seepage” in action. Namely, unconsciously adapting the contrarian’s script.”

    It is usually futile to deduce the mental state of the writer, or the level of conscious intent behind the text.” ~~~

    Agreed. Yet, step back and consider how much time and energy has been focused on this tiny irrelevant blip in surface temperatures or the barely discernible differences in various global temperature sets.

    Then compare that with how much time and energy has been focused on addressing the impact of our transitioning weather systems, you know disruptive weather increases, cyrosphere’s accelerating meltdown, sea level rise impacts and implications and so on?

    I been all over the internet reading articles and comments sections and I’m gobsmacked at how people can be looking at that graph (. https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/noaa_temp_update1-1280×551.png ) and obsess over Karl 2015’s adjustments – all the while seemingly blind to the overall curve. Now that’s seepage in action.

    Seepage is the ability to do that to what should have been a rational and constructive public dialogue.

    —————————————————————

    Chris says: March 26, 2017 at 7:42 pm
    “If there are individuals determined to misrepresent them then misrepresentation is going to happen, and there’s probably not much one can do about it.” ~~~

    I’ve been watching this show for decades and it’s that sort of apathy towards publicizing the scientific message that got “us” into such a communication mess to begin with. (Well I guess allowing businesses to get bigger than god didn’t help anything.)

    Anticipate your audience. Write better, clearer, use succinct sentences, structure the progression of your argument with some narrative strength. Accept and learn from critique, rather than smug dismissal.

  53. Leto says:

    I’m with citizenschallenge on this one. The introduction to Fyfe was appallingly messy, and seems unlikely to have been written without the influence of seepage from contrarians.

    Even if there was a slowdown in surface temperature rise (rather than noise about a trend), there is absolutely no evidence that this represented any sort of pause in the phenomenon of excess heat-trapping due to CO2 that is popularly known as “global warming”. Nearly everyone here knows that surface temperature is characterised by surface variability superimposed on a continued unbroken accumulation of excess heat due to a continuous unbroken excess of greenhouse gases. The idea that the surface temperature rise was supposed to be monotonic was a strawman to begin with.

    Apart from the unnecessary ambiguities in Fyfe, there is a strong and misleading suggestion that surface temperature rise is a straightforward surrogate for global warming.

  54. chris says:

    citizenschallenge:

    ” Seepage was evident in the repetitive use of seepage – well, can someone explain why “hiatus” was used 13 times, when hiatus means stopped and nothing stopped?

    “When I look up “hiatus” in the dictionary, I find: “a pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process.”

    Fine but Fyfe et al are very clear about what they mean. They use “slowdown” in the title of the paper and throughout, and only refer to the term “hiatus” because it’s been used in the literature “.. the so-called surface warming slowdown, also sometimes referred to in the literature as the hiatus…”

    If you actually address the words and meaning in Fyfe et al they in fact use “slowdown” throughout (48 times), and of your complained 13 uses of “hiatus” 9 of them are in the phrase “big hiatus” which refers to the cessation of surface warming in the period approx 1950-1970. It really does help to read the paper.

    On the other hand Lewandowsky et al in their 2016 Scientific Reports paper used the term “hiatus” 118 times 🙂 .

    Anyway as any careful authors do, Fyfe et al could hardly be clearer about what they mean:

    e.g. “A warming slowdown is thus clear in observations; it is also clear that it has been a ‘slowdown’, not a ‘stop’.”

    So why pretend that their use of “hiatus” (which they don’t really use at all other than to point out that others have used the term), means something that they very clearly say it doesn’t mean?

    I read Fyfe et al and find a very interesting and valuable paper that addresses carefully the physical processes behind a much-discussed slowing in the progression of global surface warming in the early 21st century. This kind of work is essential to understanding the temporal response to anthropogenic global warming and will make us much better prepared the next time we have a significant slowdown in surface warming.

  55. chris says:

    citizenschallenge, just to emphasise the blindingly obvious fact from reading the paper that Fyfe et al don’t use the term “hiatus” to describe the slowdown (they use “slowdown”!), here are the other places where the term “hiatus” is used (remember that of the 13 uses that you complained about one was to point out that some people have used the term “hiatus” in the literature and 9 were in reference to the “big hiatus” of 1950-1970ish). Here’s the rest:

    “A point of agreement we have with Lewandowsky et al.26 concerns the unfortunate way in which the recent changes have been framed in terms of GMST having “’stalled’, ‘stopped’, ‘paused’, or entered a ‘hiatus’”. Just exactly how such changes should be referred to is open to debate. Possible choices include ‘reduced rate of warming’, ‘decadal fluctuation’ or ‘temporary slowdown’ — all try to convey the primary mechanism involved, which in the recent example is likely to be internal decadal variability.

    The warming slowdown as a statistically robust phenomenon has also been questioned. Recent studies have assessed whether or not trends during the slowdown are statistically different from trends over some earlier period. These investigations have led to statements such as “further evidence against the notion of a recent warming hiatus”4 or “claims of a hiatus in global warming lack sound scientific basis”9.

    it seems to me that efforts to misrepresent scientific papers can come from all sides… Far better read scientific papers carefully, and judge them on their scientific merits. It would be a shame if you develop a tarnished view of a couple of your “scientific heroes” through misinterpreting what is a pretty careful, interesting and valuable analysis!

  56. Sorry but nothing about that paper was blindingly obvious – have you tried those google searches?

    To repeat I’ve read every sentence of that report a number of times, have the homework to prove it: “Fyfe et al. 2016: stamp collecting vs informing and clarifying. Examining a failure to communicate
    … and a question of perspective.
    Alternately, Behold Seepage in Action.”
    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2017/03/fyfe2016-stampcollecting-vs-informing.html
    That’s the full student version that was my prequel to the ‘elevator pitch.’

    Fyfe was a sloppy summation of new research finding and the verbiage got lost in the “map” – and never made the connection to the real world – that, I believe should have been it’s goal – particularly since they knew politicians and right-wing media would be using and misusing their paper – {claiming this was a technical paper for scientist’s eyes is disingenuous at best.}

    To be honest I don’t even like the term “slow-down” – what slowed down? Near as I can figure, it was the estimated measurements of global surface temperatures and normal fluctuations. Which have not insignificant uncertainties. The Fyfe paper tried to explain how many of these uncertainties have been whittled away at, but also pointed out some significant uncertainties remained (such as, ¶7 “… However, the flow of heat in these and other ocean basins (including the tropical Pacific) remains poorly constrained by measurements. “).

    Why are we talking about global warming slow down – when the issue has more to do with learning curve and tracking heat moving around the global climate system than anything else – (which seems to me is the message buried within Fyfe 2016)? Have you checked up on current surface temperatures?

    PS. Speaking for myself and a little philosophy, in my life I’ve always found it best to allow critique to soak in even if I disagree with it, since I’ve always learned from the exercise. Chris this was not a mean spirited review. The state of the public dialogue is ample proof that, scientists have been failing to communicate.

  57. The state of the public dialogue is ample proof that, scientists have been failing to communicate.

    A couple of comments. I think that one has to bear in mind that the state of the public dialogue may not (probably isn’t) be because scientists have been failing to communicate, but is more because of the large amount of misinformation that is much easier to present (and can sound much more convincing) than the science, which is typically correctly presented with caveats and can be quite complex. The paper we’re discussing also includes as authors at least three people who have done an awful lot of work to try and publicly communicate climate science (Mann, Santer, Hawkins), so I think we should be a little careful of criticising their attempts at science communication.

  58. John Hartz says:

    CC: You state:

    Fyfe was a sloppy summation of new research finding and the verbiage got lost in the “map” – and never made the connection to the real world – that, I believe should have been it’s goal – particularly since they knew politicians and right-wing media would be using and misusing their paper – {claiming this was a technical paper for scientist’s eyes is disingenuous at best.}:

    You are dead wrong! The primary audince for scientific papers are scientists, not policy maker, pundits, or the genral public. No one can control how others interperet, twist, or otherwise mangle what they say or write.

  59. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: I concur.

  60. izen says:

    Breaking the injunction against mind-reading;
    I think Fyfe et al was an attempt at trolling. A deliberately ambiguous opening that could be taken as supporting the ‘No Warming’ crowd as click-bait, and then a paper that reveals that it is a mountain out of a molehill.
    It made the mistake that if you repeat your opponents lies in trying to refute them, you have also doubled the public exposure to them.

    Can anyone suggest other examples of bias, from any reason, causing significant distortion of policy choices because of the flaws in the scientific advice? There are some obvious ones in the field of medicine, but most seem driven by economic motives. Is there any examples past or present, close to the bias or group-think concept that seems to be behind the accusations of ‘thumb on the scales’ and ‘Hokey Shtick’?

  61. John Hartz says:

    In the U.S., we would call the current discussion about the merits of Fyfe “Monday Morning Quaterbacking.” Perhaps ATTP should invite one or more of the paper’s authors to weigh in on this discussion. Personally, I prefer to hear what the onfiield quaterback has to say about the calls he made, rather than what the armchair quarterbacks have to say about those calls.

  62. Willard says:

    Come on, Izen. By that token just about any rhetorical device indicates trolling.

    Let’s embrace crappiness instead.

    ***

    Goose and gander, JH. Chill.

  63. Magma says:

    Right from its publication, I was surprised and disappointed that a paper co-authored by Mann and Santer would have been so careless or reckless with its wording. Both of those scientists know better than almost anyone commenting here how their own words and work is regularly misquoted, used out of context, or deliberately misunderstood.

    In such cases I think, personally, that it is better to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’, even at the expense of making a paper a little heavier, a little less readable and a little less topical. What may work very well in a conference or discussion with peers may not be so in print.

    This feeds in to some extent my feeling, shared by Tamino, among others, that too many scientists lacked the strength of their statistical convictions and rushed to come up with ad hoc mechanisms to explain away short-term natural variations (‘noise’) that didn’t need to be explained away.

  64. chris says: March 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    …“hiatus” because it’s been used in the literature “.. the so-called surface warming slowdown, also sometimes referred to in the literature as the hiatus…”
    If you actually address the words and meaning in Fyfe et al they in fact use “slowdown” throughout (48 times), and of your complained 13 uses of “hiatus” 9 of them are in the phrase “big hiatus” which refers to the cessation of surface warming in the period approx 1950-1970. It really does help to read the paper.
    On the other hand Lewandowsky et al in their 2016 Scientific Reports paper used the term “hiatus” 118 times 🙂 .
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    I think you’ve made my point form me. Lewandowsky’s paper was specifically about looking at the manufacture manipulation of science. Earlier I’m told Fyfe 2015 was intended as a review of the science for scientists. But they seemed compelled to frame within the “faux hiatus meme,” why?

    Also earlier in this thread, I was reminded that “surface temperatures” have always been the standard by which media and people have framed the question of our warming.

    Consider the papers title was: “Making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown.” Shouldn’t they have addressed that misconception?

    It seems to me it was incumbent on the paper to go out of its way to clarify longstanding misunderstandings and to explain underlying reasons for the slight momentary ‘ “deceleration” in the rate of surface warming” ’ and that scientists know where most of that heat was going, Ocean along with some observation issues.

    Clearly explain that we now understand that 90% of our Heat and Moisture Distribution Engine is contained within the ocean. We also have a vastly improved understanding of the dauntingly varied and widespread dynamics that are moving heat throughout the engine.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~
    If you want to make sense you need to remind people that global warming is caused by our atmosphere’s ability to retain heat and that we are increasing that GHG insulation regular – something that didn’t change during the early 2000s.

    Make it crystal clear before even beginning the discussion about surface temperatures – that our atmosphere has continued retaining that heat within the global system.

    Last point, the claim that Fyfe et al 2016 was a technical paper intended for scientist is disingenuous – I say so because I was able to read all it’s sentences. I sure can’t do that with serious science papers intended for the scientific community – with those its intros, reading, glassing over, skimming for tidbits, reading tidbits, glassing over, racing to conclusions for whatever I can pick out of that. (I love science but I don’t kid myself. I’m no scientist, just a very interested and attentive observer.)
    ____________________
    Sorry that may have been a bit redundant, but I’m out of time to clean it up. Please excuse me.

  65. Sorry for being an uppity lay person. I honestly don’t mean any disrespect. I emailed both of my projects to the co-authors. From my elevator pitch I received three acknowledgements, though no feedback (I think caution atta-boy from one). From my above responses I would hope you recognize this isn’t just thoughtless ranting.

    Though, the way I see it perhaps it is high time for someone to start a little thoughtful screaming about this issue of not managing to convey a visceral image of our Global Heat and Moisture Distribution Engine.

    For me growth and learning has always been a ‘contact sport’ – sorry didn’t have time to read most the above comments. Will return later. Honestly, best wishes to us all.

  66. John Hartz says:

    CC: You are conflating what is written in a scientific paper with what is written about a scientific paper.

    If each and every scientific paper covered the gamut of key points about manmade climate change, they wouldn’t be papers. Rather they would be reports or text books.

    Science journalists who write about the findings contained in a scientific paper should provide context. Although they may quote directly from the paper, usually they inerview the lead author to provide a explanations that the general public will understand.

  67. Mal Adapted says:

    John Hartz:

    I’m not convinced that all of the time and energy expended on comment threads has much of an impact on how climate science and climate scientists are perceived by the general public.

    Upon inspection, you appear to have empirical support. OTOH, some of what I post on blogs also goes to my elected representatives, raising the next question of course. Even if I don’t post, I get useful information from the blogs I frequent. Lastly, if nothing else, posting gives me practice writing, especially re-writing 8^}.

  68. John Hartz says:

    Does anyone happen to know if the Fyfe paper was announced by press release?

  69. John Hartz says:

    Mal Adapted: I don’t disagree and you will note that my statment is qualified. 🙂

  70. John Hartz says:

    Mal Adapted: You wrote:

    In either case, the data presented by the conspiracists aren’t very hard at all, and verification is inter-subjectively unstable. Yet somehow Donald Trump is now POTUS.

    Much to my chagrin and others, climate change was not a key issue in the 2016 US Pesidential election, If it had been, the outcome may have been different.

  71. russellseitz says:

    BBD:

    No, BBD, Just running a lookback at how very many coauthors of very few papers end up winning executive offfice at the asssociations that published them.

    It is an edifying exercise that dates to the pre-internet days when the Editor of Sciene Technology and Human Values was driven to observe that :

    “Science is whatever Carl Sagan says on the Johnny Carson Show ,”

  72. John Hartz says:

    Out of curiousity…

    When a scientific paper is translated from one language to another, is the translation itself subject to peer review? If not, who determines whether or not the translation is objective and complete?

  73. Magma says:

    @ John Hartz

    I was unable to find a press release from any of the authors’ institutions, at the time or afterwards, but my search wasn’t exhaustive. On the other hand, publication was accompanied by a Nature News & Views article as well as a Chris Mooney article in the Washington Post the same day.

    Journal articles are rarely translated, at least in science. The few I have seen are German to English translations of early 20th century physics papers. I can’t see that any would be peer-reviewed a second time.

  74. John Hartz says:

    Magma:

    Thanks for researching the PR re the Fyfe paper.

    Re translations, who vets the translators to insure that their translations are accurate and unbiased? Perhaps advancements in AI (such as IBM’s Watson) preclude the need for human translators?

    Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t the Chinese now publishing scientific papers eminating from China in Chinese?

  75. BBD says:

    You really need to put the Sagan thing behind you, Russell. It’s unhealthy to dwell on it like this.

  76. Willard says:

    > [T]he claim that Fyfe et al 2016 was a technical paper intended for scientist is disingenuous – I say so because I was able to read all it’s sentences.

    I don’t think unreadability is a prerequisite for being technical. The fact remains that F16 has been published in the specialized lichurchur. Of course it was PRed too. So we can cut the pear in half and see that the paper had esoteric and exoteric components.

    This distinction seems to matter less than the one between “hiatus” and “the slowdown-formerly-known-as-hiatus,” which hints at the de re/de dicto distinction. It suffices to show that Lew’s concerns are a bit farfetched. I might be biased, for I think that he displays leechate:

    As Chris pointed out, the number of “slowdown” was way bigger than the number of “hiatus.” This needs to be acknowledged.

  77. Joshua says:

    Seems to me, more problematic than language than failing to clearly and uniformly distinguish between what might be interpreted by the terms “slowdown” and “hiatus” (i.e., the difference between “pause” or “end” and short-term reduction in a long-term trend) is failing to distinguish between what might be interpreted by the terms “global warming” and “SATS only, excluding OHC.”

    Either problem, IMO, reflects sloppiness…shouldn’t a scientist-writer be specific and clear? It isn’t only a matter of the writer’s responsibility in writer-responsible prose, IMO, it is also a matter of the specificity that the scientific method would require.

  78. Leto says:

    Magma wrote “This feeds in to some extent my feeling, shared by Tamino, among others, that too many scientists lacked the strength of their statistical convictions and rushed to come up with ad hoc mechanisms to explain away short-term natural variations (‘noise’) that didn’t need to be explained away.”

    I mostly agree with Tamino. But one man’s noise is another man’s signal, so I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to explain the wobbles in the surface temperature record that temporarily masked the trend of continued global warming.

    In addition to the underwhelming statistical properties of the faux pause, there is the more important issue that surface temperature measures things other than AGW. Even if the faux pause had been statistically significant, this would not make it a pause in the continued heat trapping due to CO2. The real problem, for me, has been the conceptual slippage between surface temperature rise (a flawed surrogate measure for the process of AGW) and the underlying phenomenon of AGW. This confusion was encouraged by denialists for obvious reasons and seeped into the scientific discussion. Fyfe et al didn’t do enough to distance itself from that confusion.

    I suspect most of the regular contributors here could have written that Fyfe intro in a way that more accurately reflected scientific reality. If we ran a competition, say, and ranked entries for clarity and accuracy, the actual intro would probably fair poorly.

  79. Magma says:

    @ Leto

    Re. your last paragraph, that could be a problem common to many multi-authored papers.

    Consider IPCC ARs as extreme examples. There are some key bullet points written in so opaque a manner I have to read them multiple times before I’m (sort of) sure what they mean.

    Rule #1: Key points must be clear, concise and correct

  80. John Hartz says:

    Magma: I was going to raise the same issue about the quaity of papers produced by committee. Having siad that, most of the peer-reviewed literature about climate science has multiple authors. For a given paper, Is the persons designated as the “lead author” the person who did most of the writing? How is the “lead author” of a paper determined? By vote of the authors? When is the “lead author” designated? At the beginning of the drafting process, or just prior to the submission of the draft to the publsher for peer review?

  81. Leto says:

    The convention in medical papers is that the first author did most of the work and wrote the paper, the last author is their supervisor, and may recall the title with suitable prompting, and the others wandered past the building at least once while the work was being done.

  82. Bob Loblaw says:

    Leto:

    In the couple of years I worked in an engineering consulting company, it seemed that the first author was the supervisor in the company where the work was done, the second author was the consultant that actually did the work and wrote the paper, the third author was the person from the client company who signed for the payment, and the fourth author was the person in the client company who’d asked to get the work done!

    Every discipline is a bit different 🙂

  83. John Hartz says:

    Hot off the press and directly related to this discussion…

    Using Narrative and Data to Communicate the Value of Science: Proceedings of a Workshop—in Brief (2017), National Acadamies Press

    How should we convey science—both its findings and its value to society—to the many members of the public who lack either scientific training or intense interest in scientific progress? In October 2016 the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a workshop to explore ways of better presenting science—both specific findings and the processes of discovering and confirming—to the public. Participants discussed ways to develop data-enriched narratives that communicate to the public and policy makers in an engaging and rigorous way the work of basic research. They also explored the varied ways in which research provides the foundation for products, services, and activities that are of broad benefit to humanity. This publication briefly summarizes the presentations and discussions from the workshop.

  84. JCH says:

    Gavin Schmidt answered a question in the comment section at RC about how long no warming could go on. From memory, he answered it with a length of time without all surface records not registering a record year. The PAWS came close to meeting his threshold, and it’s best to know why. My hunch is the the 2008 recession eventually ended Mathew England’s anomalous wind. If not for that, the PAWS could have continued for several more years and Gavin’s threshold would ave been crossed.

  85. Hello, I’m back but with a request mainly for Chris and Izen, but also others who responded to my comments. Thank you, I’m used to a black hole at the other side of this computer so it has been refreshing. There have been a lot of good challenges and points raised and I for one am ready to dig in deeper since I feel I have thoughtful responses to most objections.

    However I do not want to wear out my welcome over here by flooding this thread with responses. What I want to do is copy and paste them into a post at my blog, preferably with name and time stamp. I would not edit the comment in any way, other than inserting occasional reference numbers if needed.

    Then I could explicate to my heart’s content. (I’m near sixty-two, started learning about the science behind global warming in 1970 and participated in my first constructive debates in the mid 70s, other than a lull for the crowded family years, I’ve been actively observing and learning ever since – I believe I have an appreciation for my limitations, but I also know I have a few worthy ideas to share and defend.).

    So I’m asking for your (Chris, Izen, others) blessing or if there’s a big objection please let me know.

    CC
    (if you prefer emailing – citizenschallenge at gmail)

  86. John Hartz says:March 27, 2017 at 5:49 pm
    CC: “You are conflating what is written in a scientific paper with what is written about a scientific paper.” ~~~ No I don’t think so. Although, the stuff that’s been claimed on behalf of this paper is skin crawling.
    _______________________
    NATURE opinion & comment
    Making sense of the early-2000s warming slowdown
    http://www.meteo.psu.edu/holocene/public_html/Mann/articles/articles/FyfeEtAlNatureClimate16.pdf
    Nature Climate Change | Vol 6 | March 2016 | Pages 224 to 228
    http://www.nature.com/natureclimatechange © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved
    co-authors
    John C. Fyfe, Gerald A. Meehl, Matthew H. England, Michael E. Mann, Benjamin D. Santer, Gregory M. Flato, Ed Hawkins, Nathan P. Gillett, Shang-Ping Xie, Yu Kosaka and Neil C. Swart

    I am reprinting the full text of this paper by right of the Fair Use doctrine –
    for the purpose of doing the following detailed critique.
    _______________________________________________

    March 6, 2017
    Fyfe et al. 2016: stamp collecting vs informing and clarifying. Examining a failure to communicate
    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2017/03/fyfe2016-stampcollecting-vs-informing.html

    March 21, 2017
    Elevator pitch to co-authors of Fyfe et al. 2016 – need for clarification
    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2017/03/elevator-pitch-to-coauthors-fyfe2016.html

    Dear Fyfe 2016 Co-Authors,
    All of you by virtue of being experts of the highest caliber possess a nuanced understanding light-years beyond ordinary citizens, politicians and business leaders. Belonging within that rarified world you risk being out of touch with how non-scientists, particularly those with hostile agendas, read your papers. To us nonscientists Fyfe et al. 2016 offered up a muddled Rorschach test rather than the promised clarifications.

    Please give this summary of my previous effort a moment to see if something resonates, or not. I don’t need a response, all I’m hoping is for you to take it seriously, if only for a moment. …

  87. Speaking of Chris Mooney look what’s hot off the press

    One of the most troubling ideas about climate change just found new evidence in its favor
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/03/27/one-of-the-most-troubling-ideas-about-climate-change-just-found-new-evidence-in-its-favor
    And now, a new study once again reinforces one of its core aspects. …

    Publishing in Nature Scientific Reports, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University and a group of colleagues at research institutes in the United States, Germany and the Netherlands find that at least in the spring and summer, the large scale flow of the atmosphere is indeed changing in such a way as to cause weather to get stuck more often.

    The study, its authors write, “adds to the weight of evidence for a human influence on the occurrence of devastating events such as the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Russian heat wave, the 2011 Texas heat wave and recent floods in Europe.”
    __________________________________________________________________

    Okay, lets talk seepage again.

    All this expended time and treasure over a blip in a wavy line – while that is going on. And who’s talking about it? How much is a few fractions of a degree better reading going to help us understand or deal with anything out here in the real? (>>> I’m NOT saying the work and striving for detail shouldn’t be done!! – I’m saying it needs to be put into a more realistic perspective when you discuss it.) Why is everyone in Washington paying attention to this measuring challenge trivia, rather than looking at the thing happening in our sky?

    Why ? Chris? John?

    What important new understanding did Fyfe offer?

    Why have I never heard the term
    Global heat and moisture distribution engine (or some equivalent)
    used as a vehicle to explain the various interwoven components of our climate system. Why do most citizens think the early 2000s hiatus is a global thing and assume that means global never even thinking about the oceans? Why is such fundamental ignorance not confronted with education that “enlightens”?

    just akin

  88. Leto says:

    citizenschallenge writes: “All this expended time and treasure over a blip in a wavy line…”

    In which case, it is probably not worth spending much more blog space on Fyfe et al.

    Although I have also been critical of the Fyfe et al intro, I would stop well short of blaming them for anything said at WUWT. I don’t think any scientist should be held accountable for the way their paper is used or abused by WUWT – and being misrepresented by WUWT is not a reliable marker of anything at all. Unless you are specifically discussing contrarian fallacies and contrarian behaviour, I don’t think any argument is advanced by linking to WUWT; it is a fantasy land with little relevance to the real world.

    And for what it is worth, apart from some minor seepage, I don’t think climate scientists have a significant communication problem. Their message is clear enough. The world has a listening problem, aided and abetted by an enthusiastic disinformation campaign.

  89. Leto says:

    PS… I see your blog does not necessarily focus on WUWT, apart from the blog name itself.

  90. citizen

    whoever wrote this

    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.kr/2017/03/fyfe2016-stampcollecting-vs-informing.html

    has zero business telling people how their communication has fallen short.

    Not meaning to start an argument, but it’s a truly awful piece of writing. It doesn’t even work as a fisking.

    Collect your thoughts. Write a 5 paragraph essay. Then re write.

  91. angech says:

    Willard “”It’s unclear why, except because of the fact that the good guys use “slowdown” while others use “hiatus” or “pause”.
    It is good to know that something as simple as a pause or hiatus will be enough to upset the whole AGW applecart. [Bad guys win].
    \Shame that science has to have good guys and bad guys attached to it.
    Basically it is a battle of observations v models.
    AGW slightly ahead at the moment with ENSO, the poles etc. I still hope that the next 6 months will be better for Skeptics, then the battle will be on in earnest.
    At least there will be a fair debate in the House Science Committee Hearing where the consensus will devolve to 25% from 97% on Wednesday.

  92. Mr. Mosher, rather than grand meaningless insults like “fisking” why not get specific. Help educate the poor sap that wrote it (yeah that would be me) to his errors. Feel free to quote and comment over there. As for boiling it down to something a bit more concise, sorry seems you didn’t notice I’ve also done that. I’m sure there’s still room for improvement, but I’m ready to rationally argue every point I made.

    Elevator pitch to co-authors of Fyfe et al. 2016 – need for clarification
    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2017/03/elevator-pitch-to-coauthors-fyfe2016.html

    Steve I’m curious can you (or anyone here) succinctly outline, what significant breakthrough or insights did the Fyfe paper contain?
    ____________

    Leto: “And for what it is worth, apart from some minor seepage, I don’t think climate scientists have a significant communication problem. Their message is clear enough. The world has a listening problem, aided and abetted by an enthusiastic disinformation campaign.” ~~~

    Sorry, been watching this all around failure to connect for too many decades to give anyone free pass.

    Yes, the failure of the media sucks. Yes, the general acceptance of the blatant and malicious lies as a fair part of political “free speech” is a genuine fisking. The Democrats have the backbone of a limp noodle, through there are signs of resurrection. None of that excuses producing muddled Rorschach tests, instead of clarity. I don’t mean that as an emotional insult, I mean that as a description of what’s happened with that study – as any google. search makes plain.

    As for expectation of scientists – and me being too harsh.
    Simply the fact that most Americans (dare say 90% of the GOP) have no inkling of the difference between Global Surface Temperature and Global Temperatures is pretty damning piece of evidence. (worse they don’t care)

    They also lack an appreciation that the “Big Hiatus” was about sun’s rays being turned away from our global climate system – whereas the faux hiatus is about heat being moved around with the climate system and the difficulty in measuring it.

    Hell most people don’t even appreciate that our oceans are the a key ingredient of our climate system and contain ~90% of the heat within our global climate engine.

    If scientist can’t be expected to clarify such misconceptions and educate the public in a language they can relate to – who does that leave?

    (As for my plans to copy and paste this string of comments over at my WUWTW blog, ATTP has signaled his okay, I’ve got to work most of today, but by this evening I plan to get it up – any objections about keeping the names attached please let me know. I’m actually a nice guy and strive to get along and for constructive outcomes.)

  93. John Hartz says:

    CC: You ask:

    Why is everyone in Washington paying attention to this measuring challenge trivia, rather than looking at the thing happening in our sky?

    Lamar Smith does not constittue “everyone in Washington.”

  94. John Hartz says:

    CC: A piece of friendly advice. If you are trying to communicate with someone, don’t do it in an antagonistic manner as you apparently did with Fyfe. Rether than sending him a detailed blistering critique that you had made public, you should have politely expressed your concerns to him privately.

  95. John Hartz says:

    Does anyone happen to know whteher Fyfe spoke out publicly to clarify what was in the paper once the Climate Science Denial Spin Machine began to mischaracterize what it said? If my memory serves me correctly, Mann did, but I don’t recall if Fyfe did.

  96. John Hartz says:

    Leto & Steven Mosher: I concur with both of your comments.

    In addition, I am not particularly sanguine about this thread being copied and pasted to CC’s webpage. The fact that his two posts on the Fyfe paper attracted zero comments speaks for itself. Posting our comments there creates an illusion.

  97. JCH says:

    Basically it is a battle of observations v models.
    AGW slightly ahead at the moment with ENSO, the poles etc. I still hope that the next 6 months will be better for Skeptics, then the battle will be on in earnest.

    This is like hoping the Confederates (the bad guys) would have one the Battle of Gettysburg (where the good guys won the field and the war.) Of course, the confused country remains confused on even this point of abject clarity.

    Anyway, a possible diversionary tactic at today’s hearing:

    This is REALLY INTERESTING. if i have a minute today, i will start a discussion thread on this.

  98. Willard says:

    > It is good to know that something as simple as a pause or hiatus will be enough to upset the whole AGW applecart.

    Glad it takes you so little to lulz, Doc. The meme machine you feed daily is far from being simple. It’s the product of millennia of social engineering. Framing’s a contrarian thing, but scientists have this knack of studying things, including framing. So wait until progressives learn what’s almost innate for conservatives.

    Oh, and here’s my favourite stat these days:

    http://www.vox.com/platform/amp/policy-and-politics/2017/3/22/14762030/donald-trump-tribal-epistemology

    We might be witnessing right-wing populists’ swan song. Enjoy it while it lasts. Sooner or later, we’ll get richer, and it’ll lose its grip on the minds it controls. Unless someone can find some spiritual nicotine, of course.

    ClimateBall?

  99. In addition, I am not particularly sanguine about this thread being copied and pasted to CC’s webpage.

    I appreciate this, but I think that blog comments are in the public domain and so a reasonable amount of fair use applies. As long as it is properly credited and not misrepresented, then I don’t see any reason why they can’t be copied elsewhere.

  100. John Hartz says:

    Angech: There is an overwhelming and every growing body of scientific evidence from throughout the world that supports the consensus among scientsts about manamde climate change. The majority of this evidence has nothing to do with GCMs per se. It stands on its own.

  101. Joshua says:

    JCH –

    =={ This is REALLY INTERESTING. if i have a minute today, i will start a discussion thread on this. }==

    Ken’s comment really was interesting, and I can certainly understand why Judith would want to discuss it.

    Consider, that in just one comment Ken managed to…

    Come to the website that promoted a smear campaign against Karl et al. to provide to the head-smearer and her gang of supporting smearers a report on his version of his email discussions with Karl et al. to make it clear how he thinks that Karl et al. didn’t sufficiently handle his criticism, and how they then refused to continue engagement with him after it became unavoidable that he had them stretched over a barrel, and to then go on to tell readers how incredulous he is that other scientists don’t agree with him about the utility of particular ways of processing data.

    Where would we be without “skeptics” who are so willing to express their concerns?

    Hopefully, Judith will find something useful in her testimony tomorrow, where she will reinforce the Chinese Wall she builds between scientific expertise and policy advocacy as she provides her Congressional testimony at the behest of politicians who use the smears published on her website to justify policy development.

  102. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: You write:

    Hopefully, Judith will find something useful in her testimony tomorrow, where she will reinforce the Chinese Wall she builds between scientific expertise and policy advocacy as she provides her Congressional testimony at the behest of politicians who use the smears published on her website to justify policy development.

    I’m not sure that “policy dvelopment” is Lamar Smith’s goal. I would characteize it as “policy gutting.” Afterall, his paymasters in the fossil fuel industry want zero federal government oversight of their operations — public subsidies are always welcome though.

  103. Joshua says:

    JH –

    IMO, distinguishing between policy development and policy gutting as you are suggesting is essentially the kind of logical fallacy that Judith employs to convince herself (and apparently some of her toadies/sycophants) that her advocacy against certain policies in service of those who are advocating for certain other policies (or policy-gutting) isn’t advocacy.

  104. Joshua says:

    Oh, and I forgot the best part of Ken’s comment…

    the part where he comes to Climate (Scientist Smear) Etc. to decry the incivility in climate science engagement, even as he reports out of context on discussions that he has had with climate scientists to imply a lack of scientific integrity on display by his interlocutors in his reported engagement, and as he employs an argument from incredulity to criticize scientific agreement.

    My guess is that Judith might consider it a tour de force.

  105. John Hartz says:

    For the record, I am more than a little wound-up today because of the actions being taken by our Fake President to move the US backward in the global effort to mitigate manmade climate change.

    President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions.

    The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

    The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as President Barack Obama sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots.

    “This policy is in keeping with President Trump’s desire to make the United States energy independent,” said a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the directive Monday evening and asked for anonymity to speak in advance of the announcement. “When it comes to climate change, we want to take our course and do it in our own form and fashion.”

    Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate-change record by Juliet Elperin & Brady Denis, Heatlth & Science, Washington Post, Mar 27, 2017

  106. John Hartz says:

    CC: You wrote:

    Global heat and moisture distribution engine (or some equivalent)
    used as a vehicle to explain the various interwoven components of our climate system. Why do most citizens think the early 2000s hiatus is a global thing and assume that means global never even thinking about the oceans? Why is such fundamental ignorance not confronted with education that “enlightens”?

    What are the sources of the sweeping assertions embedded in the above?

  107. izen says:

    @-Willard
    “We might be witnessing right-wing populists’ swan song. Enjoy it while it lasts. Sooner or later, we’ll get richer, and it’ll lose its grip on the minds it controls. ”

    An alternative to your Panglossian vision is that as the economic system reverts to the wealth distribution of the fin de siècle, gilded age, the politics will also revert to the sort of Authoritarian Plutocracy that is required to impose and coerce social stability when that disparity in opulence is regained.

  108. Joshua says:

    Not sure how to clarify without basically repeating.

    IMO, in the real world (or at least in this real-world context) a distinction between policy-gutting and policy-development is basically “a distinction w/o a difference.”

    It reminds me of Judith’s logic whereby she says that she isn’t an advocate and that scientist-advocates are bad, bad people.

  109. Willard says:

    Words of wisdom, izen, words of wisdom.

    I leave that kind of things to Doctor Doom, aka Michael Tobis, to whom I owe the citation about epistemological tribalism.

    I play ClimateBall to win.

  110. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: From my perspective the term “policy development” normalizes the fact Lamar Smith and his cronies perversely turn Congressional hearings into propaganda platforms.

  111. John Hartz says:

    More news that makes my blood boil…

    As an Arctic researcher, I’m used to gaps in data. Just over 1% of US Arctic waters have been surveyed to modern standards. In truth, some of the maps we use today haven’t been updated since the second world war. Navigating uncharted waters can prove difficult, but it comes with the territory of working in such a remote part of the world.

    Over the past two months though, I’ve been navigating a different type of uncharted territory: the deleting of what little data we have by the Trump administration.

    At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.

    I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.

    I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations</strong<, Opinion by Victoria Hermann, Guardian, March 28, 2017

  112. BBD says:

    the politics will also revert to the sort of Authoritarian Plutocracy that is required to impose and coerce social stability when that disparity in opulence is regained.

    I’m not sure you can put the fart back in the dog, izen. They can try, but…

  113. John Hartz says: March 28, 2017 at 2:44 pm
    In addition, I am not particularly sanguine about this thread being copied and pasted to CC’s webpage. The fact that his two posts on the Fyfe paper attracted zero comments speaks for itself. Posting our comments there creates an illusion.
    ______________
    CC wonders: Creates an illusion of what?
    ______________________________________________________________
    John Hartz says: Lamar Smith does not constitute “everyone in Washington.”
    _______________
    Nope, he sure isn’t. but he’s got enough support that he is in charge of the House Science Committee with all the powers that entails – including doing a real fisk job on Fyfe. (To use someone else’s crude analogy.)
    _______________________________________________________________
    John Hartz says: March 28, 2017 at 2:28 pm
    CC: A piece of friendly advice. If you are trying to communicate with someone, don’t do it in an antagonistic manner as you apparently did with Fyfe. Rether than sending him a detailed blistering critique that you had made public, you should have politely expressed your concerns to him privately.
    ______________
    No he wouldn’t have. I tried.
    In our real world sometimes the little guy has got to do a little yelling to be heard.

    Besides this issue (failure) is owned by the entire community, I have nothing against Fyfe, from watching a couple of his talks he seems like a nice enough guy and I approached him with cordiality and apology woven in my words. I though scientists were all about vigorous honesty even if it hurts a little. Instead of hurling attitude – how about hurling a little serious good-faith edification.

    For what it’s worth, here’s to looking at communication failures from another angle, may I introduce:
    FYI. – October 25, 2013
    Colorado Floods – statistical certainty vs geophysical realities
    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2013/10/colo-floods-statistics-vs-physics.html

    {Sure it’s awkward and probably with typos, but it’s about the message I’m trying to convey.
    I was just another citizen thinking the big boys/girls were taking care of serious business, then I turn about to Trump as real life President of the new Corporation of Amerika – excuse me if I have a bit of an edge these days.}

    ============================================================
    John Hartz says: March 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm
    CC: You wrote:
    Global heat and moisture distribution engine (or some equivalent) used as a vehicle to explain the various interwoven components of our climate system.
    Why do most citizens think the early 2000s hiatus is a global thing and assume that means global never even thinking about the oceans?
    Why is such fundamental ignorance not confronted with education that “enlightens”?

    What are the sources of the sweeping assertions embedded in the above?
    _______________________________________________________________
    America elected Donald Trump, our government has been given over to thoughtless profiteers who know only self-interest and who want to destroy our government as we know it – and who believe scientists are liars.
    Yet everyone seems atwitter about lousy wobble in a record that is nothing but wobbles,
    and you want me to accurately quantify the extent of general disconnect from what’s happening on this planet???

    But, okay I’ll try to come up with something for you, as time allows.
    Now I wonder if you could perhaps come up with something for me?
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    Lets talk all around seepage.

    All this expended time and treasure over a blip in a wavy line – while we have Jet Stream transitions, torrential rains and win storm ratcheting up, Antarctic ice starting destabilize big time, sea level rise, oh and ocean acidification. And who’s really conveying a Aha narrative? All I find is serious scientists arguing over statistics and scores – while contrarians are running the bases with absolutely childish, infantile arguments.

    Please show me some examples, I can think of one beauty, would love to find more.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    How much is a few fractions of a degree better reading going to help us understand or deal with anything out here in the real? Such as Jet Stream and sea level rise.
    (>>> I’m NOT saying the work and striving for detail shouldn’t be done!! I understand it’s important! – but so far those data points haven’t matriculated beyond stamp collecting.

    Yeah, drama, but hey I’m watching civilization begin to unravel, what me worry.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    As for Fyfe – please can you explain:
    What important new understanding did Fyfe offer?
    What makes it scientifically special paper?

  114. izen says:

    The American co-authors of Fyfe et al have written to Lamar Smith explaining what their paper means.
    To them at least.
    http://www.climate-lab-book.ac.uk/2017/letter-to-lamar-smith/

  115. John Hartz says:

    CC wonders: Creates an illusion of what?

    That serious people read and comment upon what you post on your website.

  116. Marco says:

    Not just the American authors, Izen. Matthew England is from Australia, Yu Kosaka from Japan, and Ed Hawkins from the UK.

    On Twitter Clive Best immediately showed why many people would call him a denier, when he threw a hissy fit over Hawkins et al correcting errors and misunderstandings of Lamar Smith. Can’t do that before the hearing!!
    Or so Clive suggested, without explaining why. Probably he didn’t have an explanation either, since he now tries to change the discussion, stating we don’t know by how much CO2 warms.

  117. John Hartz says:

    CC: To reiterate what I have advised you over the years…

    If you want to communicate and persuade, lacing your messages with vitriol is counter-productive.

  118. John Hartz says:

    Izen:

    The concluding paragraph of the of the Climate Lab Book post you have tagged above…

    The co-authors of the Fyfe et al. paper, who are Canadian Government scientists (John Fyfe, Greg Flato, Nathan Gillett & Neil Swart), felt that it would not be appropriate for them to communicate directly to elected officials in the U.S. pursuing an inquiry. However, they did write a supporting note to Ben Santer affirming their scientific support for the statements made in the letter written by himself and the other co-authors of the Fyfe et al. paper.

  119. Chris says:

    Slightly reluctant to post again on this thread but thought I’d defend Fyfe et (even if their very influential paper doesn’t really need defending!):

    Scientists by and large are honest people who feel compelled to present their work as they see it; they recognise that progressing their own personal research programmes as well as the broader scientific field requires this. If this leads to some disagreement between researchers that’s fine. If that provides an opportunity for someone to misrepresent the status of a scientific field, that’s tough. The alternative, that one pretends that there’s no disagreement whatsoever and that scientists decide on, or are told, particular words or phrasings or types of presentation that they must or must not use, would be a disaster and very likely counterproductive in the long run.

    In a background of top-down irrationality and misrepresentation, science is bound to lose quite a few skirmishes (more so during the present political period). The aim is to make some progress in winning the war (as in the Dover “Intelligent Design” trial, for example, although global warming is a lot tougher), and the best contribution most scientists can make is to find stuff out and present this honestly and clearly. One of the things I like about Fyfe et al apart from its value in exploring the nature of decadal variability and intermodel comparisons, is that it rather mildly presented a counter to the belligerent approach of Lewandowsky which in the context of the early 21st surface temperature is something like “nothing to see here!” when any sensible individual looking at the surface temperature record can recognize that there does seem to be “something to see” (e.g.):

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/bias-in-science/#comment-93377

    Lewandowsky’s approach to climate science displays a bias IMO that isn’t terribly helpful in its focus on battling contrarians even if one might admire his determination – it seems quite susceptible to backfiring.

  120. John,
    Your string of comments will make for a most illuminating post. One thing I’ve come to expect when confronting climate science contrarians is that they are quick and ready with the superiority complex and cheap shots – then when I respond with substantive questions and it’s nothing but the sounds of silence. I expected better from you.

    Vitriol has a meaning – can you support your emotional outbursts – with real examples we can look at? Trenchant also has a meaning, now that I’ll own, so what of it?

    While you’re busy worrying about coddling feelings, the rough and tumble world of power politics and media have made a laughing stock out of climate science and I been watching happen. Then when I look at the world around me the worst fears of my teenage years are unfolding before my eyes. Excuse me if a little attitude has crept into my world view,

    Now Mr. John Hartz have you anything of constructive substance to add?

  121. Chris says:

    oh dear, I hope I wasn’t the cause of that! 😦

  122. Chris writes: “Scientists by and large are honest people who feel compelled to present their work as they see it; they recognise that progressing their own personal research programmes as well as the broader scientific field requires this. If this leads to some disagreement between researchers that’s fine. If that provides an opportunity for someone to misrepresent the status of a scientific field, that’s tough. The alternative, that one pretends that there’s no disagreement whatsoever and that scientists decide on, or are told, particular words or phrasings or types of presentation that they must or must not use, would be a disaster and very likely counterproductive in the long run.”
    =====================================
    This I totally agree with that because I’ve grown up watching it in action.

    But obviously the public does not understand this and no one has made a successful effort to explain it in a “sticky” manner.

    I can’t tell how many times I’ve read people representing these temp updates of old information as demonstrations the old information FALSE or WRONG*
    I sit here watching and wondering how can such an infantile notion be so prevalent in our public?
    Same with the constant sloppy use of “hiatus”
    The sloppy causal conflation of surface temperatures and global temperatures, etc.

    *Why isn’t there more effort confronting such basic illusions that have gripped half of our publics imaginations and left the other confused and insecure about what they know. – Why isn’t something like this reiterated is a dozen different guises?

    The Relativity of Wrong
    By Isaac Asimov
    http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

  123. Chris says:

    Following on from just above (and getting back to the subject of the top article) I might highlight what I think is a bias in some social science approaches to science communication. Since quite a bit of social science is rather qualitative and subjective (as in the example just below), it seems all too easy for the practitioner to construct and then “over-pump” a thesis to the extent that they can’t resist re-interpreting things so that these things appear to support the thesis.

    Lewandowsky et al published a paper last year titled: THE “PAUSE” IN GLOBAL WARMING Turning a Routine Fluctuation into a Problem for Science; Stephan Lewandowsky, James S. Risbey, and Naomi Oreskes, BAMS May 2016, pp 723-733.

    As evidence that scientists were treating the early 21st century surface temperature rise slowdown (aka “slowdown”) as “a problem for climate science” they listed a bunch of quotes from the abstracts or Intro’s of papers investigating the slowdown (see their Table 2, titled “Representative quotations from peer-reviewed articles that frame the pause or hiatus as a problem for climate science.”). A couple of examples are:

    “Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth’s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001.” [England et al., 2014]

    “Despite a sustained production of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, the Earth’s mean near-surface temperature paused its rise during the 2000–2010 period.” [Guemas et al., 2013]

    There are two general meanings of “problem” I expect we would agree, one of the type: “Houston, we have a problem” and the other of the type: “this looks like an interesting problem to study”. The papers in Lewandowsky’s table (I’ve looked at four of them) address the apparent dichotomy as a relevant problem to be explored, do so, and come up with some of the interpretations we’ve come to expect (e.g. enhanced heat uptake by oceans). Nowhere in these papers do the authors give the impression that this apparent dichotomy is “a problem for climate science”. They’ve noted an observation (not much apparent surface warming under conditions of increasing greenhouse forcing) and explored it.

  124. John Hartz says:

    CC: There is no pont in continuing our dialogue. You go your way and I will go mine.

  125. No I would have addressed you, Chris. I’m not here to start a pissing match – but I will call out bluster. Besides John and I have virtually know each other a number of years. Though, since you bring it up, I notice you also had a lot to say, but never responded to my counters and questions. – But that’s cool, this isn’t the place for that. Even as I hope to create a time and place for that in the next few days (the good lord will’n). Cheers

  126. Barry Woods says:

    John: William Connolley has a blogpost about that Guarian article, he seems not that convinced by it http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/03/28/i-am-an-arctic-researcher-donald-trump-is-deleting-my-citations/

  127. “Mr. Mosher, rather than grand meaningless insults like “fisking” why not get specific. Help educate the poor sap that wrote it (yeah that would be me) to his errors. Feel free to quote and comment over there. As for boiling it down to something a bit more concise, sorry seems you didn’t notice I’ve also done that. I’m sure there’s still room for improvement, but I’m ready to rationally argue every point I made”

    Your shorter version is no better.

    Calling it a fisking is not an insult. It describes a certain style. The point is not whether you are ready to argue every point.

    The point is presentation ( and language). Sorry I charge for my help

  128. Here citizen. I’ll give you a few quick hints.

    First, Reread your opening paragraph in your summary version. Ask yourself, “why didn’t anyone comment on this?” You adopt the style of an “open letter”. Guess what, The open letter style sucks as a real attempt to communicate or dialog with someone. have a read of Willi’s or Tisdales open letters. They all suck. They suck ( as does yours) because they are not really invitations to reason together. They are monologues mascarading as attempts to discuss openly. Show me an open letter and I guarantee you that the author will be presenting himself as a character, and framing the recepient as well. Usually in ways that are not conducive to dialog. Take your first sentence. When I read that I hear nothing but sarcasm. Your words praise them, but I know, just from the tone, that you dont really mean a word of it.

    Next is the style of the point by point critique. This is where the term fisking came from, but it’s really the style of the teacher filling his students paper with red comments in the margin.
    “tighten here” clarify this. expand this. This part is unclear, rewrite. You should mention this.
    Why not try that.. etc etc etc etc. I have far too many years writing those, to not instantly recognize the style.

    It’s the style adopted by someone who presumes to know better, and who arrogates authority to themselves, to tell others how they should or shouldnt do things. A better approach is to select one or two examples and do the total re write of the paragraphs For them. SHOW dont tell.
    So for example, if I found myself writing “tighten this” or “clarify” several times, I would actually take the time to show the student HOW. That actually shows folks that A) you know what the hell you are talking about, B) that you can do as well as teach, and C) that you genuinely care and put some real effort into your criticism.

    There is another issue with this multiple arguments point by point approach. You criticize them in 20 ways.The easy thing for anyone to do is to select your weakest argument and attack that. I Call this the Chris Darden mistake. You probably dont remember the OJ trial. But, there you had this mass of evidence. And Darden thinks by adding one more argument ( do the gloves fit) he will seal the case. Final nail in the coffin. Ah well, it didnt work out that way..And that silly piece of evidence gone awry was featured by the defense as some kind of proof that he didnt kill her. People will ignore your strongest argument and focus on your weakest if you present 20 arguments or points. And they will make you pay over and over again for that one weak argument until you submit.

    So, Pick a couple good arguments, no more than 3, and actually make them ARGUMENTS as opposed to questions, quips, and orders to do things differently. That’s if you are really trying to convince or help. However, if you are trying to create a character, and speachify, then by all means maintain the approach you have. Nothing wrong with that.

  129. Steven, I appreciate your words of advice, allow, me a couple comments, the rest I’ll allow to soak in.

    You’re convinced: “Your words praise them, but I know, just from the tone, that you don’t really mean a word of it.” – but that’s you – not me.
    I admire and respect their understanding – nothing insincere about it – I got plenty of old posts focusing on sharing their work to prove it. Allow me to repeat (in all caps) It’s The Communication Failures I’m screaming about. It’s all been so emotionally agonizing for me precisely because these are the best of the best, yet they write a mess like that paper – it just reinforces the growing hopelessness.

    Your teacher’s analogy made me chuckle. My quintessential vision of the way good learning happens is my experience in the three years I had access to the Community College of Denver writing lab. Going in there with a first or second draft all puffed up with self congratulations. Then tutors start in, not with stroking me, but with ” red comments in the margin.“tighten here” clarify this. expand this. This part is unclear, rewrite.” Then I’d drag my sorry worthless ass out of there, mortified, wounded, but I could recognize the truth and value. Then I’d get over the tender feels, get back to work and the improvements would be amazing, wonderful..
    (Perhaps I just grew up in a more rough and tumble life than most – fact remains as a piece of climate science communication that paper is lucky to earn a D. Again all you have to do is a few google searches for supporting evidence.)

    As for an example of how to do it better, I found a wonderful example I’d love to yodel from the rafters. http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-no-global-warming-hiatus-noaa-20150603-story.html
    *“One way to think about it is that global warming continued, but the oceans just juggled a bit of heat around and made the surface seem cooler for a while,”*. said Joshua Willis, another climate scientist at JPL.
    _______________________
    What’s so challenging about that?
    Does that mean “global” warming continued unabated? Why not say so loud and clear?

    What specifically is this “hiatus” so many cling to with such tenacity? Can anyone explain that clearly?
    ___________________________________________________
    Steven, I wonder if you find this one any better?
    October 25, 2013
    Colorado Floods – statistical certainty vs geophysical realities
    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2013/10/colorado-floods-statistical-certainty.html
    (I’m sure with a writing lab around these parts – or some constructive feedback – it would have been better. But hey, in the end I’m doing the best we can with what I got. Ironically, since Jan. I been wanting to wind down WUWTW and start something different.)

    Thank you for making the effort to offer some suggestions.

    Peter

  130. oops.
    best I can with what I got.

  131. John Hartz says:

    CC: I highly recommend that you carefully read and ponder this opinion piece. It’s short and sweet and, from my perspective, spot on:

    NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE | EDITORIAL

    Reading science

    Nature Climate Change 6, 219 (2016) doi:10.1038/nclimate2953
    Published online 24 February 2016

    Scientists are often accused of poorly communicating their findings, but improving scientific literacy is everyone’s responsibility.

    Scientific reports are not very readable. That’s the conclusion of Ralf Barkemeyer and colleagues, who conducted a linguistic analysis of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) documents that accompanied the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) (page 311). In contrast, they found that most media reports on AR5 scored very well, according to their readability metric.

    Although this finding is perhaps not surprising, it is potentially problematic. The SPM is supposed to translate the IPCC’s headline findings into a usable language for those charged with cutting the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If they are unusually difficult to read, then they are arguably not performing their principal function — indeed, Barkemeyer et al. found that even seminal physics papers by Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking had considerably higher readability scores.

    The esoteric style of the SPM means that policymakers and the public are likely to go elsewhere for scientific information. That could be dangerous, as information is liable to get lost or be miscommunicated in translation. So, the argument goes, scientists should improve their communication skills, and ensure that documents such as the SPM are written in a manner that most people can understand.

    But such calls for the democratization of science — whereby even the most complex findings are accessible to everyone — cuts both ways. The research by Barkemeyer et al. shows that the established process of scientific reporting is actually functioning reasonably well. Scientists report scientific research, and journalists translate this into digestible findings for the public.

    If the concern is that those findings are miscommunicated, there is a good argument for raising levels of scientific literacy in general, as well as making the reports easier to read.

    Currently, only 2 members of US Congress have natural science PhDs. In the UK, only 6 of 650 Members of Parliament have science degrees. If decision makers had higher levels of scientific literacy, the quality of the translations becomes less important. Likewise, if the public were more scientifically literate, then the readability of the SPM becomes less significant.

    It may be wise to provide communications training for scientists, which is an idea that the IPCC is already exploring. But perhaps journalists and politicians should also be sent to science classes — teaching the skills to read science at its source should be a greater priority across the board. Everyone must take their share of responsibility in the march towards more accessible science

  132. Chris says:

    Congratulations to Dr. Ed Hawkins (a co-author on the rather influential ‘Fyfe et al. 2016’ discussed on this thread) who has just won the Royal Meteorological Society Climate Science Communications Award.

  133. Indeed, that is good. Congratulations to Ed.

  134. Steven Mosher says:

    ” Posting our comments there creates an illusion.”

    Agreed. I post here because I trust attp/ willard to moderate fairly. Because citizen hasn’t earned the traffic. Because it would create an illusion.

    Basically citizen you haven’t earned it. Your stuff is really awful. I don’t mind beating you up here where people might actually enjoy it. In other words I don’t perform in small venues.

  135. Steven Mosher says:

    Ed Hawkins is a rock star in my mind. So many good guys who should get more play. . Thorne. Hawkins. Zeke. Palmer.
    Betts. Actual grown ups.

  136. Steven Mosher says:

    Citizen.
    Don’t argue using questions. Just don’t. It requires extremely good skills which you lack.

    My suggestion. Re write fyfe. Yes. Rewrite it.

    I have found that the science style is something that I cannot master. I can edit it or manage a few paragraphs assigned to me and writing abstracts but without years of practice it is actually hard to master.years. I’m not joking.
    So have some respect. Just try to take their prose and do your own version. I’m giving you homework for your own good.

    When you actually experience the difficulty of the style then you have better standing.

  137. Guess you have bothered looking at my ten years worth of dissecting contrarian trash – for my education level I dare there are few who have studied the evolving science more. Hell, my dissection of contrarian nonsense is all about a personal learning lesson first, futility trying to find someone that’s it, is secondary.
    For what it’s worth March 22 I sent my “Elevator Pitch” to the authors, only received three acknowledgements, but one of them recognized I’m not the troll you and John, etc. love to frame me as.
    He wrote: “… I also appreciate that you have taken the time to really scrutinize and attempt to understand the science in the article. If more citizens did this, that could only be a good thing and benefit all of us in making our society more attuned to science.
    thanks for your comments,”
    _____________________________________________________
    As for your suggestion.
    If I could get a solid day or two to fully focus on it, I would undertake that project, unfortunately I’ve a crowded life and the most important thing to me personally is at the bottom of my duties and obligations list – getting a couple uninterrupted hours is difficult enough, a couple days only happen rarely.

    But, so far as their letter to Lamar Smith, I’ve done something else. I’ve annotated it, not with my comments and links – but with quotes from other climate papers.
    __________________________________________________________
    March 30, 2017
    Unauthorized annotated Fyfe coauthors letter to US Rep. Lamar Smith
    http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2017/03/unauthorized-annotated-fyfe-to-smith.html

    The Fyfe et al 2016 clarifying letter to US Representative Lamar Smith is well written. There’s nothing to complain about and I don’t. Still at 1000 word there’s only so much it can say, and I’m going to use this opportunity to make my point using the words of other scientists. Remember my beef is about communication, not the science.

    I’ve borrowed from about a dozen climate studies, along with some other info and let their quotes speak for themselves. I apologize for some of the hard feeling. I do not apologize pushing for better recognition of our* failures to communicate, how else can we learn, how else can we improve? (slight edit, I realized Josh Willis’ quote belongs at the start of this reading, not at the end.)
    Best Wishes.

    For the background to this, link here
    * Climate science communicators big and little.

    “One way to think about it is that global warming continued, but the oceans just juggled a bit of heat around and made the surface seem cooler for a while”
    Joshua Willis Ph.D. – JPL

    __________________________________________________________
    John, I find no argument with that Nature Comment. But it seems to me you are using it as an excuse to justify smugness and justify a refusal to do a little challenging introspection.

  138. John Hartz says:

    CC: I do not consider you to be a troll — never have and never will.

  139. John Hartz says:

    CC: The gist of my advice to you has been and will continue to be: Dial back on the anger embedded in your posts. If you do, you will be more effective in communicating your message.

    BTW, I speak from personal experience. When I first began to engage climate science deniers more than a decade ago on the comment threads to news articles, I laced my retorts with anger and snark. Over time, I realized it was counter-productive to do so.

    What you are attempting to accomplish with your blog posts is very similar to what Sou does on her webiste. I encourage you to visit her site and study how she communicates.

    Peace!

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