There’s been a rather lengthy Twitter exchange involving Judith Curry, mostly focusing on whether or not Judith is a political activist. Judith appears to be suggesting that what she does is not political activism, or any form of political advocacy, saying, for example
Agreed. I am 'advocating' for integrity in scientific research, whereas Mann et al. are advocating for globalization of energy policy, etc.
— Judith Curry (@curryja) December 22, 2017
If one defines political activism as some kind of direct, potentially confrontational, activism in support for, or against, a cause, then this may be true. It would then, however, imply that few are doing so. What most who were engaging with Judith were trying to suggest is that any form of public engagement that could potentially influence policy is a form of activism/advocacy.
Writing a blog about a policy relevant topic, as I do, would certainly seem to qualify. I write this because I think this is an important topic that I wish were better understood and better accepted, so that we could make more informed decisions as to what we should, or should not, do. I don’t have strong views as to what we should do specifically, but I think continuing to simply pump CO2 into the atmosphere is a bad idea and that we should find ways to reduce our emissions, eventually getting them to zero. If pressed as to what we should do more specifically, I would say a carbon tax. I’m not convinced that will be enough by itself, but it would certainly seem to be good way to proceed.
Judith also writes a blog about a policy relevant topic, and – in addition – has testified before the US House of Representatives and has authored a report on climate models for a policy foundation. There were also plenty of other examples provided on Twitter. Yet Judith still seems to object to others describing what she does as a form of political activism.
The problem, though, is not that Judith undertakes a form of political advocacy, it’s that she denies it. There’s nothing wrong with engaging in public discourse about a policy relevant topic. However, doing so while suggesting that what one does is not a form of advocacy implies a completely unrealistic sense of objectivity and lack of bias. Anyone who engages publicly will put their own spin on what they present. Ideally, they do so while also doing their best to place it into the overall context; in principle they should acknowledge if what they present is substantively different from a consensus position, if such a position exists. This, in my view, is the real issue with how Judith engages.
It’s pretty clear that Judith holds a position that is at odds with most other experts in the field and presents information that is not consistent with the available evidence. In fact, from what I’ve seen, a great deal of what Judith presents is based more on her opinions, than on any kind robust scientific analysis. To do this, while claiming to not be engaging in policy advocacy, illustrates either a remarkable lack of awareness, or a willful disingenuousness. There is nothing wrong with political advocacy/activism. What is wrong, in my view, is to publicly present a policy relevant, minority view, while claiming that what you’re doing is not activism/advocacy, especially if you also claim that what others are doing is.
Gavin Schmidt on advocacy. (Gavin Schmidt giving the AGU Stephen Schneider lecture).
Science and silence. (A post about some of Judith’s comments on advocacy).
The road to hell. (A post about some of Judith’s comments on Research integrity).
Hearing about climate science and the scientific method. (A post about Judith’s testimony to the US Congress).
I also don’t get Judith’s logic. (A post about Judith’s logic with respect to the IPCC attribution statement).