Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ways To Be Wrong on Climate Science

As a librarian, I found this blog post by Adam Frank, Ways To Be Wrong: Climategate, Climate Science And Who Gets A Say, to be pretty interesting.  I teach students about evaluating and understanding information, and Frank discusses some ways that errors occur and also the value of expertise.  He outlines a key problem and that is the need for experts to effectively communicate results to non-experts without requiring the non-experts to get advanced degrees to understand.Here’s quote from the post:

Scientific analysis is rarely straightforward. In my own field of astronomy one does not just snap an image through a telescope, write up what you think it implies and move on. Anyone who has ever seen a raw Hubble Space Telescope image knows there are many, many steps requiring years of training, expertise and experience before the pretty — and scientifically relevant — picture emerges.So it is with the climate auditors. So it is with the much larger and more pressing issue of science and culture as a whole. Ultimately these debates are too important, and too easily manipulated (as the politically motivated climate deniers have shown) to simply rely on scientists saying “trust us”. On the other hand most climate scientists did not dedicate 15 years of their lives in training for their field because they wanted to be media communications experts. Nor should they be expected to handhold amateurs (I mean that literally — people who do not do this for a living) who will make countless mistakes and claim them to be verifiable truth.There must be a middle ground here. Perhaps an office should be created in the NSF, NASA and NOAA that works specifically in this new gray area. It would be worth the effort and the money. The stakes are simply to high to let the debate sink to where we are have fallen now.