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Lecture 11

Lecture 11: Nats 1760.docx

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Natural Science
NATS 1760
Darrin Durant

Climate 5 6/12/2013 5:57:00 AM Part 1 – Peer review Part 2 – Tobacco industry and doubt Part 3 – Fossil fuel industry, anthropogenic (human caused) climate change, and doubt Themes of the course:  experts/publics, Risk (individual vs. collective), certainty, skepticism, doubt (how can we trust what your saying is true, and should we believe it).  Once you’ve written something in a peer review journal you are a contributory experts Peer Review:  Vocabulary: Conflict of interest [multiple interests], credibility; prestige (is there a difference?) [one is more politically influential - prestige], replication (of findings) [very important for any science – truth should be able to be replicated], IPCC [International panel on climate change – peer reviewed policy making], consensus [nature of consensus – climate change skeptics go after this] Why understand peer review  Understanding peer review helps reveal organization of science community  Peer review evolved over hundreds of years, since 1660  Basically – peer review is scrutiny of a (wanna be) expert’s publications by other experts  Need to appreciate: scientists (academics) not paid for authorship Whom to trust? Why?  Notion of different currencies (capitals) ins science (or life): o Money o Trustworthiness/credibility o Prestige  Exchange one for another – at different rates  Recall question by Rabinow: what’s wrong with making money by doing science o Maybe b/c of possible conflicts of interests  Crudely means: more likely to sell out  This means credibility is low. If your main aim is to make money, why should someone trust you?  In the 1660s – a huge issue for first modern ‘scientists’ – whom to trust, and why o Initial notion – only trust gentleman – independently wealthy o Over time – circle of who’s a scientist widens  When someone reports findings, have others check out and confirm them. Beginnings of Peer Review. o Checks done by other experts working in same field o If your work passes review, you gain a little credibility/trust  Ideal of science: give away your knowledge for free, have others test (if you sell, your less trustworthy) o Problem – lawyers, doctors don’t do this – no way to earn $ o How to earn a living?  Earn ‘prestige’ and ‘credibility,’ than trade for money Where to publish  Since the 1660s scientist struggle to publics as many findings as possible.. in more prestigious journals. o Prestige and cred assumed to be the same thing, though not quite; merchants of doubt trade on this.  Since 19 thC, two most prestigious journals: nature magazine, science magazine o Widely read; less specialized.  Your article published – you don’t get paid o Huge boost to prestige – taken more seriously, promotions, etc. Benefits of peer review  Peer review identifies expertise in particular field o Formularies the structure of ‘asking around’  Peer review one way to validate claims o Hopefully filters out errors made o Also filters out repeated claims Problems with Peer Review  Predatory for-profit publishing companies (charging for volunteer labour) – for ex. Elsevier  Potential conflicts of interest among referees  False positives or false negatives? Criticism from both sides o One claim: conservatism emphasized as radical new views of ten dismissed by existing experts; may lead to tunnel vision o Alternatively: ‘file drawer effect’. Tend to favour positive findings not negative ones (no one likes ‘no one was cured by this drug’)  Referees: o Screw up or are biased o Have different criteria of what a good paper means o Selection bias (pick the more famous experts? White guys?)  Hard to detect fraud b/c system assumes good faith.  Peer review is the worst way to asses scientific claims, except for all the forms that have been tried before it. Digression: peer review and IPCC  IPCC makes policy recommendations, thus has some power  Point is to ensure no facts are incorrect, everyone’s heard.  Need to maintain consensus means IPCC reports tend to be very conservative (no bold predictions) o Thus, criticism from both sides Part 2: Tobacco Industry & Doubt  Vocabulary: agnotology [study of ppl trying to induce doubt], extern
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