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
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
Need to appreciate: scientists (academics) not paid for authorship
Whom to trust? Why?
Notion of different currencies (capitals) ins science (or life):
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
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’)
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
Tobacco Industry & Doubt
Vocabulary: agnotology [study of ppl trying to induce doubt], extern