Monday, January 3, 2011

Post-Normal and Peer Reviewed

The State of Virginia, basically Attorney General Cuccinelli,is appealing in the courts to gain access to some of the documents in support of Michael Mann's famous hockey stick papers.

The State's Appeal document is here.
Bishop Hill notes Pages 14-15: after a brief account of "post-normal" science, and the advocacy of this science by famous climate scientists, notably Mike Hulme. Post-normal science means something like being a (political) advocate, wearing your heart on your sleeve, showing you are on the right side--cite the politically correct sources, no matter how questionable, and discredit or ignore the incorrect ones, no matter how rigorous.

Academics are free to follow any philosophy of science they wish. Nonetheless, Post Normal Science has produced jargon which might be misleading/fraudulent in the context of a grant application if its specialized meaning is not disclosed or otherwise known to the grant maker.

I have suggested to Mr. Montford by e-mail that his next book be on peer-reviewed science.

Some of my comments to him:

Someone like Al Gore (not the sharpest crayon in the box), and many lay people, probably think "peer-reviewed scientific literature" is somehow certain, rock-solid and objective, totally different from a blowhard, even an educated one, sounding off in a bar. What saves the warmists from being guilty of fraud, if anything does, is that the politicians think anything that comes out of the meat grinder must be true, while the scientists know it's probably not true, and can tell themselves that the politicians jump to this conclusion on their own--it's not the scientists' fault.

I think one big problem has been the rise of the boomers, combined with an incentive structure they inherited, and then reinforced. Gore seems to have little sense of how the publish-or-perish rule started to take pretty firm effect just when the boomers were starting careers. There was no way they could all do solid, rigorous work that would stand the test of time, and publish it soon so as to get tenure, release time from teaching, etc. There were huge incentives to produce headline-grabbing stuff, cherry pick data and shop among methodologies until you find one that yields the results you want, etc. Universities, journals, learned societies, the people paying for conferences, all seem to love this. In various ways, including undergraduates and their parents paying tuition, it brings in money. In some cases, especially medical issues, one can probably point to the huge influence of certain corporations, mainly the pharmaceuticals, but there is more to it, I believe, than a pseudo-Marxist analysis would suggest.

Of course with climate there is the underlying reality that boomers have somehow always wanted to save Bambi, and they have fallen for every environmental scare without exception--some of them have turned out to be fairly well grounded (CFCs?), while others have not (acid rain). They were not only ready for global warming caused by Big Oil--they were eager for it.

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