Discussion: JC’s ‘role’

by Judith Curry

In view of recent controversies, numerous criticisms have been made about my ‘role,’ with expectations of things that I ‘should’ be doing.

From twitter:

“I do think JC should take a bigger role in reeling in hoaxers/denialists that use her as a guide.”

From email, an important person in our field whom I like and respect:

I have to express my disappointment in the way you have handled this issue with Bates. Irrespective of the data management issues raised by Bates, you have had an opportunity to provide an objective assessment of the article written by Rose, as well as the press release posted by the House Science Committee, and you have apparently chosen not to do so. I had always admired that you sought to set the record straight no matter what, but I am no longer seeing that and I am sorry that science has lost that voice.

JC’s role

My public statements on the blog and the twitter relate to things that I find interesting and/or important, constrained by the time I have available for such things.

My overall goal with the blog is to open the dialogue on climate science, policy, and related issues.  I am trying to provide an open place for an honest debate, with the hope that my posts and discussion will provoke people to think outside of their own little box.

In terms of my Congressional testimonies and media interactions, my overall goal has been to bring policy makers and public away from ‘hoax’ and ‘science denial’ to a more rational and defensible understanding of climate science and its uncertainties (which is now being referred to by alarmists as the ‘new climate denial.’)

I have also tried to open up the discussion on policy options by using the framework of decision making under deep uncertainty.

Here is what I most definitely do NOT try to do:

  • Be a one person fact checking machine for media articles and statements by politicians
  • Take responsibility for what anyone else says or thinks, who also happens to quote me
  • Set myself up as an authority on ‘facts’

Time constraints and realities

On a good week (when I am not too busy), I try to allocate 10 hours per week to the blog and twitter (much of this time is on the weekend).  So far, my so-called retirement hasn’t resulted in any more time for this.

About half of that 10 hours goes into reading and keeping up with what is going on (I am a very fast reader; I couldn’t do this otherwise). I really appreciate it when people email interesting links to me, or flag something for me on twitter.

A Week in Review post takes about 2.5 hours to put together.  A guest post with a bunch of figures or that is very long or needs editing or formatting takes 1-2 hours to put together.  Then if I am getting a lot of requests from reporters, that further cuts down time I have to spend on the blog.

You do the math.  There is only so much that I can do.  I receive no funding for this blog, and manage the blog entirely on my own (I am grateful for the contributions from guest bloggers).  Recently, one senior climate scientist told Peter Webster that I had to be taking money from the energy companies to support the blog, since no one could write that much on their own.  Peter Webster set him straight, who happens to have first-hand knowledge of where my $$ comes from.

This past week with the breaking story on John Bates, we were inundated with media requests.  My bandwidth for responding to any of this was minimal:  apart from preparing proposals for potential clients and preparing for two important meetings next week, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of bronchitis.

Media interactions

I get frequent invites for radio interviews, occasional invites for TV interviews, tons of queries from reporters, and occasional invites for op-eds.  I respond to these when I can, and I go out of my way for several reporters who I find do a thoughtful job on their articles.  I’ve become much better at being able to filter who I should interact with.

I am frequently criticized for my interactions with David Rose of the Mail on Sunday.  I like David Rose, and I actually trust him (which is not easy for me after the ‘brain fossilization’ fiasco).  I regard him as an independent, important investigative voice on climate and energy issues, who operates outside of the echo chambers on both sides of this debate.  I agree that the Mail editor often goes ‘over the top’ with headlines etc., which doesn’t help the article’s credibility; after all, the DM is a tabloid.  However, I take no responsibility for any DM articles that happen to quote me (I am invariably correctly quoted by the DM).

On the Hill

I have continued interactions with staffers from the Science Committees in both the House (chair: Smith) and Senate (chair: Cruz).

With the election of President Trump, my ‘role’ is potentially elevated.  I have been contacted by several different transition teams in the Trump administration.  I have made it very clear to all that I have no interest in a full-time position or in living in Washington, DC.  However I would be happy to serve in advisory roles.  We will see if any opportunities materialize.

One person from a transition team stated: “Your country needs you.”  Maybe.  But I think I can be most effective at doing what I am doing, which is analysis, assessment and communication.

It will be very interesting to see who gets appointed to the key science positions in the Trump administration.

Quality of life

Putting yourself out there in the middle of a big controversy doesn’t help your quality of life.  I realize that there are people in the media and politics that live and breathe this stuff in an addicted way.  But very few scientists have the temperament for this.  Mostly, it requires a very thick skin so that the potshots and insults don’t get to you.  But more importantly it requires a very carefully thought out framing for how you approach the controversy, so that you are broadly consistent in your approach while incorporating new evidence into your thinking.

Ironically, the scientists that do have the temperament for this are those with an ‘agenda’ of some sort (e.g. activist/advocate).  Unfortunately, these are not the objective scientists that we need in such positions.

The way that I manage to keep sane in the midst of controversy is that I can turn it off by not paying attention to social media or email.  In the comfort of my own home. This gives me an element of control, that a paid government employee or journalist doesn’t have.

Mostly, I like to learn about new things, and integrate these new things into what else I know.

I don’t have an agenda for influencing policy, largely because I have no particular wisdom or political preference related to energy and climate policy, beyond the obvious peace, health and prosperity for everyone.

Filed under: Sociology of science

Judith Curry

Dear friends of this aggregator

  • Yes, I intentionally removed Newsbud from the aggregator on Mar 22.
  • Newsbud did not block the aggregator, although their editor blocked me on twitter after a comment I made to her
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