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Here's how to fix or report an error (also under How To on left sidebar)

Reference - Edit stubbiest template with boilerplate formatting, for new (and ancient) articles; Lisa's Talk page.
Other reference stuff is below.


(My Talk page is actually over here).

About my SourceWatch contributions

SourceWatch is a collaborative effort, which means that a given page is - somewhat like Wikipedia - a group effort; even if only one person wrote it, they're likely following guidelines set by others.

On noting climate science expertise

Why I note it - because contrarian non-experts are posing as experts

In editing SourceWatch profiles I frequently address the presence/absence/nature of the individual's expertise in climate science. Climate scientist Kerry Emanuel - a Republican - has noted [1] that

"...into the [media] arena steps a whole host of [people posing falsely as climate experts]. These are a ... brew of retired physicists, TV weather forecasters, political junkies, media hacks, and anyone... willing to tell an interviewer that he/she is a climate scientist..."

[...and then he/she argues (or raise the prospect) that the experts aren't credible, or that climate change isn't happening, isn't us, isn't important, is less important than other problems, is too expensive to fix, or it's too late to do anything about it short of geoengineering. (See Clive Hamilton's Skeptic trajectory) (Are they speaking as scientists, or as attorneys? Also: Bickmore's laws of rationality) ]

Why expertise is relevant

Some argue that expertise is irrelevant, all that matters is the science. But they're overlooking the distinction between using science and doing science - if you're an expert on the science, yes you should evaluate the arguments based on the scientific evidence; but if you're not an expert - and most of us aren't - we're more likely to get a reliable picture if we use the science - i.e., if we rely on those who are experts - rather than trying to do it ourselves.

Why (& when) an expert's area of expertise is relevant

Someone who's been immersed in a field for years has developed a gut instinct for it - "much of this local knowledge actually becomes formalised in rules of thumb, we can call it intuition, gut feelings or even heuristics of we like;" but when an expert in one domain opines in another, watch out, because a) he's carrying the baggage of confidence from his domain expertise, yet b) he's ill-equipped, heuristically, for the domain he's assessing.[2] (& yes, many of us are susceptible to doing this, including this contributor)

Who's not (automatically) a climate expert

Meteorologists focus on the "noise" around global warming's "signal" (video). (Longer: CJR. [3]) Physicists "...confuse [their] being smart and having the ability to learn everything with actually knowing stuff."[4] (Re their toolbox, see Arthur Smith's essay.)

When a communicator's expertise is relevant (and when it's less so)

Communicators' expertise matters sometimes, but to varying degrees depending on what message they're communicating. There are 2 levels of expertise -

  • ability to ascertain what the scientific consensus is
  • ability to assess the science for oneself

A competent communicator needs to be able to do #1; but doesn't need to be able to do #2 unless they're espousing contrarian views. So, if the communicator is just channeling the (mainstream) scientists' assessments, then his/her own expertise is irrelevant. But if the communicator's gone off into contrarian-land, then his own climate science expertise (or lack of it) is relevant.

The Credibility Spectrum (individual expertise is still not sufficient)

Even individuals with expertise will sometimes hold views that go against the weight of scientific evidence; so groups of experts will be your most credible sources. See: Kate's Credibility Spectrum.

Further reading on this subject

Scientific consensus on climate change, and how to assess it

See Bart's How do we know there’s a consensus, and why does it matter?

Connolley's view (plus links) of survey quality:[5]

"With the surveys, there are two internal problems: selection [or responders], and the questions asked; ...[some surveys] suffer particularly from this. The Oreskes work doesn’t suffer from those problems, though, because it isn’t a survey of people but the literature. I think that is good; what matters in science isn’t what people think – that isn’t, so to speak science – but what gets into the literature. Or rather, what is the conversation between scientists; that used to be the literature, arguably nowadays blogs and preprints and stuff count for more; but still, opinion is over rated. Inverted, that is why I’d rate statements by organisations higher…"

On the Oreskes survey, see Skeptical Science and Real Climate writeups.

I make this mistake too

Apologies. Will try to do better in future.

Where I part company with other SourceWatch contributors

For the record.

Terminology - "AGW Denier", "skeptic", "contrarian" etc

Just for the record, of these 3 terms I much prefer the term "contrarian" (since "skeptics" are anything but, and since many inactivists do not, strictly speaking, deny anthropogenic global warming, just its importance - see the Skeptic trajectory), but another active SourceWatch contributor changes any mention of "contrarian" to "AGW denier", and I haven't chosen to fight this battle.

Others address the terminology issue here, & touch on it here.

(The latter is interesting: "The main lesson I took away from the conference was this: there is no consistent contrarian science, and there is no defining contrarian ideology or motivation. Some are sincere. Others are angry at their lack of funding. Some appear to be envious of the IPCC scientists’ success, and others have found a niche that gets them attention they would not otherwise get. Only a few appear to be motivated by politics. No single label applies to them, and I found myself referring to them as “contrarians/skeptics/deniers/enablers/provocateurs/publicity-seekers”.".)

Profile photos

IMO the practice of using profile photos that are particularly unflattering is inappropriate.(edited)

"Report/fix an error" icons

I'd prefer it if SourceWatch pages sported the Report an Error Alliance "Report an error" icon, on pages beyond just this template page.

ALEC text

An identical, long paragraph of text about ALEC currently appears on pretty much any SW page with a tie to ALEC; I'd prefer to keep such common text to a minimum.

My reference links

Other tools