GAME ON! The CCNF Fact Checker/General Commentary section is back in action!

July 16, 2014 6:08 am0 comments

Welcome to the new fact checker/commentary section of CCNF 2.0! In this section, scientists in the CCNF Scientist Community (and their guests) comment on or fact check excerpts of stories on climate change from the outside media. The material, which is selected by the journalist (yours truly), comprises “anything influencing the public’s understanding or misunderstanding of the science of climate change” and is presented in a strictly impartial manner. This leaves the judgment of the outside material to the scientists. Some of the outside material will be presented for general commentary by the scientists, some of it will be presented for fact checking.

Climate Change in the Media: Commentary and fact checking by the CCNF Scientist Community

 

On “fact checking” vs “general commentary”

I recently stopped by College Station to get some feedback from Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon on some of the upcoming items for this section. As founding board member of CCNF and as somebody who commands the respect of the other scientists, I definitely wanted his buy- in and input. (Although this section is controlled and run by an independent journalist under the CCNF bylaws, the section grinds to a halt without the volunteer participation of the CCNF science columnists). While looking over some of the upcoming material, Dr. Nielsen-Gammon honed in on a particular quote in a report. He then proceeded to dig through the report’s appendix, checked some sources, then went back to the report, then back to the appendix, pulled something else up, and doubled checked the quote. This left me awkwardly admiring the views of the Texas A&M golf course and campus in silence. After about 15 minutes, he abruptly broke the silence with a “Nope, it’s wrong.” And followed with a chuckle, “Folks are not going to like that!” The exercise was entirely for me, and the point was well taken. Real fact checking takes time, and it’s not like we have 100 scientists participating (yet). Therefore, I will do my best to be clear on when I am asking for a fact check and to not ask for fact checks willy-nilly.

Here’s what’s coming up! (The first of these should be posting soon; the gears are finally moving!)

  • A two part series on the history of climate science, with selected excerpts from The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin. The excerpts will cover the period of 1836 to the release of the first report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990. Mr. Yergin is most famous for his 2009 epic, The Prize: The Epic Quest of Oil, Money, and Power, which won him the Pulitzer Prize and is considered an authoritative history on oil by many an oil and gas man here in Texas. Note to scientists: We are not asking for particular fact checking here, but rather, general commentary. A good narrative on the development and history of climate science for readers to hang their hat on could be a great resource.
  • A set of claims and predictions on extreme hot weather and sea level rise from the recently released ‘Risky Business’ report. The ‘Risky Business Project’ is an initiative backed by former treasury secretary Hank Paulson (G.W. Bush), former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer–a billionaire hedge-fund manager turned climate activist. The report aims to identify and quantify the economic risks of climate change to the nation. For this post, we are going to be asking the scientists to fact check some particular claims from the report.

A note on this unique fact checker

This section is a potentially powerful platform for scientists to review and comment on outside media on climate change before the American public. It is the only online source for unvarnished commentary and fact checking by a diverse community of scientists across the greater climate and physical sciences publishing community. There’s really nothing like it on the web.

Who is participating?

Most of the participating scientists in the current CCNF Scientist Community are at the forefront of the peer-reviewed literature in their fields, and many are some of the best science communicators in the world.

Who are we soliciting?

CCNF is openly soliciting all fellows and members of the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, and American Institute of Physics to join and participate, though the door is open to any scientist that can meet the CCNF science columnist criteria. Our goal this latter half of summer is to double the number of scientists participating. That should get us to a critical mass.

Initial kinks

Like with anything new, this section had an initial kink. The problem was that  instead of leading with the fact checking and commentary, I was leading with the headlines of the material being fact checked. Naturally, this included some outrageous claims every once in a while (I am presenting “the good, the bad, and the ugly” as I call it, though sometimes I am not sure which is which when I post an item). Thanks to a fantastic internal dialogue between the scientists and journalist (yours truly), we adopted a new pre-publication system, where the journalist now circulates the drafts and collects initial comments, and then leads with the fact checking and commentary by the scientists! We did this for two posts, before the tactical pause began, and the readers loved it! Combined with the Scientists’ Comment Thread (SCT) (just for the CCNF scientists and their guests) and the Public Comment Thread (PCT), I think we can say this method really works!

A note on fair use

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity and true public forum for scientists, CCNF has maximum liberty on fair use (the most imaginable for a journalistic or educational online publisher). Fair use is the legal republication of copyrighted material “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching […], scholarship, or research” and is “not an infringement of copyright.” 17 U.S.C. Section 107. This section is, no joke, built on the language of section 107. It operates on fair use, and compliance with the fair use requirements are written into the CCNF bylaws.

Determining what is fair use and what is not is sometimes unavoidably gray – there’s no “criteria” per se; just a set of “factors” to be considered. Therefore, CCNF has adopted measures that err on the side of caution. When we approach a  grey area, we ask for permission from the copyright holders. That being said, to fully accomplish our educational purpose, the scientists must be allowed to review substantive excerpts of outside material, including paid-for-content (e.g., a book, WSJ.com article, etc.). This outside material, along with the scientists’ comments, becomes part of the Forum’s official record and can be used later in Phase II.

Gracious thanks to the volunteer CCNF scientists!

Eternal thanks to the scientists for their patience and guidance with this section and (most of all) for their fact checking and commentary. Also, hat tip to that one particular reader who first suggested the new “fisking” format for this section.

 

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