NOTE TO READER: This is the fact checker section, where the CCNF journalist impartially posts up outside material (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and the scientists fact check or comment on that material.
It has come to my attention that some readers don’t understand the function and purpose of this fact checker section. I have received some criticism that, by posting up an article for fact checking and commentary by the CCNF Scientist Community, I am somehow giving credence to the content being posted. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This is a fact checker section. Perhaps we should name it “Climate Change in the Media — Outside material posted for fact checking and commentary by the CCNF Scientist Community”? (That’s a little long, but it would make it more explicit.) As acting journalist, I am trying to provide a sampling of the coverage that I am finding in the greater media. You won’t like all material that is posted. I guarantee that. Heck, I don’t like it. But it is not my role, as acting journalist, to state what is credible and what is not in this Socratic forum of scientists. Not at this early stage at least. That is for the scientists in the Scientists’ Comment Thread under each post. The task of the journalist in this section is to post up the good, the bad, and the ugly — whatever is out there in the online space — in a strictly impartial manner.
The scientists can then go to town on it.
This is laying the scientific predicate for the policy discussion and debate that will begin in Phase II. Bottom-line, this fact checker section is a separate part of the Forum, and it should be tied to the media out there. The common man should be its target audience. As such, it should not be run by a scientist but an independent journalist that isn’t afraid to speak up when things aren’t making sense and search for the truth.
Yes, part of this wire should be devoted to important developments in climate science and climate communication, such as the new IPCC report or the recent joint-report by the US National Academy of Sciences and UK Royal Society, especially if it these developments are not adequately discussed by the CCNF Scientist Community. But there is value in giving some space to what the scientists determine to be “half-truths” and “misinterpretations”.
- This is a Socratic forum — let us exhaust “the debate” wherever it may be. A successful Phase II with the greater public on board demands it.
- Search engine optimization.
On the latter:
I recently posted up some excerpts of an essay penned by Dr. Garth Paltridge that was posted on JudithCurry.com in the fact checker section a couple weeks back. As an experiment, I cleared my browser history today and then tried searching for “Dr. Garth Paltridge” on Google. CCNF’s post comes up first.
What does this mean?
From now on, anyone who searches for Dr. Paltridge or his writings or uses similar keywords on Google will be directed to CCNF and read the CCNF scientists’ comments. That’s becoming the standard now for what is run in the ‘Climate Change in the Media — Fact checking and Commentary by the CCNF Scientist Community’ section.
Do you see the potential power of this section in identifying whether certain media is credible or not on a massive scale? The CCNF Scientist Community is still small, but we are scaling up and steadily approaching a critical mass.
This does underscore an important point though: If scientists think that something is misinformation or wholly credible or in between, it is important that they say so and say why in the Scientists’ Comment Thread. This does a world of service to our readers and the readers that will stumble across the article in a Google search. Without that, the ‘Climate Change — Fact checking and commentary by the CCNF Scientist Community’ section will just be noise. If, as may be the case sometimes, a minority or even a single scientist in the CCNF Scientist Community subscribes to what has been posted, the Forum’s journalist will note it. It might be necessary to have further discussion on the point of disagreement in order to fully establish the scientific predicate for Phase II.
I recognize that identifying and rebutting ill-founded arguments in the media again and again (these long-refuted arguments have come to be known colloquially as “climate zombies” among many scientists) is an endless job and might elicit some eye rolls from the scientists, which is why I try to limit posting what I consider to be junk. In CCNF’s last conference call (open to all scientist-members), many of the scientists mentioned that they do not want baseless claims and outrageous articles to drive the conversation. But those same scientists did recognize the importance of posting such material — not all the time, but ever so often — in order to subject it to the scrutiny of the scientists in the Scientists’ Comment Thread.
Bottom-line, “climate zombies” need to be identified and put down in the Forum. The good news is, on Climate Change National Forum, scientists need only kill a climate zombie once.
So to wrap it up: There’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there. Would it be of service to completely ignore this? Who would this national forum educate then? What silos of information would CCNF be breaking into? As for what the perfect balance is in identifying and exposing misinformation on one hand but not giving it so much attention that it drives the conversation and presents a false equivalency on the other, I am all ears.
Open for thoughts and comments.
UPDATE 4/23/14: I fully recognize that there is a misperception by some that CCNF is endorsing or furthering “climate myths” by running certain material in the fact checker section. I am working to change the name to make the section’s purpose and function more explicit. As noted before, I will also put the fact checker section below the ‘Latest from the CCNF Scientist Community” as soon as CCNF has the funds to pay a contract programmer to make that happen. Haven’t had much for proposed solutions on how this journalist can best mitigate the misperception. On Twitter, Dr. Gavin Schmidt proposed a “fisking” style arrangement. (I had to look up what that word meant; according to Wikipedia, it’s “blogosphere slang describing a point-by-point criticism that highlights perceived error”.) So basically, this would be where scientists mark up the text of outside material, much like ‘Tracked Changes’ in Word.
UPDATE 5/13/14: Check out the new “fisking” style arrangement for the ‘Climate Change in the Media — Commentary and fact checking by the CCNF Scientist Community’ section in our latest posts. We have adopted a system where we collect initial comments from the CCNF Scientist Community and provide a summary of these comments at the top when a post is published in this section. This way, the fact checking and commentary is read first and appears “above the fold” as they say in journalism.