Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New names

Apart from the vast backlog of unsorted names at the bottom of my list, a few new names have popped up that I've taken the time to look up, find home page and stats, and some interesting new names have popped to the top in my sort order.

The top two spots now are both recent additions:
new #1 name: Dr. Stuart Pimm of Duke Univ. in Durham, NC, with a striking 682 cites to his fourth-most-cited paper.
new #2 name: Dr. William Schlesinger of the Nicholas School and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, NY. I've heard Dr. Schlesinger's warm baritone voice on several of the excellent podcasts posted by the Nicholas Institute on their site and via iTunes U. Here's one sample and a listing of many.

I find podcasts of conferences and lectures via "iTune U" (as in university) a great source for some extra learning that fits in with commuting by subway and walking between home, office and the station. If they are giving a PowerPoint presentation and you've just got the audio, it can be frustrating not having the slides to watch - do your best to infer/imagine. Some conferences now also post the slides and/or a video.

Also new at #7 is President Obama's newly appointed head of NOAA, Dr. Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State U., with impressive citation stats which have vaulted her to the top female researcher on my list.

I have added a column in my Excel source file of all this to note which authors are women. I haven't thought through how to present that data point visually yet - my spreadsheet shows 172 women that I've noted so far, out of just over 1800 names in all - just under 10%. This reflects a broader gender imbalance in physics and math studies in general. With more time and more complete data gathered such as year of PhD, I might be able to look for any trends toward less imbalance in more recent graduates, but I don't have that yet.

I've also added President Obama's pick for science advisor and Director of the OSTP, John Holdren. Since his academic work is in science policy, the citation stats (landing him in the mid 400's of my list) are not really comparable with those working in 'hard' sciences, which tend toward higher numbers of shorter published works, versus fewer but much longer pieces in social science field such as policy analysis.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Calls for action, calls for inaction

I've developed a new angle for my list of climate scientists that I believe opens up new insights into the list. I've tracked down ten public declarations or open letters to leaders regarding climate change - six 'skeptical' and four 'activist,' as I'll dub them. The 'activist' letters issue a strong call for prompt action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The 'skeptical' letters argue that GHG emission cuts will be economically devastating, and generally go on to question the very basis of the case for such reductions: the existence or strength of a greenhouse forcing effect of rising CO2 concentrations; the attribution of current temperature trends to human emissions; the validity of the historical temperature record itself; the significance of projected harmful impacts of rapid warming or sea level rise; and so on.

I've linked to websites of each of the ten documents. I've downloaded the list of signatories, worked these into tabular form and checked for duplicates. I've given each statement a short tag, which I've entered in the "notes" column beside each author's name who signed the document. I've colour-coded the notes cell in the table to show signers of the activists documents in green, with the 'skeptics' documents in grey. (I also count as activist the ten contributors to the website Realclimate; among the skeptics I also count those interviewed in the TV documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle.)

I've limited this to documents I believe were signed knowingly and where the signers' identities are clear from the document, and are specifically from scientists. This excludes the vast but untraceable list on the so-called "Oregon Petition" (much favoured by Sen. Inhofe) as well the list of skeptics maintained by Sen. Inhofe's staffer Marc Morano, which largely tracks the lists I've cited with various additions gathered by Morano, but has more than a few names of people who objected strongly on learning they had been listed.

A single exception is that (action advocate, Bali declaration supporter) Dr. Carl Wunsch of M.I.T. was included in The Great Global Warming Swindle unaware of the film's editorial stance, and promptly denounced how the film characterized his views and rejected its conclusions.

The colour-coded notes boxes makes it immediately visible how the top scientists are 'voting' on these appeals. Of the top 100 most cited authors in my list as of now, I find some 35 have signed activist appeals, but just two signed skeptics' appeals (plus one other name, Vincent Courtillot, who I recognize is a "climate skeptic" but who has not signed one of the listed statements) 35 to 3, i.e. over eleven to one in favor of activism over 'inactivism.'

The non-signers should not be considered undecided on these questions, just simply ones who did not happen to take part in any of these open letters. I would further argue that the IPCC Assessment Reports are themselves quite strong calls to action, progressively more urgent and unequivocal with each round. None of the 619 authors of AR4 wg1 signed any of the skeptics' open letters I've listed.

However, many skeptics or contrarians like to argue that the "consensus" within the IPCC is somehow tainted by "group think," excessive peer pressure or politicization of the review process (the objection given by Dr. Chris Landsea as leading to his resignation.) Without acceding to any of those portrayals, I've kept the IPCC participation as a separate column which I don't refer to in counting some authors as "activists." So names with a plain white background in the notes column can be seen as "non-signers" who have signed neither an activist nor a skeptical appeal, excluding IPCC reports.


Many IPCC authors fall under the 'non-signer' category, but none have signed any of the skeptics' appeals. Looking at the table of 619 contributing authors to IPCC AR4 wg1, the only names linked to strong 'skeptics' positions are Dr. Landsea, and Dr. John Christy of UAH, who appeared in the film The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Of the 63 'non-signers' among the top 100 most-cited, some 39 were AR4 wg1 contributing authors.

I would argue a large share of the non-signers would be more inclined to agree with the activists and not the skeptics, but that's another debate; it can be approached by looking at their published work, obviously, but that takes both effort and interpretive judgment.)

For now, let my data on the number of signatories of clearly activist or skeptical appeals stand on their own: of the top 500 most-cited authors on climate, 130 have signed appeals for prompt action (outside of the IPCC assessments themselves); twenty-two of the 500 have signed a skeptical statement. At this level, the outspoken activists outnumber the skeptics by six to one, and skeptics make up just 4.4% of authors.

I've added a petitions page with background on the public appeals from scientists, as well as some of the largest petitions on climate change from the general public.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Progress on my list of climate scientists

It's been a while since I've blogged on my quixotic project, and a lot has happened in the interim. In mid-December, I posted on some climate discussion sites including Realclimate and Deltoid, describing my list and providing a link. I've begun getting some very nice feedback - about a dozen responses so far - and the comments have been very positive. I may post some "dust jacket blurb" pull-quotes soon. (I'll anonymize any where the source does not want to be quoted by name.)

I've added some ancillary pages based on spillover from the data I've been harvesting: a list of over 60 journals that have published the authors I've catalogued. There are ones that cover climate science, paleoclimate, oceanography, biogeochemical cycles, and various allied subjects.

I also threw together a partial list of climate research centres at universities around the world. (I could do a similar one for the others that are either government run or that span several different universities - still To Do.) The one I've got for university centres is still far from complete; I first need to go through the domain names I extracted from all the author URLs to see how many more these might pick up. Today I pulled out stats on what countries these come from, based on the top-level domain suffix (probably still including multiples from the same university in several cases, though):
190 .edu (mainly U.S. universities)
43 .gov (U.S. gov't agencies)
45 .ac.uk U.K. universities
30 .de Germany
29 .ca Canada
23 .fr France
18 .au Australia
14 .jp Japan
13 .ch Switzerland
9 .it Italy
9 .nz New Zealand
and so on through AR AU BR CL CN DK ES EU FI HK IN IR IT MX NL NO RO RU SE to ZA.
Plus - extra bonus! - the first site I've ever visited that's set in the .AQ namespace - Antarctica! Twice, in fact: Australia's SIPEX and ASPECT. (The British Antarctic Survey falls under the .ac.uk domain, though they clearly could justify a .aq name if they wanted.)

As for my issue with sorting out authors with the same or very similar names, this is even turning into an issue within the list. I've now identified three pairs of similarly named climate scientists whom I confirmed are indeed different people:
Karl R Thomas director of NOAA's NCDC, not-the-same-guy-as the Austrian-born Karl Thomas lately at NCAR in Boulder

This Bin Wang of U. Hawaii not-the-same-guy-as this other Bin Wang of China -- both were IPCC AR4 wg1 delegates.

David C. Lowe of New Zealand's NIWA (no homepage found) not-the-same-guy-as David J. Lowe of Waikato U. -- also in New Zealand. At least these two have different middle initials, making it possible to tell them apart in Google Scholar.

This past week I went back to a topic I looked at in some depth a year ago: open letters to the Prime Minister of Canada opposing Kyoto and arguing that the science on climate needs to be gone back over (again?) before anyone makes any decisions. I found there were actually three such letters, in 2002, 2003, and 2006. I've charted who signed which one, how many were actually Canadians (no more than 1/3) and then I picked up the 2006 rebuttal letter from a much longer list of Canadian climate scientists. The latter seems to have arising out of a meeting of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and has 130 signatories - all Canadian and all well qualified - so I've dubbed this the "CMOS 130." I'll blog in more detail on the Canadian angle in a future post.

I'm working on this idea as a formulation of who is who in this list: a subset who are declared on the outspoken 'anti' side - signatories of the inactivist petitions, fellows of think tanks staunchly against the mainstream science, and the like; a separate subset who are vocal activists urging immediate cuts in carbon emissions; and the silent majority who just publish their research and in many cases contribute to the IPCC reports. The key point is that the IPCC reports draw on the full range of the published literature, which includes this whole spectrum; yet the IPCC ARs make it clear we really do have a problem. Thus the inactivists are reduced to attacking the IPCC itself - and with it, in effect, all the science literature it built upon. This is why Naomi Oreskes' paper caused them such consternation. They also have to keep trying to claim there are "silent skeptics" afraid to say what they think out of fear of persecution by "alarmist" bullies. Hmmm.

I launched into the creation of my site to put a face to the over 600 authors of IPCC AR4 wg1, most of whom toil above the fray of blog and counter-blog. A lot of them spend months at a time in the field - on survey ships, in the Arctic or Antartic, climbing and drilling on glaciers, operating LIDARs, sondes, hydrographs, and then months more back in the lab (and the classroom!) working through the data.

As I kept expanding from just AR4 wg1 to all their co-authors, departmental colleagues, and then other names that I came upon following those leads, a picture has begun to emerge of a broad and still growing field of interrelated research disciplines. I've got 1600 names and a long queue of sources I haven't even begun to examine yet. My list may top out at some point out of sheer exhaustion - of me rather than of the sources of more names of scientists.