Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tangent: actual scans of bird brains

Well, I was checking to see where I'd posted or blogged using my birdbrainscan nickname, which I chose in hopes it would not be taken by anyone else anywhere. While I have never run into "name already taken" by someone else, today I did find one curious collision, with this catchy news story:

Brainy Birds Out-Thought Doomed Dinosaurs?

Hey, this one has everything for the bird-inclined paleo buff: the K-T mass extinction, working from tiny fossils to infer who survived and why, and of course, brainy birds. Plus there's a handy Scrabble(TM) word tossed in: "wulst"

Betcha didn't know that one.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Even better?

This week I came across a study published this past September that gives a much clearer picture of the outlook of climate scientists on the whole.

A January, 2009 Paper in EOS 90:3 (20 Jan 09) by Peter Doran and Maggie Kendall Zimmerman surveyed over 3,000 AGU members for their views on climate change.

The paper is linked on the EOS site but is subscriber-only: EOS Vol. 90 no. 3, 20 Jan.2009

Fortunately, this write-up at Scienceblogs is open-access.

Lesser mortals might see this as a threat to their own little personal slice of the pie, carved out of a winter's worth of evenings and weekends, but not I. No, I am noble and fair-minded, and I want credit to go where credit is due. These BAStards fine scholars got way better access that I've got.

I'll still hold forth my list as potentially useful: I show who is highly cited, link to their home page for everyone to see for themselves what each researcher is working on and what they've posted on their own sites. Also, my coverage of the now nearly a dozen public declarations and open letters goes beyond what has been done previously on the web. Much of the time, that has consisted of copying and pasting just the names without the context of who they are or how much weight they may carry within the field.

I hope my listing gives a glimpse into that issue that is of some use to others.

Added UCS 2008

There is a powerful call for action on climate change put out by the Union of Concerned Scientists in May 2008, and endorsed by some 1728 American scientists and economists.

I've extracted the list of signers, and this weekend I compared it to my existing list. I was able to match up some 145 names already on my list who signed this declaration. I've added the tag "UCS08" in the Notes column beside names of signers. I also gathered homepage links and citation stats on any of these names that were still waiting in my 'no stats' queue.

With that done and the list sorted anew, I now find 181 of the top 500 have signed one of the 'activist' declarations versus just 21 signing any of the skeptics' statements. This is apart from having served as an IPCC contributing author.

Still to do: filter out economists from the remaining 1583 UCS08 names and post those names. The problem is they'll all fall in my 'no stats' queue, pushing that to far over 2/3 of the total size of the list. Ouch.

Friday, February 6, 2009

getting somewhere

Well I've put a ridiculous amount of my spare time into the big list of climate scientists - and as one respondent pointed out, many non-scientists or non-specialists who have also chimed in on the topic. I've been publicizing more recently, and I'm starting to get some very nice feedback, including from several prominent names on the list. It's a surreal experience to look in my inbox and see a name I know from reading assignments in my climatology course.

Anyway, I feel the list I've put together so far does a reasonable job of illustrating who is getting cited widely, as well as who is signing which kind of climate declaration. I'm struck by just now many of these declarations there have been. This morning I got an email pointing out two more activist statements by Swiss scientists. Earlier this week I found the original list from the skeptics' Leipzig Declaration (1995) and I believe there may be something from the skeptics back to 1992, still waiting to be tracked down and collated.

I found some nice freeware for building interactive timelines for the web, and I've been meaning to try out one of these for a timeline of climate statements; I could show dates of the Toronto conference in 1988, the IPCC ARs in 1990, 1995, 2001 and 2007; the US NAS assessments, and the statements from science academies worldwide; then all the open letters and declarations both activist and skeptical that I've been logging here. I could make a bar showing the long time span that the OISM list has been accumulating... this should be interesting, if I can just get to it.

Until last month, I had only known of one skeptics' letter to the Canadian PM (CA06) and the activist climate scientist response later that same month (CMOS130). Then I did more digging and found the earlier CA02 and CA03 letters. Considering just Canadians, the CMOS 130 outnumber the 21 Canadians on the CA06 letter by six to one - and as for the broader case, the Canadian skeptics are also skewed toward retirees, non-scientists or non-climate-scientists, and many have little or no standing as far as citations to peer-reviewed publication.

At one point I'd had in mind to take Canada as a more tractable subset of the world population of climate scientists and skeptics. I have no hope of filling out the list with every possible climate scientist around the world, but for Canada I've got a reasonable first cut already. I might still want to include this argument in my analysis: I may not have anywhere near complete coverage of the world, but I've got most of the Canadians listed and counted (a lot of the CMOS130 names are still not done though.) My separate page for Canada could be the place to focus on the CA02-03-06 letters and the CMOS letter.

Of course, skeptic spinmeisters could then claim that Canada is not a representative sub-sample of the world's scientists. I doubt I could talk them out of that viewpoint; maybe we really are all pinkos with our socialized medicine where you can't have your policy canceled for having used it, and our gun registry, and that pinko David Suzuki on our government-run CBC (the one station on my radio dial with no commercials - I'm spoiled now and have to clench my teeth through those yelling matches and jingles waiting for a traffic update on AM - Ahh-LAARRRM Forrrrrce!)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More new names

I decided to track down the list of people profiled by the National Post's columnist Lawrence Solomon in his series "The Deniers" (which he also released in book form.)

I found the series headings listed on the site Urban Renaissance, though only the headline, date, and first sentence or so. The full text articles linked there are paywalled and I was not inclined to pay-per-view, so I just transcribed the headlines and the dates for reference. Fortunately, UofT has an electronic subscription to the Post, so I was able to view back issues by date, then locate the columns by their headlines. This allowed me to match up who was profiled on what date.
There were 37 people covered. Of these, at least five were so far from being climate skeptics that I felt they have to be bracketed out as objects of Solomon's tendency to get some quotes and then launch off on his own "unique" interpretation, generally consisting of savaging the IPCC.
I've added a notation "LSDeniers" in the notes column for all 37 names; I added to my list the half-dozen or so names I had not found previously and gathered their stats and homepages. Of these, a number are actually well-cited climate scientists who have no patience for Solomon's spin on their views. Nigel O. Weiss of Cambridge reacted so sharply to Solomon's write-up that he compelled the Post to issue a retraction. Poor Dr. Carl Wunsch has been subject to this treatment twice - once by Solomon then again by Martin Durkin in TGGWS.

This got me to catch up on gathering stats for a few very prominent "skeptics", notably Freeman Dyson, who now sits at #22, the highest-ranked author to have signed a skeptics' declaration (three in fact). Also economist William Nordhaus, profiled by Solomon and an outspoken critic of Nicholas Stern's report on climate impact and mitigation economics, now sits at #20. It's rather apples-to-oranges to rank citations for an economist against climate scientists, but oh well.

Update: 2009-11-21: I was interviewed on CBC Radio's The Current (archived here with link to mp3 podcast) in connection with their coverage of James Hoggan's new book Climate Cover-up, and Lawrence Solomon was on after me. Checking back to this post on his Deniers series, I found the Urban-Rennaissance site closed down and was apparently merged into that of Energy Probe, of which Lawrence Solomon is Executive Director. Here is a new, live link into their open access archive of The Deniers column series. Use the page number navigation buttons to move through the series. (Other columns by Solomon are also linked via these pages.) End update

Meanwhile, there's a new name at #1, David Tilman of UMinnesota, with an unsurpassed 1007 citations to his fourth-most-cited work. I looked him up on Scopus, and they give him an h-index score of 49.

Also, I re-checked some stats of names I'd added a long time ago, and a few showed up as severely undercounted - likely a case of my having left some added search term in rather than getting the stats on the "all" setting. Most noticeable here is Dr. James Hansen of NASA GISS, who had been languishing, implausibly, at #131. It turns out I had under-scored him quite badly - I missed several more highly cited papers. My excuse: there is another James E Hansen who is very widely cited in medical research, so it takes a bit of filtering to make sure I've got *this* James E Hansen's top four papers. I'm more confident I got the stats straight this time. Now he is at #7, which makes more sense knowing his prominence in the literature (as well as the media - though they can certainly also hype people with picayune credentials.)

I don't know if I'll bother to collect h-index rankings for everyone - just so much more clerical work. I've done a few names as a sampling process. No big inconsistencies between that and my home-rolled ranking method so far.