These "Fact Checker" articles have the highest prominence on the CCNF homepage, they are the first thing people will see and click on and are above the articles by CCNF scientists.
Or as the CCNF journalist Michael Quirke writes in his post explaining the carnage:
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.Naturally, you give credence to the posted content. Not only will it take time until the scientists can write their response and possibly with mistakes and only responding to parts of the story because of the haste. The article above the line automatically has more credibility as the response below the line. Simply by virtue of being above the line.
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.
Until the scientists have responded the articles go undisputed. Without explaining why an idea is wrong, the idea will stick. Even as a scientist, I try to read WUWT and Co. as little as possible, because after some time you often do not know the source of an idea anymore and may falsely assume the source was reliable. That is why I prefer reading HotWhopper to hear what happens at WUWT.
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.And I was so naive to think that the role of an acting journalist was to help the reader interpret the news. I guess we can just remove journalists from the equation completely and read random bit of news, mostly nonsense, sometimes accidentally valuable. It is probably good for the click-rates, but I personally prefer quality journalism.
ExamplesOne of these "Fact checking" treasures has the "title": "YAHOO NEWS article “Global Cooling — The REAL Inconvenient Truth: Part 1″: Climate is cooling and will likely continue cooling for 20 years, sunspot cycles the “real culprit” of climate change, and new evidence of data manipulation by scientists; the world is cooling, bank on it." And started with snow in Egypt. In the comments written one day later the scientists explain that while the suns intensity has dropped since the beginning of the satellite record in 1979, the temperature has increased. Many other mistakes of the Yahoo post that is reposted fully, such as the camel in the Egyptian snow, are not commented on.
An older treasure has the "title": "Dr. Garth Paltridge on JudithCurry.com: Reluctance of IPCC and others to reduce confidence levels in light of hiatus and misunderstood climate mechanisms shows a lack of scientific skepticism." It could be a stupid WUWT post pretending that global warming has stopped because the surface temperatures have not grown as fast as before, fully ignoring that the climate system as a whole keeps on warming and that only more of the warming went into the ocean rather than the atmosphere during the last decade. What makes this CCNF post even worse is that Judith Curry is defending it. Thus we have a confident wrong article above the line and little bickering scientists below the line. Great Fact Checking. That is science communication.
SolutionsMy suggestion would be to create a mailing list with the CCNF scientists. That way the journalist can propose articles for the Fact Checking section. This would allow CCNF to write articles where the science is presented above the line and immediately with the nonsense. For the scientists involved this is also much nicer as they will have some more time to prepare a quality reaction.
[UPDATE. The problem seems to be solved.
] [UPDATE. This is how the CCNF now does the Fact Checking. Looks like a clear improvement to me.
If the "Fact checker" stays this way, I would suggest all scientists to stop participating in CCNF. Let it succumb to another WUWT or Climate Etc. There are a lot of such homepages already; one more won't hurt. That is better as a homepage that has credibility due to the participation of scientists, but that is actually helping spread misinformation.
That may happen automatically. Michael Tobis of Planet 3.0 writes:
I have been trying to convince scientists that this site presents a level playing field where the true balance of science can emerge, and I’ve been rebuffed with the idea that this site is another example of “false balance”, wherein the politically structured arguments will again take precedence. That argument is being bolstered by this article...Scott Mandia writes below the hiatus article:
"Michael, I know your heart is in the right place but posting this piece really damages the credibility of CCNF. There is no place for the "It's not happening" argument. ... You have just elevated Dr. Paltridge to the status of the other experts who write here. You also run the risk of deterring real experts from future posts because they do not wish to be associated with this National Enquirer-type nonsense. Keep the discussion where it belongs. ... Michael Quirke Please do a search for "Familiarity Backfire Effect" and you will see why this post is not helpful."And Bart Verheggen writes:
"Also, I’d be [in] favor of setting a higher bar for articles to be posted in that section. Most scientists are growing tired of the same old “global warming stopped” type memes and have no interest and no time to engage in a game of whack-a-mole. Plus there are excellent myth-busting websites out there already. If there’s an intelligent argument brought forward that shines a new light on something, now that’s different. Bring it on!"And CCNF scientist Scott Denning writes:
I agree with Bart that the first impression of the CCNF forum is visually dominated by sometimes-bizarre and inflammatory posts that are not even remotely credible, and that this detracts from the quality of the forum.It seems like Michael Quirke did notice the discontent among the scientists:
It’s just not feasible to “fact-check” all these articles. Most of them are not fact-oriented in the first place. Propagandist rhetoric dripping with contempt for science has worse problems than can be addressed by simply “fact checking.”
Will post up less of the inflammatory and complete B.S. for a while. Don’t want it to become whack a mole or lose the scientists’ participation. That being said, it is important to show readers what “the mole” looks like.But I have the feeling, he does not really understand why. "Less of the inflammatory and complete B.S. for a while" sounds more like pacifying of the flaring protests than like a long-term solution.
I have wondered whether I should add NoFollow tags to the links to CCNF. [UPDATE: Have added rel="NoFollow" to all links to CCNF.]
[UPDATE. Judith Curry at Climate Etc. now also wrote about the Fact Checker and quoted this post at length. Please find my comment at Climate Etc. (with added tweets) below.
Thanks for the plug, even if it is a bit late, because the problem is solved by now. I was complaining about the format of the Fact Checker at CCNF. They were more positive about my input and have now changed the system. The scientists are now responding above the line and are not demoted to responding below the line in the comments. Comments which many people do not read.
Otherwise I am quite happy with the CCNF.
Blogging @ Variable Variability, I would argue we need a diversity of venues (but scientists do not have to play dancing monkey everywhere.)— Victor Venema (@VariabilityBlog) April 25, 2014
It is a forum with some science that can lead people back to reality, people that would most likely never visit RealClimate and Co. For the same reason I like your blog, you cite from the scientific literature and I have some hope that this lets people see the difference in quality of argumentation between WUWT and the literature.
My comment about 30 to 1 was a response to Mann calling for balance.
I was only pointing out that that would be difficult. The fraction of dissenters with blogs is way higher as the fraction of mainstream scientists with blogs. That creates an imbalance that CCNF cannot solve.
JC: It only takes one such argument, and one person making it
That is theoretically true for the scientific literature. I am sure you understand that this is not true for blog-science. Isn't that why so many dissenters are blogging?
In practice it will likely take more than one Galileo or study. Also the refutation of classical mechanics by quantum mechanics and relativity did not change many thinks we already understood at the time. It allowed us to study new things and ask new questions. That was the revolution.
Climatology is a mature field and new finding will more likely change the complete picture only little. The most uncertainty is in the impacts, improving our understanding there will have to be done one impact at a time. And more likely, one aspect of an impact at a time.