I noted a link to WUWT in this NYT essay by Andrew Revkin titled: When Publicity Precedes Peer Review in Climate Science (Part One). I liked Andy’s bit of artwork to go with it, seen at right below.
I was surprised to learn the the Norwegian press release about climate sensitivity (carried on WUWT here on 1/25/13 without commentary) was not peer reviewed. That said, I did look when it first became known to me.
I generally try to locate the papers when I publish Press Releases (if the papers aren’t cited), and add the paper abstract and citation to the bottom of the PR carried at WUWT, but I am occasionally thwarted by the fact that the press releases sometimes come out before the journal early editions have a chance to update, and I thought that was the case here when I couldn’t find a paper in a journal to go with it.
The state of science PR is rife with problems like this, with many PR’s not even giving the name of the journal nor even the paper. Regular readers surely have noted times when I complain about these important details that aren’t included.
The problem is exacerbated by the science PR system, most notably Eurekalert, which is where I sourced the Norwegian PR from. You can find it here:
Public Release: 25-Jan-2013
Policymakers are attempting to contain global warming at less than two degrees Celsius. New estimates from a Norwegian project on climate calculations indicate this target may be more attainable than many experts have feared.
Contact: Thomas Keilman firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t know how good or bad the science is in that press release, much like we couldn’t tell (at the time) much about the quality of the science produced by the PR blitzes from the folks at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project. Time eventually did tell us almost two years later, as we learned that BEST got rejected from a major journal and wound up in a Volume 1 issue1 of a brand new journal mill.
Back to the current situation, I think what is really needed now is some sort of standards for science PR, as I wrote about at WUWT previously. When Eurekalert presents what “looks like” peer reviewed science right next to other actual peer reviewed science, some sort of delineation is needed, especially when we have loose standards for including the name of the journal, name of the paper, and pre-press releases before even the journals get the papers in the early editions.
See this, where I found myself in rare agreement with Dr. Gavin Schmidt:
A relevant excerpt of it is repeated below:
Here, in my opinion as 30 year TV/radio/web media reporter on science is what should be in any professionally produced science press release:
- The name of the paper/project being referenced
- The name of the journal it is published in (if applicable)
- The name of the author(s) or principal researcher(s)
- Contact information for the author(s) or principal researcher(s)
- Contact information for the press release writer/agent
- The digital object identifer (DOI) (if one exists)
- The name of the sponsoring organization (if any)
- The source of the funding for the paper/project
- If possible, at the minimum, one or two full sized (640×480 or larger) graphics/images from the paper/project that illustrate the investigation and/or results.
Yet, if you go on the world’s leading science press release aggregation service, Eurekalert, right now and examine the press releases there, you’ll find few if any that have all these features.
Given this latest incident, I think the need for basic standards in science press releases are even greater.
Andy promises a look at the BEST “press release before publication” debacle in part two. That should be interesting.