There’s a lot of reaction to the front page story in The Times (UK) seen at left. Here is one from the Science Media Centre where they claim “science meets the headlines”. Indeed. But the reaction speaks more to tribalism than factual science, IMHO.
Professor Lennart Bengtsson, professorial research fellow at the University of Reading, said:
“I do not believe there is any systematic “cover up” of scientific evidence on climate change or that academics’ work is being “deliberately suppressed”, as The Times front page suggests. I am worried by a wider trend that science is being gradually being influenced by political views. Policy decisions need to be based on solid fact.
“I was concerned that the Environmental Research Letters reviewer’s comments suggested his or her opinion was not objective or based on an unbiased assessment of the scientific evidence. Science relies on having a transparent and robust peer review system so I welcome the Institute of Physics publishing the reviewers’ comments in full. I accept that Environmental Research Letters is entitled to its final decision not to publish this paper – that is part and parcel of academic life. The peer review process is imperfect but it is still the best way to assess academic work.
“I was surprised by the strong reaction from some scientists outside the UK to joining the Global Warming Policy Foundation this month. I had hoped that it would be platform to bring more common sense into the global climate debate.
“Academic freedom is a central aspect to life at University of Reading. It is a very open, positive and supportive environment to work in. I have always felt able to put forward my arguments and opinions without any prejudice.”
And there’s reaction from others there as well.
I agree that The Times went a bit overboard with the use of the words “cover-up” which really doesn’t apply since the issue is out in the open now. OTOH, that’s what all newspapers do. Just look at the overboard headlines and idiotic reactions (like Gov. Brown saying LAX would have to be moved). However, the phrase may apply if there’s an effort to prevent the names of the reviewers to come out, especially the one who said that Bengtsson’s paper would be “damaging”, never mind the science.
Professor Mike Hulme summed it up well in the SMC article:
“This episode tells us a lot about how deeply politicised climate science has become, but how some scientists remain blind to their own biases.”
Mostly what we witnessed so far is “science tribalism“. One tribe believe global warming is a serious and immediate problem that will affect their tribe, the other tribe believes global warming is a minor problem, and there is little to worry about, and what effects may be seen can be dealt with.
The tribe that believes it is a crisis works actively to suppress views of the other, something that is unsurprising and a basic human group reaction. The thing is though, scientists are supposed to be above such emotional actions. I thought this discussion of tribalism was interesting, especially for this:
In a group setting, will outcasting one member strengthen tribalism?
If the group is a tribe and if that member is of more trouble than he’s worth, it will strengthen the tribe.
Clearly, climate scientists aren’t free of tribal instincts, and even though he has “recanted”, Bengtsson will be branded by other members of the tribe until he dies. He’s not likely to be invited to participate in many activities he once was. I suspect funding will become harder to get or dry up completely and his papers henceforth will likely be him as the sole author.
One only has to look at the string of emotional outbursts and subterfuge we see from Mann, Gleick, Jones, Hansen, and others to know climate scientists aren’t operating on the professional level that scientists are expected to.