Disturbing research about the use of “narratives” in climate science papers

By Larry Kummer. Posted at the Fabius Maximus website.

Summary: A new paper provides valuable information about climate science — evidence of the politicization that helped collapse the public policy debate. The authors conclude that narratives are “used to positive effect” in peer-reviewed papers. It puts science on the slippery slope to becoming propaganda (or, in today’s jargon, “fake news”). Scientists can achieve career success but destroy the public’s esteem for science accumulated over centuries.

Narrative Style Influences Citation Frequency in Climate Change Science
By Ann Hillier, Ryan P. Kelly, and Terrie Klinger.

PLOS ONE, 15 December 2016.

Excerpt. Red emphasis added.

“Climate change is among the most compelling issues now confronting science and society, and climate science as a research endeavor has grown accordingly over the past decade. The number of scholarly publications is increasing exponentially, doubling every 5±6 years. The volume of climate science publications now being produced far exceeds the ability of individual investigators to read, remember, and use. Accordingly, it is increasingly important that individual articles be presented in a way that facilitates the uptake of climate science and increases the salience of their individual research contributions.

“…Despite this, professional scientific writing tends to be more expository than narrative, prioritizing objective observations made by detached researchers and relying on the logical proposition “if X, then Y” to define the structure of the argument.

“Narrative writing, on the other hand, is commonly used to good effect in popular science writing. Both simple narratives and apocalyptic climate narratives are known to capture public attention and spur action. Moreover, narratives can influence perceptions of climate risk and policy preferences among the public, and the narrative style has been proposed as a powerful means of research to address problems of knowledge, policy, and action as they relate to climate change.

“Here we explore the influence of narrative in the professional communication of climate science research, acknowledging that the perception of narrative can be subjective and context- dependent.

Relationship between strength of an article’s narrativity index and how often it is cited.


“…Our results reveal that — at least among the set of peer-reviewed climate change literature included in our dataset — articles featuring more narrative writing styles are more often cited. This effect is independent of year of publication, number of authors, or abstract length.

“…The result is surprising, though, in the context of professional scientific communication, in which expository styles dominate the published literature …and citation frequency is often considered to depend largely — even primarily — upon the strength of the science. These conventions and constraints would seem to eliminate any role for narrativity in professional scientific writing, but our results indicate otherwise.

“…we found an unexpectedly strong correlation between narrativity and journal impact factor: more highly cited journals feature more narrative writing styles. …Whatever the reason, the message to authors is clear: up to a point, more narrative writing styles can increase the uptake and ultimate visibility of one’s research.

“…Peer-reviewed scientific discourse is often viewed as a special form of communication, exempt from the qualities of narratives that humans inherently relate to. However, our findings support an alternative interpretation … evaluative commentary can be used to positive effect.”

© 2016 Hillier et al, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,

—————————End excerpt —————————
This is post-normal science


“The contrasting approach to science, still in the very early stages of development, could be called ‘precautionary’, since it is usually concerned with reacting to the unintended harmful effects of progress. Its style is ‘post-normal’; it lies at the contested interfaces of science and policy. It addresses issues where, typically, facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.”

— “The Post-Normal Science of Precaution” by Jerry Ravetz. An update of his “What is Post-Normal Science?” from Futures, September 1999.

This is elegant language describing post-normal science. It has a sound theoretical foundation, but is often used to justify corruption of science for political purposes. Science has always been slanted to justify society’s beliefs; post-normal science does so openly and boldly — with industrial age efficiency. For more about this see Wikipedia.

Abstract for this paper

Narrative Style Influences Citation Frequency in Climate Change Science.“

“Peer-reviewed publications focusing on climate change are growing exponentially with the consequence that the uptake and influence of individual papers varies greatly. Here, we derive metrics of narrativity from psychology and literary theory, and use these metrics to test the hypothesis that more narrative climate change writing is more likely to be influential, using citation frequency as a proxy for influence.

“From a sample of 732 scientific abstracts drawn from the climate change literature, we find that articles with more narrative abstracts are cited more often. This effect is closely associated with journal identity: higher-impact journals tend to feature more narrative articles, and these articles tend to be cited more often. These results suggest that writing in a more narrative style increases the uptake and influence of articles in climate literature, and perhaps in scientific literature more broadly.”

About the authors

The lead author is Ann Hillier, who has a 2016 degree as a Master of Marine Affairs from the University of Washington. Professor Terrie Klinger is Director of UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. Trained as both an ecologist and a lawyer, Ryan Kelly is an Assistant Professor in UW’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.

For More Information

Hat tip for this paper to Luboš Motl at The Reference Frame.

For more information see The keys to understanding climate change, My posts about climate change, and especially these…

  1. Thomas Kuhn tells us what we need to know about climate science.
  2. Daniel Davies’ insights about predictions can unlock the climate change debate.
  3. Karl Popper explains how to open the deadlocked climate policy debate.
  4. Paul Krugman talks about economics. Climate scientists can learn from his insights.
  5. Milton Friedman’s advice about restarting the climate policy debate.
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December 23, 2016 12:15 pm

About those narratives read this hokum. Reported in Canada’s CBC so must be true. Jennifer is really really worried, oh my!
“The temperatures there of the atmosphere are on … any given day, like 20 C warmer than they should be for this time of year,” Jennifer Francis, a marine and coastal sciences research professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told CBC News at the time.
“The ocean temperatures there are also warmer than they should be. I’m really, really worried, and I think everyone should be.”

Reply to  nc
December 23, 2016 12:52 pm

CBC somehow missed the story about heavy snows falling in Saudi Arabia this week.
BTW… Season’s Greetings to Anthony & Crew for everything they do here. Also to the warmers, luke warmers, deniers and everybody in between. Special shout-out to Griff and Climate Otter for the best entertainment this year.
This one is for you Griff!

Reply to  SC
December 24, 2016 1:04 am

Thanks for confirming 2 things …
1). Weather happens.
2) AGW theory in practice.

Reply to  nc
December 23, 2016 7:49 pm

And there is this one on BBC, 2 hrs ago” http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38417198

Reply to  asybot
December 23, 2016 8:03 pm

What really got me about the article is the usual stuff but the use of 2 alarming looking pictures ( the first a red blob with no explanation at all) but the second one does not even relate to the story it shows sea ice extend and no dates, just the year so it could have been any month of these years and is not even a temp graph and has no relation to the story at all. Disgusting so called “science”. It is truly no wonder people are throwing CC and AGW to the bottom of the lists.

Michael Lemaire
Reply to  asybot
December 24, 2016 2:06 am

“Then the sunlight is absorbed rather than reflected as it would be by the ice.”
Sunlight at the North Pole on December 25th? lol!

Reply to  asybot
December 24, 2016 5:11 am

Yes, about the ‘sunlight at the North Pole in December’ is near or at null and they are whining about too much sun? This reminds me an ancient Chinese curse, ‘May your wishes come true.’ They really want another Ice Age.

Reply to  nc
December 23, 2016 7:58 pm

They don’t make professors like they used to.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  nc
December 23, 2016 8:23 pm

On the day (!) she said it, it was true.
She did not mention at the same time in the same breath that Siberia had been more than 20 deg C below normal for a month.
The CBC interviewer did not intervene, of course. Why ruin a narrative that is ‘on message’?

Reply to  nc
December 23, 2016 11:31 pm

The Arctic “heatwave” is a man-made, one in a thousand year event! You couldn’t make it up.

Reply to  nc
December 24, 2016 9:57 am

“The ocean temperatures there are also warmer than they should be. I’m really, really worried, and I think everyone should be.”
Paranoia and fantastical thinking can be treated. See a therapist right away.

December 23, 2016 12:20 pm

that more narrative climate change writing is more likely to….
…spin a yarn (Tell a story, especially a long drawn-out or totally fanciful one,)

Reply to  Latitude
December 23, 2016 3:00 pm

Maybe she should look at Summit Greenland instead:

December 23, 2016 12:25 pm

A problem with this kind of study is that is too subjective. It only works when preaching to the choir.
That being said our heathen brothers are condemned to a life in the overheated earth of their fantastical dreams no matter what.

December 23, 2016 12:28 pm

Did I miss something here?
A post on story telling in science (second coverage here at WUWT). Right in the middle of it is as unconnected fragment on “post-normal” science.
The dangers of “Cut and Paste”?

Reply to  TonyL
December 23, 2016 1:05 pm

“Did I miss something here?”
Looks like you did.
The section heading says “This is post-normal science”. The following text explains what post-normal science is. It’s not difficult to understand the relationship between the article and post-normal science..
You don’t need to agree with it, of course.

Bob Hoye
Reply to  Editor of the Fabius Maximus website
December 23, 2016 4:50 pm

You can do better than this.
Fodder for liberals.

December 23, 2016 12:31 pm

You can write as eloquently as you want about horse puckey, it still stinks and still won’t sell.

Reply to  ClimateOtter
December 23, 2016 1:17 pm

Oh, I don’t know. Horse puckey is supposed to make good fertilizer. I’m sure there’s a market for it. 🙂

Reply to  ClimateOtter
December 23, 2016 4:17 pm

It doesn’t have to “sell”, it gets rammed down your throat and you get the bonus of having to pay for it via higher taxes and prices.

Reply to  ClimateOtter
December 23, 2016 7:49 pm

Horse puckey sells like crazy. It’s called the climate change consensus.

December 23, 2016 12:41 pm

From a sample of 732 scientific abstracts drawn from the climate change literature

The authors go on and on about the impact of the writing style of the articles. But they did not evaluate the writing style of the articles. They evaluated the abstracts.
(maybe this is what they mean by “post-normal” science)

Robert from oz
December 23, 2016 12:48 pm

How I rate climate scientists among other professions from trusted to untrusted .
1 Doctor
2 nurse
3 pre school teacher
4 police
5 fireman
6 hooker
7 drug dealer
8 common criminal
9 solicitor
10 used car dealer
11 real estate sales
12 politician
13 climate scientist
14 journalist
15 journalist from the ABC .

Reply to  Robert from oz
December 23, 2016 1:19 pm

It’s a very sad state of affairs when you trust a solicitor and politician more than a journalist.

Reply to  SMC
December 23, 2016 4:19 pm

Where is engineer? Everybody always forgets the engineers.

Robert from oz
Reply to  SMC
December 23, 2016 5:12 pm

Sorry but if I included engineers the list would be up to 45 .

Reply to  Robert from oz
December 23, 2016 1:27 pm

Solid gold, Rob. I concur, though the line blurs between common criminal, politician and the ABC as often they are all 3 (or have been at some point in their lives)

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Robert from oz
December 23, 2016 2:17 pm

You must have better politicians down under!

Reply to  John Harmsworth
December 23, 2016 2:23 pm

There is only one difference between politicians and common criminals. Politicians seek exposure, common criminals avoid it. All else is the same. Why deplorables elected non-politician Trump to drain the Washington swamp.

Robert from oz
Reply to  John Harmsworth
December 23, 2016 2:59 pm

Actually reminds me of the time when a heap of politicians , journalists and climate scientists were on a bus that crashed into a deep river , I immediately notified the emergency services but to my horror after three hours no one turned up and they all drowned .
I’m starting to think I wasted a stamp .

Reply to  John Harmsworth
December 23, 2016 4:36 pm

Good one. I shall ‘steal’ it for use up over.

Robert from oz
Reply to  John Harmsworth
December 23, 2016 5:30 pm

Our politicians are like all our snakes they love to be picked up and patted on the head .

Reply to  John Harmsworth
December 23, 2016 7:56 pm

@ Robert from Oz, the bus story is a keeper, can I use it? Please? I had a good laugh but anyway you look at it, it is a sad state of affairs going by the list you provided. I left a link to a BBC article about “record breaking temps in the Arctic over Christmas” , just another sorry state of journalism and “science”.
Talk about “Fake News”.

Robert of Ottawa
Reply to  Robert from oz
December 23, 2016 5:05 pm

Sorry, pre-school are below hookers. The latter perform a valuable social service.

Robert from oz
Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
December 23, 2016 5:07 pm

That’s a bit harsh , you notice I left teachers off the list .

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Robert from oz
December 23, 2016 5:23 pm

your vicar didn’t make the list either.

Robert from oz
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
December 23, 2016 5:26 pm

Yeah Vicar would be 99 on the list .

Jonathan Sturm (AKA The Pompous Git)
Reply to  Robert from oz
December 23, 2016 10:39 pm

Robert, you have obviously never had to attend the Royal Hobart Habbatoir! Procedure I had a year ago (CRT-D implant) the surgeon assured me would be painless. The anaesthetising nurse forgot the anaesthetic; he claimed he “was distracted”. The Git was chatted for swearing when the scalpel went in. No prizes for guessing the word he uttered!

Robert from oz
Reply to  Jonathan Sturm (AKA The Pompous Git)
December 24, 2016 12:49 am

I accept your comment Jonathan and do realise that doctors bury their mistakes , I still wonder why they call it a practice ?

Michael Lemaire
Reply to  Robert from oz
December 24, 2016 2:12 am

Good list! However the doctors you know are obviously of a different species from the ones I know…

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Michael Lemaire
December 24, 2016 6:05 pm

I was thinking the same.
Perhaps the list needs to start with three empty slots, as none are worthy of being on the top of the list.
And I would have put politicians last personally.

December 23, 2016 12:53 pm

“Climate change is among the most compelling issues now confronting science and society”
Not any longer. Trump is in charge. In a year ‘climate change’ will be so passé, no one would care any longer.
“climate science” is heading for dinosaurs kind of extinction, one big wallop from space (the White House) it’s all gone.

Reply to  vukcevic
December 23, 2016 4:09 pm

Not so sure there will be no one to care when you have as we do
The Guardian the Age/Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC which will all highlight rising temperatures somewhere and blame them on Trump to appeal to their inner city green left
readers /viewers who love to see doom and gloom stories
But the rest of us wont care

Reply to  vukcevic
December 23, 2016 4:40 pm

Vuk, what we will see is a down turn in temps as SC24 winds down concurrent with trump’s first term as president. That back drop will make for a fascinating 4 years for all of us climate junkies. Before long it could be a brand new world…

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  vukcevic
December 23, 2016 8:31 pm

I have a feeling that the climate alarm industry is going to see, by 2018, an unexpected collapse of Clintonesque proportions.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
December 23, 2016 9:18 pm

Ah, but, crispin, the thing about those clintons is that they keep on popping up like round up resistant weeds… (☺)

Gary Pearse
December 23, 2016 12:58 pm

Why higher impact factor by emotive bull chips narrative in climate science?
1)Because throngs citing these fluffy studies are activist sci-illiterate useful fools and biased new world order politicians.
2)Because impact factor crowd sourcing by unethical academic tougher serves the purpose of elevating and skewing importance.
Why would it be assumed that this doubling of papers every whatever is adding useful science that is crucial to read and Indicates urgent action needed? The real reason for the narrative style is the same reason the proponents of this drek won’t debate a sceptic. It is empty bad science with illegitimate statistical treatment of dubious and commonly fudged ‘data. It also permits interpretations different from what logic demands.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 25, 2016 12:30 am

It is actually providing evidence of the corruption of science, isn’t it.

Richard M
December 23, 2016 1:11 pm

“…Our results reveal that — at least among the set of peer-reviewed climate change literature included in our dataset — articles featuring more narrative writing styles are more often cited. This effect is independent of year of publication, number of authors, or abstract length.”
This quote seem to indicate that in other fields of science the narrative style does not lead to more citations. I wonder if there was any comparison in the actual paper.
“…we found an unexpectedly strong correlation between narrativity and journal impact factor: more highly cited journals feature more narrative writing styles. …”
If the high impact journals favor a narrative style then almost assuredly the citations for a narrative style would be higher. So, it’s not necessarily the narrative style itself. it could simply be the editors at certain journals.
Hence, looking at these together I get the picture that we have editors at journals considered high impact for climate papers that are looking for a narrative style. This reeks of intentional sensationalism by the journals. Hence, this has nothing to do with style and everything to do with specific people pushing propaganda.

Reply to  Richard M
December 23, 2016 4:23 pm

Great suggestion/insight

December 23, 2016 1:11 pm

Interesting timing.
Yesterday I came across a rather scathing critique of Michael Mann’s 16 Dec 2016 Washington Post editorial, by film-maker turned narrative storytelling coach (but ever supporter of climate change alarmism) Randy Olson.
Olson points out how even in a format conducive to narrative style, Mann can’t pull it off.
“The narrative structure of his editorial is weak.”
“There’s 21 paragraphs in Mann’s editorial. 20 of them are statements of the problem — on and on.”
“…in the end he presents little more than “a sundry list of facts, some of which are interesting and curious, but ultimately meaningless.”
And even though Olson doesn’t like Trump, he acknowledged long before the election Donald Trump’s ability to pull off a narrative style time after time.
As I said, interesting contrast.

Reply to  susanjcrockford
December 25, 2016 12:52 pm

Thanks for the apt links Susan, interesting contrast as you say.

December 23, 2016 1:24 pm

It may be true that narratives help ‘sell’ junk science. For example the narrativity index of the first figure. An r^2 of 0.05 means there is essentially zero statistical relationship-nd that the red regression line is statistical bunkum. The narrative about the narrative index red line is junk science.

Reply to  ristvan
December 23, 2016 1:40 pm

But, but, but,
They have a wee p value!
(H/T to Matt Briggs)

Reply to  TonyL
December 23, 2016 3:33 pm

Was hoping someone would make the additional catch. Plus many.

Reply to  ristvan
December 25, 2016 12:36 am

Take away the chart formatting and it looks like a random scatter gun. Optical illusions.
And what exactly is the “narrativity index”? Have they actually scored papers as numbers with decimals like 4.17 and 3.28 etc rather than integers?

Roger Graves
December 23, 2016 1:25 pm

“The number of scholarly publications [in climate science] is increasing exponentially, doubling every 5±6 years.”
The number of publications in any given field is largely a function of the research funds being poured (or trickled) into that field. The more the funds, the greater the inducement for academic hacks to churn out papers in that field, since funding will be readily available for any related project that gives the right answer (CAGW is upon us!) and publication in a scholarly journal is all but ensured. Whether any of the publications thus produced are worth even the paper they are printed on is another matter.
Give me control of all research funding and I will guarantee to have the scientific establishment solemnly declaring the world is flat within two or three years.

December 23, 2016 1:44 pm

Is it just me or does this ageing Karl Popper look in this photo like Bilbo Baggins?
He must know what it feels like to hold in hos hand the “one ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them”. That is, his own law that scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable and risky.

December 23, 2016 1:50 pm

“Disturbing research about the use of “narratives” in climate science papers”
So people are more likely to cite your paper if it has a story to tell?
Could be true, I guess. What should be done about it?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 23, 2016 2:00 pm

Vet the story to see if it matches observational reality.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
December 23, 2016 3:44 pm

I’m afraid that this issue is just the tip of the iceberg Nick. Science needs a thorough reformation. My suggestions are not going to be popular. There are far too many scientists competing for research dollars. There are far too many journals and overall quality of the literature is shockingly low. I am also very disappointed in the societies (Royal Society and AAAS) who seem to be taking up narrative pseudo-science and the associated politics with a vengeance.
I also believe that real penalties for misconduct must be instituted and evenhandedly enforced. Academic institutions actually encourage such misconduct by their promotion and pay policies.

Reply to  dpy6629
December 23, 2016 9:49 pm

What are your reformation ideas?

Curious George
December 23, 2016 1:51 pm

Narrative is the style of fairy tales. Fitting for climate science.

Greg Locock
December 23, 2016 1:56 pm

Anyone who can base an argument on a graph with an R^2 of 0.05 is selling something. Don’t do bad stats.

December 23, 2016 1:57 pm

From Marketing 101: When stories are told, products get sold.

December 23, 2016 1:59 pm

Nothing wrong with narrative providing it describes process or events correctly.
Bases of geometry (now known as the Euclidian) started in a way narratives.
Euclid of Alexandria (300 BC) wrote his ‘science’ in a narrative form. He wrote five postulates, the first two are simplest and obvious but difficult to interpret in any other way.
1. two points can be joined only by one segment of a straight line.
2. Any such segment can be extended indefinitely in either direction as a straight line.
Postulates 3, 4 and especially 5 (4 & 5 I can’t remember anyway) are not so obvious and are progressively more complicated.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  vukcevic
December 23, 2016 2:18 pm

But did he say they get warmer?

Reply to  vukcevic
December 23, 2016 2:39 pm

Only 5 was complicated, the parallel postulate. And Euclid could have restated it (but didn’t) in easier terms, as Playfair finally did in 1795: Through a point not on an infinite line, only one line can be drawn that does not intersect the other.
History of math makes a fascinating read. There are whole books writen on the history of mayhematicsl ideas like zero, e, pi, i (square root of minus 1) and whole numbers like 1. And then there is Euler’s famous theorem which can be rewritten as e^(-pi*i) – 1=0, which gets them all together in an almost mystical way. It was Feynman’s favorite theorem.

Reply to  ristvan
December 23, 2016 3:17 pm

Now you reminded me, I remember it as a definition of a parallel line, while for the 4th he had devilishly complicated description of what we now know simply as the ‘right’ 90 degree angle.
The Hindu’s invention of ‘0’ and the Leibniz’s binary system (also attributed to Polynesia islanders) I think most be among the most important.

Reply to  ristvan
December 23, 2016 3:46 pm

Yup. Fourth ‘right triangle’ postulate was simply ‘all right triangles have equal proportions’ (and by definition, angles). Enabled indirectly the basic Pythagorean theorem proof that if one angle is perpendicular (90 degrees) then a^2 + b^2 ( the two perpendicular sides) = c^2 (the hypotenuse). Except that is only true in flat ‘Euclidean’ space. Not in any curved other (as Riemann proved on the way to his zeta function hypothesis, still not mathematically proven). Fun stuff

Reply to  ristvan
December 24, 2016 3:39 am

I think Ristvan is (uncharacteristically) in error in his restatement of number four when he wrote, “Yup. Fourth ‘right triangle’ postulate was simply ‘all right triangles have equal proportions’ (and by definition, angles).”
In geometry, two figures or objects are congruent if they have the same shape and size, or if one has the same shape and size as the mirror image of the other. More formally, two sets of points are called congruent if, and only if, one can be transformed into the other by an isometry, i.e., a combination of rigid motions, namely a translation, a rotation, and a reflection.
From Wolfram …
1. A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points.
2. Any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a straight line.
3. Given any straight line segment, a circle can be drawn having the segment as radius and one endpoint as center.
4. All right angles are congruent.
5. If two lines are drawn which intersect a third in such a way that the sum of the inner angles on one side is less than two right angles, then the two lines inevitably must intersect each other on that side if extended far enough. This postulate is equivalent to what is known as the parallel postulate.


Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  ristvan
December 24, 2016 6:16 am

ristvan – December 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

History of math makes a fascinating read.

I sure would like to read that “History of math” iffen it explains the mathematics that the Egyptians used for calculating the “cutting” of the white limestone “casing stones” that originally covered all four (4) sides of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
To wit:

At the moment, when the construction of the pyramid was finished, the surface of the pyramid presented an immaculate, even, plane and steep surface with no entrances and no possibility to climb up. The white Tura stone, the builders had chosen for the outer stones must have been dazzling. To produce this visual impact, the surface of the pyramid had to be unblemished, seamless and very smooth.
Excerpted from: http://www.cheops-pyramide.ch/khufu-pyramid/casing-stones.html

Reply to  ristvan
December 24, 2016 6:40 am

Rovingbroker, Euclid had a complicated definition of what we know as a right angle, it was simplified by post Euclid introduction of degrees .
After writing my second comment I looked for a verbal definition of a planar right angle that Euclid’s contemporary could understand, but didn’t’ come across one, so I created my own:
“Right angle in a plane is created by intersection of two straight lines drawn in such a way that any of so created plane’s four sections is a true mirror image of any of the other three.”
This could be expanded to spatial right angle in Euclidean but not in the curved space.

Reply to  ristvan
December 24, 2016 7:05 pm

vukcevic, how about this …
When a straight line standing on a straight line makes the adjacent angles equal to one another, each of the equal angles is right, and the straight line standing on the other is called a perpendicular to that on which it stands.

Gunga Din
Reply to  vukcevic
December 23, 2016 3:27 pm

Nothing wrong with narrative providing it describes process or events correctly.

Very true.
When teaching you use narrative to communicate and simplify a concept that is backed up by data or facts.
“Electrons “orbit” a nucleus like planets orbit the Sun.” Not precise but it gets the idea across to the student and the comparison does have data and facts to back up and validate the comparison…as a method of communication.
But in science literature? As a method of communicating a concept, OK. But as a “proof” aside from the data and facts? No.
Given that not every “scientist” is not an expert in every field, they should know enough to check the data and the facts and the methods that reached the conclusion before quoting the narrative as if it was the data and facts.
(I think there were a couple of “Mac’s” that proved that.8-)

December 23, 2016 2:49 pm

Reblogged this on The Climate Realist's Resource and commented:
Here’s a reblog of a fantastic Fabius Maximus post about a recently published scientific paper confirming what I have suspected for a long time: that narrative-style writing increases, in the realm of climate science, which is an especially important point, scientific papers’ (and thus their authors’) influence. This corrupts

John Robertson
December 23, 2016 2:50 pm

So to sum up this “learned paper”;
A lie is halfway around the world by the time the truth is getting its boots on.
Once again nonsense dominates, science would require a definition of terms.
Narrative=story telling.
Hans Christian Anderson has already told this story: The Emperors New Clothes.
However the plagiarists Called it Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, then when it was observed that none could be found, retitled their narrative Climate Change.
I think the original version was far better.

Reply to  John Robertson
December 23, 2016 4:33 pm

A lie is halfway around the world by the time the truth is getting its boots on.
And now it happens at light speed with the liars all coordinating in real time and planning the next lie before the first one is even released.

John in Oz
December 23, 2016 2:54 pm

Would the narrativity index have all IPCC reports in the top, right corner, possibly beyond both axes?

December 23, 2016 3:00 pm

Like good art, good science doesn’t need a narrative, it speaks for itself.

December 23, 2016 3:06 pm

“Applied Normal Science” has “low decision stakes,” really?
I mean it’s not like nuclear power plants, vaccines, food distribution networks, electrical grid, and things like that have any real impact on the world, unlike things like a 0.01ºC raise in temperature per year (if that). Who was it that said that some nonsense is so stupid only an academic would believe it?
Seriously, I literally can’t even. Or, in the words of a previous generation, stop the world, I want to get out.

Reply to  Jose Camoes Silva (@josecamoessilva)
December 23, 2016 8:19 pm

Jose, 3.06 pm, Off,( I hope you’re in in)

Reply to  asybot
December 23, 2016 8:20 pm

ARGHHH I hope you are NOT In the world ( sorry Friday pre Christmas eve)

December 23, 2016 3:11 pm

Even the truth can be drafted in the service of a broader lie, and nobody is the wiser.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  buckwheaton
December 23, 2016 4:27 pm

That’s the preferred method of ‘flim-flam’ in this post-normal era. Facts with the proper spin applied.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
December 23, 2016 4:31 pm

I must correct that:
selected facts with the proper spin applied.”

December 23, 2016 3:19 pm

I suggest that any form of communication is a … “narrative”, and that there are many different styles of narration, where a strict science style is one form, and a child’s nursery rhyme is another form.
I think the proper focus, then, is style.
All writing, like all art, involves a style. In art, you might say that we have realism at one extreme and abstract expressionism at another. In writing, we have Lagrangians, say, at one extreme and Bible stories at another.
As such, the style of scientific expression can evolve as an admixture of both traditional and more creative styles.
There once was a point called an “atom”.
He slowly transformed to battalions
of many divisions
at first not envisioned,
but later, when looked for, stayed hidden.

Reply to  Robert Kernodle
December 23, 2016 7:32 pm

There is still some truth in the old saying that technical/scientific writing is meant to inform, while narrative is meant to entertain.

Thomas Graney
December 23, 2016 3:48 pm

The Lysenkoization of modern climate science continues apace.What’s to be done?

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Thomas Graney
December 23, 2016 5:04 pm

I didn’t expect the current Lysenkos to just roll over and go away when Trump won, did you? They were already going to bring on a public climate narrative after HRC won, but they doubly need to ramp it up now as a last resort. They obviously need to try one last push (the push that was supposed to ensure cementation of the previous POTUS using executive powers to bypass congress) as they try and regroup to recapture public attention with threats of doom. They are trying everything they can think of to sink the Trump flotilla before it leaves port so they still have some hold on the discipleship that wasn’t well enough distributed to win an election.

December 23, 2016 3:54 pm

I would like to raise issues about peer review processes in climate science. All the IPCC authors are serving the role of the editorial committee. It is their reward to promote scary AGW story. Any theory that threatens their known path can never be led to publication stage. I am aware of several occasions where the editor collected a third reference (for rejecting the paper) when the other two reviewers gave a recommendation of revision. The third reviewer raises unusual comments to reject that paper that reflects their lack of knowledge (as a reviewer) in the subject area. Such practice should be exposed. In some cases, the editor simply rejects a paper even other two reviewers give revision comments. It is the practice nowadays to stop any critical ideas to be published through the IPCC led academic journal publication system. I urge to investigate the review process through an independent committee thoroughly. There are other very crucial issues in the review process as well those need to be exposed. It works as a chain system- promote AGW theory- more publications – more career progression etc. If it is the other way, round you must be stopped by any means at the very beginning.

December 23, 2016 3:55 pm

Post-normal science = post-modern science = propaganda dressed up as science.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  LarryD
December 23, 2016 5:23 pm

A part of the “Progressive idealisms package” that was used by socialists to hijack the Democratic party and public education.

Robert B
December 23, 2016 4:11 pm

Propaganda was a dig at the Catholic Church
Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the Faith). According to Wikipedia, it started to be used for propagating ideas in secular activities and “the term began taking a pejorative or negative connotation in the mid-19th century, when it was used in the political sphere.”
Now that its tainted with being associated with communism because of its unfetted use to control the population, the left need to rebrand it.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Robert B
December 23, 2016 5:32 pm

Orwell rebranded it already as “Big brother”, IMHO.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
December 23, 2016 4:13 pm

Citing a reference, primarily goes with the author and institution but not on the merit of the research paper. Even excellently researched paper rarely gets its share in citing — many a times they don’t understand the science with their mediocre knowledge on the subject.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Reply to  Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy
December 23, 2016 8:50 pm

Perceptive, as usual, Dr. R. It may be that a narrative style is easier to understand or that it gives a reader a greater illusion that he/she understands. In either case, the likelihood of citing the paper goes up, independently of the quality of the paper’s science.
The r² value of 0.05 certainly leaves me with no illusion that there’s anything of major impact in this paper. The time span of the selected abstracts in the paper may be insufficiently small to remove the effects of mutual time dependency. A year (2009 to 2010) is a long time for this field. Authors in general may be coincidentally using increasing numbers of citations at the same time that narrative style is becoming more popular with peer reviewers, journals, and universities, and thus more popular with the abstracts’ authors.
N,b,: I’ve not studied the subject paper sufficiently to be certain that the authors haven’t already addressed the latter factor. From what I saw, they have done a fairly thorough job.

December 23, 2016 4:22 pm

I would like to share my experience of the peer-review system. Once I reviewed a paper in a high-impact academic journal where one of the co-author was one editor of that journal. I found that paper not of very high quality and gave comments for major revision. It had problems with basic understandings. Surprisingly, when the revised version came to me with the comments from the other reviewer, I was shocked. That review comment was only of 3-4 lines where it only praised that work. It was very clear to me that the review comment was not from any expert and it could also be from a fake reviewer with a fake id. I tried to improve that manuscript with constructive comments, and the paper was finally published after my hard effort. But it exposed how evil measures are followed by scientists to get their paper published. Why there is not an investigation/ database to check how many papers are published by an author in a journal of their editorship? Why not the review comments are checked properly?

December 23, 2016 4:36 pm

From the article: “Both simple narratives and apocalyptic climate narratives are known to capture public attention and spur action.”
The leftist scientists assumed long ago, even if the science is bs, that enacting draconian climate legislation is the “right thing to do,” and thus that they have justification and rationalization to lie in the effort to get their heinous programs through:

“We have to offer up scary scenarios… each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest.” -Stephen Schneider, lead IPCC author, 1989
“Unless we announce disasters no one will listen.” -Sir John Houghton, first ipcc chair, 1994

So this is the type of Crying Wolf “scary scenarios” they have constantly propounded:

“Entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.” -Noel Brown, ex UNEP Director, 1989

Obviously the ‘science’ is politicized as those turning their papers into narrative propaganda are not interested in the unvarnished truth but instead they are not impartial scientists but advocates for a (leftist) cause, whose sole goal is to promote that cause through whatever shenanigans they can muster.
Politicized science by definition is NOT credible.

Robert of Ottawa
December 23, 2016 4:43 pm

What is this? A guide book to good grant application writing? And that graph is hardly convincing for me. What are the abscissa? That straight line looks more like an amorphous blob to me.

Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
December 23, 2016 7:43 pm

I agree RoO- it looks like a shotgun that throws a very bad pattern.

Reply to  R2Dtoo
December 23, 2016 8:55 pm

The authors gave us both barrels, for a better r².

Reply to  Robert of Ottawa
December 23, 2016 8:26 pm

Speaking of grants:
Question to Dr. Richard Lindzen: Is it possible for a young person today to get tenure in one of these institutions (universities) if they disagree with global warming alarmism?
Dr. Richard Lindzen: … NOT OPENLY. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so3ELA7NpVw%5D
Lindzen continued: “…and in your grant applications you can’t say ‘I want to check whether global warming is real or not’ [laughs].
So there’s an overwhelming per-selection bias for any supposed consensus of climate scientists. This makes that consensus essentially meaningless. It is not a voluntary consensus but a consensus achieved through force.

Donald Kasper
December 23, 2016 5:33 pm

The bottom line is no one has a clue how to predict climate, what the factors are, and how they interact in any competent way to make something called a prediction. Therefore, narrative storyline expose’s on climate are to be expected as the norm. Discoveries into the causative nature of climate just have not occurred, and therefore it has been replaced with whimsical, fanciful, and conjectural fantasies of cause and effect. The demand for more papers as journal count increases is like predicting a breakthrough in battery technology…usually the hacks and quacks show up to present big “breakthroughs.”

Pop Piasa
December 23, 2016 5:37 pm

I am reminded by this article of the KISASS methodology:
Keep It Simple And Sufficiently Scary.

Alan Ranger
December 23, 2016 5:38 pm

” … doubling every 5±6 years” ???
Good Lord – that sounds like the sort of settled science that comes out of the IPCC CMIP models! 🙂
I’m guessing it’s meant to be “5 to 6 years”.

December 23, 2016 6:07 pm

“Scientists can achieve career success but destroy the public’s esteem for science accumulated over centuries.”
Science is a method, an intellectual tool in essence, and I doubt the public have lost respect for that . . but rather, for a sort of larger than life pseudo entity . . a supposed conglomeration of special human beings, which is often referred to as if science itself. (In SJW speak; “the scientific community” ; )
I consider it a wise that the public lose esteem for that supposed super-entity thingy . . but that doesn’t mean losing esteem for actual scientific research or reasoning, just for the sort of thing that can lead to politicization and bullying and so on.

Richard Patton
December 23, 2016 6:48 pm

Something very wrong with the Narrativity Index chart. If the number of citations is logarithmic as the index indicates, then at least a score of the papers used for the study have had from a hundred thousand to over a million citations EACH!. And three of them have had over ten million citations each! I find that very difficult to believe.

Jeff Alberts
December 23, 2016 7:33 pm

The volume of climate science publications now being produced far exceeds the ability of individual investigators to read, remember, and use.

I’ll wager that the vast majority of those climate science publications assume dangerous, human-caused climate change is happening, and then tell you what bad thing will occur as a result, usually to something that couldn’t possibly be related.

December 23, 2016 7:48 pm

I write science fiction, so anything that follows is suspect. But it seems to me that scientific papers were always incomprehensible to the layman, and relied on writers who were also scientists to interpret them to the public via books. George Gamow and Isaac Asimov are good examples. “Narrative index,” however it’s calculated, applies to fiction, or at best, journalism. I propose “Scientifically Important Index” be applied to climate papers, at which moment 99.9% are rated 0. I suppose the competition among scientists to get published is now equal to fiction writers trying to get their first novel on the shelf. But don’t look to me for a book on the future of climate change. It’s dead in the water.

December 23, 2016 9:18 pm

“Climate change is among the most compelling issues now confronting science and society, and climate science as a research endeavor has grown accordingly over the past decade. The number of scholarly publications is increasing exponentially, doubling every 5±6 years.”
Business is good!
Think of what a monster this climate change business has become!

December 23, 2016 9:51 pm

Warmists are leftist bullsh!tters – it IS that simple.

Fleming Hobbs
December 24, 2016 12:54 am

Narrative is popular since you don’t need to look up from your cell phone too long.

December 24, 2016 5:17 am

More likely the narrative style is easier for most people to understand than page after page of mathematics, thus it gets cited more.

December 24, 2016 5:26 am

Also, the narrative style allows for a construction such as “X may cause Y”, which seems to be the basis of most research papers these days. You can pretty much prove anything once you add the word “may”.

Reply to  ferdberple
December 24, 2016 2:36 pm

Yes, ferd, narrative style is not inconsistent with equivocation.

December 24, 2016 6:29 am

This message was just sent to Pres Elect Donald Trump, I would recommend everyone reading this to do the same.
Create a Scientific Research Watchdog, staffed with forensic scientists, to ensure that there is no fraud in Federal Funded Science Research. The Field of Climate “Science” relies on “Peer Review” which allows a group of self-anointed “experts” that bully, silence, and marginalize skeptics and manipulate data to manufacture a “consensus” and produce “models” that validate their predetermined conclusions. Real/Classical Science is done by application of the scientific method through falsification (rejecting the null), experimentation, data analysis, and reproducibility. Climate “Science” relies on none of those classic scientific approaches, and instead re-wrote the book to replace the scientific method with computer models, consensus, peer review and manufactured data and statistical techniques like “Mike’s Nature Trick…to Hide the Decline.” I work in the finance field and If I were ever to use the techniques I’ve seen in the field of climate “science” I would be behind bars. Same for people in drug research, real estate construction or any field that requires engineering or data integrity for making a conclusion, Climate “science” is simply one giant tax-payer funded fraud, and simple double blind analysis, a requirement for objective reproducibility, transparency in the construction of the temperature reconstructions, mandatory application of the scientific method and a simple review of how poorly the IPCC models actually model the temperature will prove that. The computer models can’t even hindcast, let alone forecast (Google Climate Models Fail Dr Spencer). To solve this problem forensic scientists should be hired to review and expose the fraud that is emblematic of Climate “Science.” To start, I would simply hire Steve McIntyre to lead the charge. He is the ideal candidate to lead an impartial, systematic and honest search for the truth. He has been viciously attacked by the climate alarmists and did a Nobel Prize worthy effort voluntarily exposing the flaws in the “Hockey-Stick.” His, and other persecuted skeptics, efforts should not go unrecognized, for he is the epitome of an unbiased and honest scientist/engineer.

Sun Spot
December 24, 2016 8:31 am

Sciencey Narratives like cAGW are effective for initiating research dollars, as politicians control those research dollars they are very appreciative of these narratives especially fear-narratives like cAGW. Politicians like fear-narratives as they are the easiest way to manipulate the populous.

Sun Spot
Reply to  Sun Spot
December 24, 2016 8:55 am

The narrative is CO2-man-made-global-warming-climate-change-extreme-weather-fear-fear-fear
fear of . . .
melting ice
polar bears dying
bleaching coral
species extinction
rising seas
melting glaciers
blah blah blah . . . and the scientists in these fields gladly feed the fear-narrative, in return they get large research grants and the politicians get fear to initiate policy based fact making (PBFM) and new carbon-taxation that can feed the government coffers. The government also has to use the Green-energy pseudo-sciencey/engineering as a prop/sop to get the new taxation they are after.
. . . It’s the perfect sociological storm to manipulate the plebes to pay the way for the sceincey and political elites.

Reply to  Sun Spot
December 24, 2016 2:37 pm

And the populace, too!

Blue SFF Reader
December 25, 2016 5:33 am

Side-note: Wikipedia scrubs its articles for non-AGW content, so why give them eyeballs? Recommend Infogalactic links where possible.

December 26, 2016 3:48 am

Another scattergram that looks like someone using a shotgun in a crosswind – and this one uses semi-log coordinates! And the ordinate covers 7 orders of magnitude!!!
A tool for mendacity – an author trying desperately to convince everybody of something that ain’t necessarily so…

Ron Konkoma
December 26, 2016 7:34 am

“Climate change is among the most compelling issues now confronting science and society”.
Uhh, well, for some meaning of “compelling”: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/lauretta-brown/pew-most-americans-dont-believe-scientific-consensus-climate-change
Climate change ranked at the bottom of the list of important issues, in terms of the number of voters who found it very or extremely important.: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/282554-poll-climate-is-most-divisive-issue-in-us

Johann Wundersamer
December 27, 2016 5:05 am

Maybe I’m wrong with quality and narrative, but the right way to unbundle passenger traffic and military machines were not just departures / arrival times in hours and minutes but first: LA Civil air traffic spreads overland and sea; NOT the Mojave desert.
And military machines have vast oceans and the Mojave deserts to train on.

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