Five rules for evidence communication

Reposted from Climate Etc.

Posted on November 21, 2020 by curryja |

by Judith Curry

“Avoid unwarranted certainty, neat narratives and partisan presentation; strive to inform, not persuade.”

I just spotted this Comment in NatureFive rules for evidence communication.  Once I spotted co-author David Spiegenhalter, I knew this would be good.  I have definitely been in need of an antidote to the Covid-19 and global warming propaganda that I’ve come across lately.  I’m also working on a new climate change presentation; this provides an excellent check list.

Here is a [link] to the article (freely accessible).  Excerpts:

<begin quote>

There are myriad examples from the current pandemic of which we might ask: have experts always been explicit in acknowledging unknowns? Complexity? Conflicts of interest? Inconvenient data? And, importantly, their own values?

Our small, interdisciplinary group at the University of Cambridge, UK, collects empirical data on issues such as how to communicate uncertainty, how audiences decide what evidence to trust, and how narratives affect people’s decision-making. Our aim is to design communications that do not lead people to a particular decision, but help them to understand what is known about a topic and to make up their own minds on the basis of that evidence. In our view, it is important to be clear about motivations, present data fully and clearly, and share sources.

We recognize that the world is in an ‘infodemic’, with false information spreading virally on social media. Therefore, many scientists feel they are in an arms race of communication techniques. But consider the replication crisis, which has been blamed in part on researchers being incentivized to sell their work and focus on a story rather than on full and neutral reporting of what they have done. We worry that the urge to persuade or to tell a simple story can damage credibility and trustworthiness.

So how do we demonstrate good intentions? We have to be open about our motivations, conflicts and limitations. Scientists whose objectives are perceived as prioritizing persuasion risk losing trust.

  • Inform, not persuade
  • Offer balance, not false balance
  • Disclose uncertainties
  • State evidence quality
  • Inoculate against misinformation

When zoologist John Krebs became chair of the UK Food Standards Agency in the 2000s, he faced a deluge of crises, including dioxins in milk and the infectious cattle disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy. He adopted the following strategy:

  • say what you know;
  • what you don’t know;
  • what you are doing to find out;
  • what people can do in the meantime to be on the safe side; and
  • that advice will change.

Quick tips for sharing evidence

The aim is to ‘inform but not persuade’, and — as the philosopher of trust Onora O’Neill says — “to be accessible, comprehensible, usable and assessable”.

  • Address all the questions and concerns of the target audience.
  • Anticipate misunderstandings; pre-emptively debunk or explain them.
  • Don’t cherry-pick findings.
  • Present potential benefits and possible harms in the same way so that they can be compared fairly.
  • Avoid the biases inherent in any presentation format (for example, use both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ framing together).
  • Use numbers alone, or both words and numbers.
  • Demonstrate ‘unapologetic uncertainty’: be open about a range of possible outcomes.
  • When you don’t know, say so; say what you are going to do to find out, and by when.
  • Highlight the quality and relevance of the underlying evidence (for example, describe the data set).
  • Use a carefully designed layout in a clear order, and include sources.

Trust is crucial. Always aiming to ‘sell the science’ doesn’t help the scientific process or the scientific community in the long run, just as it doesn’t help people (patients, the public or policymakers) to make informed decisions in the short term. That requires good evidence communication. Ironically, we hope we’ve persuaded you of that.

<end quote>

The Supplementary Information is a longer version of this, well worth reading also.

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George Tetley
November 22, 2020 6:42 am

Prime example is the election in the USA
I am not convinced that the American people are so stupid as to elect a Biden as President. He Joe said that the most intelligent person he knows is his son drug addict HUNTER,please someone tell me I am the idiot .

Reply to  George Tetley
November 22, 2020 7:14 am

If you could find an honest Liberal in America to HONESTLY answer this simple question:
“Do you really think Biden got more votes than Hillary or Obama?”

Reply to  Matthew W
November 22, 2020 8:04 am


Reply to  Scissor
November 22, 2020 9:35 am
Reply to  Vuk
November 22, 2020 10:39 am

Obviously, not honestly.

Reply to  Vuk
November 22, 2020 11:13 am

Putin Says He’s Not Ready to Recognize Biden as U.S. President

Rich Davis
Reply to  Matthew W
November 22, 2020 8:58 am

As an honest conservative (classical liberal for the non-US reader), my assessment is that while there was undoubtedly a lot of fraud around the edges, it may not have been necessary or decisive. (I do not rule out the possibility that it was decisive in this case, but also suggest that it may have gone either way).

It is entirely possible that the Democrats have perfected the process of making it so easy for their clients to vote, that even the laziest among them were able to be motivated to do it for the first time.

We must face hard facts. Polling data always needs to be adjusted to identify likely voters. If unlikely voters were equally-distributed between Democrats and Republicans, there would be no particular necessity for this adjustment, would there?

Reality is that polls of registered voters almost always skew Democrat. Polls of all adults, even more so. And Republican strategy has long included making the registration and voting processes rigorous, not only because fraud corrodes trust in the outcome, but also because so many of the Democrats’ constituency are too lazy to work, much less put themselves out to register and vote in person with a valid ID.

Imagine that there were a stiff fine for failure to vote, and at the same time, voter ID were made foolproof, so that every adult citizen voted once and only once, with zero fraud. Do you honestly believe that a Republican could ever again win national office?

One way of viewing this is that socialism and three or four generations of misery are probably inevitable at this point. The Senate will be stolen in January and then Biden steps down. Doom is upon us.

Another way is to stop engaging only within our shrinking ranks and try to persuade young people and people of all ethnic backgrounds of the true benefits of capitalism and harms of socialism.

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 22, 2020 9:34 am

Plenty of fraud seems likely to be proven for violating physical law. There are numerous examples.

Ballots cannot be received before being sent out. Dead people can’t vote. Tabulating machines can’t count faster than their specifications. Hundreds of people can’t live in single residences. People can’t live and vote in multiple States at the same time.

Reply to  Scissor
November 22, 2020 12:06 pm

It’s not who votes, it’s who counts the votes, or in this case who can control or manipulate the vote counting machines. Sooner or later you end up with a Stalin want to be.

Citizen Smith
Reply to  Scissor
November 23, 2020 4:44 pm

Take it from a guy that plays a lot of golf, the best wood in my bag is my pencil.

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 22, 2020 9:43 am

You are right, the only person whose vote should be counted is somebody who is well known in the neighbourhood, pays taxes, etc.
Darn it, Trump would not be accepted!

Rich Davis
Reply to  François
November 22, 2020 12:02 pm

Well François, in an ideal world, clients of the state would not be eligible to vote so long as they continue to have the conflict of interest to vote for the party that supports the policy of stealing from others to pay them. But this is the fundamental flaw of unlimited democracy. Two wolves and a sheep holding a free and fair election to decide what to eat for supper. Doesn’t end well for the sheep.

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 22, 2020 10:52 am

Trump did better with minority voters than before, but worse among white voters.

Hypothesis: manipulations of voting machines, counting procedures, etc. were implemented more in areas that went for Trump in 2016 than in areas that didn’t. Republican poll watchers might have been paying less attention to supposedly safe areas.

Dennis G Sandberg
Reply to  Rich Davis
November 22, 2020 11:21 am

Rich Davis, agree, most voters in NATIONAL elections are Democrats. The only chance Republicans have is a low turnout. Mail in ballots, even if the desperately needed and almost non-existent protections against fraud were in place, makes it almost impossible for Republicans to win national elections. Voters recognize that money from the feds is essentially “free”, just bumps up the national debt a few $trillion every year. So it becomes a competition between the states to get all the free stuff they can. Great example is wind turbines. The erection of these worth less than nothing monuments to human stupidity pump $millions into the local economy and only raise the power bill slightly. How can a politician running for national office be against all this “free money coming into his state”. An even worse example is ethanol. Most of this bad for the environment and economy swill gets shipped out of state and the local economy does great. Senator Grassley, (R) Iowa, has to support ethanol although he’s knows it’s crap. On the other hand, most STATE elections favor Republicans, check out the governorships, house and senate Republican majorities. Voters don’t want their state officials wasting money on crap(IMHO).

Izaak Walton
Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
November 22, 2020 3:32 pm

It is always good to see people admit that the only way Republicans can get power is through voter suppression. And much of the reason Republicans win state elections is through gerrymandering. For example in 2018 Democrats got 54% of the vote in the Wisconsin assemble elections but only 36% of the seats.

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
November 23, 2020 7:27 am

Izaack Walton-
It’s also good that you see that the only way Democrats win is fraudulent handling of the election results- as shown in the current election.

“Gerrymandering” is difficult to avoid when people of one persuasion tend to flock together in crowds. And either or every Party does it when given a chance. Here in PA the democrats have done their own gerrymandering every chance they’ve gotten. Not too surprising since more than one party indulges in the pastime.

It seems,particularly for black(or colored) folks, that they are beginning to realize that popular Democratic programs are working as designed and keep them on the dole. Many, just as much as “whites”, want to succeed and flourish on their own recognizance.

The idea that citizens receiving money from Government should not be allowed to vote is not bad.

Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
December 5, 2020 5:49 am

“…most voters in NATIONAL elections are Democrats. The only chance Republicans have is a low turnout.”

You’re delusional.

Emily Daniels
Reply to  Rich Davis
November 22, 2020 6:41 pm


Actually, in the kind of ideal system you describe, I don’t think Republicans could lose except in urban areas. Recall that the “registered Democrats” you reference include people registered in 3-6 precincts, illegal aliens, and the dead. Some legal aliens may also be included. If those were truly scrubbed from the record and voting was mandatory, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would likely make up 60% of the voter base.

Besides, there is only one national election in the US, and that’s for President. Even then, it’s not truly national because it’s the states’ electoral votes that make the decision.

I have been musing lately about whether it would be a good idea to allocate the electoral college votes for all states proportionally instead of winner-take-all. That would mean that a little fraud in urban areas wouldn’t be enough to get a whole state’s electors. It might only gain one more than they would have received anyway.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Emily Daniels
November 23, 2020 2:44 pm

I hate to disagree because I wish you were correct. But if you were correct, then any random poll of adults would give the same result as a poll of likely voters.

I think that we all know that that is not the case. In an election with 100% turnout and every adult registered, election results would be more like the all-adults poll than the likely-voter polls we have today.

If we don’t wake up and realize that voter suppression is a losing strategy, we’re never going to win again.

The truth will set you free. Clinging to a false impression will keep us losing. The truth is that we need to appeal to all our fellow citizens and convince them that socialism will hurt them, too.

It’s no consolation to believe we lost because of fraud when we don’t have any effective defense against fraud. The kraken is a myth. In a war, you don’t reverse the enemy’s victory by proving that their tactics were unfair. You have to actually defeat them.

As I conceded, maybe it really was fraud this time, but the point is that the polls indicate that they have the numbers to win without fraud unless we change hearts and minds.

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 22, 2020 9:19 pm

“Imagine that there were a stiff fine for failure to vote, and at the same time, voter ID were made foolproof, so that every adult citizen voted once and only once, with zero fraud. Do you honestly believe that a Republican could ever again win national office?”

Absolutely, because Republican voters are distributed much more efficiently than are Democrat voters. Democrats tend to win their states by much larger margins than Republicans do, but every vote after 50% + 1 (ignoring Greens, Libertarians, etc.) is wasted.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Steve
November 23, 2020 2:59 pm

Ok, so long as the Electoral College exists, there may be some chance for another couple of election cycles. What happens if the Senate flips in January from a repeat of whatever just happened in Georgia for the Presidential election? (Whether that was fraud or mail-in ballots generating unprecedented Dem turnout is kind of irrelevant so long as the Kraken proves to be a mythical creature).

Then they pack the Supreme Court, admit DC and PR as blue states, maybe even break up CA into several new blue states.

It seems inevitable that policy is going to be decided by majority rule in the long run. We need to be the majority or get used to being oppressed.

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 23, 2020 9:56 am

Regardless of whether or not the actual voting process was corrupted, the media cooperated in keeping the voting public unaware of the very real corruption shown in the Hunter Biden laptop story. In truth, we know that the election was stolen by the media.

Reply to  Rich Davis
November 23, 2020 4:13 pm

One assumption that seems implicit in your post is that since the majority of registered voters are in the Democrat party that they would all vote that way. However, many polls indicate that the values of USA voters, regardless of party affiliation, skews significantly towards traditional and conservative values.

Izaak Walton
Reply to  Matthew W
November 22, 2020 9:50 am

Votes aren’t the important metric. You need to look at both the turnout and the percentage of votes received. Because the turnout was bigger in 2020 than in 2012 and the population was larger Biden got more votes than Obama but a smaller percentage (which will probably end up being equal once all votes are counted). In fact the turnout in 2020 was the highest since 1900 which is why both Biden and Trump got a record number of votes.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Izaak Walton
November 22, 2020 1:16 pm

Technically Biden got more votes. But I’d wager that a very large proportion of his votes were against Trump, not for Biden. A dead cat would have gotten as many votes.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 23, 2020 9:15 am

It’s certainly true that American voters had to hold their noses to vote. However, in case you haven’t noticed, Presidential elections tend to ping-pong between the parties. Often, a second term for the incumbent is granted, but then the office goes to the opposition. Trump was non-presidential and not well liked so he didn’t get reelected. Biden is especially weak, weak to the point that many are saying that he’s already a lame-duck. Too old, and already showing signs of impending senility. I seriously doubt that Harris is electable when Biden doesn’t run for a second term. Her own party preferred Biden, again an especially weak candidate, so she just doesn’t have much of a support base.

Reply to  George Tetley
November 22, 2020 7:18 am

Intelligence doesn’t guarantee success, good judgement or honesty. You’re not an idiot. We are continually being lied to by some more than others, but especially by the left.

It’s a major problem that dishonesty has become common in science and the aim to “sell the science” is endemic.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Scissor
November 22, 2020 1:08 pm

“It’s a major problem that dishonesty has become common in science”

Sadly, dishonesty has become the new normal nearly everywhere in the US. There seems to be no one, no institution, that can be trusted. All propaganda all the time.

Reply to  George Tetley
November 22, 2020 8:20 am

That’s the suspicion backed by statistical irregularities. The diverse affidavits and citizen complaints across diverse jurisdictions are the probable cause. The team investigating the irregularities, per chance fraud, presented their opening argument recently. They will present their case soon. The electoral college will cast their votes between now and inauguration. In the meantime, the press, for what their opinion is worth, have a consensus, and certified the election in their manner (i.e. bullhorn, repetitition).

Dan DaSilva
Reply to  George Tetley
November 22, 2020 8:53 am

George Tetley, remember the Kraken is coming. Joe Biden is a dead man walking.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Dan DaSilva
November 22, 2020 1:23 pm

I’m not so optimistic. Dems will eat it for breakfast.

Release the calamari!

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Dan DaSilva
November 22, 2020 2:12 pm

Dan. What are they waiting for? If they’ve got the evidence, show it!

Bill Powers
Reply to  George Tetley
November 22, 2020 10:37 am

Unfortunately George, most people fail to take into consideration the abject failure of our Public School systems in educating the past 2 generations as they set about dumbing down the current GenZ’s or are they Y’s. Hell the left finds it unnecessary to even send them to school while they pay the teachers ever day for running their video indoctrination on a loop. Nice work if you can get it in this time of the ‘Rona.

Recent studies have shown that our urban public high schools are graduating students with on average an 8th grade reading proficiency and 4th grade math skills. That means that a substantial percentage of the graduates cannot read their diplomas. 60% of public school graduates cannot find Mexico on a map and even the Marxist indoctrination centers we call colleges are complaining that they have to teach these incoming freshman how to read.

College enrollment numbers are way up Since Obama federalized the Student loan programs to enrich the universities at taxpayer expense. And now federal students loans are being forgiven because half the graduates can’t find a job, with degrees in some “Studies” program (e.g Women’s, Urban, Film studies etc) these extremely expensive indoct…ahh education programs simply serve the funciton of teaching the graduate to read at 12th grade level, flip burgers at MickieD’s (meaning they can’t pay their college loans), and complain about being victims of a white racist capitalistic system. Ironically it is a bunch of upper middle class white students doing most of the complaining.

These soft bigot communists are sending a message, which is lost on African Americans, failed by the public school system, that pseudo-intellectual white liberals think that blacks are too stupid to realize that they are victims of White Liberal Elites.

The GenXs’ and Millennials are voting now and if the left gets their way 16 year old minds of mush will be voting soon. Add in mass voter fraud in the heavily populated urban centers you have a perfect storm of Lock down Orwellian rule that will last until the collapse comes. I fear we are at the beginning of the end of this great Representative Republic Experiment.

Reply to  Bill Powers
November 22, 2020 4:18 pm

I do high level evidence and science training with accomplished professionals.
This is quite difficult with a good portion of those under 30.
The forms of rhetoric, persuasion, and writing they have been trained and taught to deliver is substantially different from what I was being taught a couple decades before that.

I studies “philosophy.” Think of “philosophy.” What would you think of?
Yes, that is what I read. Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, and so on.

I would hear that someone had a “required class” in “philosophy.”

I would get interested. They would have a book called “Thinking About Modern Problems,” or some such.

After I because astute about how the Marxists are trying to weaken our society, since our Prevailing Society is their Enemy Number One, I could understand the rhetoric and argument passing as “philosophy.”

The pattern is this. Take a controversial issue. Describe both sides in a seemingly dispassionate manner. Make sure to note the emotional aspect of the favored side. Such as “children in cages!!!!”

Following some tilted standard or two, arrive at the conclusion that “children in cages is bad,” therefore we should have open borders, or should not consider sending back illegal immigrants, or some such.

Across all issues. Abortion ends up being” the mom has a life ahead of her, and it would be cruel to deny this, and when life begins might be in dispute, so we need to arrive at the Marxist conclusion.”

Another emphasis in high school and college is on “persuasive speaking,” or “communication.” This is fine, but there should be training in logic and in-depth analysis.

When I teach, I teach the analytic model. I allow students to pick their own topic or topics. So, I have to play catch-up and learn enough about their topic. -Which I can handle fairly well because I can independently educate myself, and can imagine both sides of a story, and strive to define an opponent’s point of view in their terms.

My students have to work the analytic model, regardless of topic. Some note that this process is new and challenging.

Old School liberals like me will have a difficult time in these situations unless we have changed with the times and bought into the Marxist World View.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  TheLastDemocrat
November 23, 2020 7:36 am


Part of the problem is training people who were taught to feel and express their feelings to work rigorously with facts independent of their feelings. Objective assessments are required to inform.

The lazy opinion pieces that dominate the news cycle are big on feelings about what ought to be, and thin on a fair description of reality.

Our role is to assist others to embark on an independent investigation of truth. Students should be taught not to see through the eyes nor hear through the ears of others. To accomplish this, news organizations will have to change their formats significantly.

Presently the intention is to pretty much to hide sources, defer important qualifying questions and favour one interpretation over all others. That is neither scholarship not knowledge.

Reply to  Bill Powers
November 23, 2020 1:07 am

Bill P.
Wonderful , right on BUT,, it will all happen express as daddy gives the keys to the BANK to the most intelligent person he knows. HUNTER…

November 22, 2020 7:03 am

The first line of this article made me burst out laughing — the wife thought I was a mental case
(no comments on that subject please: I’ve had my head examined. They found nothing).

“Avoid unwarranted certainty, neat narratives and partisan presentation; strive to inform, not persuade.”

Who dies that?

The most important aspect of successful communications is to make the subject interesting. Climate science, for one example, is not that interesting. And this is coming from someone who reads climate science articles and studies, since 1997, as a hobby. Prior to 1997, my primary hobby was breeding racing turtles.

There are a surprising number of climate science questions where the answer is “we don’t know”.
That’s not interesting. In the 1970s, a few climate scientists got a huge amount of media attention, and probably government grants too, by extrapolating global cooling, from 1940 to 1975, into a coming ice age. Never mind that we were still in an ice age. The coming ice age crisis prediction was interesting — pure baloney, but interesting baloney. The next thing you know, the global warmunists began making scary global warming predictions. Some warming did start in 1975, so continued cooling predictions would appear to be wrong.

And now we have an ‘existential climate crisis”, and we can we can be sure of that, because a Swedish high school drop out tells us so. Climate perfesser Alexandria Occasionally Coherent confirms that, along with climate perfesser Al “the climate blimp” Gore.

Reply to  Richard Greene
November 22, 2020 7:56 am

“I’ve had my head examined. They found nothing”.
I’d watch that, the only true vacuum is the space between a liberals ears.
Better get another opinion!

Reply to  Richard Greene
November 22, 2020 8:22 am

The GW “science” is not about “saving the planet” but one major cog in a Marxist like power grab. In support of this, I offer up leftist leader-ship & MSM comments such as these:: all those who supported Trump must be punished by disallowing jobs, a Truth & Reconciliation Commission is needed to instill the “Truth” in Trump supporters, Trump voters are responsible for the hate, chaos & racism that exists, Trump Republicanism MUST be stamped out completely. Statements such as these indicate political psychosis on a level only seen under Mao, Stalin or Pol Pot.
Of course AGW “consensus scientists” are willing to support the false narrative and could care less about the direction that they are taking Western Civilization as long as they continue receiving those 30 Silver Pieces at a regular rate.
The present echo chamber for these massive world political, economic & social changes is “The Great Reset”:

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Richard Greene
November 22, 2020 1:20 pm

“Alexandria Occasionally Coherent”

No she isn’t.

November 22, 2020 7:16 am

In math there are proofs. In science there is only disproof. Science chips away at the statue of understanding leaving it closer to a model of reality.

A real evidence communication begins with an acknowledgement of all contrary science. How the evidence you present changed your mind about the then-consensus. How and why it convinced you by matching a prior prediction.

In real science there is supposed to be ready acceptance of the theory needing refinement or rejection if a prediction fails.

Phillip Bratby
November 22, 2020 7:18 am

His name is David Spiegelhalter.

Steve Case
November 22, 2020 7:19 am

November 22, 2020 7:37 am

Trust is crucial.

There’s the rub. How can one possibly trust any news-source (including much of science-news) or politician when the misinformation and lies increase gradually over the decades to near 100%? The obvious answer is one can’t.

Bruce Cobb
November 22, 2020 7:38 am

Rule #1: Don’t lie.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 22, 2020 8:03 am

Stephen Schneider set the gold standard as far as climate bullshit is concerned when he said, “Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

November 22, 2020 7:39 am

Try doing this with a climate fanatic an one is met with sweams of “DENIER” no matter what you do. Especially over the internet.

Nor have I ever met so many Phd qualified people in my life than on Face Book, it is, without a doubt the best educated community on the planet!

Put a reasonable argument to them in the same, or similar vein as discussed here to them hoping for a reasoned response and the language that spews forth can only have been learned on a Phd course, as I don’t recognise many of the profanities they express.

Then Facebook Takes down one of my posts’ for calling someone a ‘Pillock’, a gentle term of endearment used in the UK, usually to someones face, to communicate that they are just being silly.

Not that FB was ever designed to be utilised as a medium for civil discourse.

Reply to  Hotscot
November 22, 2020 8:02 am

I think it’s important to remember, on social media, you aren’t going to change the mind of fanatics, their position is fixed. What you can do is help bring other readers to your viewpoint. Present as sensible and reasonable, and hope to change a mind that isn’t already made up on the subject. This works well, even better if it brings an unhinged response from the original, or another poster. Kind of likegiving them enough rope to hang themselves.

Mark A Luhman
Reply to  Hotscot
November 22, 2020 10:26 pm

Do you think those people in Facebook are even educated in the classical sense. I would guess not, they been indoctrinated, not educated.

Reply to  Hotscot
November 23, 2020 7:07 am

“Nor have I ever met so many Phd qualified people in my life than on Face Book, it is, without a doubt the best educated community on the planet!”

Many PhD’s these days studied for the Piled Higher and Deeper degree, primarily because they never conceived of any subject worth studying in unending detail worthy of a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Many have only learned superficial buzzwords such as Climate Change or Diversity. Diversity is particularly bad because “Diversity” generally only means Black vs. White. It only took our Military some 40-50 years to learn how to incorporate disparities into a cohesive platoon or squadron that functions better than a monoculture- and they still have problems.

The primary “education” has, in many places, particularly the inner city of big cities, has become completely stultified. The students are taught buzzwords, with no real definition, and how t use them to swamp any real discussion. You find this thinking almost every where in comment sections. This one is MUCH better than most.

It’ll take 90 years to stomp out.

Gregory Woods
November 22, 2020 7:39 am

First Rule: Have some evidence to present, not just assertions…

Gary Ashe
Reply to  Gregory Woods
November 22, 2020 9:17 am

unbridled profanity is far more effective on leftists, any where as they are bubble people and never wrong, so the only way to get your point into their heads is by verbally bludgeoning them.

They instantly victimise themselves and run off, your not go to change their minds so getting them to feck off is the next best thing.

Reply to  Gary Ashe
November 22, 2020 10:45 am

You can’t debate a liberal, or change their mind, but you can easily make them go berserk by telling them Trump was the best president in American history and should be added to Mount Rushmore. Doesn’t matter if you believe that — you just say it. They instantly lose about 40 IQ points and start calling Trump a racist, Na-zi, colluding with Putin, orange man, etc. When they are done spewing nonsense, I look them in their eyes and say: Was that from your college dissertation? Then you explain to them what a dissertation is. Two or three times.

Reply to  Richard Greene
November 22, 2020 4:19 pm

Regular discussion or debate does not work with these people.

HD Hoese
November 22, 2020 7:56 am

Good article, should add that it is not just social media causing the “infodemic”. Decades ago an attorney told me that it would corrupt the profession when they started advertising, prophetic. May be more a symptom, still feedback. Now you see more medical ads. For a long time when you walk down the hall of science departments and institutions you often see their work on the wall outside of their office. Although just a paper abstract or such, it would be good to know how much advocacy has developed. While this does provide useful information, I suspect that more than a little is bragging. As to conservation science, there has long been a “tug-of-war” between falling in love with your species or environment and maintaining rationality. Too much emotion has prevailed. You didn’t used to see much advocacy, real or otherwise, in scientific papers (or various department documents) like we have now.

There is no such discipline as claimed now as “Communication Science,” only its proper communication. Good doctors like mine practice this. “….be open about a range of possible outcomes.” Are we losing the art of testing all hypotheses?

Pat from kerbob
November 22, 2020 7:57 am

“ Demonstrate ‘unapologetic uncertainty’: be open about a range of possible outcomes.”

Isn’t this the problem with climatology?

Settled science

All phrases that prove no science is happening here?

Coach Springer
November 22, 2020 7:58 am

“When you don’t know, say so; say what you are going to do to find out, and by when.” We’re talking climate here, so ….

Let me know when the vaccine for misinformation comes out.

Reply to  Coach Springer
November 22, 2020 11:57 pm

The problem with this particular recommendation is that it leads to
“Please give me more money to find out the answer as quickly as possible”. ie funding addiction.
Maybe this tip should say:
“When you don’t know, say so and shut the f..k up!”
In this situation, you no longer have “evidence” and it’s totally unscientific to communicate further.
Unless you are a political scientist …

Reply to  Russell
November 23, 2020 1:00 am

Or a climate scientist?

Gerald Machnee
November 22, 2020 8:03 am

In the recent Senate hearings on Covid:

The first three doctors give their advice based on either first hand knowledge or deep research. The fourth doctor is classic misinformation:

the Senate hearings video:

There are over 100 studies mostly peer reviewed on the following 2 sites:

President Trump was falsely demonized because he quoted the success of a top doctor in France. The evidence has since proved him correct.
However the USA medical “experts” including Fauci went and approved Remdesivir which costs 100 times as much as HCQ and the WHO has now said Remdesivir is useless. Then they limited the use of HCQ. So we have had over a hundred thousand lives in the USA alone which could have been saved.
The anti-Trump syndrome has spread to Canada and as far as I know the combination of HCQ is not being used and many in care facilities are dying needlessly.

Reply to  Gerald Machnee
November 22, 2020 8:51 am

From what I’ve seen Ivermectin is superior to HCQ in early stage CV-19 treatment, though both provide better results than nothing. I find it an absolute failure of our medical system here in the US to not have standardized therapeutic treatments at this stage of the pandemic. Plenty of studies out there pointing us to the right methods.

Reply to  rbabcock
November 22, 2020 9:20 am

Encouraging people eat healthy and to take beneficial supplements would go a long way to improving immunity and health in general.

Instead this morning in Colorado we got one of those Emergency Alert Warnings to fear the severe risk of the deadly COVID. Use caution! That God awful siren like sound coming from my phone is fear producing.

What the hell good do these warnings do?

Reply to  Scissor
November 22, 2020 12:12 pm

They increase your Cortisol levels, keeping you in a constant state of fear which makes you much easier to control.

Curious George(@moudryj)
Reply to  Scissor
November 22, 2020 3:13 pm

Isn’t Colorado a blue state now?

Reply to  Curious George
November 22, 2020 6:40 pm

Has been since going to mail in voting several years ago.

Reply to  Scissor
November 22, 2020 4:23 pm

“Beneficial supplements” that should be consumed bty the average person regularly.

Name one.

There is not one.

If a woman is iron-deficient, she may need iron supplement. If someone is Vita-D deficient, they may need to take Vita D.

state what “supplement” a normal person should take regularly, and cite one original-data study that represents the difference in morbidity and mortality between those taking and not taking. Without confounding by “healthy user effect.”

I rule “wine” to not be a “supplement.”

Reply to  TheLastDemocrat
November 22, 2020 6:44 pm

One takes supplements to correct a deficiency. Many people are in fact deficient in vitamin D, etc.

Dodgy Geezer
November 22, 2020 8:06 am

“Trust is crucial”.

Trust has gone, and won’t be back for a long time…..

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
November 22, 2020 2:01 pm

I placed a great deal of trust in our public health officials at the beginning of this corona-bollocks. That was a mistake on my part. They must now prove that they are deserving of trust, but they have failed.

November 22, 2020 8:15 am

… researchers being incentivized …

Science, and academia in general, has become corrupted by perverse incentives. In science it has led to the replication crisis in which the majority of research findings are wrong and can’t be replicated.

The perverse incentives work like this: If you want a career in research (ie. professor) you must publish, especially before you get tenure. Journal editors are looking for interesting results which also don’t rock the boat. As long as you don’t commit blatant fraud, there’s no punishment for being wrong. So, you keep hacking away until you get an interesting result that also has a p-value that indicates it didn’t happen just by chance.

Using p-values as a test of statistical significance leads to p-hacking.

A really good example of the process is a real but actually bogus study of chocolate. link It was real because it was an actual study with actual data. It was bogus because the design pretty much guaranteed statistically significant findings. The researchers set out to see if they could get such a paper published. It seems to have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and they got tons of credulous attention from the media.

Here’s a good cartoon as explained by .

What’s the solution? It could be really bad.

We need scientific breakthroughs to fuel technological development. Those are the result of curiosity driven research. Perverse incentives are going to ki11 curiosity driven research. We’re in deep doggie doo.

November 22, 2020 8:22 am

Identify the frame of reference where the evidence could be considered valid.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  n.n
November 22, 2020 11:15 am

n.n. Evidence is just that! Beware of “frameworks” and “validation”. If someone cooks up a finding, this by definition is not evidence. Most birds fly south in Oct-Nov. Period. It is a naked observation that can be evidence for a theory as to why birds do this.

Al Miller
November 22, 2020 8:36 am

I appreciate the message and the wise words of Judith Curry always. The sad part is that she is a rare beacon in a sea of lies and she has already paid for it. What a joke that is- getting let go from a University for speaking the truth.
I sincerely hope some young scientists listen and learn and a snowball rolling down the hill gathers momentum that telling lies can only damage you and your chosen profession no matter the short term grants won.

November 22, 2020 8:48 am

Research funding.
Professional bodies.
Control of publication.
There is no academic career path without getting past the gatekeepers.
My niece’s research as a health economist in the third world has been entirely funded by the Gates Foundation. Would she dare to speak out? Not if she wishes to progress.
Ditto drug research. Ditto climate ‘science ‘.

Reply to  Ljh
November 22, 2020 9:50 am

That about sums it up.

Reply to  Ljh
November 22, 2020 1:01 pm

Great that you raised that issue, Ljh!!

Another point I would like to add. Control the media like BBC and major newspaper and spread that misinformed science!

Thus Funding, Career, Promotion, Money in academia are now very well controlled by those people. Hence it is quite clear where we are heading to. Independent Media is also joined hand with them.

All these manipulations are getting worse day by day and watching such deterioration in values is really worring!

Ruby's Dad
November 22, 2020 9:20 am

Gotta like this bit found towards the end of the article:

“Many will worry that following these key principles — especially exposing complexities, uncertainties or unwelcome possibilities — will let ‘merchants of doubt’ or bad actors warp their message. But there are other ways to guard against this. Research on climate change, COVID-19 and other topics shows that if people are pre-emptively warned against attempts to sow doubt (known as prebunking), they resist being swayed by misinformation or disinformation.”

Nothing promotes academic honesty quite like “pre-emptively” warning against “attempts to sow doubt”…

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Ruby's Dad
November 22, 2020 5:02 pm

Isn’t that called “Poisoning the well”?

The problem becomes, which side(s) of the issue are sowing doubt over facts?

November 22, 2020 9:33 am

Spiegenhalter has some good ideas, but he’d have done better to address them to the individual consumer of information, because he seems to suffer from the false assumption that the posters of articles are interested in truth and in fair argumentation. In reality, pretty much everything published is rhetoric, not dialectic, and the only way to get your message accepted is to compete better in rhetoric than the other guy.

The reason for the multiplicity of social media, blogs, podcasts, and other freelance commentary is not ego. The reason is that the big media companies, without exception, have always been gaslighting the public; and enough people now realize that, that the market is producing lots of competition with them.

The situation is likely to stay this complicated forever (unless an evil state manages to shut down that competition) because of economic incentive: any information source that becomes trusted by a lot of people will be offered money to sell out and become corrupt, and many of them will.

We all simply have to realize that there is no such thing as an objective observer, and never was. Which also implies that the established “science” process will also need to be redesigned on the new assumption that every piece of information can only be trusted insofar as it can be tested.

Reply to  jdgalt1
November 22, 2020 10:11 am

Signal diversity to reduce data dependence and improvement information content.

November 22, 2020 10:09 am

Surely the biggest point here is “Disclose uncertainties”. I don’t recall EVER seeing statistical errors given for any global warming or climate change prediction. It’s obvious why, of course, but how anyone can claim these predictions are based on sound science when no errors are given is just farcical.

I often wonder why someone as noted — and good — as David Spiegenhalter isn’t asked about this. It’s the most basic question and yet nobody ever raises it. I did once ask a professor of Bayesian statistics at the University of London who had appeared on a TV programme about climate change whether he didn’t question the analysis that had been used. He was honest enough to say “yes” but that was to me — he didn’t raise it at all in the TV programme.

So here was an eminent academic at one of the world’s top universities questioning the statistical analysis behind climate models in private but refusing to go public. It’s an utterly ridiculous situation.

Chris Nisbet
November 22, 2020 10:23 am

It seems to me that the alarmists do reference these 5 rules – and do the exact opposite.

Gary Pearse
November 22, 2020 10:59 am

“Inoculate against misinformation”

Being in my eighties, Spiegelhalter’s list is not as impactful and new as it might seem to many of the last couple of generations who have endured but not transcended their lefty, designer-brained education. Fortunately, WUWT is a gathering place for many of those who did find their way out of the dark.

Such a list is nice to see but it has already been corrupted to serve the dark agenda for which ‘education’ has been preparing us for. The quote above struck this chord immediately. Dark Age planners claim to be doing that – inoculating against “wrong thinking”. The word was an unfortunate choice by the author as “innoculation” has an unpleasant ring to in juxtaposition with “informing”

The other four have similarly been coopted. BBC even has a policy re “balance”. Here is an experiment to reveal all this: Send this list to Gavin Smith or Michael Mann and ask what thet have to say.

November 22, 2020 11:14 am

Putin Says He’s Not Ready to Recognize Biden as U.S. President

Curious George(@moudryj)
Reply to  Vuk
November 22, 2020 3:23 pm

Putin is getting old, see Nagorno Karabagh.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Vuk
November 22, 2020 4:27 pm

Why is Putin not recognizing Biden as president yet important, Vuk?

Joe B
November 22, 2020 11:54 am

Excellent post to which I would add 2 helpful add ons …
1. Keep it short, very short.
2. Give people a ‘heads up’ in the amount of time required to read the article/watch the video. Informing people from the start that perusing will require 3 minutes, 5 minutes of their irreplaceable time might encourage further engagement. (Go back and see Note # 1).

Curious George(@moudryj)
November 22, 2020 3:18 pm

“Our small, interdisciplinary group at the University of Cambridge, UK, collects empirical data on issues such as how to communicate uncertainty, how audiences decide what evidence to trust, and how narratives affect people’s decision-making.”

This work has been pioneered almost a century ago by Dr. Joseph Goebbels in Germany. He then became a Minister of Propaganda in the Third Reich.

Tom Abbott
November 22, 2020 4:43 pm

From the article: “Highlight the quality and relevance of the underlying evidence”.

This is not being done with regard to Climate Science and CO2. To date, there is no evidence that CO2 is causing any problems in the Earth’s atmosphere. There is no underlying evidence to highlight. Yet we spend Trillions of dollars on it.

On a related topic, I notice that “fighting misinformation” is getting a lot of things written about it in such places as Scientific American and even Consumer Reports magazine.

Now, all we need is a neutral arbiter of what is and what is not misinformation.

It’s like the effort to stop hate speech, first someone has to define what is meant by hate speech. Some people would claim anything is hate speech, if it allowed them to control what others were allowed to say

Like hate speech, the only way to handle misinformation is using freedom of speech to debunk hate speech and misinformation.

Debunk, don’t ban.

Banning speech gives unscrupulous people the opportunity to shut you up if they don’t like what you are saying. If they can shut you up, they can take all your freedoms away. Don’t let them shut you up.

Proof Please
November 22, 2020 5:39 pm

[try acceptable language, fyi, I agree with you. -mod]

November 22, 2020 8:06 pm

“Scissor November 22, 2020 at 8:03 am
Stephen Schneider set the gold standard as far as climate bullshit is concerned when he said, “Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
That’s a very revealing quote from Stephen Schneider. Here’s the full quote:

“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well.

And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination.

That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.
This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

The above quote clearly explains what’s happening and why. Don’t we all want the world to be a better place? Isn’t it clear that human populations in the past and the present have been reluctant to do things simply on the grounds that it is sensible, correct, ethical, and of over-all benefit to society.

Did China and India create massive amounts of unhealthy smog from cheap coal-fired power stations, and cheap Internal Combustion Engine vehicles with inadequate emission controls, because they were not aware that a lack of emission controls would have bad health consequences?

Were China and India not aware of the scientific evidence that indicated (with high confidence) that particulate carbon and toxic chemicals from coal and oil combustion, released into the atmosphere, are harmful to the environment and to human health?

Despite this indisputable scientific evidence, their priority was to create cheap energy in order to advance economic development. Polluting the atmosphere, which has indisputable health consequences, was considered to be less of a concern than the benefits of economic development.

Unfortunately, the atmospheric pollution created in China, is not confined to China. The atmosphere has no borders, and the pollution blows over to other countries such as Japan, just as the haze from seasonal burn-off in Indonesia blows over to Singapore and Malaysia.

The problem, as Stephen Schneider appears to have understood, is that the drive towards economic development will usually tend to downplay any consequent harm to the environment and human health. All countries have some degree of corruption in their organizations, whether business or political organizations.
Individuals, groups, and societies, tend to be biased towards their own prosperity and dominance. This has always been the case, hence all the wars and social conflicts throughout history.

Now, I should mention that I’m not a ‘Climate Change Alarmist’. I think the benefits of increased CO2 levels outweigh any slight and uncertain disadvantages. I’m also an Atheist/Agnostic, but I still recognize the potential benefits of religions which promote an everlasting hell for those who misbehave in this life.

Climate Change Alarmism is a type of religion which ‘perhaps’ does have some benefits, such as making people more aware of the general damage our economic activities do to the environment. In order to encourage a change to a ‘less toxic’ environment and atmosphere, it is perhaps necessary to exaggerate the future consequences of a catastrophic tipping point which will affect everyone, if we don’t move to renewables.

Consider the alternative strategy of promoting the use of fossil fuel power-plants and vehicles with ‘state-of-the-art’ emission controls. Surely we all know that adding the best quality emission controls to coal-fired power plants and diesel and petrol driven vehicles, adds to the cost. Even the renowned Volkswagen car manufacturer cheated on this.

Ultra-Supercritical coal-fired power stations are very efficient and have lower over-all emissions per unit of coal burned. However, to be really clean, they still need ‘state-of-the-art’ emissions controls, which also adds to the initial increased cost. Not all Ultra-Supercritical power plants have added emission controls, for economic reasons, since the initial construction cost was so high.

The development of alternative energy supplies is a mark of progress. Efficient and durable solar panels which can cover unused space, such as all roof tops, is a remarkable advancement in technology with potential benefits for all of humanity. Likewise, an efficient and durable battery which would make electric vehicles less expensive and more attractive, as well as reducing the indisputable pollution in cities due to the exhaust emissions of millions of ICE vehicles, would be a welcome progress.

I hope this post is not censored.

Komerade Cube
Reply to  Vincent
November 23, 2020 3:00 am

>>> The development of alternative energy supplies is a mark of progress. Efficient and durable solar panels which can cover unused space, such as all roof tops, is a remarkable advancement in technology with potential benefits for all of humanity. <<<

If you don’t mind a little strip mining, get off on killing birds, and aren’t one of the poor suckers digging cobalt with their bare hands….

Reply to  Komerade Cube
November 23, 2020 7:07 am

I don’t approve of windmills which kill birds, and which are an eyesore on the landscape, and sometimes involve cutting down trees. I also don’t approve of solar farms built on arable land which could be used for growing crops or planting trees.

Mining of minerals of one type or another, has always been an essential part of industrialization, and will continue regardless of the drive towards renewables. Likewise, inhumane working conditions and child labour are a separate issue, and were a problem in undeveloped countries before the demand for Lithium, Cobalt, and rare-earth metals increased.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Vincent
November 23, 2020 9:49 am

“The development of alternative energy supplies is a mark of progress.”
This is where you lost me. PV solar panels and windmills are not efficient. They are low-density, expensive, unreliable, grid destabilizing power sources. If we had a variable-voltage DC grid, then they might be a little more useful, but we don’t.

Reply to  Paul Penrose
November 23, 2020 4:04 pm

You’ve presented the usual argument of the anti-renewables. For me it’s not an ‘all or nothing’ situation. Technology progresses, and if we’re sensible, we use the best technology to fit the particular circumstances.

You must have noticed that the cost of solar panels has been continually falling during the past few decades, and will presumably continue to fall into the future as research and the manufacturing processes progress.

It’s true that the efficiency of solar panels, in converting sunlight into electricity, is not as high as the efficiency of coal-fired power plants in converting the energy from the burning of coal into electricity. The old coal power plants have an efficiency of around 30% whereas the latest Ultra-Supercritical (or HELE types) have an efficiency of around 45%.

The latest solar panels have an efficiency of around 20%. However, one should not ignore the fact that the energy source for solar panels, the sunlight, is totally free, whereas the energy source for fossil fuel plants requires lots of mining and transportation, which is a significant added expense.
Imagine how wonderful it would be if free particles of coal or droplets of oil were to fall from the sky.

The greatest obstacle to the over all efficiency of solar power is the intermittency problem. However, there are solutions in progress, such as the development of more affordable and more durable batteries. Tesla is currently working on a battery which is described as the ‘1 Million Mile’ or even ‘2 Million Mile’ battery. In other words, such a battery could outlast the vehicle which it propels and still be used after the vehicle is sent to the scrap heap.

Now, you probably think this is just a pipe dream that will never happen. Did you also think that sending a man to the moon was also a pipe dream?

November 23, 2020 10:34 am


Offer balance, not false balance
I can see that being used as a reason to not share certain criticisms or alternative views.

Inoculate against misinformation
Make sure people don’t go to alternative sources?

November 23, 2020 12:48 pm

re: evidence communication?

As in, all white papers describing, detailing various lab tests indicating Hydrino presence, characteristics, energy yield and so forth, followed up more recently with devices producing kilowatt plus power levels?

Avoid unwarranted certainty, neat narratives and partisan presentation; strive to inform, not persuade.

Analytical Presentation –
pptx –
pdf –

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