Is the IPCC conflicted? Let us count the ways

UPDATE 06/22/2011 09:05 PM I’ve added a SunTV interview with Ross McKitrick on this very issue [h/t my Dad] at the bottom of this post -hro

On the heels of the recent controversy regarding the contributions of Greenpeace employee, Sven Teske as a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recently released “Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation” (SRREN), there has been considerable discussion in the blogosphere regarding the IPCC’s Conflict of Interest policy – or more to the point, lack thereof.

One aspect that was highlighted during the InterAcademy Council (IAC)’s review of the IPCC was:

“the practice of scientists responsible for writing IPCC assessments reviewing their own work.”

This was certainly a very pervasive practice in the IPCC’s most recent assessment report (AR4). Not only did Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors and Contributing Authors “assess” their own work (and often that of their pals and/or co-authors), but Review Editors were also charged with the task of reviewing chapters in which their own work was cited.

Here’s the big picture:

IPCC's AR4 - Summary of Self-Reference Concerns

Unlike the IPCC’s 80% renewables solution, these numbers were not pulled from thin air. Actually, that 1463 “persons” includes duplicate counts because some people had more than one “role” – although not in the same chapter as far as I know. For example, Thomas Stocker, who is now the Co-Chair of Working Group (WG) 1 for AR5, was a Contributing Author to WG 1, Chapter 1 and Coordinating Lead Author for WG 1, Chapter 10 (not to mention being a prime mover behind the disappearance of the “rule” which required that non-peer reviewed material be flagged in the references).

But the number of Self-Reference Concerns is accurate, thanks to the work of Australia’s Peter Bobroff, the wizard behind AccessIPCC. The actual number of people is 1238 and of these, 884 were the authors (or co-authors) of material that was cited in a chapter they were writing. Or, in the case of Review Editors, charged with ensuring that the material written in a chapter in which their own work was cited, represented a “a comprehensive, objective, and balanced view of the areas they cover”.

But don’t take my word for these numbers … Here’s a link to the raw data (a GoggleDocs spreadsheet) so you can see for yourself. And if you want to see any of these numbers in context – or perhaps find out how many times a particular Author or Review Editor’s work was cited within a chapter, be sure to take your mouse to AccessIPCC (see here for background and here for a detailed “tutorial”).

Kevin Trenberth was a Coordinating Lead Author for WG 1, Chapter 3. 25 of his papers appear in the References for this chapter. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to determine the number of times his papers were cited throughout this particular chapter.

Is the IPCC conflicted? Let us count the ways!

3 thoughts on “Is the IPCC conflicted? Let us count the ways

    • “Conflicted only if […]”

      Aw … gimme a break, Brian ;-) Ever heard of the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning?! I suppose I could have entitled the post, “How doth the IPCC fool thee, let me count the ways” … and I did consdier it, but it seemed to lack a certain degree of brevity! But I do agree that this pervasive practice certainly has all the elements of, to slightly modify your phrasing, “good, productive back-scratchin’ collegiality”.

    • That was the generic “you”, properly understood as “one”. Don’t be so dang techy! I’ve had it to here with wimmin who take every remark as a personal offense and act all offended and hard-done by.
      And now you’re being seriously twitted! How dya like it?

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