Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We appear to have a disagreement here

James Annan writes

Paying IPCC authors? Last I heard there wasn't actually a shortage of applicants. Pay what is necessary to fill the posts, that's what I say! If the most capable people are actually turning it down out of hardship, then that's another matter...but I have not heard of such a case.

and Richard Tol writes:
Researchers indeed have a small amount of discretionary time available for "service". I've worked at 8 universities in 6 countries. I've worked at 4 IPCC reports. The time needed to fulfill your duties to the IPCC cannot be done in the time available for services.

There are all sorts of implicit subsidies going from universities and national labs to the IPCC. That is sort-of fine as long as the subsidies do not come with political ties. But there are also IPCC people from national labs who are not at arms' length of the government; there are governments who hire consultants to work for the IPCC; and there are IPCC people in the employ of industry and environmental NGOs. The latter groups tend to have more time and energy for the IPCC and disproportionally influence its findings.

If you do not believe me, just research the authors of AR4.

And there are people who would have been in the IPCC were it not for the fact that their boss said "if you can raise the money".
Eli's position is that if the IPCC fully funds the authors there is a) a gain in transparency and b) this would enable people in soft money positions who have to cover their salaries (ie they are on piecework like RT) and there are a lot of them, to participate.

Since even with IPCC funding non faculty folk will still have to account for their time to their organization, this will not be a silver bullet.


9 comments:

Marco said...

Ah, but fully paying the authors will make them employees of the IPCC. Hence, the result is bought...
(or so the reasoning will go).

Lamont said...

The IPCC's bias should only be towards producing the report. So in that sense the result (the production of the report) will be bought.

If the IPCC is part of the grand conspiracy to promote the climate change agenda, then it doesn't matter one bit if they're paid or not. Not paying the authors isn't doing anything to defuse all the criticism of the reports. That battle already got lost with the set of people who believe the IPCC is a conspiracy, you aren't ever going to be able to reach those people, so it doesn't make any sense for the IPCC to try to placate them.

- lamont

crf said...

Scientists (especially at universities) are already expected to serve on committees that advance science. For those involved in the IPCC process, the issues would not be much different than this routine service. Perhaps some positions are a bit more involved (like those of lead authors). So what?

There might be call for a special fund for researchers or other individuals who, solely because of poverty, can't contribute as they might (for example, can't afford hotel rooms or flights to IPCC meetings which they would be expected to attend).

I don't find it odd this kind of pseudo-issue would be brought out by an economist living in the richest country in the history of the world. Not at all.

EliRabett said...

There are multiple soft money positions for every tenure track or civil service position in climate science. Those folk (some of whom are quite prominent) have to account for all of their time on the grants and contracts that are paying them.

James Annan said...

IPCC is not just a service, but also a highly cited publication. I was a little tongue in cheek in my comments and think that paying expenses would be reasonable - for starters, it might cut down on the insane travelling that participants seem to feel obliged to undertake.

Richard Tol said...

@James
IPCC chapters bring little recognition outside climatology. As an economist, I am judged on my papers in economics journals -- chapters in policy-relevant books are the second-lowest tier of the publication ranking, just above newspaper articles.

@Eli
I would add a third reason. Some IPCC authors are well-financed, others are not. Your proposal would not just improve transparency and participation, it would also level the playing field.

Toby said...

Well, I never ...

I thought the IPCC was a regular gravy train with scientists falling over each other to get easy money.

Another illusion shattered.

Bart Verheggen said...

Richard Toll said:

"And there are people who would have been in the IPCC were it not for the fact that their boss said "if you can raise the money". "

I think that's quite true. Tenured professors have it easy in that sense, whereas more junior scientist and others on soft money (as Eli notes) are in a difficult position to spend lots of time on IPCC stuff, regardless of how much they'd want to or how useful their contribution could be.

Anonymous said...

Wait, wait...you're telling me that there aren't boatloads of climatology $$$ to cause everyone to invent AGW? That climatologists aren't saying what there're saying to keep the bling and hookers/gigolos coming?

Next you'll be telling me Sen. James Inhofe isn't a climate expert but just an ignoramus.