Sunday, June 13, 2010

Traveling man

Eli has been asking for suggestions about how the IPCC process could be improved. Arthur Smith wants to figure out how to

Find a way to get updates or "supplements" out in between major reports that address important scientific developments in the interim

Find better ways to communicate the report results to the general public.
which means that suggestions are being entertained but solutions not yet offered.

Bill S. has a timely suggestion
I don't know how the IPCC process works in regards to the workload and people's regular day jobs, but it seems to me that major contributors like Lead Authors should be given a paid sabbatical of some kind while they're on the IPCC job. It would certainly reduce their stress level, if nothing else, and could possibly lead to the report coming together faster (if that's desirable).
There is an ancient tradition in science that 120 hour work weeks are expected, but even the quacks are finding that tired residents are residents that make serious mistakes. Science used to be an avocation of the well to do, but that, as track and field, has changed.

The IPCC was started with a serious purpose, but not in an environment where immediate action was contemplated. Today IPCC work needs to be fully funded and this should go further than the convening lead authors who get a stipend. All of the authors should receive travel and per diem when they are working on IPCC business as well as a stipend to cover the fraction of a work-year they devote to IPCC matters.

This is especially important for those who do not have base funding for their salary, but are fully or even partially supported by grants and contracts.

Now, of course, we can discuss the matter as a tragedy or a farce. By way of Stoat, Ethon points out Richard Tol whining that the Irish government will not pay his travel because they do not agree with his views. Richard is astonished that a government plays politics. Eli suggested that Richard ask S. Fred Singer for a travel grant (half seriously)

OTOH, the IPCC should really emphasize (they probably do) using the internet for meetings, and scheduling face to face meetings around large international conferences such as the AGU or EGU.


Anonymous said...

Despite what Richard Tol wrote, I am not sure that CLA's actually receive any stipend (at least in the US). That may vary by country.

Former Skeptic said...

The whinging of Tol aside, the more pertinent question is:


Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny says:

A method for determining and acknowledging errata needs to be added.

It's normal in science, a creative endeavor, for errors to occur. As anybody who had published or read published papers knows. In every other field, people make mistakes.

Journal publications use a variety of methods to correct serious errors, albeit spastically. Newspapers issue list of daily errata.

It would be prudent, in view of the snarky sharks out there, to have available experts to check into possible mistakes and to post corrections when necessary.

I suppose there also needs to be a method for when some jerk falsely claims a mistake.

richardtol said...

A serious LA invests 40 days per chapter, a serious CLA 120 days. Someone is paying for that.

I agree. At present, payment to IPCC authors is opaque and open to abuse (from all sides). This should be made transparent and fair.

Bart Verheggen said...

As per Arthur Smith's suggestion of updates between major reports, there are some put ou tby different groups of people/organizations, eg

- KNMI (
- PBL (
(that one partly overlaps with KNMI)

But indeed, intermittent reports officially put out by IPCC with transparent way of authorship and review would be even better.


a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Richard Tol,
Under whom did you study passive aggression disswmbling? I mean, that was masterful. Toss out a comment that the process might be open to abuse--not that abuse is occuring, which you know you cannot support. Just a subtle implication so that those unfamiliar with the IPCC process and unaware that most IPCC authors are unpaid might draw whatever conclusion fits their preconceived bias. Nice. Dishonest. But nice.

richardtol said...

I do not suggest that abuse may have occurred. I certain that it has.

The notion that IPCC are written by volunteers is about as credible as the notion that the competitors in the 1988 Olympics were amateurs.

Some of the authors in AR4 were paid for their effort by Big Oil, others were paid by Big Environment, most were on public money working for an interested department, but I've never met anyone who worked for the IPCC on a grant of the National Science Foundation or suchlike.

Anonymous said...

I recently contributed a chapter to a book - I did some of the work on 'work' time (it was essentially a rehash of a recent paper, but did impact on my ability to do some of my planned winter tasks) and some on my own time. I received a free copy of said book but no money for my contribution.

Question - was my work on the chapter 'voluntary' (as in the Olympic ideal), 'unpaid', 'paid' or 'other'?

Chris S.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Richard, that's crap and you know it! What about Gavin Schmidt? What about a host of other academics for whom working for the IPCC is considered part of their service commitment? None of the scientists is getting rich off of their work for the IPCC!

Or do you consider the US government part of "Big Environment"? I'd love to hear your ideas on that!

richardtol said...

NASA is part of the US government, so Schmidt's involvement in the IPCC is sponsored by the US taxpayer.

I guess that Schmidt enjoys considerable academic freedom, but he is not a volunteer.

There is, by the way, a difference between earning a salary and getting rich.

a_ray_in_dilberts_space said...

Richard, Gavin is paid, nominally, for a 40 hour workweek. I doubt he can remember a week where he only worked 40 hours. Ones service is considered just that--service.

Gavin would earn the same salary if there were no IPCC--and his dog (or cat) might actually remember him, too. The IPCC has a tiny permanent staff--the rest of the labor is volunteer.

Anonymous said...

Richard Tol,

I am quite prepared to believe you - but do you have any actual evidence? I think you have been asked for this before - other CLAs nominated by Irish Government that they did agree to sponsor would be a good start. Otherwise, it seems entirely possible that the more senior official that you say is responsible for the budget just balked at the bill.

And shouldn't someone just ask RPJr why he declined?

richardtol said...

Schmidt is thus a "volunteer" in the same sense as the Soviet Olympians were "amateurs".

The official pleaded unwillingness rather than inability to pay.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Richard, are you so ignorant that you do not realize that Gavin and the other contributors have day jobs, too? Are you unaware that they could continue to do said day jobs and have nothing to do with the IPCC?

How is serving on an IPCC panel different from serving on a steering committee for an international conference? Refereeing papers? Attending a committee meeting to write standards?

The problem, Richard, is that science is about evidence. Since you have none, you must focus on personalities and "irregularities" rather than science. Over 90% of climate scientists think the IPCC has done a reasonably good job in summarizing the state of the science (latest Bray and von Storch poll). Your quarrel is not with me or the IPCC, but rather with reality.

richardtol said...

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".

Anonymous said...

@Richard Tol,

Unwillingness vs. inability to pay seems to be dodging more important questions. You are probably technically able but unwilling to pay out of your own pocket, and fair enough.

Question remains of any evidence to support your claim that the decision was motivated by disagreement about climate policy. Actual quotes from named person? Examples of other CLAs where Ireland will foot the bill?

I am inclined to believe you, but absent this evidence, people will have to form an assessment of your views based on what else they know of you (hairstyle, affiliations , etc.) I think the former is to your credit.

richardtol said...

This is rich. You are not brave enough to reveal your own name, but dare me to reveal someone else's?

The people who need to know, do.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Richard Tol,
And how is this different from, for example, conference participation? Might not the willingness to support involvement in IPCC meetings be viewed as a measure of commitment to the IPCC process and the progress of climate studies? If so, don't you want those most supportive of a field to be heard?

Put another way, if you don't think the meetings are important enough to pay your own way, what does that say about your level of commitment?

richardtol said...

Sure. I could raid my daughter's college fund to pay for IPCC travel; and I could devote every weekend for the next 3 years to the IPCC.

EliRabett said...

If you do a cost benefit analysis of the value of a college education vs. increasing daddy's earning potential that might be a good choice.

OTOH, college education should be covered by the vast socialist conspiracy also.

richardtol said...

My earning potential is better served by focussing on journal publications.

EliRabett said...


Sort of, because something like the IPCC gives you better access, which, in turn pushes your career forward. That sort of thing is something that Eli did not do. The pluses are less meetings, the minuses are less visibility.

Frankly, this was the reason that Ethon was surprised that RPJr did not up and join.

richardtol said...

I know. My participation in AR2 gave my career a significant push. I'm at a different stage now.

Ed Darrell said...

Not paying travel is one way to frustrate a scientist.

Sending bombs by courier is another way. But do you think a Spanish think tank would send a bomb to their critic, and then the critic wouldn't report it to the police?

Curious case here:

EWI said...

The RTol saga goes on: