New Comment Settings

In response to a very drawn-out debate regarding complex scientific topics, I have changed the comment policy of ClimateSight. Thanks to the many commenters who helped shape this new policy, in particular Hank and Richard.

The new policy is as follows:

If you have something to say, you are more than welcome to leave a comment. However, if you make a scientific claim, like “modern times are warmer than any other period in the past millenium”, or “bristlecone pine data is unacceptable for use in proxy reconstructions”, you must provide an acceptable reference.

For our purposes, an acceptable reference must be peer-reviewed, whether it was published in a journal (but not Energy and Environment!) or is a statement from a professional organization like the NAS. The source cannot have been discredited since its publication.

Blogs don’t count. Reputable blogs will always reference their scientific claims, so all you have to do is take the extra step of checking out their citations. (If they don’t have any citations, what does that tell you?) This requirement eliminates a lot of the misrepresentation and drawn-out debates which are all too common on climate science blogs.

How does that sound? Any suggestions for further improvement?

You know, collaborating with others like this really helps me understand why peer review works. There’s no way I could make such improvement on ClimateSight without the help of our commenters.

Update: Thanks to all of your suggestions, I’ve altered the policy yet again. We’ll see how many revisions it’ll have to go through before it’s finalized. Peer-review at its finest. I’ll also put this comment policy in the sidebar so it’s visible on every post.

If you have something to say, you are more than welcome to leave a comment. However, if you make a scientific claim which is not already common knowledge – like a new theory or a recent statistic – you must reference a legitimate peer-reviewed source (ie, not Energy and Environment!). The source cannot have been recently discredited (ie, don’t reference the 1000-year temperature reconstruction by Sallie Baliunas).

Blogs don’t count. Most reputable blogs will reference all of their scientific claims, so all you have to do is take the extra step of checking out their citations. If they don’t have any citations, what does that tell you?

Any failures to comply with this comment policy will be deleted.

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24 thoughts on “New Comment Settings

  1. This is difficult to enforce… how were you planning on doing so?

    You could take the route that Frank Bi and Greenfyre use, leaving ghost comments with boilerplate responses (i.e. “Sue D’Nim: [Citation needed]“), as a suggestion.

    To protesters: There is one advantage to blog discussions over academic citations – you don’t have to pay for the original source, which is critical if you don’t have access to a university library or similar subscriber. There are some blog circles that are basically scientists talking about peer-reviewed research (for instance, Research Blogging) which can be useful for discussion: ergo, sometimes a blog link can be helpful. However, what sets Research Blogging and similar ventures apart is that they list the primary citation as well, be it a peer-reviewed paper or an available dataset. All you need to do is list the same if you link it.

    • I don’t think it’ll be too difficult to enforce – read what I said about common knowledge above. All comments are moderated, mostly so I’m sure that I read all of them. So I just have to go through and see if there’s anything really ridiculous in there.

  2. Seems like a variation of what I ended up doing on my blog. I am not entirely happy with my decision (I hate any from of censorship), but it was either let a bunch of non-sense remain unchallenged or spend inordinate amounts of time debunking such non-sense.

    In the end I had no choice but to require more stringent standards of my commenters.

    You might also consider asking anyone who doesn’t accept AGW to answer the question: what would change your mind and why did you choose that criteria? How that question is answered goes a long way in separating those who are misinformed but still interested in broadening their understanding, from cranks who will never be turned.

  3. Hmmm… I should like this new policy, but I’m not sure that I do. Will this not, strictly speaking, eliminate the raison d’être for this blog? What distinguishes you after this from the professional literature?

    ;-)

  4. 1. You may want to define ‘acceptable reference’. Simply stating this, one can trot out, say, Lindzen’s Infrared Iris. Sure it is a published paper. According to your rules, this paper is OK to back a claim; too bad it has not withstood peer review, just like the CRF that gets trotted out. Similarly, sham journals should not be acceptable (E & E for example).

    2. Over at Climate Progress I replied to your request for help by typing ‘zzzzzz’. Why?
    a) This very same thing – patiently coddling someone desperate to maintain the relevance of their self-identity – has happened sooooo many times before.
    b) Now that you know the characteristics of someone desperate to maintain the relevance of their self-identity, you can cut off these exercises. This was an excellent object lesson.

    Best,

    D

    • 1) I’ve added a few sentences about what constitutes an acceptable reference, on this post as well as “About ClimateSight”.

      2) I do believe I’ve learned my lesson. Thanks for all your help.

  5. Welcome to the trenches.

    The increased popularity of your blog is due to the quality of your writing and the persuasiveness of your arguments. But that does more than increase your visibility; it also makes you a target for the opposition.

    I think your policy that scientific claims must be referenced is a good idea. I do suggest, however, that references to Energy and Environment aren’t acceptable.

  6. Dano:

    You may want to define ‘acceptable reference’. Simply stating this, one can trot out, say, Lindzen’s Infrared Iris. Sure it is a published paper. According to your rules, this paper is OK to back a claim; too bad it has not withstood peer review, just like the CRF that gets trotted out.

    Hmm… I think, for any explicit set of rules of citations that’s simple enough to be understood by mere mortals, the rules are going to exclude some reasonable research and/or include some crank work.

    That said, I’m not sure if requiring all references to come from journals or conference proceedings will be too stringent or too lax. When I started out on my genealogy of climate conspiracy theories, I found that I had to rely on book chapters and (non-peer-reviewed) technical reports. (You’ll also notice that I included a chapter by Lindzen as a reference…)

    Oh well. Let’s just see how the current rules work out.

    bi

  7. I much prefer the idea of adding [citation needed] tags around unsourced claims rather than deleting them completely, as over-moderation of blogs can lead to fun accusations of selective censorship. Granted, its your house and hence your rules, but I’ve always found blogs that include occasional debates with the more erudite skeptics to be more interesting than ones with more homogenized commenter viewpoints (see Climate Progress, for example).

    I also foresee some debate over whether any particular source has “been discredited since its publication,” given that such discrediting is not always completely clear cut.

  8. PS, if you want to keep some evidence of the visitors who do come copypasting stuff, you might consider
    — an open thread, or
    — an open edited thread

    The first would be hands-off aside from deleting spam. The second type though might be more fun.

    It’d look like this–edit the posts just to point to the refutations:

    ImaFurrealNoobSkeptic says:
    April 1, 2010:

    Did you know that
    [Edit: that’s #1]
    and a good friend tells me
    [Edit: that’s #7]
    and I believe it’s completely obvious if you listen to Hokum on AM Radio that
    [Edit: that’s #2, 17, and 23]

    [Edit: the numbers refer to the list here:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php ]

  9. “For our purposes, an acceptable reference must be peer-reviewed, whether it was published in a journal (but not Energy and Environment!) or is a statement from a professional organization like the NAS. The source cannot have been discredited since its publication.”

    This would effectively eliminate most skeptics from your blog, and in a rational way that can’t be characterized as censorship. If only the mainstream media had such stringent requirements!

    Playing Devil’s Advocate, the last line “The source cannot have been discredited since its publication.” is somewhat subjective and difficult to verify. I’m aware of a study that suggests a significant UHI effect on temperature trends, based mainly on a difference between satellite and surface trends. This was done before the large upward diurnal drift correction, rendering it largely obsolete. It seems difficult to determine what has been discredited without doing research on each study. Perhaps keeping a running list of discredited ones might help.

    Eliminating blog references entirely is ok, but perhaps a drawback is we lose good layperson explanations of peer-reviewed studies. RC can be trusted to accurately represent the peer-reviewed literature. ScienceDaily is usually pretty good. Some other blogs and sources misrepresent science. We’ve seen Bob Carter and various politically-oriented blogs make odd statements that don’t follow from his work. Roy Spencer does this to a large degree. It’s the rule rather than the exception at WattsUp. So relaxing this requirement might be beneficial, but it results in more possibly subjective judgment calls.

    • Don’t worry, it won’t be too stringent, it’ll make sense for the situation. By “not discredited” I mean you can’t use Baliunas’ MWP paper or Lindzen’s cloud feedback theory.

  10. MarkB re: paragraph 3:

    Eliminating blog references entirely is ok, but perhaps a drawback is we lose good layperson explanations of peer-reviewed studies.

    Not entirely. For instance, you could link to RealClimate discussing Study X, but clearly mention that your source is Study X, and it complies with the comment policy.

    This doesn’t bypass the problem of misrepresentation (for instance, anyone discussing McLean, de Freitas, and Carter 2009 based on the publicity from that study) or meta-level discussions (continuing the example: Michael Tobis commenting on the commenting on that paper, pointing out the non sequitor). However, those problems are already present in any blog.

    Hank’s idea regarding enumerated replacements of long-debunked talking points is interesting, but as-yet unapplied: Even Greenfyre’s (which uses a two-stage open thread system for catching off-topic citations and loves inline footnoted responses, with a zero-tolerance approach to long-debunked talking points) doesn’t use this.

  11. I quite like the enumerated replacements idea – I floated a similar one at Deltoid but the discussion got lost in a humungous thread. If everyone pulled in the same direction & just posted [#17] (or whatever), linking to skeptical science in reply to regular ‘talking points’ it would cut down the time spent responding to obvious memes, after a while we’d all get to know the common numbers & there may be some progress in discussions. It would also increase the hit rate at skeptical science, good for those google searches!

  12. Ah, I was being stupid. The answer was right there, behind the button “Link To Us”

    to copy a particular argument from SkepticalScience, start at this page:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/link_to_us.php

    Link to Skeptical Science

    If you wish to link to a particular skeptical argument (or more than one), select the argument in the drop down below to get HTML link code:

    Wonderful tool. Should’ve been using it long since.

  13. Perhaps you should ban references to the work of Roger Pielke Jr and Sr as well. Joe Romm, whose book you recommended, suggested just that on his blog a few months ago. Frankly, citations of peer-reviewed work that disagrees with your preconceived notions should be banned.

    • If the study has been discredited – like Sallie Baliunas’ temperature reconstruction where most of the review board resigned due to failure of the peer-review process, or the recent ENSO article, or pretty much anything from Energy and Environment – I won’t allow it. It’s not about what the source says, as much as how much credibility they hold and how much weight we can give their statements. If all the scientific organizations in the world and 97% of publishing climatologists were saying that climate change was natural or nonexistent, I would believe them too.

  14. Huh?I I am sorry I posted this in a wrong thread, but I do not understand what the “citations needed” means. I posted to three graphs, what is wrong with my “citations”?

    • Hi Harold,

      I’m not sure which comment was yours – after a comment is deleted I can’t retrieve it – but all citations must be from the peer-reviewed literature. Our comment policy is in the sidebar.

      Thanks, and sorry for any misunderstanding
      Kate

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