Tim Worstall’s Tech Central Station column from yesterday brings together a lot of interesting observations on the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) fourth report:
By way of background, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN-sponsored organization looking into climate change on our behalves. We had the Third Report from them back a few years ago and it was that report that became the impetus for the great global warming outcry — bringing the whole subject to fore of our collective consciousness. Now, it’s time for the Fourth Report to be compiled; obviously science has not stood still in recent years. In fact, given the money and effort being expended on this subject, we’d rather hope it hadn’t. That Fourth Report is due to be published next year.
OK, so, fine, the process goes on apace and what’s so remarkable about that? Well, the draft report has historically been kept secret. Sooper-seekkrit. You see, the scientists (and the rather more political creatures who write the summaries) want to be able to work in peace and deliver the report at once in a blaze of publicity. So what has the US Government gone and done? Posted a draft of it on the Internet! (Right here).
Tim makes one very important, key insight: opening up the draft to comment is a combination of the public comment period on regulatory changes and academic peer review. There are lots of folks who are qualified to comment on the scientific content of the report, but who are not IPCC researchers. Soliciting input, while it might also get some politically-motivated polemics, will also get some peer-review-quality feedback into the climate science and economics research process.
That’s why Tim’s point about Surowiecki’s “wisdom of crowds” argument is so trenchant. One of the reasons the “wisdom of crowds” dynamic works when it works is that it provides a decentralized feedback mechanism. Research yields better results when it doesn’t take place in an echo chamber.