Scientific Method

I’m sure you know how the scientific method works but it’s worth a quick review because it’s so important to the climate change story.

In essence the idea is that someone discovers something and then other people try to reproduce the result. If everyone gets the same answer, it’s called scientific consensus.

Of course there’s more to it than that and a whole communications industry has grown up around the scientific method. These are called peer reviewed journals and are somewhat inaccessible to the general public.

How they work is important though.

When a group of scientists does some research, their goal is to publish their findings in a peer reviewed journal.

First the journal’s editor looks at their paper. If it looks too flimsy it might get rejected out of hand.

If it looks worthwhile the editor sends copies out to a bunch of other scientists who are expert in the area. These people are anonymous to the paper’s author. Their job is to nitpick; pointing out flaws and asking questions. Usually the author and the reviewers go several rounds at rewriting the paper. Often the paper is withdrawn.

Finally when the editor is happy that the reviewers are happy it gets published. After publication the whole world gets a chance to take pot-shots at the study.

Within the academic world it’s only the opinions of scientists credentialed in the relevant field that count, but in the court of public opinion sometimes it’s anyone with an axe to grind.