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Thanks to the dashboard, the Old Man discovers that the paper we worked so hard on last year, which he had to put aside due to other commitments, has once again become relevant, courtesy of  the very journal which rejected us. Roger Pielke Sr comments here, and James Annan here.

There is no question that there were some imperfections in our work (all down to me, not my co-authors), and that a more rigorous approach would have been preferable, but one works with the resources and opportunities available and, if the results are sufficiently interesting (which I would contend they are), then publication of a provisional paper (to allow for development and public interaction) is a valid and useful exercise.

In the short period following our initial blogging of the paper and its results, and in response to the very helpful and supportive critiques from Stoat, Uncle Eli, Gavin and others, I did approach Hans von Storch, who you will recall had engaged in similar exercises with Dennis Bray (also with imperfections), asking if some kind of collaboration was possible, but received no response. Because I did not have the means nor the facilities to engage in a fuller, more rigorous approach myself, we were more or less forced to set the work aside.

Acouple of months ago, the subject arose once more on RealClimate, at which time I suggested (via the comments) that, should the community be sufficiently interested, I would consider addressing the issue of scientific opinion once more; again, no response.

I am tempted (often) to conclude that there are more interesting and more important issues than ‘consensus’, but then one looks at ‘skeptical science’ and sees that it is still a very popular canard in the denialosphere (it’s their third most popular myth, apparently).

I would point out here, once again, that the original intention of the research was to try to establish, as far as was possible, what scientists involved in climate-related science honestly thought of the IPCC AR4. There was no agenda, implicit or explicit, to ‘prove’ either that there is or isn’t a ‘consensus’ – in fact, we even avoided the term consciously, choosing ‘agreement’ instead – and the database was as carefully controlled as possible – I would argue, the ‘purest’ of its kind used in any such study to date.

It’s the Old Man’s contention that, with acknowledgement of the legitimate concerns of our critics, our paper remains the most interesting and most relevant of the overt attempts to poll scientists on climate change. I’d also lay odds that a better paper by us, using a comparable database but more carefully prepared and more rigorously managed, would produce very closely comparable results to the original.

So where does all this leave us and our paper? I don’t know that anything has changed, but, since Fred Spilhaus behaved decently to me personally, during our correspondence, and I respect him and his professionalism, I think I’ll write and ask him if a letter, referencing the earlier work, would be, given their apparent chance of editorial heart, sufficiently interesting to publish.

More on this at a later date.



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January 2009