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Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz
The "ClimateGate" affair - the publication of e-mails and documents hacked or leaked from one of the world's leading climate research institutions - is being intensely debated on the web. But what does it imply for climate science? Here, Mike Hulme and Jerome Ravetz say it shows that we need a more concerted effort to explain and engage the public in understanding the processes and practices of science and scientists.
Robot Practising scientists know that they do not simply follow a rulebook to do their science, otherwise it could be done by a robot As the repercussions of ClimateGate reverberate around the virtual community of global citizens, we believe it is both important and urgent to reflect on what this moment is telling us about the practice of science in the 21st Century. In particular, what is it telling us about the social status and perceived authority of scientific claims about climate change?
We argue that the evolving practice of science in the contemporary world must be different from the classic view of disinterested - almost robotic - humans establishing objective claims to universal truth. Climate change policies are claimed to be grounded in scientific knowledge about physical cause and effect and about reliable projections of the future.
As opposed to other ways of knowing the world around us - through intuition, inherited belief, myth - such scientific knowledge retains its authority by widespread trust in science's reassuring norms of objectivity, universality and disinterestedness. These perceived norms work to guarantee to the public trustworthy scientific knowledge, and allow such knowledge to claim high authority in political deliberation and argumentation; this, at least, is what historically has been argued in the case of climate change.