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Monday, May 02, 2005

Evidence of global warming a result of publication bias?

This is the suggestion in this story. For the uninitiated, publication bias refers to the tendency for only certain results being deemed acceptable for publication in scholarly journals. In economics this is seems to be a bit of a problem - only results that are statistically significant are going to be published, and hence only statistically significant results are submitted to the journals and therefore only statistically significant results are published.

Evidently in climatology there is a possibility that the same bias is occuring. If only those papers which claim to find evidence of global warming (and attributing the global warming to human activity) are published, then any meta analysis will naturally find that the general conclusion amongst climatologists is that global warnming is real and it is caused by human activity. The story cites such a meta analysis, which I haven't read so I can't vouch for its veracity, and this meta analysis, in turn, is offered as proof of scientific concensus about global warming.

Unfortunately, at least two authors have alleged that both Science and Nature have spiked papers that argue that concensus has not been reached and that perhaps global warming is not as obvious as is generally thought and it might not be caused by human action. This would not be surprising given that only a few decades the "concensus" was that we were approaching a global ice age - hey, at least they were right about one thing, we are in an "age," they just championed the wrong one for about twenty years.

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