Summary: A new paper provides valuable information about climate science — evidence of the politicization that helped collapse the public policy debate. The authors conclude that narratives are “used to positive effect” in peer-reviewed papers. It puts science on the slippery slope to becoming propaganda (or, in today’s jargon, “fake news”). Scientists achieve career success but destroy the public’s esteem accumulated over centuries.
By Ann Hillier, Ryan P. Kelly, and Terrie Klinger.
From PLOS ONE, 15 December 2016. Red emphasis added.
Climate change is among the most compelling issues now confronting science and society, and climate science as a research endeavor has grown accordingly over the past decade. The number of scholarly publications is increasing exponentially, doubling every 5±6 years. The volume of climate science publications now being produced far exceeds the ability of individual investigators to read, remember, and use. Accordingly, it is increasingly important that individual articles be presented in a way that facilitates the uptake of climate science and increases the salience of their individual research contributions.
…Despite this, professional scientific writing tends to be more expository than narrative, prioritizing objective observations made by detached researchers and relying on the logical proposition “if X, then Y” to define the structure of the argument.
Narrative writing, on the other hand, is commonly used to good effect in popular science writing. Both simple narratives and apocalyptic climate narratives are known to capture public attention and spur action. Moreover, narratives can influence perceptions of climate risk and policy preferences among the public, and the narrative style has been proposed as a powerful means of research to address problems of knowledge, policy, and action as they relate to climate change.
Here we explore the influence of narrative in the professional communication of climate science research, acknowledging that the perception of narrative can be subjective and context- dependent.