Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

In the immortal words of Father Jack Hackett…

March 25, 2013

180px-Jack_award“Award! Award! Award!”

To be more specific: I found out a few weeks ago that I’ve been awarded the Royal Meteorological Society‘s (RMetS) Michael Hunt Award, which is “for excellence in increasing the understanding of meteorology or its applied disciplines among members of the general public”. Get me!

And don’t worry, I’m sure it wasn’t given to me for this blog, which has only rarely been updated in the last year or so – I blame having kids and my change from postdoc to lecturer, which have occurred since I started blogging. I also do other outreach/public engagement things like school visits, Skeptics in the Pub talks, science festival events and wotnot. It’s usually a lot of fun and to get an award for doing it is great!

Oddly enough, though, my previous post on this blog was slightly critical of a recent RMetS Meeting on climate change communication; I’m glad that they didn’t hold that against me!

So, to continue that theme, I thought I’d make another couple of points about RMetS and how it communicates with the outside world…

Most of RMetS’ effort goes into their meetings and publications, which are excellent for academics but what about everyone else?

I know that they run events in schools and at science festivals, which is great.

The previous RMetS Chief Exec had a blog for a while (it was quite fun, I enjoyed the posts about his watch) and it’s now become a more general society blog but I think that there’s still room in the weather and climate blogosphere (ugh, never though I use that word seriously) for coverage of big issues. For example, The Carbon Brief has only been going since 2011ish and it has become an excellent resource. Whilst I suspect that RMetS want to keep it a bit more light-hearted, there’s still some low hanging fruit here that I’m sure RMetS could grab. Even the columns in the (recently departed) “theWeather” magazine would have made excellent blog posts that I’m sure would get widely read but they were never (as far as I know) made available online.

I loved “theWeather” magazine and it even won an award or two but, given the way that publishing and reading habits are changing, perhaps it wasn’t the time to launch a subscription only print magazine.

I just hope that the RMetS can find more of a place online where most people do their communicating these days, particularly in terms of climate change. (Whether that’s a good thing is another matter!)

What I would do is set up a network of early career meteorologists, climatologists, oceanographers etc. to run a collaborative blog on the RMetS website. One of the most interesting and exciting things I’ve done outreach-wise was the EPSRC-funded (now EPSRC-non-funded) NOISEmakers ambassadors scheme. It was great meeting up with scientists that you wouldn’t normally work with and discuss ideas (perhaps a little bit like the JASONs but not as serious!) In my case, this led to writing some nice general audience pieces, starting my own blog, networking with other people about communication and even working on papers and research proposals with people I met through NOISEmakers.

Finally, I also thought I should find out who Michael Hunt was and found this clip on youtube, you can see Hunt at 3.39, he’s got a good look!

Communicating Climate Science (but don’t mention the b-word)

November 8, 2012


There, I said it.

Which, as far as I can remember, is more than it was mentioned in the 7 talks or during the panel discussion at yesterday’s RMetS meeting on Communicating Climate Science.

Just to re-iterate, in a 3 hour meeting about Communicating Climate Science I don’t remember anyone saying the word “blog”.

Also to be clear, I thought the meeting was really interesting and well worth going to to. But, looking back on the event, I’m amazed that I don’t think anyone mentioned the impact of blogging on climate science communication, how it could be used better by the community or even that it exists.

Which is odd because two of the speakers are very good bloggers (Alice Bell and Adam Corner) and I noticed a few in the audience (e.g. Tamsin Edwards and Bob Ward, who seems like a blogger without a blog, unless I’ve missed it!)

So, did anyone else notice this or did I just nod off at the wrong moment?

A little bit more on BEST and Watts

March 31, 2011

I wrote a short post recently about the hot air surrounding the new surface temperature record being compiled at Berkeley.

One of the issues was the data sample that was used in preliminary BEST analysis that was being discussed.

UPDATE (31/3/2011 11:58am): Carbon Brief have some graphs to show how similar the 2% sample is to NOAA, GISS and HadCRU.

It seems that Watts was mistaken about the 2% sample of BEST data being from Japan. He updated his post in the last few days:

“ERRATA: I made a mistake regarding the 2% figure, I misheard what was being presented during my visit with the BEST team at Berkeley. As many of you may know I’m about 80% hearing impaired and the presentation made to me was entirely verbal with some printed graphs. Based on the confidentiality I agreed to, I did not get to come back with any of those graphs, notes, or data so I had to rely on what I heard. I simply misheard and thought the 2% were the Japan station analysis graphs that they showed me.

I was in touch with Dr. Richard Muller on 3/28/2011 who graciously pointed out my misinterpretation. I regret the error, and thus issue this correction about the 2% figure being truly a random sample, and not just stations in the Japan test presentation shown to me.”

It’s just a shame that he didn’t notice the contradiction between the BEST statement (“random”) and his own understanding (“Japan”) before writing his post and shouting down commenters asking for clarification (i.e. “Ah I see you are immediately back to wasting everyone’s time…“).

RealClimate libel threat

February 22, 2011

The publishers of the journal Energy & Environment have threatened libel action against the RealClimate blog because of remarks they made about the peer review process in E&E.

The key quote that upset them, from this post, was:

“The evidence for this is in precisely what happens in venues like E&E that have effectively dispensed with substantive peer review for any papers that follow the editor’s political line.”

I think it is somewhat cowardly of E&E to threaten this libel action as it is often used to silence critics when their arguments can’t be refuted with evidence (see the RealClimate post for examples and then go and sign the petition to reform English libel laws).

If E&E can defend their peer review system, then I think should do so. What would be even better is if E&E took the plunge and opened up their peer review process and became a model for other journals. After all, many of the “skeptics” who have published in or are on the editorial board of E&E have called for the peer review process to open up. Here’s a great opportunity to make some progress on that front!

I wrote their publishers a letter explaining my view:

Dear Bill Hughes,

I have just read the letter that you sent to RealClimate regarding their criticism of the peer review process in E&E. I am disappointed that you consider a libel threat a valid response to their post.

Indeed, if E&E has a robust peer review process then this opportunity could be taken to open that process up. In doing so, you could not only refute the claims made by RealClimate but also become a trailblazer for a system to replace the current model of anonymous/closed peer review, which is often criticised for favouring the consensus view on subjects like climate change.

I look forward to an imaginative and constructive response from E&E.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Russell

My blogging review of 2010

January 4, 2011

So, it’s 2011. Time for a quick look back at the first whole year of my blog.


Well, I’m shocked at how many people have read and commented on my blog. I thought I’d be writing mostly for friends and colleagues but the blog seems to have reached a little further. If anyone reads regularly or just wants to say hello, I’d really like to hear from you; please leave a comment to let me know who you are and if there’s anything you think I should be writing in 2011. (And thanks for reading!)

The other big surprise was being linked to and quoted in a Guardian article about the Institute of Physics. I only knew about it when I was reading the paper in a cafe and noticed my name in the paper!

I also wasn’t expecting the response to my “Hockey Stick” post, which I wrote mostly for my own benefit to have all the IPCC climate reconstructions in one place. I’ve been meaning to write a review of the Hockey Stick book (by the Bishop Hill guy) but haven’t quite found the time.

That leads nicely on to the next point…


I’ve not actually been reading climate blogs for that long, probably 2 years or so. I’d like to spend more time reading and commenting but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve noticed in that time and it’s probably not very shocking.

There seem to be two, shall we say, very passionate groups/sides of bloggers. I guess you’d group them as pro “established climate science” or against. I quite often see the same names commenting on the same “sides”. It’s all quite cliquey and often impolite (to say the least). Maybe I should look into this more and think of a way of analysing it but this isn’t really the time to do it.

The point I want to make now is about my blog. Some of the days when I’ve got lots of hits/comments are when I’ve been linked to from one of the bigger blogs and, by the nature of those comments, it’s not difficult to tell which “side” that link has come from!

I’m actually quite glad I’ve not been blogging long enough (or comment around enough) to have been drawn in to one of these well-defined cliques – I’m happy enough to just be writing about what’s interesting me rather than feeling an allegiance to a particular cause.

Top Posts

According to WordPress, these are my posts that got the most views in 2010.


Dear Institute of Physics… March 2010


The “Hockey Stick” evolution June 2010


Britain’s snow and climate change January 2010
1 comment


Antarctic climate change – the exception that proves the rule? March 2010


Skepticism or denial? February 2010

(I’m surprised that the snow post is in there. I think it must have googled a lot recently!)

Anyway, thanks again for reading and hope to see you here in 2011.

Science Blogging Talkfest 2010

July 15, 2010

I was fortunate enough to combine a trip down to London yesterday with the Science Blogging Talkfest organised by Alice Bell and Beck Smith.

It was a nice event with not too much mutual back slapping going on – Jack of Kent was also on hand to keep scientific egos in check.

I thought I’d go over a couple of the points that came up that particularly interested me…

“Climategate” was raised at one point but wasn’t really discussed much. Despite my interest in climate science, I think that not dwelling on the UEA emails was probably for the best. No-one that’s spent much time on that issue has come out of it well (apart from those fantasists that now have a fragment of reality to associate with their conspiracy theories). One point that I should have made was that it’s all very well flinging mud and picking at the science from the edges but until the “sceptic” bloggers face the same scrutiny as those they attack (both in the press and scientific journals) there’s no level playing field here and this, in my view, needs resolving.

Blog comments came up and was an interesting discussion, including the idea that readers could be charged for leaving comments! I’m particularly interested in reader comments as, from the point of view of climate science, I’m always amazed at how many comments climate blogs and newspaper articles generate. With Alok and Mark there, I would’ve loved to hear how trolling patterns have changed at The Times since the paywall went up and whether the Grauniad has any plans to restrict commenting to unidentifiable individuals.

Ed Yong brought up some work by the Pew Research Center that looked at the proportion of stories on science in new (10%) and old media (1%), citing this as a success for science blogging. This research slightly worries me because the Traditional Press column only adds up to 73% where the Blogs one gets to 100% but the bigger point, which Mark Henderson raised, was that the volume of science blogs is not necessarily a good thing as a lot of these blogs are written by, for example, climate change deniers and quacks. Well, nice point but a shame that The Times’ science supplement Eureka put one of the top climate change “sceptic” sites – Watts Up With That? – in its Top 30 Science Blogs earlier this year! Unfortunately, the event ended there and I didn’t get a chance to put this point to Mark (and maybe it would’ve been a bit mean.)

All in all, a great night out which I’m sure will generate many blog posts!