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2017 in Review: looking back at 10 years of SkS and more

Posted on 3 January 2018 by BaerbelW

A lot of things happened at Skeptical Science in 2017.  Many will leave good memories, like celebrating our 10th birthday in August or the publication of several impactful papers, but there's also a sad memory to include: losing our dear friend Andy Skuce in September. Andy was a valued colleague to all of us for many years. A geologist's geologist, Andy was a calm, rational and erudite voice, a gentleman in the true sense of the word, and a wonderful sounding board. As his illness progressed Andy didn't talk much about it, remaining focused on the task at hand. In the end his passing came suddenly to all of us. Andy was a friend, a mate, a buddy, a 'good egg'. We miss him.

Vale Andy Skuce.

Andy


Below, you'll find an overview of our activities during 2017:

John Cook moves to Virginia

Scholary publications and books

Other publications and activities

Our MOOC Denial101x

Conferences and presentations

Website activities and translations


John Cook moves to Virginia

What John had announced in September 2016 became a reality in the last week of January 2017: he relocated from Queensland to Virginia to start his new position as a resesarch assistant professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication (4C) at George Mason University. The move happened a mere week after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States - what has happened since has shown that there's a very big need for exactly the lines of research John is involved with at 4C: how to combat misinformation and fake news!

Scholary publications and books

The year started off well on January 4 with the publication of "Assessing Recent Warming Using Instrumentally Homogenous Sea Surface Temperature Records" authored by Zeke Hausfather, Kevin Cowtan, David C. Clarke, Peter Jacobs, Mark Richardson, and Robert Rohde. Zeke and Kevin wrote about their study the following day with the aptly titled article "NOAA was right: we have been underestimating warming". In this video, Zeke explains the paper:

Rob Honeycutt published his book "28 Climate Change Elevator pitches" on February 2 which John Abraham wrote about in "A punchy climate book from a citizen scientist".

Andy Skuce and other SkS authors responded to James Powell, who claimed that the 97% consensus on AGW is an underestimate of the true value. Both Powell's paper and our response were published in Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society on May 1. Powell's paper is "Climate Scientists Virtually Unanimous Anthropogenic Global Warming Is True"; and the response written by Andy Skuce, John Cook, Mark Richardson, Bärbel Winkler, Ken Rice, Sarah Green, Peter Jacobs and Dana Nuccitelli "Does It Matter if the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming Is 97% or 99.99%?". Dana wrote about our paper here as did Andy in this more detailed article.

Martin Stolpe co-authored "Reconciling controversies about the ‘global warming hiatus’" with Iselin Medhaug, Erich M. Fischer and Reto Knutti, which was published in Nature on May 4.

John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky and Ullrich Ecker published "Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence" in PLOS ONE on May 5. Dana wrote about this important paper in Study: to beat science denial, inoculate against misinformers' tricks, and UWA sent out a press release which came with one of John's cartoons:

FlatEarth

On December 14, the article "Beyond Misinformation: Understanding and Coping with the “Post-Truth” Era" written by Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich Ecker and John Cook was published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (JARMAC). Something quite extraordinary happened as the article was accompanied straight away by 9(!) commentaries and a response to all of them by the authors titled "Letting the Gorilla Emerge From the Mist: Getting Past Post-Truth". You can find the list with links to the abstracts of the paper, the commentaries and response on JARMAC's page for the journal's current edition. Dana Nuccitelli wrote about this series of articles in "Fake news is a threat to humanity, but scientist may have a solution".

John (co)authored several other papers throughout the year:

  • van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., Cook, J., Leiserowitz, A., Lewandowsky, S. (2017). Inoculating against misinformationScience, 358(6367), 1141-1142
  • Cook, J. (2017). Response by Cook to “Beyond Counting Climate ConsensusEnvironmental Communication, 1-3DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2017.1377095
    (Which is a response against anti-consensus messaging in Environmental Communication - responding to the false dichotomy between consensus messaging and policy discussion)
  • van der Linden, S., Maibach, E., Cook, J., Leiserowitz, A., Ranney, M., Lewandowsky, S., Árvai, J., & Weber, E. U. (2017). Culture versus cognition is a false dilemmaNature Climate Change7(7), 457-457.
    (Which is a response in Nature Climate Change responding to the false dichotomy between culture and cognition (e.g., do we throw facts out the window because culture is a factor)
  • Cook, J. (2017). How to Effectively Debunk Myths About Aging and Other MisconceptionsPublic Policy and Aging Report. 27(1), 13-17. doi: 10.1093/ppar/prw034
    (This is a paper on debunking myths about aging)

Other publications and activities

Two months after arriving in the United States, John Cook launched the podcast Evidence Squared together with Peter Jacobs on March 25. As explained in the accompanying blog post, the goal of E2 is to focus on the science of science communication and how to talk about climate change.

E2

On April 5 Glenn Tamblyn learned that he had won TheBestSchool's contest to take over David Karoly's spot in a written debate with William Happer. You can read the full and long debate with several back and forths here and then decide who has science on his side.

As in previous years, members from our team published articles in various other outlets:

Our MOOC Denial101x

Denial101x

Denial101x was available throughout the year either as a paced or self-paced version. Since first launching in 2015, more than 35,000 participants from over 180 countries have enrolled in our MOOC. We've received a lot of positive feedback with students letting us know that the course content will be a big help in their endeavours to inform others - be they family members, friends, colleagues or students - about the reality of human-caused climate change. Pat Bowden let us know about her detailed review of Denial101x which she published in November on her blog.

The first self-paced version for 2018 will start on January 9 - you can register for it on the edX page for Denial101x.

John Cook updated the already existing Fact-Myth-Fallacy page to now include the relevant fallacy icon and the corresponding lecture video from Denial101x.

Conferences and presentations

At the end of September Stephan Lewandowsky and Bärbel Winkler met in Salzburg, Austria for the K3-conference, which was the first of its kind German-speaking conference about "Climate change, Communication and Society". The two-day event featured keynote speeches and workshops all geared towards exchanging information about how to talk about climate change. Steve gave a keynote (video on this page) about climate communication and presented in a workshop about uncertainty. Bärbel had short presentations in a workshop about countering misinformation and how to discuss climate change in the world wide web.

Denial101xPosterBärbel Winkler next to a poster explaining Denial101x at the conference in Salzburg

With the AGU Fall Meeting happening in New Orleans this year, only a few members from our team found their way there as compared to San Francisco last year. Zeke Hausfather had a presentation titled "Understanding and Reconciling Differences in Surface and Satellite-Based Lower Troposphere Temperatures" and Peter Jacobs presented "Foraminifera Models to Interrogate Ostensible Proxy-Model Discrepancies During Late Pliocene".

John Cook was invited to present at several institutions and outlets, some of which were recorded. You can find them on our public talks page:

Website activities and translations

On August 22 we "celebrated" the 10th birthday of Skeptical Science, even though - truth be told - we are not quite sure if "celebrate" is the best word to use as it's actually quite concerning that our website is still needed to counter misinformation about climate science. We however used the occasion to highlight how SkS evolved over the years from a one-author website to an international team effort.

10th

Our translation team was quite active during 2017. A team of students from South Korea created the first Korean translations of some rebuttals, the Brazilian team for Portuguese translations published A Historia da Ciência do Clima for which jg created Portuguese versions of his neat history timeline graphics and Thomas Traill started to help with translations into German. Currently, translations of The Debunking Handbook into Portuguese and Japanese are in the works. If you'd like to get involved with translations, please drop us a note via the contact-form, selecting the "Enquiry about translations" option.

Speaking of The Debunking Handbook: It is still by far the most downloaded of our resources with more the 87,000 downloads of the English version (considerably up from 60,000 in 2016). The various translations got downloaded more than 8,000 times with more than half of those being the German version. The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skeptisism got downloaded almost 17,000 times, taking the original (6,000+) and the translations into account. Other notable downloads include the Fact-Myth-Fallacy summary (4,000+) and the Guide to the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) (6,000+).

Several blog-series were started, continued or restarted during 2017: Evan published 10 analogies and David Kirtley put together four more in depth "From the eMail Bag" posts which were prompted by questions emailed in via our contact-address. Ari Jokimäki restarted his "New Research" listing of interesting climate science papers and John Hartz kept his weekly digests going throughout the year, ending up with 104 articles all told. Dana Nuccitelli republished his 63 (and John Abraham's 42) Guardian posts. You can access all published articles from here.

Now that 2017 is complete, here is an update of the blog-posts-per-year chart included in the article published for SkS' 10th birthday:

BlogPostsWith2017

2017 was the first year for which we have fairly complete statistics for rebuttal views. From the accumulated data - over 115,000 lines in a spreadsheet! - a lot of interesting information can be gleaned as was done in an article about the "Trump effect" in June. The following animation is based on data gathered throughout the year and shows the ranking among the 25 most viewed rebuttals in a given month. To us, it doesn't come as a big surprise that the "consensus" argument has consistently been the most viewed rebuttal, garnering around 900,000 views all told. The runner-ups "sun" and "model" have had their fair share of views with around 500,000 accumulated views for each, just trading places every now and then from one month to the next. There are some very visible activities in there though: "Hurricane" came out of nowhere in September - coinciding with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria making landfall - but was quickly relegated back to also-ran status in the subsequent weeks. "Consensus" had two visible spikes in January and June when Trump was sworn in and when he announced to leave the Paris agreement respectively (just a coincidence, perhaps, or one of those spurious correlations?).


All of these activities are only possible because Skeptical Science is run by a dedicated team of volunteers from across the globe and we plan to keep doing what needs to be done in the upcoming years!

Team

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Comments

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  1. In my view, Skeptical Science is one of the most, perhaps the most, important site on the Web. Congratulations and thanks to the entire team for the wonderful work that you do!

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