The Global Warming of Climate Science: Climategate and the Construction of Scientific Facts
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionInternational Studies in the Philosophy of Science. 2010, 24 (3), 287-307. 10.1080/02698595.2010.522411
This article analyses 1,073 e-mails that were hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in November 2009. The incident was popularly dubbed 'Climategate', indicating that the e-mails reveal a scientific scandal. Here we analyse them differently. Rather than objecting to the exchanges based on some idea about proper scientific conduct, we see them as a rare glimpse into a situation where scientists collectively prepare for participation in heated controversy, with much focus on methodology. This allows us to study how scientists communicate informally about framing propositions of facts in the best possible way. Through the eyes of science and technology studies, the e-mails provide an opportunity to study communication as part of science in the making across disciplines and laboratories. Analysed as 'written conversation' the e-mails provide information about processes of consensus formation through 'agonistic evaluations' of other scientists' work and persuasion of others to support one's own work. Also, the e-mails contain judgements about other groups and individual scientists. Consensus-forming appeared as a precarious activity. Controversies could be quite resilient in the course of this decade-long exchange, probably reflecting the complexity of the methodological challenges involved.