Science Suffers Paradigm Shift

The Internet is changing the process of science forever. Centuries old pre-publication peer review of scientific papers must either change or die.

The World Wide Web was invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee to speed up sharing of scientific research among hundreds of research physicists at Europe’s massive particle accelerator at CERN.

In 22 short years that invention has permeated the fabric of life within every human ethnicity of every age group in every nation and every culture on Earth.

Today, that invention threatens the scientific method that spawned it. No group feels the pain of changing science methodology more acutely than does the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The paradigm shift in science is encapsulated within this question:

Why did a blogged little known science observation suddenly emerge from total obscurity two days ago to get 1,000 scientists and non-scientist laymen from 20 countries around the world reading it today?

The Little known Science Observation

On October 8, 2012 NOAA’s Solar Cycle Progression monthly report got released. The sunspot number of 61.5 for September is exceptionally low, way below expectations. Most definitely, solar physicists’ ears perked right up when they saw it.

That was the 9th month in a row of an exceptionally low sunspot count. I wrote a blog article about it explaining the implications and uploaded it on October 11th.

It got exactly two readers. This article remained lonely and virtually unnoticed until two days ago:
Climate Change and the Quiet Sun
– azleader, Inform the Pundits!, 10/11/2012

I’m not a scientist. Nor am I a credentialed researcher. I’m just a former planetarium director.

What Happened?

Stick with me… this impudent story has a lesson…

Two days ago Andrew Watts, a global warming gadfly, published a request on his science skeptic web site:
Dear readers – your help needed in fun crowdsourcing project
– Andrew Watts, WUWT, 10/20/2012

Its purpose is to solicit ideas for an educational program. The project is to gather interesting topics in science overlooked in the mainstream media. The idea is to put together slides, preferably one graphic per concept, to be used in public presentations.

The article I wrote on the 11th is perfect for that purpose.  So I left a comment with a link to it and called it a “for example” example.

My comment is the 31st of over 500 responses.

That obscure comment struck a chord. It started a chain reaction. Scientists and non-scientists alike started reading it. They passed it off to others. It has now been seen by 1,000 viewers and counting.

So far it has shown up on or been republished in full on 10 climate science web sites, probably more.

It got referenced in the online version of the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne, Australia. I’d never heard of it before today, but it has a print circulation of 2.5 million.

I also used to be a columnist for the 2nd largest circulation newspaper in Oregon. That newspaper had a circulation of maybe 70,000 or so. The Herald Sun is big!

But Wait, There’s More!

As a result of all the article attention, I’ve engaged in online discussions with very knowledgeable people and learned a lot from them.

For example, at the time of writing I was unaware of any other solar influence on climate change other than minor variations in the energy output of the sun. Those variations, however, are insufficient to explain observed climate changes over time.

Then I learned about Dr. Henrik Svensmark. He is a professor at the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish National Space Institute near Copenhagen.

Svensmark has advanced a clever solar magnetic theory of climate change. Not only is it scientifically viable, but proof of concept has been verified experimentally at CERN. That’s incredible.

In a mini-me way, what I’ve experienced in the last couple days is exactly what the visionary Berners-Lee imagined when he invented the World Wide Web.


At risk is the peer review process used by science. It is to slow and cumbersome. By the time a paper gets formally peer reviewed and published it is outdated.

The rate of discovery and scientific advancement is far greater than an unwieldy peer review process can react to.

The IPCC has become painfully aware of that deficiency as it prepares it’s much-anticipated 5th assessment of climate change. The report is already done but is now undergoing discussion and peer review. It is not expected to reach consensus and be published until late next year.

In the meantime, human-caused global warming skeptics are circling the IPCC like hungry polar bears. They are busy challenging the IPCC’s data, climate models, methodologies, core science and conclusions.

In a year some of the IPCC’s fundamental conclusions could easily be invalidated by Svensmark’s recent results or something else. IPCC members are publicly complaining about how time consuming it has become to achieve consensus.

The paradigm shift in science is toward more real-time interactive science to flush out bad ideas and adapt to new discoveries. Informal pre-publication peer reviews and public pre-release of scientific papers are becoming more common. That is true in all sciences, not just climate change. Blogging preliminary results has become accepted scientific practice.

Adaptive science is made possible by Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web. He specially crafted it for that very purpose.

The scientific community needs to revise its antiquated peer review process and move into the 21st century.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Oct 22, 2012, in culture, Life, news, Opinion, Politics, science, technology, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great going!

    The true scientific method embraces challenge, so the web critiques are important. The challenge is filtering out political opinion and junk science from the new facts with serious importance.

    The sun is giving us lots of excellent real time data. Variation in data is a good thing in empirical economics which I know a bit about, and that must be true for the real sciences.

    Personally an editorial note–Consensus has never impressed me in science. It was once the consensus we were the center of the universe.

  2. You are right… filtering out political and ‘junk science’ noise is the big challenge.

    I’ve become convinced it can be done, though, by hearing from economists how well the process has worked in their profession.

    “Consensus” as a word has taken on negative connotations, but that essentially is what the peer review process really is. Nothing gets published until there is consensus among the reviewers and the publisher.

    The best part of my whole experience the last couple days has been my introduction to Svensmark’s theory and CERN’s CLOUD experiment. I think it will turn the IPCC’s narrow worldview of climate science upside down.

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