Have Cash, Will Pay For Truthiness

Low on cash? Need to repay student loans? Not bothered by morals or respect for reality? Then the American Enterprise Institute has a deal for you!

... according to an article in The Guardian, a British newspaper [the AEI], a right-leaning think tank that has received more than $1.6-million from Exxon Mobil, wrote letters to scientists asking for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs," The Guardian reported.

All you have to do is write a "critical review" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Serve up a little truthiness and $10,000 can be yours. Remember: "unequivocal" really depends on whose perspective you take, and "very high confidence" that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming means they don't really know for sure yet.

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The original letter and a response from AEI is at:

While I'm not a fan of AEI, this seems to be blown way out of proportion. The letter focuses on soliciting reviews of policy and process and not science. $1/word for a commissioned scholarly article seems like a reasonable rate and not a bribe.

The link also rebuts the Exxon claim (AEI has pubs supporting carbon taxes)

I'd need more evidence before believing that AEI is doing something unethical here.

It's the bit where they want 'demonstrated predictive value' that makes me a bit wary, actually. There's so much noise in short-term data, one would imagine that for confirmed predictive value, one would have to validate the model over fifty years. And 50 years ago, there wasn't a good model (papers in Nature, which I am too lazy to look up, thought there would be an ice age soon, I believe). So it seems like a difficult-to-impossible criterion.

(The letter also misuses honoraria. They are offering one honorarium of 10K, says the pedant.)

AEI claims this is a standard honorarium. Folks, I am in the WRONG field. Should have picked marine ecology or climate modelling; tropical vacations or wealth could have been mine!!

The fact that they are starting from a point of accepting global warming and the benefits of carbon taxes to improve energy efficiency says that this isn't the equivalent of tobacco science (the first thing I thought of when I read the release). That sentence is of concern, but models can be tested and some are better than others. Predictive value isn't predictive perfection.

I honestly don't konw standard rates for this type of thing, but $1/word for a commissioned pience from a top PhD researcher doesn't seem obscene. In general, it's less to do with field and more what you're willing to do for money. Virtually any science PhD can make more money out of academia than within. I've had professors who did courtroom consulting and other lectures which probably made up a nontrivial amount of their annual salary.

Jenny F. Scientist: Folks, I am in the WRONG field. Should have picked marine ecology or climate modelling; tropical vacations or wealth could have been mine!!

They still can be! Since when do the anti-science crowd care about relevant credentials? Got a degree in math? YAY! An expert in evolutionary biology! Mechanical engineer? YAY! An expert on autism and vaccines!

I cant imagine Climate Change Skeptics are any different. Go for it!