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The Radical Climate Scientist

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorOctober 15, 2011 1:25 AM


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The Judith Curry story fascinates me. She has undergone such a major transformation in recent years that some now find her unrecognizable. As long-time readers know, I played a bitrole in how some of this story played out. But make no mistake, this is Curry's story, and she's still writing it over at Climate Etc, her successful, highly trafficked blog that is just over a year old. Today, riffing off this poignant SciAm post, Curry reflects on her changed status within her profession:

I guess being labeled a "heretic" and "turning on my colleagues" and taking to the blogosphere qualifies me for the title of "radical scholar."

But is this how one qualifies radical? The Real Climate scientists took to the blogosphere years ago and nobody calls them radical. So is it the heresy part, then? Maybe. But that alone wouldn't do it. Lots of people publicly take on their tribe and don't get labeled radical. (In that link, I refer to Christopher Hitchens, David Frum and Christopher Buckley as some examples.) But departing from the mainstream and challenging core assumptions of one's profession would seem to quality as radical. Is this what Curry means? Also, taking a radical position tends to marginalize you with the majority group. Yet, Curry in her post writes:

I suspect that my personal impact on the field of climate science has been greater over the past year than the preceding 30 years (although my impact during the past year would be diminished without the previous 30 years). And even if traditional scholars in the field want to ignore me, I am happy with "inspiring lay scientists and future academics. That is its own kind of professional impact."

I'm sure she knows there's no way to quantify any of this. And even with a highly trafficked blog such as hers, important metrics to consider include who's linking and tweeting and discussing you--beyond your domain. Curry's rumination about her impact on climate science leads me to believe she's wondering what all her public efforts are amounting to. It's a good question for discussion. What do you think Curry's impact has been since she's become a self-described radical?

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