Saturday, May 29, 2010

When Quoting a 'Dr' State His Area of Expertise...

This is a great demolition of the media coverage of the recent hacked climate email hearings:
What really irked me about the BBC piece however is its concluding section in which we find: Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, criticised the panel for producing a report that was “not even-handed” and appeared to be the product of a “rushed job”. He said: “This has produced a very superficial report. The panel should have taken more time to come to more balanced and trustworthy conclusions. They should have heard evidence from critical researchers who have been working in the same field for many years.”

First of all, for those who aren’t familiar with Benny Peiser while he is indeed an academic, simply describing him as a Dr within an article concentrating on science and scientists is somewhat misleading. Peiser is a senior lecturer in social anthropology and sports sociology. Yup that’s right, instead of getting information about climate science from climate scientists, or maybe physicists or atmospheric chemists the Beeb turns to a sports sociologist. Right… Well he has published peer reviewed papers. Three in fact, in the following journals: Sports Medicine, 2006; Journal of Sports Sciences (2004); and, Bioastronomy 2002: life among the stars (2004).

What clearer way could the omission of information allow the reader to form a misleading reading of the text. So to quote again:
Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, criticised the panel for producing a report that was “not even-handed” and appeared to be the product of a “rushed job”.

This clearly gives the impression that the man quoted is some kind of a related expert - else why else call him a doctor. Now add in the area of expertise:
Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and a doctor of the sociology of sport, criticised the panel for producing a report that was “not even-handed” and appeared to be the product of a “rushed job”.

How does that read now? Truthier, I think.

2 comments:

dbmm said...

You may have spotted this extremely uncritical article by the BBC's Roger Harrabin. It's an attempt by a small group of climate deniers to get the Royal Society to change its position on climate change. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/science_and_environment/10178454.stm)
It's obviously a repeat of a petition that went to the American Physical Association a year or so ago, probably by the same people. Again, the Heartland Institute was involved, having just had a conference which Harrabin himself attended.
What interests me is the way that Harrabin, the BBC's environment expert, is giving the Heartland Institute the same kind of status as the scientific community. His reporting leaves out any mention of the APA petition. On Radio 4's Today programme he was effusive about what a revolutionary and important event it was.
I'm torn between suspecting him of sneakily pocketing some industry money and thinking that maybe he's the sort of person who always believes the last thing he's told. Certainly there's a problem with environmental reporting that alot of environmentalists don't have a strong background in physics, and find themselves short when it comes to evaluating climate change.

anarchist said...

Cheers for that - I'll check it out.