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Can Scientific Bias Be Collective? The Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge in Global Warming Research
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Can Scientific Bias Be Collective, Not Just Individual? Examining the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge in the Context of Global Warming Research by Wm. R. Freudenburg and Violetta Muselli Environmental Studies Program University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), USA ABSTRACT Work on Asymmetries of Scientific Challenge (ASC) suggests that, if findings supporting certain conclusions are subjected to significant challenges, while those supporting opposing conclusions are not, the result can be a collective scientific bias — one that, ironically, will be the opposite of the work being “challenged.” The ASC hypothesis may be relevant to global climate disruption research: Organized industrial interests have consistently challenged mainstream scientific findings, but "optimistic" arguments have not been subjected to similar levels of criticism. Focusing on specific newspapers that have previously been found to exaggerate the level of contentiousness in climate research, we find preliminary but strong support for theASC hypothesis. Straight news reports about ongoing climate research are more than twenty times as likely to find global climate disruption to be “worse than previously expected” than to be “less serious than previously expected.” The pattern is not greatly changed across years of coverage or by comparing “direct effects” to “implications.” Unless other research reveals different patterns, these findings suggest that the present-day consensus among climatologists about the seriousness of global climate disruption — far from being overly pessimistic — may in fact be too optimistic to be true. Keywords: Global Climate Change, Media Coverage, Collective Bias, Scientific Challenge

Authors: Freudenburg, William. and Muselli, Violetta.
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Can Scientific Bias Be Collective, Not Just Individual? 
Examining the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge 
in the Context of Global Warming Research
by Wm. R. Freudenburg
Violetta Muselli
Environmental Studies Program
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), USA
Work on Asymmetries of Scientific Challenge (ASC) suggests that, if findings supporting certain 
conclusions are subjected to significant challenges, while those supporting opposing conclusions 
are not, the result can be a collective scientific bias — one that, ironically, will be the opposite of 
the work being “challenged.”  The ASC hypothesis may be relevant to global climate disruption 
research:  Organized industrial interests have consistently challenged mainstream scientific 
findings, but "optimistic" arguments have not been subjected to similar levels of criticism. 
Focusing on specific newspapers that have previously been found to exaggerate the level of 
contentiousness in climate research, we find preliminary but strong support for theASC 
hypothesis.  Straight news reports about ongoing climate research are more than twenty times as 
likely to find global climate disruption to be “worse than previously expected” than to be “less 
serious than previously expected.”  The pattern is not greatly changed across years of coverage 
or by comparing “direct effects” to “implications.”  Unless other research reveals different 
patterns, these findings suggest that the present-day consensus among climatologists about the 
seriousness of global climate disruption — far from being overly pessimistic — may in fact be 
too optimistic to be true.
Keywords: Global Climate Change, Media Coverage, Collective Bias, Scientific Challenge

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