Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

Help Audit the UN Climate Report – Crowdsourcing Project

Volunteers needed for 3-10 hrs. Read through the list of references appearing at the end of one of the IPCC report’s chapters and count up the peer-reviewed sources vs the grey literature.

How much of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is based on peer-reviewed literature? Recent examinations of two random chapters found only 25 percent and 58 percent of the sources cited were peer-reviewed journal articles.

These numbers conflict sharply with declarations by IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, that only peer-reviewed literature is relied on. Are these two chapters unrepresentative outliers? It is important that we find out. This, therefore, is a call for volunteers.

There are a total of 44 chapters in the reports written by Working Groups 1, 2, and 3. Each chapter ends with a list of references ranging from a couple of hundred to more than 800. Between three and ten hours are required to highlight and count the peer-reviewed sources versus the non-peer-reviewed ones.

The goal of this project is for each chapter to be counted thrice, by three volunteers working independently of one another. In the event that tallies differ dramatically, further examination will occur. Should they differ only marginally, the count that is most favourable to the IPCC will be used.

This project will not address the report’s content. It is instead an audit of how well the IPCC lives up to its own peer-review standard as that standard has been described by its chairman and by news reports.

Because transparency is important, all documents produced during this audit will be made available online at the end of the project. An example of highlighted references in Chapter 5 of the Working Group 3 report appears here. (Originally a Microsoft Word document, it was converted automatically to HTML.)

If you wish to participate in this audit please give some thought beforehand to how you wish to be identified. The use of one’s real name (first and last) is always preferable from a credibility perspective. Citizen auditors will be publicly recognized, in alphabetical order, on the auditor’s list.

Understandably not everyone can risk repercussions in their employment situation (for example). Should you instead prefer to use a pseudonym – or to be identified as “anonymous” – your choice will be respected. Each chapter will be audited by at least one person willing to use their real name.

If you wish to be a citizen auditor for this project your task will be to read through the list of references and to highlight (and ultimately count) the ones published in academic peer-reviewed journals. In the event that you are uncertain about the status of a particular reference, you can request a second opinion by highlighting it in an alternative colour. [see FAQ here]

If you can complete this task within a week (and no later than the end of March 2010) please e-mail me at AT I will respond within 12 hours by sending you a Microsoft Word document in which the references from a particular chapter have been cut-and-pasted and already numbered.

Please indicate from the outset how you would like to be identified on the auditor’s list. As well as your name, your city and country, your academic degrees, website URL, and e-mail address can be added at your request. If you require material to be sent to you in a non-Microsoft Word format please advise.

Let’s count ’em up!



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