Amateur Science

The climate research brouhaha has emphasized the roles of amateurs in science. M&M (the Canadian retiree and his partner the economics professor) who raised a lot of ire in the revealed communications are the famous ones. Two more examples can be seen at the Coyote Blog in Example of Climate Work That Needs to be Checked and Replicated and The Strata-Sphere at Pre “Adjusted” CRU Data & IPCC AGW Models Prove AGW Theory Is WRONG!.

The fact is that much of climatology is numerical and statistical. The tools to replicate work and examine algorithms are readily available to the amateur scientist. That means that amateurs can be a valuable resource for checking, validation, and verification. The recent history shows that this is indeed the case much like amateur astronomers can provide an extra eye for celestial events.

But what do scientists get the big bucks for? If amateurs can do all this science, why have research grants and professorships and ‘professional’ scientists? The are several keys there. One is the teaching and education aspect. Another is the creation of new models. A third is in data collection and preparation. The professionals create structures that amateurs and interested citizens can use to gain understanding about the world around them.

That means the professional gets paid the big bucks to provide targets for the amateurs!

The professional paves the road and helps the amateur find his way from source to destination. He has to deal with amateurs who think they have found a shortcut or think there is a better way to travel. If the professional is good, he will learn about his road and its qualities by this process of educating others. First rate teachers know this and it is one of the reasons they teach. Others get annoyed that their most gifted students can’t stay on track and keep with the program.

When it comes to climate research it appears that there are some very gifted amateurs at work. Consider the attitude of various professionals towards them and what that says about the qualities of the professionals.

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