Squabbling Scientists….and eParticipation

10. February 2010 – 21:11 by Julia Glidden

I have spent the day running user groups for an interesting new argument visualisation tool that is designed to make it easier for citizens to participate in policy making on climate change.  Check out the new EU-funded project:  www.jointhewave.org 

Aside from learning some very interesting things about how easily eParticipation practioners fall into assuming prior knowledge (such as asking people what they think about the ‘platform’ or ‘argument visualisation’ when most people don’t know what either of these terms mean!), I also learned something very discouraging about the present state of the climate change debate.  One things is for certain - the present fall out among climate change researchers and flurry of media coverage surrounding it is taking a toll that not even the most innovative of social media tools can alleviate.

Anyone familiar with acedemia will recognise the current academic dispute surroung climate change research.  It is a sad and familar tale of petty jealousies and turf wars in which researchers conspire to block dissent and promote a self-selected clique.  This type of behaviour happens all the time in universities around the world.

 Unfortunately, while the researchers conspire to one up each other, average citizens are left dazed and confused about what, if anything, they should do to address climate change.  Should they really cut back on the family budget to fund higher environmental taxes?  Give up on the car? Cancel the family holiday in Spain? Live with that wind farm down the road?

Henry Kissinger once famously commented ‘The disputes in academia are so fierce because the stakes are so low.’  In this instance, alas, the stakes are not low at all.

It is truly unfortunate that while the so-called scientific experts squabble, the pressing interests and needs of average people are left unanswered.  There are enough valid concerns about the various methods being proposed to help save the planet without unnecessary doubt and obsfucation being thrown into the debate by quarreling academics. 

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