In response to the rapidly expanding scientific literature, a team of researchers at the Tyndall Centre at UEA decided to build a platform to help keep up with science and make sense of scientific publications. The overall ambition remains for this type of technology to support authors of major scientific assessments (e.g. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, and Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES) to quickly identify, classify and summarise the literature, focussing their attention on synthesis of information.
The ScienceBrief platform was launched in 2017 and was redeveloped to increase usability. Uniquely, the platform was able to show, rather than tell, the scientific consensus on topical issues of climate change science, such as the effect of climate change on wildfires, extreme rainfall, or carbon sinks.
Each of these issues was set up as a Brief (see image below), consisting of a title and short abstract, outlining the latest scientific understanding. Evidence was crowd-sourced by researchers uploading their peer-reviewed papers with a summary of the key findings, and setting the level of consensus between the paper and the Brief, ranging from refutes to supports.
The explorer tool within ScienceBrief (see image below) positions evidence within a visualisation of consensus on the x axis and publication year on the y axis. This shows any convergence over time if more evidence appears on the right. Evidence was tagged upon upload with keywords and geographic location, so the explorer tool was a quick way to access evidence relating to specific issues. By hovering over the publications (shown by self-organising bubbles) the reader could see the details of the paper and read the summary of the key findings.
A detailed account of ScienceBrief and the vision for utilising information technology to support the aims of IPCC assessment process is given in a new peer-reviewed paper published by npj Climate Action (due to be published early November 2023). Within this paper the rising potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to support a future development of a ScienceBrief-like tool is also discussed. Important investments are needed to provide AI-based tools that help authors of future assessment report to comprehensively assess and synthesise an exponentially growing literature.
Utilising the platform to gather and synthesise evidence on some of the most popular Briefs at times of high societal interests, the team developed short briefing notes called ScienceBrief Reviews. ScienceBrief Reviews were written by small teams of international authors who worked intensely over short periods of time (typically 2-3 weeks) to outline the evidence and synthesise the findings.ScienceBrief Reviews were independently reviewed by an expert in the field, before being self-published. The eight ScienceBrief Reviews formed a collection published ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, in 2021.
CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO DOWNLOAD THE SCIENCEBRIEF REVIEW
Interested to know more?
Read our peer-reviewed journal paper (due to be published early November 2023) that documents our experience with ScienceBrief.org and outlines our vision for information technology to assist future IPCC authors to synthesise and assess climate change information.
ScienceBrief was set up with funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council under its International Opportunities Fund (2016-2019; grant no.NE/N013891/1). It has received funding from the European Horizon 2020 CRESCENDO (grant no. 641816), 4C (grant no. 821003) and VERIFY (grant no. 776810) projects, and the UEA’s Global Carbon Budget internal research grant.