Credibility in climate change research: a reflexive view

Date published: 01/01/2012

For research to have a positive impact on society, it is essential that it is scientifically credible. The researcher plays a key role in establishing and maintaining credibility, particularly in the field of climate change. This paper provides a structure for relating the credibility of researchers themselves to that of research outputs, analysing ‘researcher credibility’ with reference to three overlapping domains: personal, professional and public.

The researcher’s role in each domain is considered in a reflexive way, examining the process of research and the researcher’s own actions. The varied definitions of researcher credibility and possible means to achieve it in each domain are discussed, drawing on relevant literature and the perspectives and experiences of the authors.

We argue that, in certain contexts, the actions of researchers can have a direct impact on the credibility of their research. More public-oriented definitions of researcher credibility have merit but may be contentious, as there are potential conflicts between public action and professional credibility, with the latter usually taking precedence. By contrast, personal action (or inaction) rarely affects professional credibility, but the personal behaviours of researchers may influence public perceptions of the credibility of research and even of the importance of addressing climate change.

Nordhagen, S., D. Calverley, C. Foulds, Thom. L.L., and X. Wang

Download: Tyndall Working Paper #152