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Tracking the quality of scientific knowledge inputs in reports generated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to track the quality and types of knowledge used over time when developing internationally sanctioned scientific reports such as those on climate change. We present a bibliometric analysis of the Global Assessment Reports on Climate Change written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) between 1990 and 2014. Analysis is based on a proportional stratified random sampling of references from all the reports. Data analyzed includes the year of publication, availability in open access, authors, subject field and themes of referenced materials, quality of the journals, and the sources of references. Findings suggest that knowledge inputs from top publishing houses are trending upwards; most inputs are still derived from peer-reviewed journals but with marked increases in references from government for-profit and non-profit knowledge generators. There continues to be a predominance of inputs from the physical sciences and increased inputs from social studies but reduced inputs from the life sciences. Climate advocates point to the rigorous scientific and multidisciplinary knowledge in these assessment reports, but few studies have mapped how such knowledge might be finding its way into them even as they are scrutinized by skeptics. This study therefore contributes to the debate on the rigor of IPCC reports.

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Notes

  1. We also did this after deciding that we had enough resources to do so and to counter any small chance that we would be unable to categorize any of the sample references according to our variables of interest, thereby ending up with gaps in the dataset and lowering the reliability of the final results.

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Correspondence to Ahmed Sabab Sharek.

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Sharek, A.S., Shah, K.U. Tracking the quality of scientific knowledge inputs in reports generated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). J Environ Stud Sci 11, 586–594 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-021-00681-6

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