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Code, Community, and Trust in Climate Science


Paul Edwards
University of Michigan, School of Information and History

Thursday, November 07, 2013
3:30 - 5:00 pm

Curtin Hall, Rm 175
3243 N Downer Avenue
Milwaukee WI 53211

Computer models of the earth system are our principal tool for understanding global climate change. Whereas the earliest computer models were built as a "craft" activity by individuals or small groups, today’s major models exceed one million lines of computer code. Thus no individual can fully understand the entire model. Earth system science is therefore organized as a meta-community, i.e. a community of communities. Work organization among modeling groups is changing to reflect the complexity of highly distributed, multidisciplinary work—yet traditional forms of trust remain significant as both barriers and facilitators of exchange. 

Paul Edwards' talk examines problems of designing work processes and reputation systems for this situation. How can disparate scientific communities share tools without losing the expert perspective on which scientific quality depends? Which models are "good enough"—and for what, and how do you know? To what degree can software-based exchange substitute for deep, hands-on understanding of models' functions and parameters? Can meta-communities work? These questions are particularly important because a generalized movement toward transparency—under such headings as open access, open source, transparent governance, reproducible computational science, "climate audits," and so on—is challenging the traditional boundaries of climate science and attracting participants with widely divergent competencies and political agendas.

Sponsored by UWM's Social Studies of Information Research Group (SSIRG),  Digital Arts and Culture certificate program , and Center for 21st Century Studies 

Open Discussion with Paul Edwards - "Institutionalizing Science and Technology Studies within Interdisciplinary Environments"
Friday, November 8
9:00 - 11:00 am, Digital Humanities Lab, Golda Meir Library, 2 East