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The practice of climate change scientists in the UK and US: money, scientists and climate change

Matthews, Anna Zosia (2004) The practice of climate change scientists in the UK and US: money, scientists and climate change. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.


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Anthropogenic climate change is a potentially serious ecological problem. The science of climate change is complex, uncertain and contested. This combined with the scale of its potential terrestrial impacts has ensured that the topic remains the focus of debate amongst scientists, politicians and the wider public. The importance of climate science, and of climate scientists as experts informing the policy process, has contributed to the controversy that surrounds the production of scientific knowledge in this field. Previous studies have claimed that climate science has been unduly influenced both by external vested interests and the inappropriate emphasis placed by some climate scientists themselves on securing continued research funding. Against this background the thesis explores the funding of climate change research in the UK and USA. In this it pays particular attention to the attitudes and experiences of climate change scientists themselves through a study of their accounts of the process of obtaining research funding. The thesis begins by reviewing the development of climate change science since the start of the 20th century, with particular attention to its progressive politicisation in recent decades. This introduction to the empirical focus of the thesis is complemented by an exploration of previous theoretical expressions of the relationships between science and scientists, and wider society. A neo-Marxist approach is advanced as a potential theoretical foundation for the thesis. The implications of this approach for research methodology are next outlined. Interviews with US and UK climate change scientists and associated social commentators provide the basis for a more detailed exploration of their perceptions of relationships in practice between climate change science and wider societal forces. These accounts focus in particular on the availability of research funding and its distribution between researchers adopting different scientific positions on climate change. Government and business are highlighted as important influences upon the scale and distribution of financial support for climate change research - and by extension upon the conduct and content of climate change science. The interviews also suggest, however, that climate scientists feel at least some degree of freedom from their paymasters; a perception not exclusively confined to a small elite of leading scientists. Processes of bidding for funding, and research review and dissemination allow scientists to engage in strategic behaviour to secure support for research that addresses their own interests. Furthermore, the continuing debate between scientists about the reality, causes and scale of anthropogenic climate change of itself helps to maintain funding for research in this field.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Geography (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.414249
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2012 09:41
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2830

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