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An online resource for the IPCC 4th Assessment Report

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Mila

Guest post by Miloslav Nic

This is a post about my website Zvon.org where I've created a resource for the IPCC 4th Assessment Report (AR4). I've created a searchable database of almost every peer-reviewed paper referenced in the AR4, with links to each paper's abstract and lists of all the authors. This provides a powerful tool that lets you search the AR4 by author, subject, title and journal.

I used to be an organic chemist in the last millennium who reached a tipping point in 2000 and was irreversibly transformed to a computer specialist. The primary forcing behind my change was the foundation of site Zvon.org which became quite well known among XML programmers.

I always wished to turn Zvon.org from a programming site to a real information plunger (zvon means a bell but also a plunger in Czech, my native language). Zvon's international law documents represent one incarnation of this dream. I have a first hand experience with an authoritative regime and so I do care about freedom and civil liberties.

Fourth Assessment Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR4) provided a real challenge to prove that Zvon.org can fulfil such vision. I hope the following paragraphs about Zvon.org Guide to IPCC AR4 will whet your appetite to try it and judge for yourselves.

The first feature of the guide is rather trivial but I found it surprisingly useful. The contents page lists all chapters of the report using a keyword characterizing the chapter. A click on working group name then leads to the chapter contents and click on a chapter keyword leads to the enhanced references' list.

When I am searching for some information about particular topic (e.g. sensitivity) I write a few characters to the search box which are then found in titles of all chapters and sub-chapters. I can then jump directly to the relevant part of the IPCC report using ⇒ipcc link or click on a chapter title to investigate relevant references.

IPCC chapters' references are the focus of the guide. References are displayed as they appear in the IPCC report but they are enhanced with links to the original article (via doi), information about the journal, and direct links to records in the most used general databases of scientific literature - Web of Science and Scopus.

Facts and conclusions in the report must be obviously very concise and they are usually not sufficient to get a deeper feeling for the problem. Abstracts of articles (and sometimes full texts as well) are nowadays available free of charge, but finding the original source of each reference while reading the report is time intensive. The Zvon guide shortens the required time so significantly that I can readily consult dozens of references in few minutes.

References in Zvon guide may be filtered by name of the first author. Citations in the text of IPCC report are referred to by the name of the first author and year of publication and so the filter provides convenient shortcut to the reference.

The references can be also browsed by title words. Most chapters contain many hundreds references and as each chapter is devoted to a particular problem this feature represents a useful view to the relevant literature.

Zvon guide uses meta-data downloaded from publishers and so even authors not explicitly mentioned in the report are included. This fact is used in authors' browser. Some results can be quite interesting especially if you consult citation counts in Web of Science or Scopus.

This fact may be demonstrated by comparison of searches for Hansen, Lindzen and McIntyre. While the list cannot distinguish between causes - is it because of scientific achievements in climate research or dirty conspiracy? ;) - at least it provides quite a definitive answer about mainstream influence.

The last feature mentioned in this post is comparison of the referred journals. It helps with an answer to the question: what are the most influential journals in mainstream climate change research? Numbers both for the whole report and for individual working groups are provided.

I started to work on this material with my former MSc. student Radka Hrotkova couple of years ago. Collecting all the materials is rather tiresome work which drags on forever. If you find the Zvon IPCC guide useful please share the information with other people - we need to recharge our batteries sometimes and nothing helps more than reasonable usage statistics :).

If you would like to keep in touch with Zvon IPCC guide development and with other climate and ecology related Zvon's announcements you may subscribe to our tweets, the next climate material should appear early in January.

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Comments

Comments 1 to 13:

  1. Wow!
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  2. Can only echo shdwsnlite - wow. I've only had a quick look but that looks like a phenomenal resource. Thank you.
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  3. I gave it a few tries. Unbelievable. Congrats Miloslav Nic.
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  4. hope you don't mind me doing a cut and paste of something I just posted at the CFI discussion Forum. The way I see it Miloslav Nic site deserves to be trumpeted around a little.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    Lookie what just hit cyberspace.
    A clear, easy, searchable database to the Fourth Assessment Report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its hundreds of reports. You can do searches under contents, authors, or journals. The presentation of the pages is beautifully simple and clear. The typo is a clear crisp Ariel (or something close) so it's readable, even with them fading eyes. I played around for a while and all the cascading links worked fine and dandy. NO unnecessary bells’n whistles that only serve to distract and delay download time…. meaning when you click a link it comes up fast and clear - very very nice touch.

    It will be great fun watching this site develop. I recall when SkepticalScience.com was taking its first baby steps and see what a valuable and formidable site that has evolved into. It would be wonderful to see this site flourish.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    pssst pass it* on
    {*that is: Zvon.org Guide to IPCC AR4 }

    cheers
    PM
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  5. Absolutely brilliant! Congratulations. And thanks.
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  6. I'll add a +1 for the wow and the brilliant. I know it took me many, many hours just to extract a couple dozen of the WG I Chapter 2 references for my own work. Incredible effort!
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  7. Excellent stuff, however I notice references to past IPCC assessment point to book sources whereas the online version of old reports would be more useful. A small nitpick in an otherwise brilliant piece of work.
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  8. Awesome work, Mila. Many times the best information in the world is defeated by the difficulty of finding it. You've made that much less of a barrier.
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  9. Now only if I had the time to create a database of my journal papers on which Zvon could perform searches. Now that would be superb tool and save many expletives and much time wasted trying to track down papers...now where is Knutti and Hegerl again? Last time I saw it is was dumped on my Mac's desktop...

    Seriously though, Mila this is a fantastic tool. Thanks for sharing.
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  10. Thanks for your support, it is greatly appreciated.
    #7 - at this moment I am focused on journal articles, for other entries I usually try to find links to WorldCat database. In the final version I hope to polish the links which are a bit special.
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  11. Fantastic site, Mila -great work!

    i really like the list of cited journals ranked by citation counts. Do you happen to have a number for the total of unique journal papers cited for the whole AR4? it should just be the sum of all the counts for different journals listed.

    On mobile safari on iPad I cannot view the pop-ups for the journal name links, even after i unchecked "block pop ups" in Safari prefs. On Windows Chrome they work fine of course.
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  12. I also like the search by author, and the preset example for Schneider, e.g. It is evident that keying on author name as cited breaks up a single person into several entries, one for each way of abbreviating, even whether the initials are followed by dots or not.
    As for paper citations, it looks like you already matched them up to their unique DOI. If the citations are keyed on DOI, that would readily show up all the many cases of the same paper cited in subtely different ways. you could display a list of unique DOIs, and under each one show different cites to it, though I think only people like you and I would be very interested in how the citations vary internally...
    have you looked at linking back to the places in the body of the AR where the works are cited? That would be really powerful for research if it could be done. I guess it might require reverse engineering either the HTML or the PDF of the reports, to follow the footnote numbering.
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  13. #11 1) I plan to work on meaningful citation statistics when 99%+ articles a resolved, there is still a significant work ahead
    2) technical problems - as soon as you get to programming web browsers you will always find problems, at least thanks to JQuery it works reasonably on major ones; unfortunately I do not own iPad so I cannot investigate

    #12 1) to uniquely identify authors would be enormous task, see http://www.orcid.org/ for some fresh development in this area
    2) I was thinking of backlinking but as the citation formats vary a lot in texts it would be very time consuming task. I would have to be the author of the IPCC html document to make it easy :)
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