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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Skeptical Science needs your help!

Posted on 31 May 2021 by BaerbelW, Doug Bostrom, John Cook

The primary goal of Skeptical Science is to make peer-reviewed climate science more accessible to people, particularly research relevant to climate misinformation. But as happens with most long-standing websites, we’ve fallen prey to “link-rot” where links once working now give “404 not found” errors. This is especially unfortunate when it happens in our rebuttals - which are Skeptical Science’s backbone - where many links have gone stale since the rebuttal was first created or last updated.

Now, we’d like to enlist your help in a concerted effort to fight link rot! Skeptical Science is an immensely useful resource to hundreds of thousands of people, but our content can always be improved. Achieving this is a relatively easy task (you don’t need to be a climate scientist) that will make a big difference in helping SkS be a more useful resource for anyone wanting to make sense of climate misinformation.

we want you

Volunteer opportunity #1 - Slayer of rotten links (or for the resume-conscious: External resource curator)

First and foremost, we’d like to update all broken links found in our rebuttals with working links to correct, contextually appropriate sources. We have a list of those broken links and in some cases, it will require some sleuthing to find replacement links. While updating these links, two other items should also be fixed:

  1. Updating graphics which currently aren’t hosted on the Skeptical Science server - the danger of hot-linking to external graphics is that the images can break if the external source changes. So we’ll be uploading any currently hot-linked images to the SkS website (as well as resizing any large graphics).
  2. Many of our rebuttals contain embedded YouTube videos, most of which need to be updated to follow best practices.

All told, the list of updates currently contains about 500 items, so it’s not an insurmountable task, albeit one requiring some “legwork”, and we figure that a small team can mow through it in a month or less.

For now, this is a one-off activity but other links will break in the future, so this is also a task requiring permanent effort once this first big push is out of the way.

Volunteer opportunity #2 - Glossary Editor/Curator

A couple of years ago, we started adding scientific papers to the Skeptical Science glossary. This was a powerful addition - it provides the scientific references to the studies we mention in our rebuttals. But, there obviously are many more to add - this task is time-consuming and as an all-volunteer operation, we can’t simply pay to have this work done.

We’d like to enlist your help for this. Unfortunately, given the “loose” citations particularly in many of our early articles, we can’t produce a list of references to add via automation, so part of this task will be to read through the rebuttals and as a first step collect mentions of and links to published papers. To help with prioritizing, we’ll provide a list of most viewed rebuttals for this task. We’ll also have a list of references already available in the glossary to avoid duplication of efforts. In some cases, the reference might already be in the glossary and a small tweak to how it’s mentioned in the rebuttal is all that’s needed to trigger the functionality. We’ll also use this opportunity to standardize references in our older articles.

A step-by-step guide of how to add glossary entries will also be provided for this task. We are hoping to establish a somewhat permanent team of 3 volunteers to keep adding references to our glossary.


Requirements and application

“What are the requirements for these tasks?” you might ask, so here are a few answers:

  • Willingness to volunteer an hour or two per week
  • Some experience with an HTML-editor (we use TinyMCE)
  • Experience working with Google Drive
  • Some stamina to hunt down replacement links or put together glossary entries
  • Willingness to collaboratively work in a team

The skills involved in using TinyMCE or Google Drive are not hard to learn so please don’t be deterred solely by lack of familiarity with those. Veteran Skeptical Science volunteers will be available to help with all of the work entailed in these positions, and as mentioned we’ll be providing instructional materials and other resources to help with getting started and maintaining momentum. We’ll vet applications and meet with you to get to know you before setting you loose on our database.

So if you’d like to join us in our goal of fighting climate misinformation and making climate science more accessible to the public, we’d love to have your help! To get started, please fill out this Google-form by Sunday, June 6 and we’ll reach out to you. We look forward to working with you!

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Comments 1 to 1:

  1. Thanks to everyone who have signed up so far to help us improve Skeptical Science content, exciting to see the enthusiasm! Note that the window on "applications" closes on Sunday so look forward to hearing from more of you :-)

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