I’m pleased to see that my recent paper, “Climate Change: A Software Grand Challenge” is getting some press attention. However, I’m horrified to see how it’s been distorted in the echo chamber of the media. Danny Bradbury, writing in the Guardian, gives his piece the headline “Climate scientists should not write their own software, says researcher“. Aaaaaaargh! Nooooo! That’s the exact opposite of what I would say!
Our research shows that earth system models, the workhorses of climate science, appear to have very few bugs, and produce remarkably good simulations of past climate. One of the most important success factors is that the code is written by the scientists themselves, as they understand the domain inside out. Now, of course, this leads to other problems, for instance the code is hard to understand, and hard to modify. And the job of integrating the various components of the models is really hard. But there are no obvious solutions to fix this without losing this hands-on relationship between the scientists and the code. Handing the code development over to software professionals is likely to be a disaster.
I’ve posted a comment on Bradbury’s article, but
I have very little hope he’ll alter the headline, as it obviously plays into a storyline that’s popular with denialists right now (see update, below).
Some other reports:
- How Coders Can Help Fight Climate Change (MIT Technology Review) – very good!
- BusinessGreen.com – a repost of the the Bradbury piece in the Guardian [but now with a corrected headline. Excellent!]
Update (2/9/10): Well that’s a delight! I just got off the overnight train to Paris, and discover that Danny has commented here, and wants to put everything right, and has already corrected the headline in the BusinessGreen version. So, apologies to Danny for doubting him, and also, thanks for restoring my faith in journalism. As is clear in some of the comments, it’s easy to see how one might draw the conclusion that climate scientists shouldn’t write their own code from a reading of my paper. It’s a subtle point, so I probably need to write a longer piece on this to explain…
Update #2 (later that same day): And now the Guardian headline has been changed too. Victory for honest journalism!