Paul Matthews — A Journal Publication on the Air Vent Reader Background Thread
Posted by Jeff Id on February 11, 2015
How can you start an anonymous blog, writing on a topic of science, with near zero advertising and expect to have any readers. Seriously, the first article I wrote here had like 9 views in 24 hours! The unlikely visitors were probably looking for furnace vents or something. It hardly justified the time put into writing but everyone has an opinion so better out than in right…. Well this is a lot of years later and after some time this blog was blessed with a lot of readers. As Paul Matthews paper demonstrates, the readership here was far from an average slice of the population. The comment level was so high on this (and other skeptic blogs), that I started a reader background thread to capture the social profile of what is happening. It quickly became one of my favorite threads here and I put a permanent link to it at the top of the page. Reader Paul Matthews found the thread interesting enough that he has written — and published — a journal article describing distribution of the skeptical blog community and unsurprisingly to those who have traversed these pages, it is comprised of a group of highly educated and extremely scientific individuals.
At his blog, Paul writes:
A little over a year ago I noticed a call from the journal Environmental Communication for a special issue of articles on “Climate change communication and the internet”. For some time I had been thinking vaguely about writing something about the interesting Reader Background thread at Jeff Condon’s Air Vent blog, so I wrote a paper on this and sent it to the journal.
Some interesting quotes:
A particularly striking aspect of the comments on the Reader Background thread isthe high level of educational background. Forty of the 154 sceptics state that they havea PhD degree. Of these, 12 are in chemistry, 8 in some form of engineering, 8 in physics,4 in mathematics, 3 in biological sciences, and the remaining 5 in arts subjects, computerscience, economics or unspecified. A further 11 contributors cite an MSc degree as theirhighest educational level, while three have an MBA. Of the remainder, 46 have a BSc and14 a BA degree.
This relatively high proportion of contributors who changed their opinion substan-tially on the issue of climate change does not provide support for the hypothesis thatthe views of individuals are largely determined by their worldview or cultural background(Kahan et al., 2012; Poortinga et al., 2011), and fits better with the view of Smith andLeiserowitz (2012) that worldview and political ideology are minor factors.
This emphasis on scientific details is to be expected given the scientific focus of thisparticular blog and the high level of scientific and technical background of the commenters,noted in the previous section. In this regard, the blog is typical: a survey of climate scepticblogs found that the most prominent of these generally tend to concentrate on scientificaspects of the climate debate (Sharman, 2013)