Tricked or troubled natures?
What do we know about what goes on in the laboratories and wider institutional networks that produce the scientific facts about the state of the Earth's climate? This question was brought to the fore by the recent event, known as “climategate”, which was generally taken to reveal that climate scientists manipulated their data sets to make them speak to contemporary political agendas. I shall ague that this interpretation of climategate hinges on a conception of science as “modern”, i.e. as a pure pursuit of truth above and beyond worldly affairs. Departing from my own ethnographic fieldwork among climate scientists, I shall argue that this modern conception of science – carrying the implication that climategate was a scandal – is inadequate and misguided. I hope to show that the defense mounted by the climate scientists was about illuminating context, rather than being reflective about their own epistemic practices and commitments. Thus, it is argued that the problem about climategate is not so much the ways in which climate science is conducted, but rather the ways in which scientists go about depicting their own business and ultimately the ways in which the public perceives science. âº Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork within climate research institutions, I offer insights into how scientists grapple with the event known as “climategate”. âº I challenge the modern notion of climate science as a pursuit of truth above worldly affairs, upon which “climategate” is predicated. âº I show that the “contextual defense” mounted by climate scientists is at best naive. âº I conclude that the problem of “climategate” is not so much the ways in which science is conducted, but rather how scientists depict their own practices.