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Seductive Simulations? Uncertainty Distribution Around Climate Models

Seductive Simulations? Uncertainty Distribution Around Climate Models This paper discusses the distribution of certainty around General Circulation Models(GCMs) – computer models used to project possible global climatic changesdue to human emissions of greenhouse gases. It examines the trope of distanceunderpinning Donald MacKenzie’s concept of ‘certaintytrough’, and calls for a more multi-dimensional and dynamicconceptualization of how uncertainty is distributed around technology. The certaintytrough describes the level of certainty attached to particular technoscientificconstructions as distance increases from the site of knowledge production, andproposes that producers of a given technology and its products are the best judgesof their accuracy. Processes and dynamics associated with GCM modeling challenge thesimplicity of the certainty trough diagram, mainly because of difficulties withdistinguishing between knowledge producers and users, and because GCMs involvemultiple sites of production. This case study also challenges the assumption thatknowledge producers always are the best judges of the accuracy of their models.Drawing on participant observation and interviews with climate modelers and theatmospheric scientists with whom they interact, the study discusses how modelers,and to some extent knowledge producers in general, are sometimes less able than someusers to identify shortcomings of their models. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Social Studies of Science: An International Review of Research in the Social Dimensions of Science and Technology SAGE

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References (52)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
Copyright © by SAGE Publications
ISSN
0306-3127
eISSN
1460-3659
DOI
10.1177/0306312705053049
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This paper discusses the distribution of certainty around General Circulation Models(GCMs) – computer models used to project possible global climatic changesdue to human emissions of greenhouse gases. It examines the trope of distanceunderpinning Donald MacKenzie’s concept of ‘certaintytrough’, and calls for a more multi-dimensional and dynamicconceptualization of how uncertainty is distributed around technology. The certaintytrough describes the level of certainty attached to particular technoscientificconstructions as distance increases from the site of knowledge production, andproposes that producers of a given technology and its products are the best judgesof their accuracy. Processes and dynamics associated with GCM modeling challenge thesimplicity of the certainty trough diagram, mainly because of difficulties withdistinguishing between knowledge producers and users, and because GCMs involvemultiple sites of production. This case study also challenges the assumption thatknowledge producers always are the best judges of the accuracy of their models.Drawing on participant observation and interviews with climate modelers and theatmospheric scientists with whom they interact, the study discusses how modelers,and to some extent knowledge producers in general, are sometimes less able than someusers to identify shortcomings of their models.

Journal

Social Studies of Science: An International Review of Research in the Social Dimensions of Science and TechnologySAGE

Published: Dec 1, 2005

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