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Behind the scenes of the IPCC report, with Stanford scientists

before Field and his team could begin the heavy lifting of writing the report, they hosted a kind of American Idol-style search for scientists to serve as authors and editors.

Over several months, they sifted through 1,217 nominations representing 73 countries. Field's team read every nominee's resume and consulted with observer organizations and senior climate science leaders on each. "There's a full diversity of opinions," Field said, pointing out that some of those selected are outspokenly skeptical of computer climate modeling, for instance.

After participants from all IPCC countries vetted the final selections, the 310 new colleagues including a number of Stanford researchers were ready.

Putting the pieces together

Much of the work was done at night or on weekends. Among the authors and editors staying up late were Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellows Terry Root, a professor, by courtesy, of biology, and David Lobell and Noah Diffenbaugh, both associate professors of environmental Earth system science. "There is no institution as richly represented as Stanford," Field said.

Stanford even hosted a U.S. government-funded office on campus, with five scientists and four technical staffers. The university also provided library research privileges for IPCC authors from developing countries.

"Stanford didn't see it as a distraction, but as a fundamental function of the university," Diffenbaugh said. His 9-year-old daughter, however, had a different perspective. Her father, worn out from after-hours work on the assessment, would often fall asleep while reading bedtime stories.

"There were definitely a lot of late nights," Diffenbaugh said. "You want to know the answer, and you want to get it right. In that sense, it's not a punch-the-clock kind of activity." Authors were told during orientation that they should expect to devote about 25 percent of their time for three years to the report.

Contact: Rob Jordan
Stanford University

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