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Behind the scenes of the IPCC report, with Stanford scientists
Date:3/31/2014

"Overall, it's a process designed to not let any nonsense through, so that policymakers get only the best of what science can say," said Lobell, a lead author on a chapter about food production systems and food security. "That takes a lot of checking, rechecking and outside review, which is not always the most exciting, but you do it realizing that it's part of the process."

Sometimes, it took pen sketches too. Lobell recalled a group effort to come up with a key summary figure for the chapter he worked on about food security. "We ended up doodling on napkins over dinner, and then I went back and made a version that ended up in the final report. One of the senior authors described that as the highlight of his career."

Reaching consensus

The journey to the final draft was a delicate exercise in international relations.

"It is a tough job," said Root, a review editor for a chapter on terrestrial and inland water systems. "You must be very current with the literature, and due to space constraints there are always 'battles' to include what each author thinks is important. It is wonderful, though, getting the opportunity to work with the best scientists around the world."

Root and her fellow chapter editors in Spain and Switzerland would hash out their different perspectives during early-morning conference calls. Their Skype sessions sometimes went for more than four hours.

The chapter teams pored over dozens of peer-reviewed studies, some of them from nonscientific journals, discussed and debated findings, and then settled on language they were all comfortable using. "Instead of telling your fellow scientists they were full of it, you just had to say, 'Where's the traceable evidence?' and they would change their tune," Lobell said. Still, "there was nearly always a friendly atmosphere."

"The challenge is also to communicate things clearly," he added. "For example, it doesn't help much to say, 'Thin
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Contact: Rob Jordan
rjordan@stanford.edu
650-721-1881
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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