Open Access | ‘Is climate science taking over the science?’: A corpus-based study of competing stances on bias, dogma and expertise in the blogosphere

By Luis Pérez-González | Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume 7, Article number: 92 (2020)

Abstract | Climate change science has become an increasingly polarized site of controversy, where discussions on epistemological rigour are difficult to separate from debates on the impact that economic and political interests have on the production of evidence and the construction of knowledge. Little research has been conducted so far on the antagonistic discursive processes through which climate knowledge is being contested and traditional forms of expertise are being (de-)legitimized—whether by members of the scientific community or non-scientist actors. This corpus-based study contributes to previous scholarship on the climate science controversy in a number of respects. Unlike earlier studies based on the analysis of mainstream media articles, this paper interrogates a corpus of climate change blog posts published by scientists, journalists, researchers and lobbyists laying claim to core, contributory and interactional forms of expertise—as conceptualized within the third wave of science studies. Further, the corpus informing this study has been designed to reflect the complex and multivoiced nature of the climate knowledge production process. Drawn from five different blogs, the views represented are not confined to the two poles between which the entrenched dialectic of ‘alarmists’ versus ‘deniers’ is typically played out in the climate science debate. Following a systemic functional conceptualization of dialogic engagement as a means of positioning authorial voices vis-à-vis competing perspectives construed and referenced in a text, this paper reports on bloggers’ use of three lexical items (biasdogma and peer review) to expose their reliance on (non-)epistemic values. Concordances and a range of visualization tools are used to gain systematic insights into the network of lexical choices that obtain around these items, and to gauge whether/how bloggers construct coherent authorial subjectivities in a bid to claim expert status and/or question the recognition of other players in the debate.