The Nature Geosciences Climate 2k Journal Club

Nature Publishing Group held a hangout on Google+ to discuss the recent paper in Nature Geosciences summarizing global climate changes over the last 2kyr (the discussed article is: Continental-scale temperature variability during the past two millennia; here). (continued below)

Figure 1.  Sources of paleoclimate reconstruction from the PAGES 2K network.
Figure 1. Sources of paleoclimate reconstruction from the PAGES 2K network.

The conversation began with Thorsten Kiefer discussing the PAGES 2K initiative, followed by Nicholas McKay discussing the main finding of the paper.  Nerilie Abram followed Nicholas to discuss some of the patterns in the Antarctic Peninsula.  Gavin Schmidt then discussed the importance of the research in a broader context and how the data can be used as a tool to improve and understand climate model outputs.

You can view the discussion here, but I’d like to focus my comments here on what went well, what didn’t and how useful these kinds of journal groups are for research dissemination.

Pros:

  1. It’s nice to see the authors discussing their points in a more informal way than the actual publication.  Alicia Newton, an associate editor at Nature Geosciences, led the discussion and did a good job of hitting the main points of the paper, and some of the interesting points.  In particular I thought it was great to bring Nerilie Abram in to discuss the melt record.  It wasn’t a critical piece of the overall story (but important for understanding regional forcings), but was interesting for some background into paleoclimate proxies and reconstructions. Same goes for the discussion of African records by Nicholas McKay.
  2. It’s hard to judge how this would be perceived by a non-expert, but I thought that the presenters did a good job of presenting the paper results in a clear and straightforward manner.
  3. The conclusion of the Journal Club involved a look ahead, and I thought that was a good note to end on.

Cons:

  1. There were some issues with slides, which slides needed to come up when, but this was fairly minor.
  2. It’s difficult to follow who individuals are.  In Google+ you can hover over people’s pictures to see who you’re talking to, but this discussion was nested in a youtube video, so hovering over people’s heads just brought up the youtube slider bar.
  3. Very few questions from the rabble, but luckily the presenter was well prepared and there was lots to discuss.
  4. Interestingly, there was little tweeting or google+ activity surrounding the discussion.  I suppose it’s not a con, but it might have been helpful to have someone live tweet the discussion, perhaps it could have engaged a larger audience, and provided more questions.

Summary

This was my first Google+ journal club hangout, and it was totally worthwhile.  I enjoyed hearing about the paper from the authors, it was also nice seeing the authors, rather than just imagining what they might look like(!).  I’m curious how this could be harnessed outside of the aegis of a large publisher.  For example, how effective would this be for a lab group?  As Jacquelyn Gill has mentioned elsewhere, Google+ is a good tool for collaborating, it would be interesting to see if a semi-formal journal club could be established and maintained where the authors are invited and papers are discussed with the public.  If anyone knows of something like this, let me know in the comments.

If you want to watch the recorded Journal Club, you can check this YouTube link.

UPDATE:  I’ve added in Alicia Newton’s name, she is an associate editor at Nature Geosciences.

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downwithtime

Assistant scientist in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Studying paleoecology and the challenges of large data synthesis.

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