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A communications professor has slammed a 2017 study that had concluded Exxon knew about the effects of the oil and gas industry on the environment and did nothing about it. In an attachment to papers filed by Exxon yesterday with a Texas state court, Professor Kimberly Neuendorf said the authors of the study, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes, had made several fundamental errors in their study, boiling down to flawed content analysis, bias, and lack of objectivity.
Neuendorf listed seven specific problems with the Supran and Oreskes study, including the authors coding the information themselves, given they were aware of what the purpose of the study is.
“To maintain objectivity,” Neuendorf wrote, “content analysis coding ought to be conducted by coders who are at arm’s-length with regard to the research. S&O’s selection of themselves as coders is inappropriate because they are not blind to the purpose of the research or independent of each other.”
The academic slammed the authors for bias, quoting a 2015 tweet from Oreskis that clearly shows she had no doubt that Exxon knew about the effect of its business on climate change. While this could be seen by a layperson as stating the obvious, when it comes to scientific research, and specifically content analysis, Oreskis’ “Did Exxon deliberately mislead the public on climate change? Hello. Of course they did!” tweet just as clearly speaks of a heavy bias against the subject of the 2017 research.
Yet Neuendorf didn’t stop there. She also noted the study’s lack of research questions, meaning it could not make a claim for objectivity. The authors also failed to supply their rationale for choosing the 187 company documents they analyzed to come to their conclusion.
This raises doubts about whether they applied the scientific method, which normally begins with a hypothesis that is then tested and conclusions are made. In fact, Neuendorf suggests, Supran and Oreskis took the opposite direction: beginning with a conclusion and then searching for evidence that supported it—a process which is as far from the scientific method as possible.
The authors do not hide their departure from established scientific approaches to data analysis. In their study they say they had relied on a method called consensus measurement, which, Neuendorf says, “does not appear to be a general, scientific method, but instead, a conclusion regarding consensus about climate change opinions in search of a method.”
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.