What positions need to be filled for an IPCC assessment?
A variety of positions need to be filled for each IPCC Assessment Report and IPCC Special Reports.
These positions are filled by scientists and researchers who can demonstrate their expertise in a given subject area through career achievements, with a large focus on their publication record in peer-reviewed literature as well as ability to provide a balance of views, expertise, and regional perspectives on complex issues.
The positions include:
- Coordinating Lead Author (CLA)
- Lead Author (LA)
- Contributing Author (CA)
- Review Editor (RE)
- Expert Reviewer (ER)
CLAs, LAs, and REs are selected by the Working Groups and agreed to by the Bureau as a whole from a list of nominations received from governments and relevant scientific organisations. The composition of lead author teams reflects a range of views, expertise and geographical representation. CAs are invited by chapter author teams to assest them on particular topics. Further information about the ER process can be found here.
Whilst many experts will never be (or even want to be) an IPCC lead author, there is still opportunity to contribute to the broader process. The two key areas for this are:
- publishing scientific papers (which contribute to the broad scientific knowledge which is reflected in the IPCC assessments)
- acting as an Expert Reviewer
In appreciating the different roles of the IPCC, it is important to understand that the IPCC does not conduct scientific research, but merely assesses and summarises our current understanding of the issues based on published scientific material.
Relevant material considered in IPCC reports consists mainly of papers published in peer-reviewed international and national journals and books, as well as (to a lesser extent) so-called ‘grey literature' such as industry and government reports.
IPCC assessments can necessarily only provide a snap-shot of our current understanding as the reports are written. There is a formal cut-off date by which papers have to be accepted by journals if they are to be cited in a Report. These cut-off dates are generally about a year before the final acceptance of a report by Plenary. Actual provisional cut-off dates are available here.
As a general rule, the earlier scientific studies are published the better, as it ensures reference material is more likely to be picked up in the first IPCC draft and can help inform the broad structure and focus of individual chapters.
The key requirements for each role are listed below:
- Is generally one of two CLAs per chapter
- Is a Lead Author with extra responsibilities
- Takes overall responsibility for coordinating preparation of a chapter
- Ensures that any crosscutting scientific or technical issues are addressed between chapters and/or working groups
- Participates in Lead Author meetings (and chairs chapter break-outs)
- Represents authors of the chapter at WG plenary that accepts the overall report
- May help draft the Technical Summary Report (TS) and Summary for Policymakers (SPM) and responds to governments during Final Plenary.
- Produces designated sections of a chapter on the basis of the best scientific, technical and socio-economic information available
- Synthesizes and assesses material drawn from available literature and provides guidance on its robustness, accurazy, and reliability
- Takes account of expert and government review comments when revising text, in conjunction with Review Editors (and document actions)
- Participates in Lead Author meetings to discuss and develop chapter text and to consider and respond to review comments.
- Prepares information in the form of text, graphs or data for assimilation by the Lead Authors
- Ensures that contributions are supported as far as possible with references from the peer reviewed and internationally available literature
- Provides copies of any ‘grey literature' to the TSU so it is available to all authors and readers of the report.
- Contributes to editing, merging, and amending material during development of draft text.
- Is generally one of two or three REs per chapter
- Helps the WG Bureau identify expert reviewers
- Ensures all substantive expert and government review comments are afforded appropriate consideration
- Advises lead authors on how to handle contentious/controversial issues
- Ensures genuine controversies are reflected adequately in the text of the Report
- Participates in second and subsequent Lead Author meetings.
- Reviews WG drafts
- Provides constructive criticism and alternative text
- Highlights additional references for author teams to consider
- Ensures author teams have considered all material and/or perspectives relevant to chapter, including views outside the immediate expertise of lead authors
- Provides additional regional or sector-specific perspectives for a given chapter.
Grey literature is used only when adequate and journal papers are not available. Excluding ‘grey literature' could mean that some of the most vulnerable peoples in the world, from regions where there is no strong scientific infrastructure to prepare and write scientific papers, are not considered adequately in the reports. References that are to grey literature will be clearly marked as such in the AR5.