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Patterns of authorship in the IPCC Working Group III report


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has completed its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Here, we explore the social scientific networks informing Working Group III (WGIII) assessment of mitigation for the AR5. Identifying authors’ institutional pathways, we highlight the persistence and extent of North–South inequalities in the authorship of the report, revealing the dominance of US and UK institutions as training sites for WGIII authors. Examining patterns of co-authorship between WGIII authors, we identify the unevenness in co-authoring relations, with a small number of authors co-writing regularly and indicative of an epistemic community’s influence over the IPCC’s definition of mitigation. These co-authoring networks follow regional patterns, with significant EU–BRICS collaboration and authors from the US relatively insular. From a disciplinary perspective, economists, engineers, physicists and natural scientists remain central to the process, with insignificant participation of scholars from the humanities. The shared training and career paths made apparent through our analysis suggest that the idea that broader geographic participation may lead to a wider range of viewpoints and cultural understandings of climate change mitigation may not be as sound as previously thought.

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Figure 1: Two-degree network of countries in which IPCC authors worked and studied.
Figure 2: Institutional network of top 20 authors in co-authoring network, principal component alone.
Figure 3: Two-degree co-authoring network with world regions.
Figure 4: Two-degree co-authoring network with academic disciplines.


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The authors acknowledge the assistance provided by M. Calvet-Mir in data collection and J. L. Molina in data analysis. E.C. and L.C.-M. acknowledge the financial support of the Biodiversa Framework Project INVALUABLE: Values, Markets, and Policies for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (PRI-PIMBDV-2011-1072). E.C. has also received support from the Spanish Research, Development and Innovation Secretariat through a ‘Ramón y Cajal’ research fellowship (RYC-2010-07183).

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E.C. and M.P. had the original idea for the article. L.C.-M. and M.P. developed the social network analysis for training and co-authoring patterns. E.C. analysed the authors’ disciplinary backgrounds. H.H. provided important background concerning the existing literature on the sociology of the IPCC, and contributed to data collection and analysis. M.P. and E.C. developed the first draft of the article, and all four authors extensively revised and edited the text. E.C. completed and edited the final version of the article and all Supplementary Information.

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Correspondence to Esteve Corbera.

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Corbera, E., Calvet-Mir, L., Hughes, H. et al. Patterns of authorship in the IPCC Working Group III report. Nature Clim Change 6, 94–99 (2016).

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