Climatic Change

, Volume 125, Issue 2, pp 149–162 | Cite as

Climate change research and credibility: balancing tensions across professional, personal, and public domains

  • Stella NordhagenEmail author
  • Dan Calverley
  • Chris Foulds
  • Laura O’Keefe
  • Xinfang Wang


For research to positively impact society, it must be scientifically credible. The researcher plays a key role in establishing and maintaining credibility, particularly in the climate change field. This paper provides a structure for relating the credibility of researchers themselves to that of research outputs, analysing ‘researcher credibility’ with reference to three overlapping domains: personal, professional, and public. The researcher’s role in each domain is considered in a reflexive way, examining the research process and the researcher’s actions. Varied definitions of researcher credibility and possible means to achieve it in each domain are discussed, drawing on relevant cross-disciplinary literature. We argue that, in certain contexts, the actions of researchers can have a direct impact on the credibility of their research. There is scope for broadening researcher credibility to include more public-oriented behaviours. This, however, may be contentious and problematic: potential conflicts exist between public action and professional credibility, with the latter usually taking precedence. By contrast, though personal action/inaction rarely affects professional credibility, researchers’ personal behaviours may influence public perceptions of research credibility and the importance of addressing climate change.


Research Output Public Engagement Climate Research Unit Public Credibility Climate Change Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The discussions inspiring this paper took place at the Tyndall Researchers’ Network meeting, Newcastle University, September 2011; we thank those who made the meeting possible. We also thank John Turnpenny, Martin Mahony, Maria Sharmina, Lauren Roffey, Caroline Stuiver, Kevin Anderson, and the UEA 3S Reading Group who participated in early discussions and/or offered helpful comments on earlier drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stella Nordhagen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dan Calverley
    • 2
    • 3
  • Chris Foulds
    • 4
  • Laura O’Keefe
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xinfang Wang
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Queens’ CollegeUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Tyndall Centre for Climate Change ResearchNorwichUK
  3. 3.School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil EngineeringUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK
  4. 4.Global Sustainability InstituteAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK

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