This can be done by actually reading researchers’ papers, by asking other scientists to evaluate a potential source, and by consulting other databases such as the ISI Web and EurekAlert!’s guide to science sources. Additionally, on Friday, the American Geophysical Union announced that it is “establishing a new service in order to better address journalists’ needs for accurate, timely information about climate science.” So far, more than 115 “climate specialists” have signed up with the geophysical union to serve as sources for journalists. “The new referral service will receive journalists’ questions and other queries via emails or phone calls to AGU’s press office staff, who will then pass queries along quickly to appropriate scientist-volunteers,” according to the press release.

So how should journalists’ use Anderegg’s paper and the underlying database (which, it should be mentioned, has been around for over a year and thus predates the Anderegg et al. paper)? The simple answer, in my opinion, is: just like they would use a site like Wikipedia—as a useful starting point, to be treated warily, for a much more thorough evaluation of researchers credentials. After all, one thing is absolutely certain. Expertise does matter.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.