Ground truth: Verification games in operational meteorology

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


To gain occupational legitimacy, workers depend on claims of accuracy. How are these claims assessed? Organizations judge competence and effectiveness using metrics, which can be massaged. Using a case study of operational meteorology, the author examines the organizational and self-presentational politics whereby meteorologists verify their predictions. Forecasts of future events are central to occupational work in operational meteorology. However, assessing what really happened "on the ground" is not unproblematic. So, meteorologists and their employers construct measures for assessments, even though these assessments are social and organizational routines. Verification statistics are signals whereby local offices are judged on effectiveness, and as a result, workers develop strategies to increase their verification scores. The author examines the production of verification at three local offices of the National Weather Service using ethnographic observations and in-depth interviews. Similar strategies operate when workers are judged in accountability systems, leading to forms of organizational impression management to demonstrate competence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Meteorology
  • Science
  • Sociology of knowledge
  • Truth
  • Verification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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