The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that its assessment reports are "policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive." Here, we investigate the meaning of that statement and conclude that at least one of the components within the statement—the claim to policy-neutrality—is extremely misleading. Misunderstandings of this neutrality claim have resulted in harm to the IPCC’s efforts and image. In an effort to help the IPCC restore its credibility, we explore possible interpretations of "neutrality," expose likely sources of misunderstanding, and suggest a plausible way of interpreting the term that is both defensible as a goal and fits with the IPCC’s actual activities. Future science advising efforts should carefully choose how they present their aims, to avoid the confusions created by unfortunate connotations of "neutrality."

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