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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Why publishers should explain why papers disappear: The complicated Lewandowsky study saga

with 42 comments

frontiersLast year, Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues posted a paper, scheduled for an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, with a, shall we say, provocative title:

NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax

An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

In an interview last year with Lewandowsky, NPR gathered some of the reactions to the paper — which was formally published two days ago — from those it profiled:

Assorted bloggers denounce the paper’s “Anthropogenic warmist nonsense,” suggest that the paper is “not scientific or competent,” and describe it as “an ad hom[inem] argument taken to its absurd extreme,” an “inane, irrelevant and completely biased rant study.”

Disgruntled climate skeptics have gone beyond digs at the science to suggest “hidden motivations” for the paper — perhaps a systematic attempt by left-wing academics to discredit those who reject climate science.

Lewandowsky and one of the authors of the Psychological Science paper, along with two other colleagues saw the response as an opportunity, so last year they wrote another paper with a similarly provocative title:

Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation

That study was published in Frontiers in Personality Science and Individual Differences. But yesterday, that paper — or at least everything but the abstract – disappeared. It turns out this is the second time that’s happened. The paper was first removed on February 6, just days after it was accepted and published, because of complaints from a blogger named Jeff Condon, and since reposted — at least until yesterday.

We’re not going to dissect the papers here; that has been done elsewhere. Instead, we’re going to focus very narrowly, as we think is appropriate for Retraction Watch, on how Frontiers, which publishes Frontiers in Personality Science and Individual Differences‘s parent journal, Frontiers in Psychology, has handled the apparent withdrawals.

We asked journal editor Brian Little for some details. Little — whom, we should note, went out of his way to respond to us quickly, despite the impending Easter holiday and a self-imposed “sequester” so that he can finish writing a book — told us:

The article was removed on February 6th because of a complaint about a factual error. We did due diligence, contacted the authors, had it corrected and it was put up again.

Little said he was told yesterday by the Frontiers editorial office that the study had been taken down again, but didn’t know why. There’s a conference call scheduled for just after the Easter break, he said

to find out why it was taken down and to seek a fair and timely resolution.

It doesn’t seem that Frontiers has a policy for taking down articles. When Paul Matthews, of the University of Nottingham, asked the editorial office what had happened the first time the paper was removed, he was told:

Thank you for your message. Please allow me to clarify that the PDF version of the manuscript has been temporarily removed for the purpose of further typesetting. The manuscript is currently in production stage and the full manuscript will be published in the coming weeks. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns.

If we may, we have some suggestions for the conference call Little mentioned:

  • First, read this post we wrote about Elsevier’s withdrawal policy. That policy is better than many, but is lacking when it comes to “articles in press,” which it gives a mulligan. And at least Elsevier notes that studies have been withdrawn, if not why.
  • Second, ask yourselves whether letting an article disappear without notice or explanation is really the most transparent way to go — and whether it only makes readers not inclined to trust you even less likely to do so.

The responses so far on climate skeptic blogs make the answer to the second question blindingly obvious. We look forward to hearing how Frontiers resolves this issue.

Please see an update to this post.

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42 Responses

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  1. I spoke to Brian a couple of days before, I spoke to a Chief editor yesterday,
    I expressed pretty much the same concerns to Brian as I did the Cheif Editor, an hour or so before it was taken down yesterday,.. so whilst he may not exactly know (neither do I, I have asked for current status), Brian, I think has a very good chance of guessing why.

    I did try to contact the authors first and was ignored for a few days. (I asked for a response from Skeptical Science (Cook), Frontierss, comments in the abstract, and Shaping Tomorrows World (Lewandowsky), I also asked UWA, to contact the authors to ask for a response..) no response from the authors

    see here why: (MY comment)
    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/Recursive-Fury-Facts-misrepresentations.html#3012

    Barry Woods

    March 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm

  2. What an entertaining way to make a valid point about policies regarding withdrawals. I’m glad to know about Elsevier’s “better than many” policy. It’s always good to know about well-crafted policies, and having good policies makes life so much easier.

    I would never had encountered those two titles without you, and I am grateful. “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation” should win some kind of a prize.

    Ken Pimple

    March 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    • It would be a good candidate for the 2013 IgNobel awards, although from memory I think they don’t cover work that’s been retracted.

      Derek Sorensen

      March 28, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      • Well, as scientists who published a paper intended to prove that anybody who criticized their previous paper were just nuts, I think they’d make a wonderful IgNobel award for Peace.

        Udik

        March 29, 2013 at 9:48 am

  3. This is a good post, but you miss an interesting detail. The first time the paper was removed was in response to complaints by Jeff Condon. It was taken down and modified to address his concerns. However, another individual (who goes by the handle Foxgoose) had also taken issue with the paper as it had misrepresented him.

    When the paper was reposted, it was reposted in two versions. One, a web version; the other a .pdf file. These two versions were not the same. The .pdf file had been modified to address Foxgoose’s concerns. The web version had not been. This meant there were two different versions of the paper on the journal’s website. Combined with the original version of the paper, that makes three different versions of this paper.

    There have been three different versions of the paper published. There is no public record of them or of the changes made between them. Two of them were available from the same page at the same time.

    I don’t think this is the way to go.

    Brandon Shollenberger

    March 28, 2013 at 5:15 pm

  4. The second withdrawal was in response to letters from myself, Foxgoose, and Barry Woods.I am one of five global warming “sceptics” who are mentioned by name in the paper as exhibiting “conspiracist ideation”. The fifty page article is superficially complex, but with a little patience, the meaning can be teased out; those who criticise the official position on climate change are paranoid mental defectives.
    My letter of complaint, which was one of at least three which led to the paper being withdrawn, can be seen at
    http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/lews-talk-costs-libels/

    geoffchambers

    March 28, 2013 at 5:41 pm

  5. Also worth noting is that Frontiers has changed the list of reviewers on three occasions. (Frontiers names the reviewers/) The reviewers were originally said to be Elaine McKewon and Michael Wood. This was changed to McKewon and editor Viren Swami. Then the list of reviewers was changed to McKewon, Swami and Prathiba Natesan, Then Natesan was removed from the list of reviewers, returning the list to McKewon and Swami again.

    I wonder how often they re-state who the reviewers of a paper and whether any other Frontiers paper has incurred three re-statements.

    Steve McIntyre

    March 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    • A peer reviewed paper on reaction to an internet survey from an unpublished paper and some people may not want their names associated with it? Who would have guessed that?

      Ian H

      March 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      • All they need to do is enable reviewers to reject bad papers. Right now, you have to fight with the higher ups to get a paper rejected and be treated like you are not a team player. The entire model is problematic and prone to abuse, as Frontiers makes money for every accepted paper.

        Average PI

        March 29, 2013 at 9:03 am

  6. I think this is a ploy to gather more data for a third paper…

    NevenA

    March 28, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    • It certainly is. And you’ll be in it, along with the rest of us. Feel free to participate in the latest on-line game – “Spartacus the lab rat bites back”.

      geoffchambers

      March 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm

  7. Well since they seemed to have somehow trawled an actual climate scientist in their catch full of blog commenters it could be this time they are renaming their net “Excerpt Espousing Conspiracy Theory” to the far less snappy, but more importantly less offensive to climate scientists, “Excerpt relevant to a recursive theory”?

    Wouldn’t have thought it would take this long to do though?

    tlitb1

    March 28, 2013 at 8:04 pm

  8. The Lewandowsky/Cook team is so biased and inept that they managed to classify an innocuous remark by a prominent UK climate scientist at the Met Office as evincing “conspiracy ideation.” They also abused and deleted many thoughtful remarks from online survey expert Thomas Fuller, who wondered if the survey methodology was really as reckless as it appears to be:

    Examples of un-scientific behaviors by Lewandowsky et al.

    Dr. Richard Betts, Conspiracist

    Dr Richard Betts
    Leads Climate Impacts area, specialising in ecosystem-hydrology-climate interactions but also overseeing work on urban, health, industry and finance.

    Career background

    BSc (Physics), University of Bristol, 1991.
    MSc (Meteorology and Applied Climatology), University of Birmingham, 1992.
    PhD (Meteorology), University of Reading, 1998.
    Richard joined the Met Office Hadley Centre in 1992 to work on the new land surface scheme of the Unified Model, the Met Office Surface Exchange Scheme (MOSES). His work on the second version (MOSESII) involved implementing the tiled land surface representation and coupling the TRIFFID vegetation model. Between 1994–1998 I also worked on my PhD on modelling the influence of the vegetated land surface on climate and climate change.

    In 2002–2003 Richard spent four months at CSIRO and the Australian National University working on landscape fire modelling. In 2003 he became manager of the new Ecosystems and Climate Impacts team, leading the development of this new science area in the Met Office and in 2007 he became head of the new Climate Impacts strategic area.

    His research interests include:

    Climate change impacts on water resources and the role of vegetation in modifying this impact.
    Climate change impacts on large-scale ecosystems and interactions with deforestation (with a particular interest in Amazonia).
    Effects of deforestation, afforestation and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) on climate.
    Interactions between urban effects and climate change.
    External recognition

    Lead Author, IPCC 4th Assessment Report (Working Group 1).
    Contributing Author, IPCC 4th Assessment Report (Working Group 2).
    Lead Author, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
    Reviewer, Stern Review on Economics of Climate Change.
    Editor, International Journal of Global Warming.
    Editor, Journal of Environmental Investing.
    Editor, Earth System Dynamics.
    Guest Editor, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
    Scientific Advisory Committee Member, European Research Course on Atmospheres.

    Skiphil

    March 28, 2013 at 8:46 pm

  9. The (defunct) green blog at NYT isn’t a good place to understand the Lew papers. Lew and Cook identified as “conspiracy theory” the suggestion that the two of them had manipulated the dissemination of the survey and fabricated some of its results.

    As Cook himself realized later on, those are accusations of fraud and malpractice not “conspiracy theory”. Geoff Chambers has a blog replete of evidence in this regard.

    omnologos

    March 29, 2013 at 2:21 am

  10. The Frontiers family is waling a very fine line. There is no simple way to reject a submission. What happens is that reviewers withdraw from the review of a crappy paper, until this paper eventually goes to a reviewer who has no clue about the technique employed etc and it gets published. I’m not saying all papers are bad, as there are many excellent papers, but this process will result in lots of future retractions.

    Average PI

    March 29, 2013 at 5:17 am

  11. This may be one of a tiny handful of cases in which a journal might be justified in erasing, rather than withdrawing, an article. The circumstances here are almost unique.

    The lead author is a psychologist. He reports that he has recorded and analyzed the responses of a number of people to a particular event. On the basis of that analysis, he draws certain professional conclusions about the psychological and cognitive status of his subjects. He writes up his data, analysis, and conclusions and submits them for publication. Whether he did so well or badly, this is simply the paradigm of academic psychology. Forget climate politics. Forget “provocative” titles. Don’t even worry about whether this is good science or not. Measure it only against the professional obligations implied by the paradigm.

    First, the senior author has an extraordinary conflict of interest. The behavior under study is precisely public criticism of the author’s professional competence. Psychology in particular has a deep concern with the distortions caused by even relatively trivial conflicts of interest.

    Second, it is probably safe to assume that Prof. Lewandowsky did not write his Psych. Sci. paper simply to create the experimental conditions for the Frontiers paper. Still, negative reactions to the Psych. Sci. paper were entirely predictable. This was not a “natural” event. On the contrary, the experimental set-up (the contents and release of the then-unpublished Psych. Sci. paper) was completely under the author’s control. Thus Prof. Lewandowsky created, controlled, conducted, analyzed, and published a psychological experiment without any disclosures to, or consent from, the subjects.

    Third, regardless of whether consent was required for the experiment, the authors published individually identifiable information about, and analysis of, the mental health and cognitive status of their subjects. This is not simply bloggish, lay opinion. This is, mind you, published as objectively determined, scientifically verified, analysis by professional psychologists for publication in a professional journal — concerning named individuals who were not willing subjects and did not consent to participation in a study, or to the release of personal mental status information.

    Fourth, some of the information then turned out to be wrong.

    Perhaps, despite appearances, this is all ethically acceptable in psychology. But, if not, Frontiers has a hard choice. They really shouldn’t proceed to publication. It’s an ethical minefield. But retraction or withdrawal, with detailed explanations, would look like an attempt to cast blame on the authors or others — and might make things worse. Having gotten this far into the process, duck and cover may be the best, and perhaps even the most ethical, choice among rotten alternatives.

    Toby White

    March 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    • Hold on, could I get you to sign this form and then leave that comment again?

      It seems disingenuous to suggest that it might somehow be unethical to study and report on material intentionally published to the open Internet by individuals who freely chose to produce that content without any intervention or encouragement by any researcher.

      • it’s unethical for psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose people they meet casually. it’s defamatory for them to publish “professional” diagnoses of the mental status of named persons without their consent. it’s against all privacy laws for a professiional to suggest any particular individual suffers from any condition the professional is a specialist of. etc etc

        there’s a reason why psychology journals aren’t chock-full of articles having as topic the telediagnosis of past referees, previous editors, and responses to old articles.

        and we haven’t even mentioned the errors, omissions, manipulations, lies etc etc that make Lew et al the most ridiculous psychology papers since the idea that looking at flags make people change political affiliation.

        omnologos

        March 30, 2013 at 2:23 am

        • Thanks Toby White and Omnologos for standing up for ethical behaviour, but I wouldn’t want this to become a debate about the rights of bloggers like me not to be criticised, versus Lewandowsky’s rights to free speech.
          As I said at greater length in a comment at ClimateAudit, I’ve no problem with Lewandowsky criticising me – calling me paranoid or a conspiracist ideationalist even, in the context of rational debate. But the peculiar rules of peer-reviewed science mean that this hasn’t happened, and can’t happen.

          Instead of a rational argument, we have twenty pages of wholly irrelevant discussion of “the literature” (which covers everything from the tobacco lobby to the Iran Contra scandal); twenty pages of inaccurate “content analysis”; and at the end of it a a table which falsely accuses four named individuals of being the first to have said something or other (which the authors admit may or may not be true – it doesn’t matter).

          It’s a parody of rational argument which has received the imprimatur of being “peer reviewed science”, and this is what worries me more than what Lewandowsky thinks of my mental state.

          geoffchambers

          March 30, 2013 at 3:57 am

          • Geoff – to answer your point one would have to see what other rubbish passes peer review on Frontiers. Plenty obviously already, maybe even more if the “paper” isn’t withdrawn.

            omnologos

            March 30, 2013 at 4:33 am

          • Just to clarify, my comment was not directed to free speech or open debate issues in general; and (also contra Tim D. Smith) it’s not about protecting you or anyone else people who comment on line. It’s about quite specific ethical rules, mostly those rules ably summarized by @omnilogos, which apply only to the pronouncements of professionals acting as such. So far as I’m aware, there are no exceptions for subjects who make public statements. At least I hope not. Allowing professionals to violate those rules makes it easy to take people who are simply committed to an idea — and commit them instead to an institution. Maybe you’re not intimidated by that prospect. I am.

            Toby White

            March 30, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      • I am KNOWN to one or more of the researcher’s I was also a vocal critics of Lewandowsky’s LOG12 paper (had also corresponded with Professor Lewandowsky) , the co author Marriott describes me as high profile sceptic, as is derogatory his own high profile (in Aus) blog – (during the ‘research time’ frame for the paper (I was named in the data) I was also commenting and he was reposnding to me on his blog)

        called wait for it – Watching The Deners

        His article where he lables me and A Watts DUNNING_KRUGER, and other derogatory words,(his bold) I find is CITED and endorsed by John Cook (co-author Fury and founder of Skeptical Science website) by the very high profile website Skeptical Science as having debunked my articles at Watts Up With That (a 140 million view blog) – Marriot stamps a copy of the graphic of Watt sup article (my name visible as guest author) in red, “Verified Bullshit”

        might be a good enough ‘debunking for John Cook, MArriott and Al Gore, but iyt doesn’t really cut it for proeffsioanlism does it. Lewandowsky is listed as a regular author, at Skeptical Science, of the 8 blogs surveys, 4-5 blog owners are guest authors at SKS

        Skeptical Science is in partnership with Al Gore (former VP USA, not exacty an unknown guy!) for his Climate Reality Project – Reality Drop – slogans include Spread Truth – Destroy Denial.

        Lewandowsky is closely involved with SKS and its founder John Cook, regular author

        And the SkS debunking handbook has Cook’s and Lewandowsky’s univesity logo’s on it, as it also promoted on Lewandowsky’s publically funded bllog.

        should I say more, about an utter conflict of interstes, ethics issues, that I think is relatedto this paper, and the paper it is linked with LOG12?

        Do papewrs get withdrawn often on ethics issues, or authors conflicted?

        Perhaps one of the blog owners, could email me, as I think I need some advice…… (there are some other issues aswell)

        Barry Woods

        March 30, 2013 at 7:07 am

  12. The biggest German newsmagazine which has also the No 1 news webseite in Germany now has a report on the “NASA faked the moon landing” study that does not even mention the controversy arround the subject. You find it here, try google translate:

    http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/psychologie-was-die-klimawandelleugner-bewegt-a-891707.html

    I do not know what will be the final destiny of the Lewandowsky study, but I am very sure that even if it were retracted, my colleagues will not report on that. This medium has several times reported on studies that were later retracted, and they did not retract their story, even when I made them aware of it. Here is a case study. I seems to show that people choose mates that look like their parents, the old freudian crap. Here is the old press release, alive and kicking:

    http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/auffallende-aehnlichkeit-gesichter-der-eltern-beeinflussen-partnerwahl-a-575994.html

    But, the study this report is based upon definitely was retracted, which you find easilly:

    Study: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/276/1654/91.full

    Retraction: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/276/1659/1199

    I wonder what we could do to spread the message to the public when studies are retracted.

    Rolf Degen

    March 30, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    • oh dear….

      ‘pal review’ or ‘groupthink’ review?

      ElaineMcKewon Recursive fury: facts, misrepresentations & conspiracist ideation in response to conspiracist ideation study http://t.co/7IfRflTFEs #climate
      10:10 PM Mar 26th from Tweet Button

      ElaineMcKewon Unlocking the conspiracy mindset of #climate change deniers http://t.co/bjr0WAGgHK #antiscience
      1:49 AM Feb 22nd from Tweet Button

      ElaineMcKewon Secret funding from conservative billionaires helped build vast network of #climate denial thinktanks http://t.co/da6Y0BPH #antiscience

      Barry Woods

      March 31, 2013 at 10:17 am

  13. At the risk of not moving the discussion forward… Lewandowsky might be a professor of psychology but he isn’t a ‘psychologist’ in the context of mental health. On the one hand this means that he isn’t qualified to ‘diagnose’ anyone, and on the other he can’t be accused of unethically doing so (under a paychologists’ code of ethics that is). To purport to diagnose when you’re not qualified IS a problem, but I don’t know what body would be responsible for addressing a complaint on those grounds in Aus (might be the psychologists’ regulatory body, or might be UWA for a complaint about conduct). An important question, then, is whether Lew et al DO purport to diagnose anyone and, sorry, from reading the paper they don’t. They appear to make the claim that the discussants of LOG12 display conspiratorial ideation (that many describe the paper as a product of a conspiracy) but that is not a claim about mental health. The examples they provide seem to me to show this perfectly well. Unless they have selectively reported examples to make the point, and I don’t see that they would need to, then it seems objectively appropriate to suggest that at least some discussants have attributed LOG12 to a conspiracy, and that is a much less interesting story!

    Marc Wilson

    March 31, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    • Marc – your words might or not have made sense in a general discussion about psychology papers. But we’re talking a specific “contribution” here. Its authors do specialize in false attribution evidently, and don’t stop before identifying specific individuals as scientifically-defined wackos.

      This blog post/letter should help with the details:

      http://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/lews-talk-costs-libels/

      I’d also be interested to know what you’ve understood as “conspiracy ideation”, given that the NYT blog author completely missed the gist of Lew’s rubbish.

      omnologos

      March 31, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      • I should have added my comments below those of omnologos (and others) above, concerning inappropriate diagnosis. I’m also basing my comments on my reading of the ‘recursive…’ paper and nothing else in this debate, and my reading of that paper is that there is nothing in there “identifying specific individuals as scientifically defined wackos”. That would require defining wacko-ness as conspiracy ideation (entertaining the idea that something reflects a conspiracy). In fact, I suspect that Lew et al have been very careful to NOT make that connection (a connection that cannot be sustained). Soooo.. If they aren’t saying that the dissenters to their original paper are wackos, why are commentators inferring that? Because the stereotype associated with conspiracy theory unfairly paints anyone who endorses a conspiracy as an explanation for something as black-and-white nuts. As far as I’m aware there isn’t any research that can provide evidence that this is the case.

        In this latest paper Lew et al are arguing that at least some of the online discussion dismissing the conclusions of LOG12, in which they claim climate change denial is associated with conspiracy ideation, takes the form of conspiracy theorizing. Unless they’re making up the data, this seems pretty uncontraversial to me – they are summarizing what online discussants have said.

        Marc Wilson

        March 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        • It depends what you mean by conspirational ideation. If I say I think someone at work is telling lies about me behind my back this might point to a paranoid ideation of the world or it might just point to a personality conflict between two people.
          So in the pre-publication print the authors point to this as an example of conspirational ideation:
          “Blocking access to authors’ websites (8). On 14 September, the websites of the rst
          two present authors (S.L.: http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org; J.C.:
          http://www.skepticalscience.com) were temporarily inaccessible (for at least 9 hours) from
          parts of the world, most likely owing to Internet blockages between certain regions and the
          website server.”
          Now is someone who initially suggests he may have been IP blocked really engaged in conspirational ideation and even is so is really any more worthy of a scientific publication anymore my belief – true or otherwise – that someone is talking behind my back at work proves anything?

          For the record as of March 2013 shapingtomorrowsworld’s server is based in Australia and skepticalscience’s server is based in the US. This does not mean I think the author’s were purposefully trying to generate material for their study – I have no desire to inflict a third paper on the world. Anyway it would appear to me that the only genuinely recursive factor here is people writing a paper on what people said about their first paper on blogs.

          Disclaimer: I am one of the few climate change deniers I am aware of that also thinks NASA faked the moon landing. To be honest, I fail to see how any intelligent person who seriously asks themselves this question can think otherwise. Of course, I have never been to the moon so maybe it does look like a cheap movie set filmed under weak arc lighting. I just assume most people do what I do and conceal their belief (or lack of) in real life as a necessary genuflection to power – in the same way people in China genuflect towards Maoist teachings. More in order to show respect and deference to society and society mores as to any intrinsic belief in their validity. One does not like to be rude towards people and their deeply held beliefs.

          littlegreyrabbit

          March 31, 2013 at 10:47 pm

        • Marc – it is difficult to reply to your comment. You explicitly refuse to consider Geoff’s extensive evidence about why Lew and friends have indeed made the connection you cannot see by yourself.

          Well, it’s exactly because you cannot see it by yourself that it’d be a good time for you to read something more than the original paper.

          You also repeat the statement about “conspiracy theorizing” without explaining what you do consider as that. I have already asked you to clarify, please do if you are interested in a discussion rather than monologues.

          omnologos

          April 1, 2013 at 2:36 am

          • I defined conspiracy ideation (perhaps less than transparently) as “(entertaining the idea that something reflects a conspiracy”). “ideation” just means holding a particular idea. At the same time, this probably begs the question of what I mean by conspiracy.

            Instead I’ll define a conspiracy theory, according to David Coady (another Australian), as “…a proposed explanation of an [historical] event, in which conspiracy (i.e., agents acting secretly in concert) has a significant causal role. … Finally, the proposed explanation must conflict with an “official” explanation of the same historical event.” The sorts of people who spend time studying these things will accept most of this, though some definitions also insist on the motivation behind the conspiracy being seen as malevolent.

            I get that people are ticked off with “recursive…” but, seriously!, suggesting that it’s not possible to critique the paper unless I’ve read everything else just doesn’t hold water. The paper presents the conclusion that the reaction to LOG12 includes arguments that look a lot like conspiracy theories. It pretty clearly achieves this, though some of the evidence is stronger than others. If any comments i ight have made had been used to make this argument then i might also have a problem but only if I think CT is the same as wacko-ness (and there isn’t any research that shows that people who hold conspiracy beliefs are mentally Ill as a group) but it IS a problem for Lew, the discipline and the broader debate if the extracts presented to make that argument are misrepresented or made up. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

            Marc Wilson

            April 2, 2013 at 2:15 am

            • Marc – I didn’t ask you to read everything. I’ve asked you to read. something else, and one post in particular.

              Also am not sure you realize even the suggestion that Lew conspired with himself has been marked as “conspiracy irrational”. Apart from the fact that it’s beyond me to understand how conspiratorial it could be to think that authors of the same paper agreed something among themselves.

              omnologos

              April 2, 2013 at 3:46 am

  14. To clarify my question about “conspiracy theorizing” or “conspiracy ideation” once more, I once surmised that there was enough evidence that Lew did not in fact contact all the skeptical blogs he said he or one of his helpers had contacted.

    This was for me a working hypothesis – something to use as Lew was not making available enough information to tell one way or another. OTOH I have long advocated against any idea that there is any vast “warmist” conspiracy in the climate arena.

    Lew and author friends took my surmise as “conspiracy ideation”. It wasn’t and it isn’t.

    omnologos

    April 1, 2013 at 2:41 am

    • Of course there is the issue that it turns out now it is almost certain that the authors of LOG12 actually did not use the SkepticalScience blog as they claimed and which provides a major plank to support the data analysis on distribution of skeptics to warmists in the LOG12 paper.

      I know that the truth of a theory in hindsight does not detract from the academic classification of thinking it in the first place but there is much more to this specific instance.

      http://climateaudit.org/2013/03/28/lewandowsky-doubles-down/

      Reading the referenced material for LOG13 is educational because it seems clear that a main part of the idea of conspiracy ideation depends on an initial assumption of the apparent trustworthiness of source in the eyes of the majority outside the minority subject conspiratorial ideators. However I think if there isn’t a credible majority to compare against, i.e. really most people don’t have clue or opinion then that raises the question about the relative “conspritorialness” of the targeted people.

      Right now the only way that Lew at al can claim this majority trust with the casual observer is to show they have something that has passed peer review on this subject; I agree that can seem a reasonable heuristic to to the uninitiated.

      However I’m afraid, there exists a lot of climate skeptics and social science skeptics who find it hard to easily trust “findings” in the litichur like this.

      The issues of trust are not just in moral integrity but in their ability to apply and maintain self-control and high quality work in an area in which Lew et al have passionately and vigorously campaigned themselves. The fact there are no caveats and no apparent oversight offered by editors and reviewers about their own campaigning on the subject is easily seen by the people they campaign against.

      Remember one author runs a site called “Watching the Deniers”

      Imagine Margaret Mead had a web site called “Watching the Nobel Savages” ;)

      I personally have never thought Lew et al have maliciously used questionable practice’s. I think it is only merely by comfortable assumption – or confirmation bias, if you will – that Lew et al has actually just ploughed a field of their antagonists they knew was there and found these people in their study and labelled them pathological.

      It seems in hindsight that a lot of people were right to assume that they fell prey to their moral righteousness that IMHO blinds social studies in “climate denial” (the variability an vagueness of usage of that term should be a big clue IMO) and many of the people they punitively trawled in the follow up study were correct.

      Including the climate scientists ;)

      tlitb1

      April 1, 2013 at 3:23 am

      • Does a conspiracy have a prerequisite minimum number of conspirators? Based on Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” I always tentatively assumed three as a minimum. Is another name required, in addition to Lewandowsky and Cook. Suggestions? :)

        I’m also confused as to whether the assertion of “conspiracy ideation” is held to be valid if the single case of alleged or implied conspiracy under discussion subsequently proves to be accurate.

        For myself, I’m more persuaded that Geoff Chambers’ four essential words in McIntyre’ss article seem sufficient, it not being necessary to invoke that particular c-word. http://climateaudit.org/2013/03/28/lewandowsky-doubles-down/

        michael hart

        April 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

  15. The editors of Frontiers In have now posted a message informing us of what we already knew…

    “This article, first published by Frontiers on 18 March 2013, has been the subject of complaints. Given the nature of some of these complaints, Frontiers has provisionally removed the link to the article while these issues are investigated, which is being done as swiftly as possible and which Frontiers management considers the most responsible course of action. The article has not been retracted or withdrawn. Further information will be provided as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.”

    DGH

    April 3, 2013 at 8:20 am

  16. This post raises interesting questions regarding the policies of the online journal Frontiers In.

    The journal continues to confuse readers with their publication of erratum for the article in question. While the link to the article has been removed* and remains unavailable as of this comment, the correction to the article is now published.

    This raises several questions -

    Until the link to the article is re-established how is the reader to know what the change means?

    If the article is retracted will the correction also be retracted? And if so, why would the editor issue the correction before completing a review of the complaints?

    The original article, now unlinked, remains available online. Assuming that the complaints about the article result in a revision to the original version to which version will this correction refer?

    DGH

    *Brandon Shollenberger (BS12) http://bit.ly/12SCl8A

    *

    DGH

    April 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

  17. Someone close to the authors claims that the paper has been retracted. http://retractionwatch.com/2013/03/28/why-publishers-should-explain-why-papers-disappear-the-complicated-lewandowsky-study-saga/
    The paper is still on the journal’s website.


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