Controversial paper linking conspiracy ideation to climate change skepticism formally retracted

frontiersA year after being clumsily removed from the web following complaints, a controversial paper about “the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science” is being retracted.

The paper, “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation,” was authored by Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer, and Michael Marriott, and published in Frontiers in Psychology: Personality Science and Individual Differences.

Here’s the retraction notice, which isn’t live on the journal’s site yet:

In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.

It’s not clear to us what “the legal context is insufficiently clear” means, but in his blog post published today, Lewandowsky writes:

In other words, the article is fine but Frontiers does not want to take the legal risk that its restoration on the website might entail.

This is not the first time that legal fears have led to the withdrawal of a paper.

The authors were involved in drafting the retraction statement and sanction its content: We understand the journal’s position even though we do not agree with it.

Lewandowsky explains more of the background to the paper in this video.

Meanwhile, the paper still appears on the site of Lewandowsky’s former institution, the University of Western Australia, with the following notice on top:

The United States Congress passed a law in 2010 that recognized the adverse impact of foreign libel laws on the “ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work” (PUBLIC LAW 111-223). This law made judgments under English libel laws unenforceable in the United States.

This article was published on 18 March 2013 as Lewandowsky, S., Cook, J., Oberaucr, K., & Marriott. M. (2013). Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation. Frontiers of Psychology, 4 (73). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00073.

The article attracted nearly 30,000 abstract views and 10,000 full-text views. It also attracted a number of complaints which were investigated by the publisher. The investigation did not identify any issues with the academc and ethical aspects of the study. It did. however, determine that the legal context was insufficiently dear for Frontiers to retract the published article. The retraction statement can be found here:

The article is now hosted on a website of the University of Western Australia, which has come to a different assessment of the risk posed by this article and reaffirms its commitment to academic freedom. Further details about the history of this article and continued attempts to suppress inconvenient science can be found at

The release of the news about the retraction has been a messy affair, with a Google cache version of an “embargoed” post about the situation circulating on the web yesterday, and then the story apparently breaking on climate skeptic blog Watts Up With That.

The DeSmogBlog has more details, including documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request showing “that climate sceptics complained that the work was defamatory.”

Please see an update on this post.

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107 thoughts on “Controversial paper linking conspiracy ideation to climate change skepticism formally retracted”

  1. I made the comment below at Stephan Lewandowsky’s @STWORG blog today:

    “I wrote to Frontiers about my concerns about ethical conduct and conflicts of interest and vested interest of the one or more of the authors. In particular, I requested my name to be removed from the paper’s data set, Because one of the authors Marriott, (Watching the Deniers blog) had been writing over a dozen articles attacking the critics of LOG12 during the research period (ie not neutral as claimed) and more particularly, had personally attacked me, naming me (and others) on his blog Watching the Deniers.. and as such I said this compromised the paper.

    I made the point,to UWA and Frontiers, as my name was merely in the data set, but not referenced in the main paper, the removal of my name should have no impact on the paper. and given the circumstances I thought this was a reasonable request.

    I also said because of this it was also in Frontiers best interests to remove this paper for consideration, in light of these issues

    I emailed Frontiers, links to Marriott’s personal attacks about myself and Anthony Watts, labelling us deniers, disinformation, denial Industry, writing ‘Verified Bullshit’ and worst labelling us with a psychological defect Dunning-Kruger, and he had adulterated an WUWT graphic (my article) with a red rubber stamped ‘Verified Bullshit’

    This article I found was was endorsed by Skeptical Science, and it transpires that Mariott was also a Skeptical Science insider (writing rebutalls)- John Cook the founder of Skeptical Science, also being an author on this paper.

    I did write to UWA ethics department, asking for my name to be removed from the paper, in light of Marriot’s conduct, as initially a reasonable request not a complaint. It was only when a complaint seemed to be the only way forward, that I made it a complaint

    (I also repeated it had no impact on the paper, and this should be a simple request for UWA/ and the lead author to fulfill, given the circumstances) but UWA found no problems with Marriott’s conduct, or the other issues I raised about the paper, which says a lot about UWA, I think

    From the FOI request for ethics approval for this paper, the ethics secretary directed professor Lewandowsky to a UWA webpage.

    (extract from)

    The page contains a ‘risk assessment checklist’ to guide researchers to whether a planned study would need ethics approval. It has these questions:

    1 Active concealment of information from participants and/or planned deception of participants

    2 Will participants be quoted or be identifiable, either directly or indirectly, in reporting of the research?

    3 Will data that can identify an individual (or be used to re-identify an individual) be obtained from databanks, databases, tissue banks or other similar data sources?

    4 Might the research procedures cause participants psychological or emotional distress?
    5 Does the research involve covert observation?

    The answer is a ‘Yes’ to many of these questions. ’Participants’ declared to be conspiratorial by Lewandowsky are directly identified by name in the paper. The element of covert observation is undeniable.

    so I do think ethics approval went a bit wrong with this paper.

    1. Barry…. They clearly stated, “Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study.”

      The retraction has nothing to do with problems with the paper itself. The problem is with the fact that, regardless of a lack of problems with the paper, the journal could still end up in court for an expensive and protracted legal battle.

          1. People only see an opportunity to continue with the stupid concept of conspiracy ideation.

            Now, they can proceed with advancing the latest meme – the chilling effect of legal action on academic freedom being posed by “deniers” and big fossil fuel companies.

            I mean, “Why not?” Once you get yourself dirty pushing one bullshit idea, pushing another becomes no big deal.

          2. So very funny!

            You put forward a childish conspiracy theory to try and damn those you claim live by conspiracy theories!

            The sheer lack of intelligent thought amongst Alarmists us really very amusing.

          3. Precisely! Many “Alarmists”, now suffering an accelerating emotional/psychological reaction to the unmasking of their shoddy and corrupted science, have adopted the conspirator’s “dodge”/defense mechanism of identifying a second conspiracy against themselves, promulgated by the “conspirators” (whom they initially identified as emotionally ill) attacking “settled science” that isn’t. (Which, of course, cannot be admitted by the “Alarmists”).

            A “double bank” conspiracy, if you will, all dressed up in petty, “twisted up”, academic navel gazing doubletalk. “Ethics” indeed!

            A “Catch 22”, if there ever was one. Down the rabbit hole you go!

          4. And, of course, the more they protest that this isn’t so, the greater the proof that it is. Delicious!

          5. Catch 22, perhaps one of the greatest, unrecognized, novels of the 20th Century.


            “You mean there’s a catch?”

            “Sure there’s a catch”, Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

            There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.


            That’s some catch, that Catch 22!


            It’s the best there is!

      1. I’d like to see a detailed report of that investigation — for example, what actual specific claims did they consider and how did the decide they were not unethical. It would not be unprecedented for the journal or the university to set the scope of the review in such a way that the study passed muster without actually considering the claims at issue.

        (Side note, funny how universities and journals can not be trusted to investigate allegations of misconduct, except when the allegations are made by people with unpopular opinions.)

        1. It is possible that no investigation has taken place at all, following the pattern of the previous ‘investigation’ of Lewandowsky’s ‘Moon Landing’ paper:

          >However, these conclusions were not written by a university investigation or university official but by Lewandowsky himself and simply transferred to university letterhead by UWA Deputy Vice Chancellor Robyn Owens within minutes after Lewandowsky had sent her language that was acceptable to him.

    2. Ethics approval is required for research with human subjects. Collecting data about the public activities of public figures (e. g. politicians, scientists, lobbyists) is something entirely different. It is absurd to claim that it is unethical to collect and publish data about climate change denialism.

      1. What is denialism?

        Is it academic freedom? Is it exercise of 2nd amendment rights under the Constitution? Is it saying something that makes you personally uncomfortable?

        Is it openly debating theories that lost their experimental basis 15 years ago? Is it asking for falsifiable hypotheses instead of invective streams?

        Is it asking for data and analytical sources to be released from research that was publicly funded? Is it asking hard questions when people don’t have answers that can stand up to scrutiny?

        When you use the term ‘denialism’ you are steeping firmly into faith-based territory… because what ‘denialism’ translates to is ‘heresy’. An attack against the promulgated dogma, a doctrinal breach. The word brands YOU as a non-scientist, a person who does not seek enlightenment but craves the validation of the crowd.

        What you seem to have skipped when you or your guru went over the historical accounts of mob rule is that inevitably when the crowd realizes they’ve been had, it goes badly on the demagogues.

        1. Bravo Jim, though I digress, the more disturbingly shrill invective filled diatribes is not only a poor reflection on them as individuals, but further disintegrates the credibility of their consensus science thinly veneered over their desire for political control over any aspect they feel they need to control for their own, err “public good”. In actuality, it’s very poor reflection on academia in general and “higher education” in particular.

        2. “Is it academic freedom? Is it exercise of 2nd amendment rights under the Constitution? Is it saying something that makes you personally uncomfortable?”~Jim

          I appreciate your comment very much, but freedom of speech falls under the 1st Amendment, not the 2nd which is in fact the right to bear arms. So I hope everyone goes sleeveless today to show support of the 2nd, and by such solidarity shows support of all ten amendments of the Bill of Rights.

      2. Ethical conduct in the practice of social research explicity includes anonymity of research respondents and subjects. As Lewndowsky revealed the names of people he labeled as conspiracy ideationists (including a respected UK meteorologist, Richard Betts), he violated one of the canons of social research.

        His paper is of course ludicrous. He performs regressions on cell sizes of four responses, etc. It’s a textbook example of what can go wrong with research in social sciences.

        It’s a bad paper that proves nothing and slimes people that Lewandowsky doesn’t agree with. And yet people wonder why climate science fails to gain traction with the public.

  2. I suspect the origins of the of the problems with this paper lie with the rushed nature of its creation. The Frontiers editors had already removed at least one claimed libel in the main paper and then the supplementary material appeared, which was basically a datasheet which include vast swathes of comments by many named people harvested from various blogs and put under headings such as “Excerpt Espousing Conspiracy Theory”

    This understandably provoked some dispute from the named parties. For example Richard Betts, a UK MET office scientist had this tweet exchange with a co-author John Cook
    Hi @skepticscience, why was my comment here … “espousing conspiracy theory”?! That’s just crazy.
    @richardabetts supplementary data for Recursive Fury are any comments *related* to particular theory. It’s raw data, not final paper.
    @skepticscience You included my remark in list entitled “excerpts espousing conspiracy theory”. This means you think I buy conspiracy theory

    Reading the above linked Stephan Lewandowsky’s blog post report on the retraction I now understand that the University of West Australia legal advice is to shrug this kind of thing as “confected outrage”, but I could understand how a privately funded publisher like Frontiers could see this as a mess that is best avoided.

  3. It’s a real shame that a fringe might be able to sue a perfectly valid and insightful paper out of the literature. The deniers and anti-vaxxers will only be emboldened by this move. Shame on Frontiers.

      1. Given the following statement, it sounds like no one has started legal action.

        “I’m entirely comfortable with you publishing the paper on the UWA web site. You and the University can easily be sued for any sorts of hurt feelings or confected outrage, and I’d be quite comfortable processing such a phony legal action as an insurance matter.”

        — Kimberley Heitman, B.Juris, LLB, MACS, CT, General Counsel, University of Western Australia

    1. Far from being insightful and valid, it was based on a self-selected sample with obvious biases, the authors misled readers about where the sample came from, the results depended on obvious outliers and a method that allows conclusions about the relation betwen beliefs about hoaxes even if no one believes in any of the hoaxes. Retaction is amply justified.

          1. Well, you could start with one where the subject of the investigation doesn’t get to write the conclusions.

      1. 1- You are thinking of the wrong paper. This particular paper doesn’t say anything about belief in hoaxes. It analyzes response to a previous paper – the one you are apparently thinking of.

        2- Even about the paper that you are actually thinking of, you are wrong. Download the data and remove all extreme answers. The correlation between climate skepticism and conspiracy belief is still there and massively significant. I tried it, so presumably you can too.

        3- As for the actual paper, the “amply justified” retraction was not based on the paper’s conclusions.

        The discrepancy between your (low) accuracy and your (high) moderation score suggests that some “contrarian” blogs have linked to this post and are bringing their “differently informed” traffic.

        1. YOu are right I was thiking of the wrong paper. But the point remains that pointing out these defects is not conspiracy ideation of whatever. I think it was this paper that included the demonstably false claim theat a link had been posted at Skeptical Science (and denying this was alleged evidence of conspiracy ideation). On the other paper about half the smal correlation dissappears if the outliers are thrown away, but the remaining half is more or less explained by the method, which allows slightly weaker agreement by some people who don’t believe in a hoax to be extrapolated to non-existent people. That’s what I meant by a method that allows conclusions about the relation between belif in hoaxes even if no-one actually believes there are any hoaxes.

    2. Too bad it’s so hard to recognize smoke blowing when it occurs.

      This is an attempt to add another “line of evidence” to the “chilling effect of legal action upon academic freedom” meme some are trying to push.

      One has to be impressed by the courage of those who, having pushed one really dumb story line – conspiracy ideation – launch another equally dumb story line. Here is a hint on how well this one is likely to proceed. Several news organizations have filed amicus briefs against Michael Mann’s argument that he is entitled to privacy over emails related to publically funded work.

    3. Have you looked at the actions of Michael Mann against Dr. Tim Ball or Mark Steyn? No one has sued Frontiers and the sound of the pounding feet of the mob is not to be heard around the ‘Fury’ paper.

      The only sound heard in it’s vicinity is the derisive sniff of people that can actually do statistics and have some standards for research. The methods and data gathering standards of this suet would have embarrassed the practitioners at ENRON and it is difficult to see why an serious academic in any quantitative discipline would go near it.

      The basis for the selection of comments was pathetically un-grounded in research standards, the aggregation of data points was nearly dartboard-like and the overreach of the conclusions was a clean ‘F’ in a freshman’s paper… but it is hailed as a tour-de-force?

      I believe it should be published far and wide for scrutiny and the feedback it deserves. Since the authors seem to have been involved in the retraction it seems the most likely theory is that sheer embarrassment caused them to take the ‘out’ they needed. The most greatest risk this paper faces is public scrutiny, the gravest threat to the authors is an academic review.

    4. It’s a garbage paper using very poor methodologies to prove a non-existent claim to advance a political point.

      Laughably it puts forward a conspiracy theory to “prove” that Deniers are all conspiracy theorists.

      Prove the science of Climate Change rather than attack your opponents in this shabby, shallow way.

      1. ‘Prove smoking is toxic’; ‘Prove Pd in petrol/paint/etc’ is toxic’ ‘Prove EMF is toxic’; …

        Irrelevant if not every technology ultimately poses first-unknown risks; that is no way to run a society. US Public Health Svc. begged GM & Standard Oil not to use Pd in petrol, pending better information on risk… nah! Economics is a far worse servant to science than is precaution. And it is evidently lots harder to prove CC is safe than the obverse.

        1. You mean “Pb”, don’t you? And the “precautionary principle”, if widely applied, would be the death of science and human progress, and greater empowerment of lawyers. Not a happy thought!

          1. Ugh-thanks! You can transform an economy to do anything; e.g cleaning up the mess non-thinking has created…or anything else. With greater precaution, science would continue to be employed discovering unknowns, funded by economic turnover.

    5. If it looks, acts and walks like a duck, it is a duck. This is the “book burning” and “book banning” that the left is frequently accusing “the Right” of. Free speech only for the climate hoaxers. Exchange of ideas, only for the climate change hucksters.

  4. the story broke at Bishop Hill, because Ben PIle (of blog Climate Resistance) had been tweeting a googled cached copy of a Skeptical Science article about the retraction (Sks is one of the authors of the papers website), that had been published and removed.

    the article said embargoed to the 20th, and Ben tweeted on the 20th.
    So it look like Skeptical science (one of the authors of ‘Fury’ runs it) had an article lined up to go, possibly published automatically, then perhaps removed, because Frontiers had not done anything yet (ie it is STILL on the website, with the same message as that of all the last year (at time of writing)

    very messy.

    1. Barry – did you, or do you know if anybody threatened legal action against the authors of the retracted paper, or UWA, or Frontiers?

      Again, this is a simple question, as the copious amount of commentaries in various blogs makes it difficult to ascertain the most basic aspects of the situation.

      1. If you read the FOIed documents on DeSmog it is extremely clear that someone was threatening a lawsuit:

        “If this proceeds to legal action”

        “I could potentially have a defamation action against the authors and publishers of this paper”

        “Obviously, I understand that any legal action would eventually have to be prosecuted under my real identity”

        “Remember that your company’s responsiveness to these matters will be a major factor in determining any future legal actions”

        1. You’re quoting a complaint filed regarding the original version of the paper. The journal took that version down, and when it republished the paper, the paper had been changed to address that complainant’s concerns.* There could be no concern of legal action for a demand they had already met.

          *Technically, they published two versions of the paper at the same time, one which had that change and one which didn’t. This was inadvertent, and it’d have been trivial to fix.

      2. I never threatened legal action, my concerns was as stateed above, and about 1/3 of the FOI correspondence is mine..

        interesting, I asked if I could obtaina copy the data the researchers had collected about me and retained, for the paper, and UWA told me to get lost.

        but my compliants to the journal Frontiers, were released by UWA under FOI, which are identifiably me (ie my blog is shown, and my name in another complaint is shown.

        I have according to UWA, no way to see what these publically funded researchers were collecting and holding against me for their research.

        so much for ‘ethics’ and the National Research Statement’ in Australia


      3. Reply to Omnologos’s question about threats of legal action:
        Most of the complainants were communicating privately during the complaints process, and I think I can say confidently that the only mentions of leg l action were those by Jeff Condon and Foxgoose which led to the article being twice revised. Redfearn at DeSmogBlog cites just two pieces of evidence; the fact that McIntyre’s complaint was couched in legalistic language, and my use of the word “defamatory” in my complaint, which I subsequently published at
        The article is clearly libellous of me and a number of other named individuals, but I never mentioned legal action, and the briefest acquaintance with my blog would show that this would be out of the question. Besides, I have repeated frequently my accusation that Lewandowsky lied about the survey methodology used in the Moon Hoax paper. He has never tried to answer my accusation. It stands.

  5. A paper that names people, cites them, and puts them in uncomplimentary boxes will always run into trouble.

    I do not understand how an experienced author like Lewandowski can let this happen, or why referees and editors did not spot this. Sloppiness all around. Paper rightly put into the dustbin.

    1. Indeed. A paper that names people and puts them in uncomplimentary boxes clearly violates the basic ethical rules of the field, for example those for UWA written at

      “Respect for human beings

      Respect is the common thread that binds the ethical consideration of human research.”

      It should have taken less than a day for Frontiers in Psychology to realise this. The fact that they dragged it out for over a year, then refused to admit the obvious ethics violation, resorting instead to vague remarks about ‘legal context’, makes things look very bad for the journal.

      1. So, it’s OK to do this in a blog, but not OK to do it in a paper? What you are suggesting is that just because it gets bundled into a PDF file and gets represented under the banner of a journal or publisher that this changes the ethics of the “human labelling”?

        1. Trashing people in blogs (twitter, fb, etc) is 49% of what the internet is all about. (50% is “adult content” and 1% is research, news, science, and all the important stuff.) A scientific journal should be held to a higher standard.

          1. Yes, but does it make it morally, or ethically, right? Scientifically, I agree with you, criticism is essential. BUt on one hand, we have “ethicists” blabbering away on blogs, blurting out whatever they want, but in a journal, why should that be so retracted? Where does it state that a blog should be held to lower standards than a journal?

          2. ” Where does it state that a blog should be held to lower standards than a journal?”~JATdS

            It is not “stated” it is insinuated in the distinction between official peer reviewed standards, verses the conversational free speech standards protected by the 1st Amendment.

            However, if you would like to see the ad hominem capital of the blogosphere you should visit the ‘anti-conspritatist’ website:



      2. Total nonsense. According to some on this forum, it is “unethical” to collect and document public statements made by people who have chosen to publicly espouse climate change denialism. Beyond absurd.

        1. it’s unethical, if you happen to be publically attacking the people you research, whilst researching them..

          which was the case here,more examples – (or you could just use the search box on his blog for – denier – ):

          (co-author Marriott – during the research period for Fury!)

          “….For me the obvious question – for which I’d hoped there was more discussion about – is how to challenge, combat and perhaps negate the denial movement”. – Marriott

          Another article, entitled – Anthony Watts Lies (again in the research period)
          – tags include: Bullshit, deniers, laughing stock

          Deniers hit record low on sea ice: Anthony Watts lies; Marc Morano qualifies as the Iraqi Information Minister of climate denial – 30th August 2012

          “Falling down: the denial continues, but from a distance its revealing
          To those who think “Surely at this point, even the most hard-core “sceptics” have to accept the data?” the answer is a definitive “No, they won’t”.
          For an example of this look no further than Anthony Watts (Watts up with that?) and Marc Morano (Climate Depot).
          These men have spent a considerable portion of their adult lives – and I might add built public profiles – denying the science and undermining public trust in scientists. ” – Marriott

          -now Marriott can write whatever he likes on his blog.

          But is he really an appropriate researcher?

    2. And yet, Richard, the retraction has nothing to do with that. They said they investigated ethics issues and found the claims baseless.

      The paper is being retracted merely because they’re afraid of ending up in court for a protracted legal battle.

      1. sure, Rob, sure…… UWA can ‘say’ anything they like…. except that now we know via FOI that what they ‘say’ is merely channeling Lewandowsky’s own self-exoneration, quite literally and verbatim:

        Lewandowsky conducted the ‘investigation’ (sic) and wrote his own ‘exoneration’ (sic)

        Can there be any descent into shamelessness which will ever trouble the fervent allies of Lewandowsky, Cook, et al.?

        p.s. McIntyre promises better (worse) to come….. stay tuned, folks.

      2. Rob – It is ridiculous to say an investigation was made and no issues found.

        Frontiers has failed to respond to any of the detailed criticisms. It is certain – irrefutable – that there were serious issues with peer review. It is absolutely certain that the papers silly claims about traffic at SkS were literally incoherent garbage. It is clear that using SkS stats as a representative proxy for other sites is worthless – ignoring the gross inaccuracy of the alleged statistics presented, the fact that the survey was NEVER posted at SkS, as even Mr. Curtis agrees, means that any SkS stats, whether accurate or not, have NO bearing on the result obtained from other sites.

        These and the many other issues have quite clearly NOT been looked at in any way by Frontiers. This is a gross failure of the entire peer review process.

        Show us a shred of proof ANY serious review was done on these many issues with the silly Fury paper.

        I think that both the orig LOG12 paper and this Fury paper were nothing more than another of Lewandowsy’s attempts to gin up negative media commentary towards those who are truly skeptic of the CAGW claims.

        Releasing LOG12 to the media, claiming it was peer reviewed, but focusing on a barely supported minor finding, which disappears when faked responses are removed, while including a media friendly purposely inflammatory title, was clearly done for one reason and one reason alone. It was not remotely a serious scientific paper. And Fury was even less so.

        Do you support this science by ambush? Where the facts are tortured and twisted to obtain the results the authors desired, and then highly inflammatory headlines are supplied to the media – not to the scientific community – and promoted to denigrate those who legitimately disagree? Is that adhering to the scientific process?

      3. Rob Honeycutt,

        Your assertion has been proved incorrect by the journal’s new statement. When will you retract and correct your inaccurate claims on this matter?

    3. The double standard at work is that scientists attach their name to their claims, as do published rebuttals, replication attempts, etc; …but non-scientists get to talk dirty about scientific work anonymously.

      So clearly the regression in Lewandosky’s paper isn’t worth much, but scientists should be free to name attackers, just as they must be if they opine in a scientific journal. Anyone who unfairly get criticized as ideationist can defend themselves as a scientists, or at least using science.

      1. I find ttweed defence of Lewandowsky’s right to name names particularly weak. We are talking about the words of a professional writing in his field, and that cannot be brought down to the same standards as an Everyman filling up his blog with words.

        Imagine if a cardiologist said that the person behind “ttweed” were at high risk of a heart attack. This would have an impact on ttweed’s life even if the cardiologist were absolutely wrong. Who knows, perhaps a potential business partner would google for ttweed and upon reading the diagnosis of a cardiologist, pull the plug on a potential deal to avoid the risk and hassle of working with a potentially-soon-dead partner. Then ttweed would have to fight back, demonstrate there was nothing wrong with his heart, maybe undergo a series of tests, etc.

        Now imagine if the same is done by a psychologist, in a field where one doesn’t even have the objective and clear diagnostic tools as in cardiology. The fighting back against anything written by the psychologist might as well be ten times harder, or a hundred. Some names might never be effectively cleared.

        This is why a psychologist should be extremely careful in branding people as “conspiracy ideationists”. Extremely.

        Instead in the case of Lewandowsky we have seen that even the Head of Climate Impacts at the Met Office, a scientist himself, and not a skeptic by a long shot, and not a conspiracy theorist at all, had to state the obvious twice, against the blatant mistake done in collecting the “raw data” for the now-retracted paper. One can only imagine the quality of the rest of the “raw data”, and still Lewandowsky and colleagues thought it appropriate to brand people.

    1. “The United States Congress passed a law in 2010 that recognized the adverse impact of foreign libel laws on the “ability of scholars and journalists to publish their work” (PUBLIC LAW 111-223). This law made judgments under English libel laws unenforceable in the United States.”

      This would have been under the Obama Administration. It is important, considering how the laws pertaining to PACs may have changed in that period, and how super-PACs ( coincidentally started in July, 2010. I don’t believe in coincidences. More needs to be revealed why this law was passed, by exactly which law-makers and if any of them are receiving contributions by PACs or super PACs that may be linked, in any way, to publishers.

      1. If you are really wondering why that law was passed: Under the 2010 law, judgments under English libel laws unenforceable in the United States because the US and most other advanced nations have this thing called freedom of speech which actually to this date is not constitutionally protected in the UK. The law was passed because English libel laws (which are a joke) are increasingly used by hostile parties to try to shut up open debate published anywhere in the world. I don’t have any idea how this is linked to super PAC contributions.

        1. Money serves two functions. Always. A corrupting factor. An incentive. While the US and the UK quibble about the power of holding the higher ethical values of the planet, their own inner values and norms are rapidly eroding. This is leading to the emergence of massive forces that these societies are unable to counter, no matter how many laws they pass a year. You need only to take a few steps south of the Texan border to appreciate this.

      2. reportedly the 2010 law was passed on UNANIMOUS votes in both the US House and Senate….. and was motivated in particular by “libel tourism” activity by sympathizers and supporters of jihad terrorism:

        Mark Steyn announces “Dream Team” of legal experts

        Lewandowsky may be more likely to end up as a defendant than as a plaintiff in a free speech or libel case, but he had better pay close attention to how the Steyn vs. Mann controversies and legal proceedings go.

  6. The “opinion research” was shoddily done and would not have passed peer review if not for the fact that it supported the favored view on a current hot topic. If someone had used the same techniques to associate, for example, support for abortion with the holding of controversial views on euthanasia and forced sterilization, it would never have seen the light of day. Or, the open access journal it was published in would have been trashed for slack editing and review.

    Here’s what they said they _wanted_ to say in their notice: “The idea would be that the team’s report could state that they have seen UWA’s decision and the background documents and are happy to be able to rely on that as a solid and well-founded decision (assuming that to be the case.)”
    What they actually said: “This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study.”
    A whole lot more mealy-mouthed, no? Close enough to let Rob Honeycutt go around here repeating, They decided the complaints were baseless. But they carefully did not say that. And they sure didn’t say what they wanted to say.

  8. The graphic and links (from Watching the Deniers blog – Marriott – co-author) that I posted in my first comment at Lewandowsky’s website, were a few weeks before the ‘research’ period of the Recursive Fury paper..

    Here is another graphic, in the middle of the ‘research’ period by Fury, co-author Marriott. Where Marriott is attacking Anthony Watts, who was later named as a ‘source of conspiracy ideation in the paper and the WUWT graphic shown, is adulterated by Marriott to say “Verified Bullshit” (the article in question is my authorship)

    Marriot and Cook were brought in because they were supposedly independent of LOG12, yet Mariott was cheerleading Lewandowsky, and attacking LOG12 critics. (13 articles about it in the research period)

    I don’t care what was said by Marriott on his blog, the issue is that ethically, how can a researcher be seen to be publically attacking his research subjects, before after, or especially during the research period of the paper. (I am even interacting with him in the comments!)

  9. Not only that, but the math in the paper is resoundingly wrong.

    The data shows a very weak tendency for believers in CAGW to also believe the moon landing is a hoax, as opposed to skeptics, who are comparatively less likely to believe this. What the data really show is that very very few people actually believe the moon landing was a hoax.

    There were only 10 respondents to the survey who agreed or agreed strongly with the statement “the moon landings never happened and were faked in a Hollywood studio”.

    Of those 10, six agreed or strongly agreed with statements representing the consensus, or alarmist view of climate science.

    Of the remaining 4, three of them agreed strongly or very strongly with each of the other 14 conspiracy raised in the survey. Kind of seems odd, from a statistical point of view, but regardless;

    If there is a correlation to be made; CAGW accepters would be more strongly correlated with serious belief in faked moon landings than rejectors of CAGW.

    If you need to throw in the wishy washy, you’ve already wondered way off course in your effort to associate non-belief in CAGW with conspiracy acceptors.

    Only through a very vague statistical procedure called structural equation modeling are they able to establish the weakest of superior correlations, and the paper should have been rejected on that basis alone. There is simply no meaningful correlation of any kind in this paper.

    As to the survey itself; Lewandowski hiimself did not actually ask a single skeptic blog to participate. The likelyhood that he has any actual skeptics in his survey is dubious at best. The fact that he didn’t follow up when the invitations were ignored as spam by ALL the skeptical blogs shows how intent he was in his intention to conduct an unbiased survey.

    Nevermind that the statistical validity of any data resulting from an online survey so situated and so conducted is completely laughable.

    How the journal’s editors didn’t catch that is beyond belief.

    There are seriously some academic journals out there, especially in the “soft sciences” that just need to be done away with.

  10. Epidemiologists Vote to Keep Doing Junk Science

    Epidemiology Monitor (October 1997)

    An estimated 300 attendees a recent meeting of the American College of
    Epidemiology voted approximately 2 to 1 to keep doing junk science!

    Specifically, the attending epidemiologists voted against a motion
    proposed in an Oxford-style debate that “risk factor” epidemiology is
    placing the field of epidemiology at risk of losing its credibility.

    Risk factor epidemiology focuses on specific cause-and-effect
    relationships–like heavy coffee drinking increases heart attack risk. A
    different approach to epidemiology might take a broader
    perspective–placing heart attack risk in the context of more than just
    one risk factor, including social factors.

    Risk factor epidemiology is nothing more than a perpetual junk science machine.

    But as NIEHS epidemiologist Marilyn Tseng said “It’s hard to be an
    epidemiologist and vote that what most of us are doing is actually harmful
    to epidemiology.”

    But who really cares about what they’re doing to epidemiology. I thought
    it was public health that mattered!

    we have seen the “SELECTIVE” blindness disease that
    Scientist have practiced over the past ten years. Seems the only color they
    see is GREEN BACKS, it’s a very infectious disease that has spread through
    the Scientific community with the same speed that any infectious disease
    would spread. And has affected the T(thinking) Cells as well as sight.

    Seems their eyes see only what their paid to see. To be honest, I feel
    after the Agent Orange Ranch Hand Study, and the Slutz and Nutz Implant
    Study, they have cast a dark shadow over their profession of being anything
    other than traveling professional witnesses for corporate hire with a lack
    of moral concern to their obligation of science and truth.

    The true “Risk Factor” is a question of ; will they ever be able to earn
    back the respect of their profession as an Oath to Science, instead of
    corporate paid witnesses with selective vision?
    Oh, if this seems way harsh, it’s nothing compared to the damage of peoples
    lives that selective blindness has caused!

    The rise of a pseudo-scientific links lobby

    Every day there seems to be a new study making a link between food, chemicals or lifestyle and ill-health. None of them has any link with reality.

  11. For the record, Lewandowsky’s recent coauthor of a paper called “The Subterranean War on Science,” none other than mathematician Michael Mann of hockey stick fame, no doubt one of Lewandowsky’s main sources of climate science information, himself in 2013 is on record as actively promoting to the media a supposed vindication of his life’s work in the top journal Science in which Harvard researchers created a very alarming hockey stick blade by bizarrely re-dating low lying input data that afforded a blade by simple spurious data drop off at the end, a pure artifact. This artifact garnered serious media attention as seen in this screenshot of Mann’s Facebook page along with a straightforward plot of the paper’s input data that clearly falsifies it’s “super hockey stick” conclusion (as main author Marcott described it to NY Times reporter Revkin over video chat):

    It is not the Moon landing skeptics deny, as Lewandowsky claims. It is merely the claims of the likes of Michael Mann who quite clearly fails the Science 101 task of checking one’s conclusions against the basic background facts of the case. Clearly peer review in climate science is so corrupted that rational observers can only refer to the field as climate “science.”

    -=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in carbon chemistry (Columbia/Harvard)

  12. Whoa – my post above was wrong. Rob Honeycutt wasn’t just making up his repeated claim that “They said they investigated ethics issues and found the claims baseless” Or even (as I thought) exaggerating what had been said to improve the story.
    He’s quoting Lewandowsky about himself:
    You can’t make this stuff up.

    Rob Honeycutt and others like him: If you care about global warming and climate, go out and criticize people like Lewandowsky. It’s not Steve McIntyre, it’s people like you and him. All McIntyre does is point it out.
    If you want to have an impact as scientists, stop acting like political activists. If you feel you must be political activists, be very careful not to convince us that you’re no more honest than the average politician. You destroy our trust in you at the risk of your entire cause. The minute we can’t trust you, the minute we see you as partisans, that’s the last minute we will believe that what you are doing is science.
    You are destroying your cause.

  13. Has seen a previous situation in which a researcher accused of ethical and scientific misconduct not only dictated the outcome of the ‘investigation’ (sic) but even supplied the self-serving text that would be the official summary of said ‘investigation’?? So many (alleged) miscreants through the years would have loved the scandalous academic in-breeding that permits this sort of behavior:

    1. For anyone wondering what this is all about, the disgraceful nature of the university’s handling of the prior Lewandowsky “Moon Hoax” paper is suggested here:

      Under UWA policies, if they receive an allegation of research misconduct, the “Designated Person” (DVCR Owens) is supposed to “conduct a preliminary assessment of the allegation” to determine whether “the substance of the allegation, if proven, would amount to research misconduct; and whether a prima facie case of research misconduct exists”. The Designated Person is required to maintain records of their investigation.

      UWA documents show that no such investigation took place in response to complaints by me and others about Lewandowsky’s failure to properly inform the University about the scope of changes to the Understanding Statistical Trends protocol. These changes included the introduction of deception/active concealment of skeptic bloggers, a change that could not be granted by ethics officer Kirk, but which necessitated approval by the University’s Human Research Ethics Committee.

      Most remarkably, the widely-cited key conclusions of the “investigation” – “We have considered the issues raised by Mr McIntyre in his letter to the Editor of Psychological Science dated 12 October and found them to be baseless. The research reported in the above paper was conducted in compliance with all applicable ethical guidelines” – were not written by an investigator or university official but ghostwritten by Lewandowsky himself and signed by DVCR Owens within minutes of receipt from Lewandowsky.

      Today’s note pertains only to the ethics approval of Hoax. The circumstances surrounding the ethics application for Fury are much worse and will be discussed separately.

  14. Interesting, it seems a commenter called Travis Stewart on PZ Myers blog has elicited a new response from Frontiers regarding this retraction which seems to detract from the impression that the journal caved into any external pressure but rather their own decision, see my emphasis (if it works)

    ” Thank you for your message. Our decision on the retraction of this article was taken on the basis of a number of factors. This decision had nothing to do with caving in to pressure and was driven by our own analysis of various factors and advice received. Frontiers is not engaged in the climate science debate but is clearly engaged in favor of solid science, and that it is of regret that the weight of the different factors involved led us to the conclusion that we had to retract the article.

    Frontiers cannot comment further on this decision and we appreciate your understanding.”

  15. Omnologos mentions:
    “the possibility that contrary to what the Moon Hoax authors claim their survey did not appear on SkS”, and adds:
    “As no link has ever been produced any reasonable person would be forgiven to think the criticism is valid.”

    In fact the evidence for the non-linking of the survey at SkS is far stronger than that. There is no article linking to the survey at SkS in late August /early September 2010, and none on the Wayback machine, which was sampling SkS every few weeks, and no links in the SkepticalScience sidebar listing past articles.

    Lewandowsky made near identical requests to eight blogs on 29/30 August 2010. Seven answered straight away: “I’ll do it / done.” Only John Cook said he’d do it later, when he put up his own survey. He never did put up his own survey. A month later, Lewandowsky was giving preliminary results of the survey at Monash University based on 1100+ responses – the final tally.

    Two years later in August 2012, when the prepublished version of the paper was publicised at the Guardian and the Talkingclimate blog, Barry Woods failed to find the SkS link and wrote about it to Lewandowsky, who assured him that the link had existed, and he’d had the URL, but had lost it. A little later, and independently, I made the same enquiries at SkepticalScience. Cook answered with a private email, insisting that the link had existed, though he could find no trace.

    We didn’t know it at the time, but Cook had just been hired by the University of Western Australia to collect the critical blog comments on “Moon Hoax” which were to provide the raw data for “Recursive Fury”. Critical comments were listed under a number of headings. Comments on the apparent non-linking of the survey at SkS did not appear. The accusation that Cook and Lewandowsky had conspired to cover up the non-linking of the survey at SkepticalScience did not appear in their list of conspiracy theories.

    But it hadn’t been forgotten. On the 29th October, Cook mailed to Lewandowsky:
    “…. that batch of emails you sent me where you and I talk about me linking to you from the SkS blog, has that been released to the public yet? Considering the whole conspiracy theory that SkS didn’t link to you, I’m wondering how the denialosphere will chew on that email”.

    And Lewandowsky mailed back:
    “It’s been released. But they chew on ethics now. Links are sooo September 2012 now”.

    1. geoff – if Lewandosky made the request at the end of August 2010, and he had the whole 1100+ responses mentioned in his Monash University presentation a month later, does that mean all respondents did it during the month of September 2010?

  16. This paper remains a source of controversy even after being retracted. As noted elsewhere, the journal has stated that “Our decision on the retraction of this article was taken on the basis of a number of factors. This decision had nothing to do with caving in to pressure and was driven by our own analysis of various factors and advice received.“.

    This contradicts the various statements about simply “legal fears [having] led to the withdrawal of a paper“.

    One of the reviewer (Elaine McKewon) has now written her story wrt Recursive Fury.

    I am not sure Frontiers will be happy with McKewon’s piece, where they are described as lacking “more backbone”. In any case, questions are now being asked about McKewon’s qualifications as peer-reviewer, given that she is a “journalism PhD candidate”.

    Also ironically her PhD subject is “to explain how the scientific consensus on climate change was reconstructed as a ‘scientific debate’ in the Australian news media“, in other words, the making of a conspiracy.

    This goes on top of Lewandosky’s belief that there is a “sustained and ongoing attack on the research” with “activities beneath the surface hidden from public view” as part of a “subterranean war on science” itself, following “a common playbook” and including “a barrage of complaints“. And in the original “Moon Hoax” paper Lewandosky mentions “organized denial“.

    Not sure how all of that would differ from conspiracy ideation.

  17. Wow: Frontiers follows up.
    “As we published in our retraction statement, a small number of complaints were received during the weeks following publication. Some of those complaints were well argued and cogent and, as a responsible publisher, our policy is to take such issues seriously. Frontiers conducted a careful and objective investigation of these complaints. Frontiers did not “cave in to threats”; in fact, Frontiers received no threats. The many months between publication and retraction should highlight the thoroughness and seriousness of the entire process.

    As a result of its investigation, which was carried out in respect of academic, ethical and legal factors, Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics. Frontiers informed the authors of the conclusions of our investigation and worked with the authors in good faith, providing them with the opportunity of submitting a new paper for peer review that would address the issues identified and that could be published simultaneously with the retraction notice.

    The authors agreed and subsequently proposed a new paper that was substantially similar to the original paper and, crucially, did not deal adequately with the issues raised by Frontiers.”

  18. Alvin, I think you are conflating the two issues. You seem to want to bring the climate debate to this forum whereas this forum or more specifically, this thread, is about the retraction of a psychology article from a psychology journal.

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