Journal that retracted conspiracy ideation-climate skepticism paper says it did not “cave into threats”

frontiersFrontiers in Psychology, which last month formally retracted a controversial paper linking climate skepticism to conspiracy ideation, says it did not cave in to threats from skeptics, contrary to what a lot of news reports and commentary implied or claimed.

For example, summarizing a number of those reports this morning, before Frontiers had issued its statement, co-author Stephan Lewandowsky wrote on his blog:

By and large, the mainstream media coverage seems to have picked up on what’s really at issue here, namely academic freedom and editorial intimidation by a small band of vociferous individuals.

Here’s the statement, in which Frontiers stresses the rights of the people Lewandowsky and his colleagues wrote about:

(Lausanne, Switzerland) – There has been a series of media reports concerning the recent retraction of the paper Recursive Fury:Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, originally published on 18 March 2013 in Frontiers in Psychology. Until now, our policy has been to handle this matter with discretion out of consideration for all those concerned. But given the extent of the media coverage – largely based on misunderstanding – Frontiers would now like to better clarify the context behind the retraction.

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.

We remind the community that the retracted paper does not claim to be about climate science, but about psychology. The actions taken by Frontiers sought to ensure the right balance of respect for the rights of all.

One of Frontiers’ founding principles is that of authors’ rights. We take this opportunity to reassure our editors, authors and supporters that Frontiers will continue to publish – and stand by – valid research. But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper.

Frontiers is happy to speak to anyone who wishes to have an objective and informed conversation about this. In such a case, please contact the Editorial Office at

Costanza Zucca, Editorial Director

Fred Fenter, Executive Editor

The statement from Frontiers is noteworthy in that it seems to be saying that researchers need consent, presumably based on a protocol approved by an institutional review board or its equivalent, to draw conclusions based on material posted to Twitter or other publicly available social media. We have to think about that a bit, but would welcome thoughts from Retraction Watch readers.

Please see an update on this post.

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334 thoughts on “Journal that retracted conspiracy ideation-climate skepticism paper says it did not “cave into threats””

  1. You do not need permission to cite something someone said in public. Recursive Fury went far beyond that, ascribing “psychopathological characteristics” to those they cited. In straight language, they called them nuts.

    1. RT is correct. The authors have a right to quote postings to the internet. But they cannot publish a psychological study without proper protections for the subjects. The real question is why did this paper get accepted when it apparently hasn’t a hint of IRB approval or control?

      1. Dan, this idea of protection falls down, because as the paper quite clearly states in dealing with criticisms, “We therefore argue that our extension of individual-level work on conspiracist ideation to the level of amorphous groups is within precedent in two areas of scholarly enquiry.”

        In short, the paper is dealing with climate change deniers as a group not as individuals and is identifying conspiracy ideation across a population. It has used public statements, made in full awareness by commenters that they were in the public sphere.

        If you follow through with this strange idea of “proper protections” you would never be able to analyse stories in mainstream media to detect bias or make other studies, which would make it awfully difficult media communications researchers. How could we ever question Fox News Fair and Balanced approach with actual research.

        1. Alvin, you are utterly wrong. Lewandowsky attributed psychological pathologies to persons he had not met on the basis of often incorrectly attributed quotes from blog comments. That is completely inexcusable and against all ethical standards in the field. That you and others so vigorously support this behaviour shows only the absolute corruption that the politics of AGW has introduced.

          1. My, the forces have been marshaled for this one. Are you a scientist or a specialist in the field?

            I’ve read the paper right through, twice now. There is no suggestion that the individuals suffer from those pathologies and to read it that way is to exercise the same overly sensitive response to being called a denier, which colours so much of the anti-climate science propaganda.

            But back to that original question, what is the reason for the retraction – a defamation threat or ethics? It seems the journal itself is not quite clear.

            I think the journal may have made a fundamental mistake with this latest changed response, which may very well lead to more details being revealed publicly. I shall watch on with interest.

          2. “My, the forces have been marshaled for this one. Are you a scientist or a specialist in the field?”

            If one needs not to be a scientist or a specialist in the field to act as a reviewer of the paper, then why does it follow that a non-scientists or non-specialists view on the paper carries little weight?

            Miss Elaine McKewon, one of the reviewers, may have a fine intellect, but I suspect that she has little understanding of Psychiatry or Statistical analysis.

          3. McKewon’s Conversation piece makes a fantastical synopsis of Cook13, in which she seems to believe it was established that 97 percent of climate scientists agreed there were “significant risks associated with” climate change.

          4. Alvin Stone:

            “My, the forces have been marshaled for this one.”

            Please tell us more about these “forces,” Alvin.

          5. Quite simple Brad, many of the respondents in this comment thread frequent the denier blogs. Clearly the word has got around through the usual channels and as usual, deniers have come across to get all hands-on-hips about it so that Retraction Watch can see how outrageous the paper is. The sad thing, not many researchers have made thoughtful comments opposing it to this point, which suggests they may not have such a big problem with Recursive Fury.

          6. Alvin:

            “The sad thing, not many researchers have made thoughtful comments opposing it to this point, which suggests they may not have such a big problem with Recursive Fury.”

            Yes. That would indeed be sad.

          7. Alvin,

            you say,

            “…The sad thing, not many researchers have made thoughtful comments opposing it to this point, which suggests they may not have such a big problem with Recursive Fury.”

            That is far from the only or the most plausible account of the reception of the “Recursive Fury” paper among researchers in the field (we are all speculating here, unless someone can add substantiated info from discussions by research psychologists). You can’t possibly reach that inference (rationally) without solid evidence. Some other options include,

            (1) virtually all researchers in the field are proving uninterested in Lewandowsky’s obviously biased work


            (2) as we have seen a number of times in climate science, researchers with more critical views mostly keep their heads down and concentrate on their own specialized work, especially if they are not specialists in the sub-fields where egregiously weak work is going on.

            Who really wants to spend their scientific career addressing the failings of Stephan Lewandowsky or Michael Mann? Most sensible researchers will simply avoid and ignore them as much as possible. That is one reason that criticism is left to the interested public, bloggers and also statistical experts like Steve McIntyre.

        2. Alvin,

          Dr. Lewandowsky thought the same thing. He thought he was free to write a paper analyzing comments.
          He contacted his ethics officer requesting clarification.
          She wrote that he would need to amend his approvals, and she took his email as a request to amend his approvals. They neglected to complete the authorization forms and questionaires.
          Lewandowsky also misrepresented his research. In his request for clarification from the ethics officer he stated there would be no contact with the subjects. However, he and his co authors were in contact with the subjects. Further, Lewandowsky and his team had already begun the work BEFORE they asked the ethics officer for clarification.
          In summary

          1. lewandowsky thought as you do that he did not need to amend his approvals.
          2. the ethics officer informed him that he would need to amend his approvals and she took his
          mail requesting clarification as a request for amendment
          3. they did not complete the paperwork necessary
          4. they began work before making the request
          5. they misrepresented the nature of their contact with the subjects.

    2. This point ALMOST sounds reasonable until you think about it. We are writing in a blog = social media. Our words are out there. You can call me nuts and I can call you nuts! When you post something in a public place, you are exposing yourself to criticism and ridicule. Any “psychological” evaluation of someone based on a few posted sentences is obviously superficial, and cannot be equated with releasing private doctor-patient conversations.

      1. You would be correct if we were not talking about a scientific journal.

        It’s perfectly reasonable to write a polemic denouncing your opponents as insane. But it is not acceptable to publish this as if it were a scientific study. It is also a specific ethical violation if you are an MD or a psychologist.

        1. The point is that there is a clear distinction between a clinical diagnosis and a statement to the effect that a certain behavior fits the pattern of a specific psychological profile. Unfortunately, the original article is no longer available so I cannot check to see precisely what was said and in what context.

          1. @Alvin Stone

            While you can find the paper via the CogSciLab Publications heading on your link, I think when you say “at the University of Western Australia” you must mean this place, which is the University of Western Australia page that Lewandowsky indirectly references when linking to the paper:


            however I notice the University of Western Australia are *not* also hosting the supplementary material for the paper on that page; the supplementary material included a table listing people by name under the heading “Excerpt Espousing Conspiracy Theory” and which AFAIK provoked the majority of complaints – including this one from Richard Betts a climate scientist at the UK Met Office:

            @skepticscience You included my remark in list entitled “excerpts espousing conspiracy theory”. This means you think I buy conspiracy theory—
            Richard Betts (@richardabetts) March 21, 2013

            Do you know if UWA are hosting the supplementary material on their site anywhere?

            I’m just a layman, is it acceptable scientific practice to arbitrarily drop the supplementary material from a paper?

          2. Fair enough, I took up your suggestion and sent them an email asking if they are already, or planning to host it in future, and reminded them of the fact the paper itself makes multiple references to the SM.

            I had a few days ago posed the same question in the first comment on Stephan Lewandowksy’s Shaping Tommorow’s World blog, in which he first announced that the UWA was hosting his retracted paper “More Bandwidth for ‘Recursive Fury'” but he hasn’t responded there.

          3. “The point is that there is a clear distinction between a clinical diagnosis and a statement to the effect that a certain behavior fits the pattern of a specific psychological profile.”

            It’s OK to say that if you are a polemicist. It is not OK if you are a psychologist or an MD.

          4. Its not any ‘research ‘ worth a dam its quality is far to poor for that , let alone its ‘ethics problems ‘
            Why work that fails to reach the standard expected of a undergraduate handing in a essay, is consider acceptable when it comes to the ‘professionals’ working in climate science continues to be a mystery.

            If I was one of Lew students I would demand to be judge by his standards , then I could put any old rubbish in and pass .

          5. Alvin,

            The paper is clearly not a polemic but a piece of research, as anyone reading it can see.

            I’m not sure what substantive point you are trying to make. But seems that under US defamation precedents not being a polemic is precisely what ratchets up the risk for the a scholarly journal. The context of “research journal” is precisely what is likely to cause readers, judges and juries to interpret claims as either statements of fact or opinions about issues that involve facts.

          6. The two are not mutually exclusive. The paper is obviously both. The research is dubious at best. The conclusions based on the research are “clearly” polemical.

          7. If this work of Lewandowsky had been peer-reviewed properly, the peers ought to have noticed beforehand what later was called superficial, unethical and so on. Have the peers been superficial? Or was it -in this case- a pal review? Any way, peer-reviews are not necessarily the gold standard in sciences.

          8. I don’t believe the journal or the university have called it superficial or unethical (except through implication in this latest statement noted above, which contradicts earlier statements). The problem was with legal threats. It’s nice to have a personal opinion about the paper but it was the lawyers who were brought in for other reasons.

            Deniers also have personal opinions about Mann’s hockeystick, but it has withstood the peer review test and was even reinforced last year through a very comprehensive PAGES paper.

            As I have noted somewhere else on this comment list, if you have a problem then attack it in the proper manner through a peer reviewed response. If no one is prepared to do that through the proper channels then one can only assume this is all hot air about hurt feelings and the paper’s findings stand.

          9. Alvin Stone @ April 5, 2014 – 5:56. It is kind of hard to submit “a peer reviewed response” when the authors and UWA refuse to reveal and share the data. Barry Woods wants to do so but cannot get the data upon which the paper is based.

          10. If a paper says Mr X displays psychopathology traits what destiny for Mr X’s commentary against the paper?

            The authors can simply state that Mr X’s comment continues and confirms the psychopathology…unless of course Mr X is given the tools to demonstrate the psychopathology description as wrong.

          11. There’s plenty of evidence that their study did not follow the stated methodology. Even worse, there’s plenty of evidence that the analysis itself was flawed. No need for replication for this. The standards of UWA itself require that the data be shared.

            This is not a question of repeating the “same” study. In this case, the study itself is highly questionable. The authors need to show their work to demonstrate that they didn’t make the mistakes that seem quite evident from analysis done (even without the data!) by third parties.

          12. Alvin Stone @ April 5, 2014 at 7:25 pm

            Interesting. Is it science if you publish papers drawing conclusions from “data” which no one else is allowed to examine and therefore question?

          13. UWA rules require Lewandowsky to share his data. Further the question Woods wants to answer ( its actually a different paper) can only be answered by looking at the metadata. That is, he has a provable thesis about the metadata that requires the metadata be released.

          14. Let’s take as an example a statement that “Must Be Wrong” (one of the supposed psychopathological categories the whiners object to) accurately characterizes the logic used in a public statement. It is ridiculous to define this interpretation as a psychiatric diagnosis! How about we replace “MBW” with “silly”? Is this also a psychological profile that should never be uttered outside a clinical diagnosis? Is there any conceivable description of illogical thinking that is not offensive to you folks? In essence you are saying that anyone who disagrees with you is unethical. How about this? You think I am silly and I think you are silly. Why go beyond that?

          15. Tom – First of all since most complaints made in public were about the apparent diagnoses made in Recursive Fury, Lewandosky could have closed that side of the querelle at once by telling somebody, anybody that those were, in fact, no diagnoses.

            Secondly and independently, all it takes in a research is for just one possible medical aspect to be included, and the Declaration of Helsinki applies, at least in the eyes of this commenter. The DH implies informed prior consent and nobody has ever even hinted that Lewandosky tried to consider that route at any point.

            This goes beyond legal technicalities, retraction documents and hurt feelings. Without the Declaration of Helsinki there is no legitimate medical research in human subjects. It’d be a monstrous world.

      2. We are writing in a blog = social media. Our words are out there.

        The Common Rule nonetheless applies. It is also not up to the researchers to decide for themselves whether the work is exempt or not absent a specific institutional policy. In the U.S., it seems likely that this work would have been exempt under the standard in 45 § C.F.R. 46.101(b)(4). In Australia, not so much (PDF; ¶¶ 5.1.22–.23). It required referral to a Human Research Ethics Committee.

        1. I should have said “Declaration of Helsinki” rather than “Common Rule” in my previous comment (which is in moderation as I post this).

        2. Narad I was a bit surprised that US seems to exempt the HR process (I reached the same conclusions you did). However, as a cover-my-*** I still would have pushed this through the IRB process.

    3. So good to see Richard Tol here at Retraction Watch. Hope we see a lot more of him here in the future.

      More generally, how should we refer to climate deniers?

      1. “More generally, how should we refer to climate deniers?”

        Use their names. It’s an ancient secret. When, say, Steve Goddard, denies a science fact, you simply say “Steven Goddard denies X” When, David Archibald or Tim Ball deny known science you simply say
        Tim Ball denies X” “climate denier” is a horrible term, because it does not specify WHO and it does not specify WHAT. Some critics of climate science deny the temperature record, some deny the effects of C02.. some dont deny ANY of the science, but rather criticisize the solutions. It’s a rich debate.

    4. Incidentally, this idea that Psychopathology was involved is not an idea that derives from reading the work in question, but rather, it is an idea that is acquired from the blogs that have piled into this particular teacup.

      1. Craig,

        You are mistaken about who introduced the word “psychopathology”. Frontiers introduced this word into the discussion when the posted their clarification. You can see their use of the word in this bit

        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.

        Are you suggesting Frontiers acquired this word from some blog? If so, could you tell us which and provide a link so we can see the first use of the word in the context of the Fury paper?

        Beyond that, are you suggesting that in “Fury” Lew and Crew did not do what Fronteirs said? Using the definition of “psychopathological”, are the characteristics “NI”, “NS” and so on not psychopathological characteristics? If you think they aren’t, could you explain the meaning of the word and give examples of a few characteristics that are psycholpathological and a few that are not, explaining how you diagnose which are which?

        1. I didn’t say anything about who introduced the term “psychopathology”. We would call that, “a strawman”.

          What I’m saying is that the people who inaccurately claim the said paper said anything about individuals’ psychopathology have obviously been primed in this inaccurate belief by the characteristically inaccurate comments on the subject that have been made over the last few days by the usual inaccurate blogs.

          1. Craig,

            I didn’t say anything about who introduced the term “psychopathology”. We would call that, “a strawman”.

            You wrote this:

            This idea that Psychopathology was involved is not an idea that derives from reading the work in question, but rather, it is an idea that is acquired from the blogs that have piled into this particular teacup.

            I construed you to be suggesting that blogs introduced this ‘idea’. But expressing this ‘idea’ that the behavior involves “psychopathology” (as opposed to something else) involves using the word “psychopathology”. Frontiers introduced the word, and as far as I can tell that means they introduced the “idea”.

            If you I have put words in your mouth (i.e. created a strawman) might I suggest you clarify what you meant by introducing “the idea”? And provide examples that show where the “idea” were introduced. That way people can figure out whether the idea was “acquired from the blogs that have piled into this particular teacup” and also whether the “idea” might not have been introduced in other places first?

    5. Lewandowsky has now issued a response on some points in a blog article at Shaping Tomorrow’s World:

      Revisiting a Retraction

      Revisiting a Retraction

      By Stephan Lewandowsky
      Professor, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol
      Posted on 7 April 2014

      I’m not going to enter any speculation on the accuracy of his narrative or the legal points regarding a document that is not (yet) public. Right now it’s still in a “he said, he said…” impasse without sufficient information in the public realm.

      All I can say is that if Lewandowsky’s account is accurate then the journal may well need to scramble to defend its behavior. On the other hand, most of us have learned not to rely upon anything that issues from Lewandowsky, so we will have to see what other information emerges.

  2. Personally, I agree that researchers should obtain consent to analyze self-published or social media content IF their material is being directly quoted or is otherwise identifiable. For one thing, it’s difficult or impossible to ascertain if the individuals posting information are minors or in some other way at-risk or not. For another, it’s best practice as far as Respect for Persons goes, isn’t it?

  3. Except that this wasn’t about drawing conclusions from Twitter posts*, it was about misrepresenting a survey that was sent around as something it wasn’t and, apparently, up to and including fabricating said responses.

    (And yeah, according to the standards of UWA, they have an ethics board that requires that the subjects of said research need to consent, so take it up w/ the author’s uni.)

    It’s probably also worth pointing out that the university that controls the data sets will *not* release them to other researchers, which is academically bad form and, while that isn’t proof in and of itself of malfeasance, it certainly gives an air of impropriety, no?

    *And seriously guys: even if it was that, do you really think drawing conclusions about the *psychopathology* of people from *Twitter* posts is reasonable?

        1. That’s a nonsensical interpretation of the work’s methodology and the words “malfeasance and impropriety” describe actions that have not occurred.

          1. Craig,
            Who are accusing of discussing an action that did not occur. ECM? What action that has not occurred action are you suggesting he alleged?

            The university was asked to supply data. The request is an action that occurred.
            They refused to supply the data. Refusal is ‘an action’ and that action did occur.

          2. I am not aware of any researchers being refused access to data. That action is not an action that I have seen any evidence of having occurred.

            “The university was asked to supply data” was not the statement.

          3. Craig,

            “I am not aware of any researchers being refused access to data. That action is not an action that I have seen any evidence of having occurred.

            You may be unaware of this refusal and you may be unaware of the evidence. But that does not mean it did not occur. There are probably many things that happen in the universe that you, personally, are unaware of and have no evidence of, and yet, they occurred.

            “The university was asked to supply data” was not the statement.

            The statement as “the university that controls the data sets will *not* release them to other researchers,”

            If your complaint is that I addressed both the event that was claimed to occur (i.e. that the refusal to provide data ) and an additional event ECM didn’t specifically mention (i.e. that this refusal followed a request) happened after someone wishing to do research requested the data, I willingly admit that ECM did not specifically mention that the data were requested.

            He only said the university refused to release them. Many readers might have inferred that the refusal likely followed a request, but maybe it was sloppy of ECM not to explicitly state that the data the university refused to release was data someone specifically requested.

  4. I wasn’t really sure that they wanted IRB approval. I thought they might have been referring to defamation or other legal issues, which I don’t think IRB approval would address. I also wondered if they just thought it was bad science to base conclusions about psychopathology based on limited information from the media.

    1. If they thought it was bad science, why didn’t the peer reviewers pick up on it and why did the journal go ahead an publish it? The journal has explicitly stated it is not questioning the science. That leaves ethics and legal action. On that front the journal is less clear and, quite obviously by publishing the paper, the University of Western Australia is comfortable with both.

      1. Among the few peer reviewers for this article were people such as Elaine McKewon who recently wrote an article about the retraction titled “The journal that gave in to climate deniers’ intimidation”. There was not a snowball’s chance such a peer reviewer would find anything wrong with this paper. A proper peer review should have found these problems.

      2. You should ask that question of the Review Editor, Viren Swami, who was also personally reviewed the paper. Why did he miss the problems with this paper, which were so transparent that a careful reading of it leads to obvious contradictions? How did it come to be that a third-year journalism student was given a role in reviewing this paper?

        Journals don’t act like corporations, there’s a great more lateral extent to these organizations, with a good deal of autonomy given to the (generally unpaid) editors that handle the individual papers.

        1. I don’t think it should surprise much that McKewon was involved in the review, considering that the retracted paper cites two of her papers. That she was ‘just’ a PhD student is irrelevant. Plenty of people without an education beyond a Master’s (or sometimes even Bachelor’s) have reviewed scientific papers, selected because they apparently have expertise in the area of question.

          1. yes, undergraduates not only review manuscripts they do write review articles on a certain topic. RW has discussed that already….

          2. Alvin:

            “If they thought it was bad science, why didn’t the peer reviewers pick up on it”?

            Er, maybe because “peers” like Elaine McKewon, who has zero background in psychology or any other science, wouldn’t know science from the oral history of a mining-town whore (McKewon’s only apparent area of academic expertise)?

          3. Alvin, thank you for linking to McKewon’s academic page.

            I can certainly see that her opinion set touches on many aspects of “climate denial.” Her skill set does not, as far as can be discerned, include any grounding in science or psychology—or even climate science or climate psychology. So we’re back where we started: why did they pretend McKewon was competent to review this paper?

          4. I’ve reviewed many papers, even some as a graduate student. When a graduate student, it was done in conjunction with my major professor. There are too many issues that students would not be aware of, that are relevant here, such as human subjects involuntary participation, that needed to have been looked at.

            Where I the review editor, I might have written her for her comments, but she would never have been a primary reviewer.

      3. Alvin,
        You seem to be under the impression that peer reviewers did not pick up on bad science. Have you contacted the peers whose names initially appeared as “reviewers” but subsequently vanished from the listing as peers on the initial publication page? Have they told you their reviews were favorable? Have the authors distributed copies of these reviews so that people can see whether all reviews were favorable? I suspect the answer to the former is “no” and the answer to the latter is certainly no. This means we have no direct evidence that at least some peer reviewers did not submit unfavorable reviews.

        As for indirect evidence: It’s worth nothing that 4 reviewers names have appeared as reviewers. The names of two of those four vanished from the initial listing. Ultimately, the editor listed himself as both a reviewer and an editor evaluating the reviews. We can only speculate what this means, but I would suggest assuming that all reviews were favorable puts you at risk jumping to the wrong conclusion.

        I would suggest there is a high probability that at least some reviews were unfavorable. Or course, if you were to present hard evidence to the contrary — like for example– copies of the reviews themselves with evidence indicating those were the true reviews– I would admit my suspicion is wrong.

      4. At least one of the peer reviewers – Michael Wood – DID do just that. He raised objections as a result of his review. The authors did not address them and Mr. Wood asked his name be removed as a reviewer. At least one other reviewer was named – Prof. Sabitha Nateson – and then was quickly removed. Leaving ONLY a journalism grad student with no Psych experience or training as a reviewer – plus of course Dr. Virem Swami, who was the Editor as well.

        1. I’m making some inquiries about this idea that reviewers withdrew but I have to say, it is very unusual for reviewers to be named when a research paper is accepted. It is supposed to be an anonymous process.

          It is not unusual for reviewers to ask for corrections and changes. In fact it is rare when a paper in any field isn’t returned in the first round and a request made for modifications. I don’t think I can remember one incident like that. That is the way the peer review process works.

          If I get something back, I’ll add it to this blog, although as it is the weekend it may be a few days away.

          1. I have to say, it is very unusual for reviewers to be named when a research paper is accepted. It is supposed to be an anonymous process.

            Not true at that journal.

      5. Which will simply mean that Ross McKitrick – with assorted academic credentials and published papers – will ask for the data. Easier and more polite to give the data to Steve. I mean what is there to hide?

    2. Two reviewers left the paper and the editor filled in as a reviewer. There are factual errors in the paper in addition to ethical issues that Frontier failed to identify.

  5. Agree with Richard that permission is not required – disagree that this is libelous.

    As an editor of newspapers who dealt with libel and defamation potential on a daily basis the threat of a libel or defamation actually succeeding on this paper is close to zero. The paper talks about conspiratorial behaviour and reactions. It highlights those who have engaged in this behaviour, without specifically calling them crazies, as Richard would have it.

    This would easily fall under the definition that covers opinion writers in many newspapers. If strong factual evidence is enunciated and a reasonable conclusion drawn based on that evidence then there is generally no case to answer.

    The history of reaction to this paper is built entirely around denier rage at being called out for developing conspiracies at every turn. Anyone who has worked in the climate change field sees these conspiracies on a daily basis.

    The University of Western Australia is clearly comfortable with the ethics of the paper as it continues to publish it on its website. It is also comfortable to take on the legal case, probably because it has deep enough pockets to take on such a challenge and is comfortable that it can win.

    What we are seeing here is a continuation of legal attacks on climate scientists that have really ramped up in the past decade. The attacks are generally on those who take on the deniers in ways that substantially undermine their cause. We saw a similar case with NIWA in New Zealand, where the local weather bureau was dragged through the courts by deniers claiming conspiracy over temperature records. Not surprisingly the deniers eventually had their case thrown out and were asked to pay costs.

    Unfortunately, those deniers formed a charity to fight the case and when they lost, claimed the charity didn’t have the funds, closed it down in the blink of an eye and left a six figure sum for Kiwi taxpayers.

    This, I suspect, is what the journal is most concerned about, not losing the case but the cost of having to fight the case through the courts. Even if they win the case, the costs could be crippling for the business.

    And this is why this retraction is so important. Few journals have the resources to fight an extended legal battle. My concern is not that this is an isolated incident but that it will become the next regular tactic of climate change deniers when ever they see something that undermines a major tenet of their belief system.

    We cannot have a situation where journals start to decline papers for fear of legal action rather than for the quality of the paper itself. It remains very interesting that while they question the ethics in this latest response, they do not question the methodology or the conclusion.

    Perhaps a journal with deeper pockets and more social responsibility should take this on instead.

    1. Alvin, you make several mistakes of fact. For just a few examples: (1) the journal is now explicitly talking about both ethics and proper scientific practice in handling human research subjects. It is not making any assertion about libel law or liability, and as a matter of fact is DENYING that it received any “threats” of any kind. While these issues could have legal implications, the journal is specifically rejecting assertions like yours that they are acting in reaction to any threats, legal or otherwise. (2) This is NOT a legal case, it is about ethics of human subject research.

      You assert that you have been an “editor of newspapers” (in asserting your competence to analyzed these matters). Can you say which?

      1. First, the journal specifically stated in its original response that it was the threat of legal action that led to the retraction. It also explicitly stated at that time that there were no ethical or scientific problems. Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit has stated publicly that he wrote to the journal suggesting the paper was libelous.

        This new version seeking to justify the response, as the editorial team states, is in response to reporting. It clearly diverts from the original statement.

        As to the newspapers I have worked for, I worked as editor in community newspapers over a period of 10 years for both Fairfax and News Corp.

        Do you have experience in science or publishing?

        1. Allvin if you need further calibration, search this discussion @ Bishop Hill blog for 2 comments by skiphil:
          “as alarm about alleged “catastrophic” climate change became the official orthodoxy in recent years. People like Flannery find it unbearable to be questioned or contradicted, and independent minds pursuing robust scientific debate may get crushed underfoot by the herd stampede.’

          A bit later, Nick Stokes explained..

          This was part of the Salby blog storm, a cornucopia of pseudoskepticism and conspiracy ideation examples. Many of the same blogs were with the topic here.

          Of course, a few days later, the roof fell in on Salby with the exposre of his debarment by the NSF and other problems. Blog commenters who’d been intensely interested … suddenly disappeared..

          1. Yes, John Mashey, some of my principal online interests include observing the ‘herd’ behaviors and spurious claims to authority of people who are really only offering their own alarmist, exaggerated, inexpert opinions. That would include you, Alvin Stone, and Tim Flannery. Periodically I state in various places that I am not an expert in any of these matters, merely an interested citizen. One of the things I object to is false pretensions to authority.

          2. AGU 2014 will be held in December in San Francisco, as usual. About 20,000 geophysical scientists from all over the world attend, as do other people (like me) interested enough to study the topics in peer-reviewed literature, meet the real experts and talk to them, etc. It’s cheap to join and not an expensive conference for a sold week, packed with events, which fills Moscone’s basement with posters twice a day. Lewandowsky often attends, organized a nice session on uncertainty in 2012,

            AGU’s European equivalent is EGU, about half the size. Otherwise, many universities have frequent seminars on climate open to the public, either by local researchers or by visitors.

            Of course, the IPCC proceedings are online, and there are many credible websites by science organizations, so people can learn enough science if they wish

            Sadly, many do not want to learn the science, and studying them is actually a relevant social sciences endeavor, .I thank them for volunteering a wealth of public data on blogs and tweets.

          3. I work with 140 climate scientists. My opinions are based on my work with them, as they are experts.

            Oh, and exactly where have I been alarmist. I disagreed, yes, alarmist, no. Unless supporting the idea of anthropogenic global warming is alarmist. If that is the case, guilty as charged.

            Working with climate scientists has been my profession now for the past three years. I have a daily interest in their work.

          4. “Unless supporting the idea of anthropogenic global warming is alarmist.”

            Why would it be? It’s not an alarming idea, so support away.

        2. Alvin, I questioned YOUR claim to authority in analyzing issues of libel, expression, and publication. You have not displayed any competence so there is nothing there worth rebutting. You also must know that the term “denier” as used by you is highly offensive and biased. You know its historical associations and that it is a smear term, that is why you use it. As a matter of fact, you have no idea at all what I (or many others) may or may not “deny”…. I am highly respectful toward much in climate science and toward most climate scientists. It is only when I see people as biased and vituperative as you and Stephan Lewandowsky that I begin to wonder what is really going on in a particular debate.

        3. “First, the journal specifically stated in its original response that it was the threat of legal action that led to the retraction. ”

          Incorrect. The journal said no such thing. Its original response said their investigation “did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear.” There was no mention of threats.

    2. “What we are seeing here is a continuation of legal attacks on climate scientists that have really ramped up in the past decade.”

      So Lewandowsky is a climate scientist is he?

      Do you feel there is some sort of well coordinated conspiracy of people attacking climate scientists?

      1. No, he is looking at the psychology which seems to power these attacks. It is self evident to anyone who works in the climate change field that attacks on climate science continue to increase, especially by people with no science background at all but an entrenched set of ideological beliefs.

        1. What’s actually self-evident is that the noise level continues to increase on all sides.

          In the midst of all the noise (on all sides), a small number of people do their best to work carefully and avoid mistakes.

          “Deniers” are not a stronger attack crowd, nor do they have less scientific ability, nor do they share an entrenched set of ideological beliefs.

          This is the measured, careful, very appropriate and science-friendly criticism of many critics.

          1. There is nothing measured or careful about the approach of deniers. They ignore the peer reviewed science or cherry pick. Few if any deniers have the appropriate qualifications or understanding of climate science.

            With a 97% consensus, we are dealing with established science. It is extraordinary that there is a discussion on anything but the detail of anthropogenic global warming. It requires a co-ordinated, dedicated group of deniers to maintain an argument when in scientific circles there is little is no doubt around the fundamentals of anthropogenic global warming.

            If we were to approach this in a measured, careful way we would be well past examining the science and, instead, be entirely focused on the policy of mitigation and adaption.

          2. Alvin:

            “If we were to approach this in a measured, careful way we would be well past examining the science and, instead, be entirely focused on the policy of mitigation and adaption.”

            Except that “the science” has so far proven unable to tell us that any such policy, mitigation or adaptation is even necessary. At the risk of stating what’s obvious to most people here, “AGW” does NOT imply “we need to do something about AGW.”

          3. So is there a conspiracy of deniers attacking the climate scientists (and their supporters) who are publishing works in support of the ACC/CGW theories?

          4. More and more published papers are emerging by skeptics yet (we) “ignore peer reviewed” implies that the skeptic papers themselves must wrong. The ones I read are peer reviewed. I have a Ph.d in mathematics and it is mostly the math I look at but I am under qualified to read mathematics. Mr. McIntyre’s ability in mathematical use of statistics I would put up against nearly every one of the climate scientists papers I have read. A 97 percent consensus when 10,000 papers said nothing wrt to Anthropogenic, about 400 said yes and 6 said no.

        2. Alvin, I’m curious. What can you tell me about my science background and my ideological beliefs from my posts here and at other climate-related blogs?

          1. Sorry, careless punctuation: that should read “other, climate-related, blogs”.

  6. On reading the paper again, the ethics argument goes out the window because the references to bloggers and others are all public statements made in freely available and regulated forums. These statements have just been compiled – a completely valid form of “ethical” research.

    It is also very apparent that those people who made the statements made them in the full awareness that their comments could be seen by the public and, in fact, expected that to be the case. Exactly the same as anyone making a comment here.

    There is nothing that leaps out as libelous in the paper. To me, after reading the paper again and specifically looking for libelous references, this has the hallmarks of a campaign of intimidation against the journal. Under these threats it makes sense that the journal has made the retraction to protect its own best interests.

    What this means for the interests of scientific research is another and broader question that needs to be addressed by the community.

    1. Alvin – the journal just said they did not “““cave in to threats”; in fact, Frontiers received no threats..

      You are stating the exact opposite: this has the hallmarks of a campaign of intimidation against the journal. Before that you spoke of a “legal battle.

      Which is it?

      1. The journal explicitly stated there were legal issues. Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit said this:

        The Lewandowsky article made a variety of defamatory and untrue allegations against me with malice. I accordingly sent a strongly worded and detailed letter to the journal formally requesting that they withdraw the allegations and retract the article. I didn’t “instigate a libel lawsuit” or get “a lawyer involved” but the letter was a formal one. It was my hope that the journal would recognize the many defects of the Lewandowsky article and behave responsibly, as they eventually did.

        Geoff Chambers has specifically stated that he wrote to the journal saying the paper defamed him.

        I don’t think it gets much clearer than that.

        Considering it is the deniers bringing these complaints, it certainly does have the hallmarks of a campaign of intimidation.

        The journal in its original statement talked about legal issues and only changed its mind when this was reported broadly.

        There is clear evidence the paper was withdrawn for legal issues. The rest is just window dressing.

        1. McIntyre never stated that he made a “libel threat”. Even those who said that paper “defamed” them are not making a legal threat. Lots of people are harmed every day in ways that in theory could result in a lawsuit… but they have no intention of actually filing such a suit. It is only your interpretation that translates a vexatious complaint into the possibility of a legal problem.

          On the other hand, now Dana has suggested the journal has opened itself to the threat of legal action. By definition, that clearly brings legal action into the picture. Given this evidence, it seems the higher likelihood is that any “legal issues” may have related to the authors rather than those who were concerned about the content of the study.

          What evidence to you have to suggest otherwise?

          1. And Frontiers said there were no threats but ethical issues and even Lew. addressed them with anonymous reformatting attempts but failed.

    2. Not only did “those people who made the statements” make them in “full awareness that their comments could be seen by the public”, I’d argue they made them with the explicit purpose of having their comments read by as many people as possible.

      Even now many of those same people are continuing to make statements with the intent of having those statements read by as many people as possible.

      The main ethics I would question are those of the journal itself. I suspect that when the dust settles, the journal won’t come out smelling of roses. I already sense a whiff that is not very pleasant.

      1. Sou – is your intention to participate in this discussion, or to have your statements read by as many people as possible?

        How about this comment of mine…am I trying to have it read by as many people as possible? If you believe that, why not believe that I am trying to have your comment read by as many people as possible too, since I am quoting it?

        And so on and so forth. How ironic for these exchanges to include clear example of people remotely ascribing motivations.

        ps Does one need to explain that an anything-goes attitude making any and all comments on the internet fair game for psychological research of total strangers, would quickly lead to nobody saying anything of any relevance, just in case the aforementioned psychological research would (ab)use one’s words?

        1. Omnologos, if you make a public statement in a public forum you cannot expect it to be private. The intention is quite clearly for people to see your comment and respond. This is a public discussion after all. Newspapers can quite happily quote you on this forum and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

          1. Alvin- yours is the second instance of the word “private” in this discussion. I cannot recollect any of Lewandosky critics ever discussing the point let alone lamenting it.

    3. The problem with your statement is that the paper makes a psychological interpretation of particular statements by various people. And in a number of cases, those interpretations are clearly false. YOU may not see them as false, probably because you’ve never met the people involved and know little or nothing about them.

      But that’s exactly the point. This paper did not follow proper ethical protocol. When a demonstrably false statement is published, with associated malicious wording, by a supposedly neutral researcher, that’s a clear ethical problem. I don’t care what the topic is.

  7. There was active deception and interaction with people named in the paper by authors who had a history of publically attacking the same people..

    the ethics approval, such that it was (an amended from a previous paper, which itself was amended from a previous paper) stated they were going to observe reaction to Moon Hoax paper – also by Lewandowsky
    (the UWA VC has refused to supply data for this paper, as requested by myself and others)

    One of the authors of Fury was actually directly interacting with people named in the paper, goading and challenging them, ON Lewandowsky’s own blog, during the research period.. (and elsewhere)

    this is deception and way beyond the even limited ethics approval oversite.

    this paper had the same auither writing 13 article on his own blog – Watching The Deniers – defending the Moon Hoax’ paper, and attacking its critics (those named in the paper) during the research period.

    When Lewandwosy wrote to his ethics team for this paper, he thought he didn’t need it, and started a team collecting data, ten days before he had approval.

    Which is also totally against UWA ethics stated policy..

    Why do you think Frontiers had a problem with this.. as they note in their new statement, this is Psychology not ‘climate science’

    1. One of the authors of Fury was actually directly interacting with people named in the paper

      In that case, scratch my remark above about its likely being exempt under the Common Rule if the research had taken place in the U.S.

      1. Narad, if the conversation was taking place on a public forum, your original remark still stands.

        This is just denier huffiness at making foolish quotes in a public space and being caught out.

        1. the ethics consent (sketchy as it was) was to OBSERVE…

          not to deceive by directly interacting with people name in the paper and goading for responses (this was on Lewandowsky’s own blog)

          1. How were they “deceiving”? People volunteer their silly opinions in a public forum and the researchers observe them. They didn’t offer anybody $5 to say something silly, and they didn’t falsely declare it “Say Something Silly” week. The silly public statements were freely offered with no inducement or deception.

            What’s heartening is to now see how embarrassed deniers are as they realise how silly their their public statements are.

          2. There are genuine scientists conducting genuine scientific research to advance the state of human knowledge.
            Then there are non-scientists who use FoI’s and false accusations of fraudulence against the above-mentioned scientists.
            Clearly, the unbalanced nature of the latter’s approach to the subject reveals they are in some sort of denial: they don’t like the information that science is giving us.

          3. Craig Thomas:

            “There are genuine scientists conducting genuine scientific research to advance the state of human knowledge.”

            Yes, and you can tell who they are because they work on questions that aren’t “settled.”

            “Then there are non-scientists who use FoI’s and false accusations of fraudulence against the above-mentioned scientists.”

            FoI legislation exists for a number of good reasons, one of which is to make possible the discovery of what we think is pseudoscience which, once discovered, may bring work called “science” into the discredit it deserves. Not to put too fine a point on it, nor to go off-topic, but let me give one example: without freedom of information those of us who don’t take MBH98 seriously would still take it seriously.

            “they don’t like the information that science is giving us.”

            The only thing we (and I won’t pretend I’m not among the group described by “they”) “don’t like” is the information we characterize as what pseudoscience is giving us.

          4. Was there any deception in asking whether ethics approval was needed for the Fury paper after creating material used in the Fury paper?

            “None of this follow-up research will involve … direct approach of participants of any sort.”

            A day earlier, Lewandowsky had published in his blog four names and asked for an apology. This post was referred to in “Fury”. Apparently this is not a direct approach, or because it happened a day before asking the question, the future tense “will” meant no direct approach would be made later.

          5. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time Lewandowsky has had problems with tense. We all remember his confident elaboration of the skeptics-are-conspiracists theory—here, for instance:—and some of us may even have raised an eyebrow when it later became a hypothesis, to be tested (so to speak) scientifically.

        2. Narad, if the conversation was taking place on a public forum, your original remark still stands.

          No, it does not, because interaction with subjects takes 45 § C.F.R. 46.101(b)(4) off the table.

      2. Narad,
        With respect to one quoted comment Lewindowksy evaluated, I was discussing my evaluation of Lewandowsky’s response to a question I had sent him by email. He emailed me his response. I don’t know anything about the “common rule” nor what that might mean in any ethics or libel investigation. Naturally I don’t know if this level of email exchange is ‘enough’ interaction to count as ‘interacting’ with me under this common rule. But yes, he interacting directly with me in the sense that he did respond to email I’d sent, I was quoted, and my behavior was categorize on the basis of that quote, that quote was my reaction to information Lewandowsky sent to me by email.

        Other less direct interactions occurred. For example: Lewandowsky was posting blogs about SteveMcIntyre and some quotes by McIntyre were written in response to Lewandowsky posts and so on.

          1. I didn’t diagnose there was a “problem” in that particular comment. Narad was discussing how ‘§ C.F.R. 46.101(b)(4)’ applies to research with identifyable individuals when the researcher (i.e. Lewandowsky) interacts with the individuals he reports on (i.e.) me. It seems that Narad believes that if Lewandowsky interacted directly, then his paper could be criticized on ethics basis. (I may be misunderstanding Narad.)

            In response to his observation, I provide information to permit Narad to assess the degree to which that occurred. I didn’t write ‘§ C.F.R. 46.101(b)(4)’, have never read it and don’t have any idea whether violating it would be a “problem”.

            As for whether it was “wrong”? Any diagnosis of whether Lewandowsky’s behavior was “wrong” would be made someone who knew what ‘§ C.F.R. 46.101(b)(4)’ says, understands how it applies to the fact pattern and knows the facts. I’m simply providing a fact that might need to be considered by that person.

            Are you embarrassed about what you wrote on an open blog? […] Did you expect it to remain private?

            The contents of my blog? Of course I’m not embarrassed and I don’t consider the contents private. I think the fact that I’ve referred to them myself here should make the answer to those questions obvious. I’ve never suggested either thing. Whether Lewandowsky’s interaction with the subjects he ‘studied’ and reported on (in a manner that made them identifyable) has nothing to do with whether I think my blog is ‘private’.

            These issues you are raising don’t seem to matter to ‘§ C.F.R. 46.101(b)(4)’ , but perhaps Narad who seems more familar with that rule can clarify.

          2. Please indicate which document contains that confirmation from the University. At least one statement from the University was essentially written by Lewandowsky.

        1. Naturally I don’t know if this level of email exchange is ‘enough’ interaction to count as ‘interacting’ with me under this common rule.

          Any interaction with subjects during the research blows all of the exemptions out of the water.

  8. I don’t know what ethics panels dictate about consent in psychology research. But we don’t need to delve into rules for specialized fields. Legally, people have a right to not be libeled.

    The difficulty here is not quoting material that appears in public. The problem arises when the authors diagnose identifiable individuals as exhibiting “psychopathological characteristics”. The text of the paper itself, and the context (i.e. research article) give the impression that these diagnoses represent observations of fact about the people in question– not mere opinion or hyperbole.

    I and quoted appear to have been diagnosed as having (“NS”, “NI”, “MbW” and “NoA”) all of which indicate that I am afflicted with ‘conspiracy ideation’. I’m not entirely sure that diagnosing me with these afflictions is an accusation that I am mentally ill, but perhaps it is.

    I’m not an attorney, but it is my understanding that if someone makes an accusation that I ma mentally ill and that accusation is false, then the paper itself would be seen as libel per se in the US. In the US, I have a right to sue for libel when it occurs and if I were to prove these are accusations of “mental illness” and that I do not suffer from this form of mental illness, I could win damages.

    In the US, I’m pretty sure fact that false defamatory statements are published in a scholarly journal would not deprive me of my right to pursue or win a libel case. The fact that a peer reviewer or two and an editor permitted false defamatory statements to be made would not protect them. Possibly the peer review process would actually make the case more difficult for the journal to defend because the ‘peer review’ process seems to convey the impression that some sort of checking went on. (Though I’m not sure this is true.)

    On the one hand, it is my preference to explain why Lewandowsky’s ‘analysis’ is faulty and to do so at my blog. (See 1 and 2). On the other hand, if you ask what rights people might have:

    People have a right not to be libeled. With respect to journal articles, if a journal prints this false defamatory material about identifiable individuals, it assume some liability.

    For many journals there is little danger they would post false defamatory material. But Frontiers is a psychology journal and may from time to time publish articles discussing mental illness. They need to be very careful not to trample on the rights of people to not be falsely identified as mentally ill. If the Journal is careless about this, they may ultimately find themselves at the losing end of a court case.

    It’s worth noting above I discussed the legal issue which can make discussions of defamation sound like ‘legal threats’. But defamation is also a moral and ethical issue. Defamation laws exist because we recognize that people have a right to not be falsely accused of damaging ‘facts’ that could damage their reputation. Even if the Journal believed itself able to avoid a libel suit, or to win on the grounds of something like the “Sullivan rule”, they are right to hold themselves to the standard of not libeling parties treated as “subjects” or “research” reported in their journals.

    As such, the Journal has a right to decline publication of articles that diagnose ‘psychopathological characteristics’ in identifiable individuals particularly as the journal has neither the ability, means or inclination to verify whether the identifiable individuals suffer from these ailments. Retraction was warranted. (I believe it was also warranted based on other weaknesses in the paper. But that’s a different issue.)

    1. A clear reading of the paper shows that you are not personally identified as having a psychological problem. It identifies characteristics of statements, not of the individual.
      The paper also clearly identifies the reasoning for these characteristics.
      It then goes on to apply these across the population.
      If you decided to follow this through with a court action, any legal team will track down every single statement you have made in public regarding climate science and confront you with them in a courtroom. I can’t imagine many climate deniers would be comforted by that thought if they were pursuing a libel case, as Mike Mann’s accusers are about to discover.

      1. Alvin,
        If you are suggesting I might not win a case: I agree. Be aware that I did not number among those who complained to the journal and I have not suggested I would file a suit. I am providing an answer to what rights people other than the authors or the journal might have.

        As for your specifics: I think the following questions would all be issue of fact to be determined by a jury:
        1) Whether quoting me in a manner that is easily traceable means I am personally identified.
        2) Whether those items (NI, NS, MwB etc.) are accusations of psychological problems.
        3) Whether the paper giving ‘reasoning’ protects Lewandowsky or the journal if that reasoning is wrong and finally
        4) Whether I suffer from NI, SN, MsB etc.

        I am not an attorney,but impression is that giving the reasoning would not protect the journal from stating something as a fact in a libel case if that fact was both (a) incorrect and (b) defamatory. So, the fact that Lewandowsky gave reasoning would not give him the right to state a diagnosis as a fact. If you know otherwise, it would be interesting to read the legal precendents on that issue. (Any attorneys opinions are welcome here.)

        As for (1), I would note that in Sullivan v. NY times, Sullivan was not named but details in the article made it clear that material applied to him. But that was not Sullivan lost the libel case. The fact that the content applied to him was sufficient for him to proceed with the libel case. In the end: he lost because he was a public figure (chief of police) and US courts developed a particular doctrine protecting news agencies reporting on public figures from being found libel even if material that was posted was false and defamatory.

        As for (2) it appears Frontiers may have a different notion about whether they might be at legal risk if their authors decree that someone suffers from “NI”, “NS” and so on. I would also suggest that the fact that “Lew and Crew” suggested I do and — as far as we can tell one peer reviewer and one editor deemed the paper worthy of publication might not convince a jury that I suffer from these things.

        In anycase, I suspect the case would be colorable and could at least avoid summary dismisssal (though once again, I would defer to attorney’s on that point.) With respect to the journal, it’s likely they would find it quite difficult to defend that the diagnoses are true– in fact, they likely have no opinion. That is likely a position no journal wishes to be in.

        As (a) I have no intention of wasting time on a stupid law suit and (b) the journal retracted anyway, the issue of what would happen if I did sue them is somewhat moot. But with respect to the conversation here where retraction watch asked what the rights were: People do have a right not not have false defamatory statements made about them. This is both a legal and a moral right. And the Journal has an ethical obligation to take steps to avoid risking doing so. Unless they are going to take steps to be sure that attribution of psychopathological traits to specific individuals are actually true (as opposed to merely claimed to be true by the academics who submit papers) they are ethically bound to avoid publishing them.

        1. Alvin

          If you decided to follow this through with a court action, any legal team will track down every single statement you have made in public regarding climate science and confront you with them in a courtroom. I can’t imagine many climate deniers would be comforted by that thought if they were pursuing a libel case, as Mike Mann’s accusers are about to discover.

          I believe you are mistaken. My impression is courts prefer both the plaintiff and defendant to discuss things that are considered relevant to the legal case. So, for example the fact that I have repeatedly stated I believe CO2 causes warming, that we have introduced CO2 as a result of industrialization and that the warming effect is detectable in the thermometer recordd would probably not be discussed during any hypothetical libel case touching on the accusation that I suffer from “NI”, “NS” and so on.

          As it happens though I generally stand by my public statements made in regard to climate science. The exception is when I come to believe I was mistaken, I admit that I was mistaken and explain my new position. Doing so in court would not cause me any discomfort.

        2. So, the fact that Lewandowsky gave reasoning would not give him the right to state a diagnosis as a fact.

          IANAL. But in the U.S., a statement of opinion based on disclosed facts is protected.

          1. Yes. Opinion is not libel.

            But a a legal matter a mere claim that something is an opinion is not sufficient to make it so. For example, if you state that “Joe Blow is an axe murderer” and then provide your explanation of how you determined he was an axe murderer, your reasoning does not turn your statement that he is an axe murderer into mere ‘opinion’. Whether Joe is an axe murders is a factual claim. And if you are incorrect on this fact, and it is proven that Joe is not an axe murderer, Joe can win a defamation suit. Neither (a) the fact that you gave your reasons for diagnosing the ‘fact’ of his being an axe murderer nor (b) the fact that you might later claim that this is an opinion will protect you.

            So: merely supplying reasoning is not enough to protect you and it cannot turn statements of fact into matters of opinion.

            Now one could suggest that in the case of diagnosis of mental illness, the diagnosis is nothing more than opinion. Possibly so– though I would suggest that an attorney might counsel you that not all judges or juries would agree. But, let us suppose in the hypothetical case of a libel suit over Lewandowky and Crew’s diagnosis of “conspiracy ideation” or “NI”, “NS” and so on, a plaintiff (for example me) sued. Lewandowsky or Fronteirs could present the defense that his diagnoses that others are afflicted with “conspiracy ideation”, “NS”, “NI” and so on were merely Lew and Crew’s opinion and that readers of “Fronteirs” would have recognized it as nothing more than opinion. If believed by the judge and jury, the court would rule for the plaintiff.

            But such a victory might be Pyrrhic because academics might question the value of the paper as a matter of scholarship. Indeed, some might question the value of the entire “scholarly” Journal if its standards amount to publishing opinion columns as “research”. Because, after all, as a scientific or scholarly matter, who the heck cares that Lew and crew– the specific authors of the paper– hold the opinion that people who criticize them (as I did) happen to have certain personality traits Lew and Crew describe as “NI”, “NS” and so on? Opinions columns are valuable, and they are run in newspapers all the time, generally in sections clearly marked as opinion. But few people believe it would be useful for scholarly journals to become opinion columns.

            So, the argument that Journals should defend scholarly articles on the ground that they, like newspapers, should be permitted to run opinion columns might be fine legally, but it’s fatal to the reputation of any Scholarly Journal that advances it because afterwards all articles in the journal might be tainted with the suspicion that they are little more than opinion columns.

            With that, I ask you: Do you think “Fury” was nothing more than an opinion column?

          2. But [as] a legal matter a mere claim that something is an opinion is not sufficient to make it so. For example, if you state that “Joe Blow is an axe murderer” and then provide your explanation of how you determined he was an axe murderer, your reasoning does not turn your statement that he is an axe murderer into mere ‘opinion’.

            It turns it from a statement based on undisclosed facts into one based on disclosed facts.

            Whether Joe is an axe murders is a factual claim.

            There is no bright line between statements of opinion and statements of fact beyond such contrived examples. See, e.g., Kathryn Dix Sowle, A Matter of Opinion: Milkovich Four Years Later, 3 Wm & Mary Bill Rts. J. 467 (1994). The Ollman test might technically be history, but context – or “the totality of the circumstances” – is not.

            Now one could suggest that in the case of diagnosis of mental illness, the diagnosis is nothing more than opinion.

            It is not necessary to reach this, as no “diagnosis” was proffered. “Conspiracist ideation” is not a diagnostic category, much less “recursive thinking.”

            With that, I ask you: Do you think “Fury” was nothing more than an opinion column?

            I think it was a textual analysis within a specific framework.

          3. So if it’s not an opinion piece, maybe the comments are actually stated claims, not personal opinions?

          4. Narad,
            Your comment was brief, but I get the impression that you are suggesting that Frontiers would be protected by “Milankovich” or context in “Ollman” in the event of a libel suit. My comment is based on the assumption that you are suggesting these rulings would help. It seems to me that these rulings would harm Frontiers.

            You don’t mention precisely what part of the 163 page “A Matter of Opinion: Milkovich Four Years Later” (Kathryn Dix Sowle pdf) would help a Frontiers in the event they were sued for libel. I’ve now read it and my take is the Milankovich ruling would cut against them. Specifically we find her overall assessment which appears to be

            The more plausible interpretation of the Court’s opinion is that it adopted the Restatement approach only in part, holding that constitutional immunity for the expression of a defamatory opinion on a matter of public concern exists only if (1) the speaker does not imply the existence of undisclosed facts as the basis for the opinion, and (2) the opinion itself-that is, the comment on the facts-is not provable as true or false on the basis of objective evidence.3″ Conversely, a speaker is subject to liability for a defamatory charge, even if she couches the charge as her opinion and the factual basis is known or available to the recipients, if (1) the recipient reasonably construes the statement as an assertion of the charge, rather than as mere figurative or pejorative language, and (2) the charge is provable as false on the basis of objective evidence.”

            Stated another way, the Court immunized only pure, evaluative opinion.

            Thus, a pure, deductive opinion, which is provable as true or false on the basis of objective evidence, carries no immunity.a6 One asserting such an opinion is subject to liability under the same constitutional protections that apply to all factual assertions.

            (Italics mine.)

            If you interpret something in the remaining 163 pages differently, I’d welcome further explanation. But as far as I can tell, Dix Sowle interprets Milakovich to say that even opinion which is provided after disclosing facts on which it’s based can lose protection. As far as I can determine, if defended as “opinion”, the claims in “Fury” would at best, be seen as “deductive opinion” and so be unprotected because they are “opinions” about matters that (at least the paper claims) fall in the category of “fact”. As such they state an opinion about whether something that is a “fact” is a “true fact” or “false fact”.

            But perhaps you can clarify beyond merely mentioning the title of the 163 page article and tell us precisely what about Milankovich would have protect Frontiers (or anyone) in the event that the published “Fury” and someone sued for libel.

            As for the issue of context in Ollman, my interpretation is that the court ruling suggest that publication in a Frontiers would be given less protection than oration from a soapbox. For example, they write

            It is one thing to be assailed as a corrupt public official by a soapbox orator and quite another to be labelled corrupt in a research monograph detailing the causes and cures of corruption in public service. This observation reflects no novel principle.

            So context would seem to cut against the journal. Other factors discussed in Ollman would also appear to cut against the journal. (For example, the language does not appear to suggest “hyperbole” or “rhetoric” and so on.) But if you think otherwise, perhaps elaborating beyond merely mentioning that the case exists might enlighten us, preferably by stating your actual claim rather than merely mentioning the title of a 163 page article and mentioning a term of art like “Ollman test” leaving it to readers to guess how you imagine these apply to the case at hand.

          5. Your comment was brief, but I get the impression that you are suggesting that Frontiers would be protected by “Milankovich” or context in “Ollman” in the event of a libel suit.

            No, my point, as stated, was that there is no bright line between opinion and fact. The comment was brief because I was trying to distill signal from yours. The relevance of Ollman is that the “totality of the circumstances,” as opposed to an abstract provability prong, is alive and well. I’m omitting citations in order to avoid blind alleys.

            What you omitted is the part where no “diagnosis,” which appeared to be the crux of your argument that the content was defamatory, is readily teased out of this. So, the defamatory content is supposed to be what? A sorting into obscure bins on the basis of a similarly obscure framework? Is the argument supposed to be that they did it wrong?

            I think the work is so plainly ethically flawed that it’s amazing it ever saw the light of day, but I see no basis for a defamation claim.

  9. One could read into Frontiers’ statement (“in good faith”, “valid”, etc) but given the subject matter let’s stick to verifiable fact.

    If what Frontiers say is true, it appears that Lewandosky was indeed into conspiracy ideation when he wrote about an “intimidation by a small band of vociferous individuals“.

    Regarding using utterances from the internet in psychological research, it should go without saying that it must be done with extreme care, as the conditions and intentions of each piece of text can wildly vary from site to site and from application to application.

    Twitter for example is for harsh, direct, concise and simplifying opinions. On Facebook one can write longer and be more gentle and caring with one’s audience, but still remain in only a few hundred words at most, most of the time. LinkedIn is usually perceived as more business-oriented and less appropriate for flippant remarks. A person’s blog might or might not be providing space enough to elucidate one’s opinion, but then even in that case it is not always possible to determine if the person dedicated enough time, or simply wanted to write down a note maybe to a future self. Etc etc.

    Different websites also encourage/discourage a different attitude to commenting. RW for example is particularly strict and understandably so. This might mean that the same concept could be appearing very differently in two or more websites, even if written by the same person, and might as well be interpreted very differently by the non-discerning researcher.

    Also irony and other subtleties is often lost in the eye of the beholder. I can see psychologists running amok on huge “misunderstandings” if, say, the context of a “conversation” on Twitter or a mutual exchange of comments on Facebook is not appropriately known to the researcher.

    For example I can report that I am a minor character in Recursive Fury myself (unnamed, IIRC). Lewandosky and colleagues took as “conspiracy ideation” a comment of mine made at the Bishop Hill blog, where I was suggesting to take something as “true” but in the sense of a working hypothesis, something to explore/investigate/verify if true using some other tool.

    It’s at page 7 of Recursive Fury, in the ““Skeptic” blogs not contacted (2)” section, page 7:

    “Lew made up the “5 skeptical blogs” bit. That much we know”

    Anybody interested to know what I meant can see here (link provided in Recursive Fury too)

    That piece of text came immediately after a comment where I said explicitly what I meant by “conspiracy”

    There’s confusion about what a “conspiracy” is. A bunch of academics preventing some papers from being published is a mafia, not a conspiracy. And the world is full of mafias of all sorts.

    A “conspiracy” is a massive machination by thousands of people. Conspiracies are 99.999% of the time ridiculous nightmares concocted by mentally ill people, such as those convinced AGW skepticism is a well funded Big Oil effort.

    So there’s no need to justify oneself when stating eg that Jones et al ganged up together. The emails speak clearly about that.

    None of that was understood in any part by Lewandosky and colleagues. And it didn’t just happen to me, Richard Betts of the Met Office suffered a similar fate in the hands of the Recursive Fury authors.

    Now just try imagining the same being repeated in many studies without much care.

    1. My understanding is that a conspiracy has to have more than one person, but does not require a large number of people. The critical component of a conspiracy is that it done in secret, hidden from those conspired against, and usually the intent is to harm the person or persons from whom the conspiracy is hidden. So, Lewandowsky and his coauthors are alleged to have hidden their malicious intent from their victims. If that is true, then their publication may be the result of a conspiracy. Unless they broke a law, though, such a conspiracy would not seem to be a crime. If they broke ethical guidelines or manipulated data, though, then one would think the journal should retract the paper ASAP and UWA should dissociate itself from them and their work. Such a response should be independent of any beliefs about CAWG.

      Many people in the global warming debate seem to feel that the people who support their point of view must be placed on a pedestal of authority and that they have the right to smear the reputations of those who disagree with them and tag them with odious names. The community newspaper editor in this comment stream is a good example. Truthfully, I don’t understand this tendency. Who cares what anyone thinks about AGW? No government is actually doing anything to stop CO2 emissions, let alone reduce the [CO2] of the atmosphere. Opinion polls show the public doesn’t care. The Climate doesn’t seem to care what the models say it should be doing. The scientist advocates and politicians continually change their predictions and terminology to adjust to the failures of the models. Those who can afford to burn all the carbon they want will continue to do so, no matter what views on CAGW they may espouse. It’s all rather a farce.

      I wonder about one thing in this especially farcical stream of the CAGW debate, though. Irrespective of their ethics and methodology, are Lewandowsky and his co-authors actually licenced to make diagnoses of psychopathology? If not, they may be in breach of the law. I know at least one of the co-authors is a self-proclaimed non-scientist and I’m rather dubious about a university academic having the experience and accreditations to make such diagnoses. If they are sued but lack the appropriate qualifications, perhaps then they can claim it was only opinion and protected speech? That would be a perfect end to this farce.

  10. There are two different issues at play here. The first set of concerns are:
    [A] Whether the authors of an academic paper are capable, qualified, and justified in performing psychological ‘research’ on comments critical of their own work
    [B] Whether such authors are permitted to prod and taunt aforesaid subjects, in order to harvest reactions as material for research, at online venues they controlled,
    [C] Whether individuals with open hostility toward others are qualified in conducting research on them

    The second set of concerns relate to the broader, general question of how and whether online research on blog comments, Twitter and social media is carried out:

    When researchers perform psychologic analysis on comment material, they are abstracting or synthesizing diagnoses or characterizations that are not de novo present in the comments themselves. This implies the question of research subject protection automatically comes into play. This can easily be checked by a reductio ad absurdum example. Consider, that a researcher has evolved a method by which he or she is able to read people comments to determine whether they were racist. Or that they were gay. Should the researcher be able to publish the names of the individuals as data points in support of the methodology?

    Initial concerns in psychology research communities focused on whether such research is permissible, and these have largely abated. There are numerous papers and studies that examine social media output. The ethical dimensions are handled with a mixture of subject de-identification, data aggregation, informed consent and/or debriefing.

    In the case of this paper, the authors, having problems ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ disqualify themselves from performing psychological research on their critics in the first place. These are questions of researcher conflict and hostility toward subjects. This would not have passed muster in front of an independent institutional review board in possession of the facts. Consequently, the further questions do not come into play.

  11. Lew’s science paper was a dressed up DKOS post, really. Moving blogfights into science papers. And it’s not like he’s a disinterested observer of the social media animals. He’s a participant in the teafights himself. I’m not crazy about the deniers, but calling them crazy in a “science paper” is just silly.

    I hope Retraction Watch will support the efforts to get the data for the Moon Hoax paper released to critics. I’ts pretty clear that there were some methodology goofs (e.g. claiming posting of the survey on one blog where it was not posted). Lew is resisting the data which would prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt (already google chache and the like support the crit.) In any case, I think RW advocates sharing of data for critique even by people who are different politically.

    1. Except, at no point did Stephan Lewandowsky call these people crazies. The deniers seemed to have suggested this about themselves. The paper most certainly does not.

      1. In general parlance when you accuse people of having multiple psychological disorders, it can be summarised as a claim they are crazy. If you want, try substituting “accusing them of having multiple psychological disorders” instead of “calling them crazy”. Either way it’s silly.

        1. Read the paper again. The statements are characterised, not the people. It is looking at the way conspiracy theories develop and the psychological factors that help build them up.

          I’m sure I could say something that seems paranoid. It is perfectly fair to classify that as a paranoid statement without me necessarily being diagnosed with a paranoid disorder. It would require a special form of super-sensitivity for me to take it so personally.

          1. A number of the statements were mischaracterized. Period.

            And the statements were identified as to source.

            Not only that, but L made a number of statements (outside the paper) that demonstrate an unbalanced approach not just to the methods and data of his study but to the people he was studying. Just look at the quotes collected by his most reasonable opponents.

          2. “The statements are characterized not the people”

            If that had been the intention, at the very least names would have been omitted, but of course were not.
            Aside from the fact that quotations were frequently taken out of context, attributed to the incorrect authors and simply failed to backup the claimed “diagnosis”, I think the whole point of the paper was character assasination and to malign skeptics as having psychological disorders. You just need look at the media response to the two papers. Alarmists like to claim McIntyre “dog whistles” because they can’t challenge the accuracy of his statistical criticisms, but the real dog whistling is on the alarmist side, with Lewandowsky outshining them all. Nuccitelli, to take an example wrote “Stepping back for a moment to take stock of the situation, it’s really not surprising that climate contrarians as a group would tend to exhibit conspiratorial thinking. ” – Nuccitelli certainly caught the dog whistle, and seems to be happy to accuse statistical experts like McIntyre, Mureika, McKitrick of being conspiracy theorists for challenging the so called 97% (which since it is based merely on the acceptance that CO2 causes warming, includes almost all sceptics too).

    2. OK, this is the umptiest time I see someone claim a methodological goof with reference to a survey link not posted on one of the blogs mentioned in the paper. Can someone please explain to me why this is a methodological error, rather than just a reporting error, which has no impact on the results whatsoever?

      And what data would you actually need? Surely IP numbers must be removed or de-linked from the responses, or otherwise it would theoretically be possible to link certain responses to specific individuals, which would be, uhm, unethical. The raw data in terms of the responses is available, as far as I know.

      1. It’s important because a quarter of the responses claimed to come from skeptics. The only site that hosted the questionnaire that has more than a very minor skeptic presence is skeptical science. If skeptical science did not host the questionnaire, where did those supposed skeptic responses come from?

        When you click on a link, the browser fetches the data from the link address but also tells the server what page it has come from (the “referrer”). In almost any survey this kind of data is recorded as it is useful information. So the referrer records can be used to show what reponses came from what link, and if in fact anything came from a page hosted at skeptical science

        Anyone who has read the facts on the matter already knows unequivocally skeptical science did not post the link despite Lewandowsky’s denial. Even if they did post the link at skeptical science, it was up for such a short time (the wayback machine shows there was nothing there a few days before and a few days after it was supposedly posted), that it would still be implausible that so many skeptics would have responded in such a short time.

      2. The issue is one of sample validity. The problem is that this survey of sceptics’ beliefs was posted primarily at sites strongly opposed to climate scepticism along with discussion of the research’s intention – implicitly inviting fake entries from opponents pretending to be ‘crazy sceptics’ to tilt the results. The paper includes a traffic analysis showing that sufficient sceptics would have seen it as a counter to this objection. However, the vast majority of sceptic views counted were to the site (Skeptical Science) that it was stated carried the survey but which in fact did not. Thus, the survey demographics on which the validity of the sample was based were incorrect, and the ‘fake response’ objection regains its force.

        The data requested by Steve McIntyre (as listed by him at his blog) was as follows:

        “1. After my initial failure, Roman Mureika has received a subset of the original data, from which several hundred responses had been removed. I request a copy of the dataset including the removed responses, with a denotation of the removed responses.

        2. I request that each response (row) show the version of the questionnaire. There are two reasons for this: first, Lewandowsky said that the versions had different question orders for “counterbalancing”. Second, the questionnaire version provides some information on the originating blog. This information would be retained in any competent design.

        3. I request that each response (row) show the date of each response. This is important because the responses are not homogeneous to order number. In addition, Lewandowsky made a preliminary presentation of results while the survey was still open and I wish to check if this had any effect. Again this information would be retained in any competent design.

        4. The survey was also filled out by respondents at the UWA using a different questionnaire number. Although this form of distribution was listed in Lewandowsky’s ethics amendment, Lewandowsky excluded this data from the original analysis. Lewandowsky has said that this exclusion didn’t matter, but I wish to verify this.”

        This is the information the UWA Vice Chancellor has recently refused to share. You’ll note there’s no request for IP numbers or individual identification of respondents. There may of course be other extant requests from other people.

        1. My request for LOG 12 – ‘Moon Hoax paper’ data here..

          the Vice Chancellors response was:

          I refer to your emails of the 11th and 25th March directed to Professor Maybery, which repeat a request you made by email dated the 5th September 2013 to Professor Lewandowsky (copied to numerous recipients) in which you request access to Professor Lewandowsky’s data for the purpose of submitting a comment to the Journal of Psychological Science.

          It is not the University’s practice to accede to such requests.

          Yours faithfully,

          Professor Paul Johnson,


      3. AFAIK There is some significant doubt that any survey link was posted at Skeptical Science. Since most of those who took part in the surveys were from non sceptic sites there was an argument that many of the sceptic participants were in fact people pretending to be sceptics. There was even some discussion of doing this on at least one non sceptic site site. The argument against this was that sceptics regularly visit and post at non sceptic sites. The example for this was Skeptical Science which probably has the highest sceptic readership. If there was no link posted there then the number of sceptics who could have seen the survey drops considerably.

        The truth of this might be found in the data. Which he won’t release.

      4. because the author based a key claim on the ‘goof’ would the paper have even been worthy of Psychological Science, without the claimed prevalence of sceptics, or the traffic figures. without Sks, it was just a survey of 7 of Lewandowsky/Cook’s mates blogs that all hate sceptics.

        I reported the error to Lewandowky and UWA here (ref the first paper – ‘Moon Hoax’:

        The factual error is:

        The LOG12 methodology states that the survey was posted at the SkepticalScience website, when in fact the survey was not posted at the Skeptical Science website.

        This has the following implications for LOG12, which will require corrections to the paper:

        ◾The methodology of LOG12 states that the survey was posted on the website (1 of 8 websites) This claim appears to be falsified.

        ◾The methodology also states that the survey was potential visible to 390,000 visits from readers, including 78,000 sceptical visits at the website. This is a key claim of the paper that the survey was potential viewed by a large, broad audience, (with a 20% sceptical audience) representative of the wider general public. As the survey never appeared at the website this claim is falsified

        ◾Additionally, the content analysis of is used to assert that there was a diverse representative audience across the other 7 blogs that linked to the survey. As the survey was never show at the claim of diverse and wide readership for the whole survey, based on a content analysis of http://www.SkepticalScience is now unsupported by the evidence in the supplementary material. New content analysis will be required for the other 7 blogs, including readership traffic volumes as well


        and the authors were informed of the ‘goof’, months before the paper was published, but allowed publication anyway.

  12. Sou – “Not only did “those people who made the statements” make them in “full awareness that their comments could be seen by the public”, I’d argue they made them with the explicit purpose of having their comments read by as many people as possible

    Of course. What would be the purpose of conspiracy theories and slogan-chanting if no one ever notices?

    The editors of Frontiers are probably responding to the devastating put down of them over at The Conversation – The journal that gave in to climate deniers’ intimidation.

    Frontiers ‘story’ seems to be changing as time goes on. This is what they wrote earlier:

    “This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study”

    Now that they have come in for scathing criticism, they are trying to shift the blame to Lewandowsky et al. If they’d shown some spine in standing for work they had already published, they wouldn’t find their reputation going down the gurgler.

    1. No Rob. The journal was happy to retract the paper and provide a simple explanation that offered a way out for the authors of the retracted paper. It was a good deed, spoilt by the reviewer and Lewandowsky attempting to cash in on the journal’s silence to derive political capital. Their actions show who has spine, and who doesn’t.

      1. Wrong Shub. The journal reviewed the paper and published it on the recommendation of the reviewers, one of whom wrote The Conversation piece I linked to above. The journal editors reconsidered the complaints and stated they found no ethical issues – I highlighted that in my previous comment too. Their new statement is at odds with their previous one.

        This isn’t going to inspire confidence in either potential reviewers, or those submitting work to the journal. Why be a reviewer if the journal editors are going to cave in to pressure by fringe elements? And why contribute work to the journal only to have your work withdrawn for spurious reasons?

        Instead of just admitting that they had made an egregious error in retracting the papers, the editors are contradicting their previous statements. They’re just digging a deeper hole for their journal, and may have broken an agreement with the papers authors. Time will tell if it’s just a flesh wound or a severed limb.

        1. It appears Lewandowsky himself was involved in penning the first retraction. He tell us
          “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”


          I don’t know how common it is for a journal to permit the authors of the retracted paper be involved in writing up the text of the retraction. It seems a bit odd. In contrast, the more recent press release is written by higher ups at the journal, i.e. “Costanza Zucca, Editorial Director Fred Fenter, Executive Editor”

          1. Retraction Watch has discussed how retraction texts are often negotiated with the retracting authors and have details/punches pulled. This particular example seems somewhat to fit that trend. But when Lew (who has spent too much time in the blogosphere and sees publication as another aspect of it) decided to overplay his hand, they called him on it.

            Really, I understand RW’s sympathies, but do Lucia and Barry really seem to you to be psychological deviants? Or just reasonable people that Lew happens to disagree with.

            There’s absolutely no reason why Lew can’t write blog posts or the like interpreting his opponents writings. But dressing something up as a science paper when it was just an effort to deal with his “opponents” in climate science by saying they were psychos…that’s not psychological science.

            I urge RW to look at the record with Lew.

          2. Except if you read the paper, it is nothing like a blog post. If it was, it would not have been accepted. There is a clear methodology and a clear explanation of everything that led to the conclusion is provided. You may not like the outcome but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

            If you seriously want to oppose this paper, follow the scientific method and publish a properly researched counterpoint in another journal. That is how science works, not through blog posts or empty legal threats.

          3. Publishing peer reviewed papers isn’t “following the scientific method”. It has absolutely nothing to do with it, in fact.

            Publishing peer reviewed papers is just a comment method for communicating results, though not necessarily the most effective one. It’s very common for researchers to learn of new results at conference talks, with the publications that follow simply being there to stake a permanent claim on the new results.

            Anyway, there is nothing wrong with criticizing Lewandowsky via a blog post, especially one where he has the opportunity to respond to, any more than him criticizing other people in his own blog posts (as long as they have the opportunity to respond). It’s an effective means of communicating issues in a rapid manner,especially when a mechanism is available for rebuttal.

          4. Agreed. But unless you respond with the scientific method disputing the result, then that result stands.

            A blog comment is a blog comment. Nothing more.

          5. So blog comments are not part of the true scientific process or method?

            The scientific method is: publishing your work, which is then challenged by others … replicated and validated – or disproved.

            I agree the challenge of a recreation/replication which is then ultimately published as well is a higher standard than a blog post.

            There is just one problem with that when it comes to Lewndowsky (and many CAGW proponent scientists of late). They refuse to release the data that would allow someone to follow the scientific process and replicate their work.

            Lewandowsky has refused to release the full data set for the LOG12 paper so that a replication and validation can occur. Please explain how the scientific process is served by this refusal to allow their work to be reviewed?

          6. Michael Marriott (co-author Fury)
            was brought in to be a neutral and independent researcher – shame he has spent the last three years on his blog – Watching The deniers – publically attacking ‘sceptics’, including people named in the paper.

            Punitive Psychology?

            (Marriott is a random blogger, and works in IT for a law firm, yet his affiliation listed on- Climate Realities Research, appear to be a fiction/vanity creation:

            some thoughts from Marriots blog:


            “….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

            “I can continue fight this vicious “war””
            “Watching the Deniers has been about holding the denial machine accountable” – Marriott

            Climate wars: Crikey gets the point about fighting the denial movement – 06 August 2012

            “……The environment movement fought the wrong war.

            And yes, this is a war.

            Every time a climate change denier balks at being called “a denier” my response is “suck it up princess”…….” Marriott


            “……I first created this blog about a year ago in a fit of wanting to “do something” about the state of the climate debate. At its core Watching the Deniers has been about holding the denial machine accountable……”


            “The one thing I’ve learnt is that the average “climate sceptic” – denier – is immune to reason, evidence and logic. The other key lesson is that the “denial machine” comprising of the fossil fuel lobby, Institute of Public Affairs, bloggers such as Jo Nova and Murdoch/News Corp journalists will happily push disinformation onto the Australian public. And they are absolutely shameless in their deliberate deception. – Marriott


            “I can continue fight this vicious “war”, or participate in a more strategic and important debate. “


            These were not researchers observing anything, but active participants in the ‘climate wars’ using psychology to attack and anme their perceived opponents as cranks, psychological defectives or conspiracy theorists..

          7. Alvin Stone

            April 5, 2014 at 1:04 am

            “Except if you read the paper, it is nothing like a blog post. If it was, it would not have been accepted. There is a clear methodology and a clear explanation of everything that led to the conclusion is provided. You may not like the outcome but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

            If you seriously want to oppose this paper, follow the scientific method and publish a properly researched counterpoint in another journal. That is how science works, not through blog posts or empty legal threats.”

            For one to publish a counterpoint in another journal and following the scientific method with regards to this paper a starting point would be to reproduce the results based on the original data used by Lewandowsky et al.
            Unfortunately though it would seem that despite repeated request’s for such data Lewandosky and the UWA have refused to release said data.

            Is that how science works ?

          8. Conspiracy ideation is rather common in humans, including otherwise highly intelligent individuals. That is, both people you mention may well have been showing conspiracy ideation in their criticism of the survey paper without otherwise appearing to be psychological deviants.

          9. That seems like speculation. They could as easily simply noticed glaring problems with the paper.

          10. Alvin Stone @ April 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm

            Do you mean “a thorough investigation” like the one described here: UWA Ethics Investigation? The UWA emails revealed at the link persuasively make the case that UWA does not take its investigations seriously,

          11. It is very common to permit authors to be involved in writing any retraction statements. It is, in fact, standard practice to involve the authors.

          12. I’m guessing you mean “common practice”. “Standard practice” is a term of art, and implies there is documentation associated with the practice. Retractions historically have been infrequent, so I’d be surprised to learn that many journals have an encoded a “standard practice” for how to handle retractions.

            I’m willing to be admit being wrong, if you can point to some documentation though.

        2. Rob, whatever the background behind the retraction of a single article might be, it is not fair to dismissively tarnish the reputation of an author. So, journals usually do not provide anything more than a brief, terse statement outlining the case for a retraction. Retraction is a not a trivial matter but it is not the end of the world. Academics deserve another chance and journals try to be kind enough

          If however the authors (and strangely enough in this case, reviewers) use the retraction statement for their personal gain rather than gracefully accept the decision of the journal, it forces the journal to take a stronger stand to protect its own reputation and decision.

          Remember, it is UWA and Lewandowsky who have the journal’s review documents under gag orders. If pushed further, who knows what other skeletons will tumble out.

          Moreover, what ‘caving in’ are you still talking about? The caving in the journal editors said did not happen? Who are the ‘fringe elements’? The same people who were mentioned by name in this paper?

        3. Rob, You are missing the point. The Conversation piece is by a graduate student in journalism who is obviously partisan in this dispute. Reputable journals usually pick reviewers from people working in the field who have a reputation and they remain anonymous. In cases like this where the article is controversial, they often pick people from the other side of the debate. The review process for this article does not instill confidence.

          It’ really simple. The Journal offered Lew and his SKS collaborators a way out of this mess. When misrepresentations were promulgated by them, the journal had to correct the record.

    2. Rob, clearly the journal was trying to write a bland and non-confrontational statement. So we must not read too much into it.

      They did not say anything at all about the science, the statistical analysis, etc. They didn’t say anything about the data quality, data collection methods, etc.

      I agree that Frontiers doesn’t come out looking too good in this.

      The interpretations resulting from all of this are false.

  13. The idea that this is an ethics issue seems to contradict the statement that went up when the paper was killed off. It also seems to inconsistent with what Frontiers’ lawyer, Michael Kenyon, has previously said about it. Quoting from prior coverage on Ars Technica back in March:

    The publisher, Frontiers, referred our questions to its lawyer, Michael Kenyon. Kenyon confirmed that the paper would be permanently removed and replaced with the following notice:
    “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.”
    Kenyon told Ars separately that Frontiers’ investigation had found that there were no issues with the paper itself or the research ethics of its authors. “Frontiers is concerned about solid science,” he said, “and it’s obviously a regret when you have to retract an article that is scientifically and ethically sound.”

    So earlier they said that an investigation turned up no ethical or academic problems and that the issue was one of “legal context.” This is also pretty much what one of the paper’s peer reviewers said, via an article at The Conversation:

    The journal’s lawyer, who is based in England (as was Lewandowsky by that time), was very concerned about the journal being sued for libel. At that time, British libel laws left scientists, peer-reviewed journals and journalists exposed to potentially ruinous lawsuits for publishing fair criticism of a company, person or product. (Of all the jurisdictions in which academic journals are published, the UK has historically been one of the most generous to libel claimants.) That changed on January 1 this year, when Britain’s libel laws were amended to reverse the chilling effect on science and legitimate public debate. Claimants must now show that they have suffered “serious harm” before launching legal action.

    But in February 2013, the journal had no such protection, and the lawyer raised concerns about two sentences in the paper that had been the subject of threats of litigation. By the end of the 20-minute conference call, we had all agreed that, if the authors made minor modifications to these sentences, the content would remain intact and the paper could be re-published without fear of successful legal action.

    Before the call ended, three academics, including me, argued that scientific journals must not be held to ransom every time someone threatens litigation. In response to our concerns, we were assured by the journal’s representatives that the legal matter would be considered settled once the two sentences had been amended as agreed.

    Yet the paper remained in limbo while the journal’s investigation into the academic and ethical aspects of the study dragged on for more than a year. Finally, the journal reached the conclusion that there was no academic or ethical case to answer; in the meantime, Britain’s Defamation Act 2013 had kicked in to provide scientific journals greater protection against threats of litigation, by privileging statements contained in peer-reviewed studies.

    It is hard to imagine a set of outcomes that would have better remedied each issue flagged by Frontiers as a matter of concern. So it came as quite a shock to hear that the journal had decided to retract the paper ostensibly because “the legal context is insufficiently clear”.

    So I don’t know what to think. There are two versions of events here and they seem inconsistent with each other. The earlier statements from Frontiers itself, Frontiers’ lawyer, and one of the peer-reviewers are all on one side and the new statement is giving us an incompatible history (I’m not even appealing to Lewandowsky himself). All the earlier material indicates fear of potential litigation as a motivating factor. The new statement says no threats of legal action were in play at all. Perhaps they only mean there were no formal threats? The implication being taken up here is that there were professional ethics problems with the paper, but that’s again contradicted by everything else that’s been put out from the journal and everybody associated with it.

    Rather than clarify the issue, this just seems to raise further questions.

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Frontiers was very consistent in stating that the paper was retracted purely due to legal concerns (exceptionally flimsy ones at that). Now suddenly they’ve decided to throw the authors of the paper under the bus, no doubt because of all the criticism they’ve faced for their stupid retraction decision. They’re in damage control mode, and their form of damage control is to try and shift the damage to Lewandowsky et al. Screw them by retracting their paper, then try to blame the people who were screwed. Gross incompetence at Frontiers is the only way to describe it.

        1. That raises another interesting ethical point.

          One of the problems which has brought climate science so far into disrepute is its infiltration by activist groups like Dana’s Skeptical Science.

          This is an organisation which, as far as I know, has no legal corporate or charitable standing. It has no constitution, governance structure or ethical supervision and publishes no financial data.

          Nevertheless, it has persuaded a few activist scientists, like Lewandowsky, and activist editors, like those at the UK Guardian – to use the name as if it were some sort of bona fide scientific institution or resource.

          The name has even appeared on peer reviewed papers to give that impression.

          We know from leaked documents that participants at SkS deliberately plot to collude in internet fora, Amazon reviews etc – to promote their views and disparage opponents. They call themselves the “crusher crew” :-

          It’s interesting that when people like Dana and Rob Painting etc turn up in discussions like this – they never reveal themselves as part of the team who collaborated with Lewandowsky to cook up this, thankfully now discredited, pseudo-science.

          PS I have to declare an interest in the subject myself, since I was one of those libelled in the paper by way of a falsified quotation – although my case was apparently strong enough to have the offending reference removed shortly after publication.

          1. The one thing that Skeptical Science has going for it that deniers do not is that it relies very heavily on peer reviewed science and updates its science accordingly.

            It is rightfully, one of the most well respected websites for good quality climate science information on the web. It is far from discredited, unlike every single denier blog and website. Not one of those stands up to scientific scrutiny.

          2. “Every single…” “Not one…”?

            That’s similar to the recent national elections where the guy in office got 100% of the vote.

          3. The credibility of “peer review” as currently practiced in CAGW “alarmism” is now being examined…at least by those interested in salvaging the “science” in “climate science”. That is a good thing, in fact an indispensable thing, for the discipline to be rescued from an ever-growing contempt of “climate science” in the popular culture.

            When you hear “anti-science” and “denialism”, rest assured that they won’t be emanating from “skeptical” science.

          4. Here’re some comments by Robert Way and Ryan O’Donnell from Skeptical Science, about Steve McIntyre and the climateaudit blog:
            “to be clear in all this, steig is wrong. CA is right in terms of their reconstruction and their subsequent response. They included way too much snark over at CA but that doesn’t detract from them being right statistically.”
            “The Tiljander debate showed that Mc was right on that issue. Kaufmann had to fix his series because he also used it upside down. Didn’t make too much of a difference but Mann’s response of “Bizarre” was pretty lazy if you ask me. The original Tiljander series people even said Mann and Kaufmann used it wrong. That being said Mc is a conspiracy wackjob…” [obligatory knock on McIntyre]
            “I don’t mean to be the pessimist of the group here but Mc brought up some very good points about the original hockeystick. The confidence affirmed to it by many on our side of the debate was vastly overstated and as has been shown in the recent literature greater variability on the centennial scale exists than was shown. The statistical methodology used by Mann did rely too much on tree rings which still are in debate over their usefulness to reconstruct temperature and particularly their ability to record low-frequency temperature variations. I’ve personally seen work that is unpublished that challenges every single one of his reconstructions because they all either understate or overstate low-frequency variations. My personal experience has been that Moberg still has the best reconstruction and his one does show greater variability. That’s why I don’t like to talk the HS stuff, because I know a lot of people who have doubts about the accuracy of the original HS.”
            When someone suggested that the criticisms on climateaudit were minor points, Way responded:
            “I don’t think these are minor points. I think they get major points correct. MBH98 was not an example of someone using a technique with flaws and then as he learned better techniques he moved on… He fought like a dog to discredit and argue with those on the other side that his method was not flawed. And in the end he never admitted that the entire method was a mistake. Saying “I was wrong but when done right it gives close to the same answer” is no excuse. He never even said that but I’m just making a point. What happened was they used a brand new statistical technique that they made up and that there was no rationalization in the literature for using it. They got results which were against the traditional scientific communities view on the matters and instead of re-evaluating and checking whether the traditional statistics were valid (which they weren’t), they went on and produced another one a year later. They then let this HS be used in every way possible (including during the Kyoto protocol lead-up that resulted in canadian parliament signing the deal with many people ascribing their final belief in climate change being assured by the HS) despite knowing the stats behind it weren’t rock solid. Of course someone was going to come along and slam it. In the defense of the HS method they published things on RC like what I showed above where they clearly misrepresented the views of the foremost expert on PCA in atmospheric sciences who basically says that Mann’s stats were dubious.”
            Etc. That’s honesty, vs. cheerleading.

          5. It’s interesting that when people like Dana and Rob Painting they never reveal themselves as part of the team who collaborated with Lewandowsky

            Wrong. I had nothing to do with the paper. That some climate science deniers are prone to conspiratorial thinking is hardly novel.

          6. I had nothing to do with the two papers, either. In fact I have been privately and publicly critical of both of them. But I am an innocent when it comes to social science and, consequently, my criticisms, such as they are, carry little weight and they do not detract in any way from my feelings of respect and friendship towards John Cook and Steve Lewandowsky.

          7. Thanks Andy. But Skepticalscience, however large the umbrella may be, houses the moderation team that ran, snipped and shaped comments and selectively released them for publication in the retracted paper. Its involvement in the Recursive Fury fiasco is not marginal.

            One only hopes these activities were not known to other Skepticalscience insiders at large.

            It is also noteworthy that, though Cook claims the presence of a large group of well-qualified insiders operates as an effective feedback mechanism in Skepticalscience, there was a failure to inform him or whisper into his ear that harvesting fellow bloggers comments to write academic papers is not a good idea.

          8. This paper was not a Skeptical Science project, although, of course, many of us followed its progress with interest and, I believe that one or two people did volunteer to help Lewandowsky with moderation on STW. The paper was not reviewed by me or, to my knowledge, any other SKS insider.

            Apart from the incompetent and incoherent handling of the retraction by Frontiers, what strikes me most about this sorry affair is the hypocrisy of some of those who want this paper to be suppressed on ethics grounds. They object to their freely offered public comments being scrutinized, while feeling free themselves to selectively quote from illegally obtained private discussions from The SkS Forum hack and, previously, to freely quote from and analyze the private emails exposed in the ClimateGate affair.

            For example, in his complaint letter to Frontiers, Steve McIntyre claims that John Cook is strongly biased against him. McIntyre finds and publishes some quotes from the SkS private forum in which some people, (excessively, in my opinion) vent their frustrations about McIntyre, but he finds absolutely nothing there that is prejudicial against McIntyre written by Cook himself, in two years of private conversations. Any reasonable person would conclude from this that there is no evidence of malice on Cook’s part. To then claim that Lewandowsky et al are violating McIntyre’s own privacy in RF by analyzing his public comments is chutzpah of the highest order.

            The many unsolicited comments on LOG12 from skeptics at STW and elsewhere were ridiculous and revealing and I suppose it’s only natural that their authors are uncomfortable about having them subsequently exposed to public analysis. My own main objection to RF is that scrutinizing and classifying the informal comments of the small number of people who strenuously oppose the scientific consensus on climate change is not particularly interesting. Such analysis also implies that the opinions of these people matter, whereas I think that for the most part that they are best ignored.

          9. Nobody complained about violation of privacy. Nobody has shown that anybody complained about violation of privacy. The Declaration of Helsinki isn’t just a document about privacy. Privacy has zero to do with Recursive Fury.

          10. The point is that these statements in the public domain were taken out of context and then used to ascribe psychological illnesses to these people. That is perhaps the truth that Frontiers finally realized.

          11. If it really took Frontiers the best part of a year to come around to the idea that the content of the paper was unethical, then that just underlines their incompetence. The journal is a psychology journal for heaven’s sake, where ethics considerations are central. And if they eventually concluded that there were ethical problems with the article, then why didn’t they say so in their original retraction notice, in which they stated the opposite?

            In my reading of Lewandowsky et al, I see no attempt made to diagnose mental illnesses at all. If I have missed something, please provide an example. Of course, readers of the retracted paper might well conclude for themselves that some climate skeptics are bonkers. They could then go to the skeptic blogs to see if the comments appear more reasonable read in their full context, but I would doubt that this exercise would cause them to change their minds.

          12. Andy, as I said, it is likely that retraction became inevitable once somebody in charge at Frontiers decided medical aspects were present in Recursive Fury. Had it been otherwise, no Declaration of Helsinki applicable, so a wholly different ‘ethics’ framework.

          13. These are remarkable on many counts.
            It is abominable if skepticalscience insiders were voyeuring open comments but no one registered protest.

            If Cook did not vent at McIntyre himself, he was audience to his fellow forum members expressing extreme and violent thoughts about McIntyre. But he made nothing of them because he understood, or believed such comments to be people getting carried away, isn’t it? People he otherwise trusted and therefore could ignore such lapses?

            He couldn’t think the same about skeptical commenters as he plucked comments and stacked into his little datasheet?

            Of the four authors in the paper, the cleaner ones are Cook and Oberauer. In his SMH interview, Cook complains his academic freedom is being suppressed. What freedom? Cook has a website and all possible freedom at his disposal. Show me one article he has written in the past two years, where he expresses criticism from his own pen, putting his own thoughts down, and takes a stance on an issue. Cook comes across as lacking malice because he does not interact with the people in the blogs.

          14. So it is acceptable to criticize John Cook for the things he did not say in private, but it is somehow unethical to scrutinize the statements that Steve McIntyre and others did make in public?

          15. It’s fine to criticize comments made in public, in public. It’s not fine to say nothing about them in public but instead take them into a peer-reviewed academic publication where the ‘criticism’ doesn’t consist of addressing the direct content but of shoehorning them into self-evolved categories of psychological diagnoses. In addition, it violates norms in the process of transmutating your criticism as research, as science requires protection of research subjects.

            In other words, John Cook cannot perform research on Steve McIntyre, Anthony Watts and Joanne Nova.

      1. Dana, as has been mentioned above, the initial retraction notice was made by in conjunction with Lewandowsky, who was involved in its writing.

        I think that Lewandowsky made false and defamatory statements about people who criticized his initial paper (which seems to be the subject screening protocol here), and failed to carry his research plan through the full UWA IRB process.

        1. That’s a new twist and entirely inconsistent with what has gone on before. If what you state is the case, a civil suit for defamation should be forthcoming. To date, I have seen nothing.

      2. Frontiers was very consistent in stating that the paper was retracted purely due to legal concerns (exceptionally flimsy ones at that).

        Your sentences seems to suggest that Fronteirs has been consistent in stating the legal concerns were “flimsy”. You may think the concerns are flimsy. Frontiers has never suggested so. It might be wise for you to organize your sentences so they avoid suggesting Frontiers made claims they did not make.

        Now suddenly they’ve decided to throw the authors of the paper under the bus,

        It would seem prior Frontiers clarification of their retraction statement, the authors did their best to throw Frontiers under a bus.

        They’re in damage control mode, and their form of damage control is to try and shift the damage to Lewandowsky et al. Screw them by retracting their paper,

        I would suggest that over the past few weeks, Lew and Crew have been in damage control and tried to damage Frontiers by publishing numerous articles suggesting Frontiers had been intimidated when Frontiers view of the matter is otherwise.

        1. I suspect when the correspondence is released – as may be the case now since I imagine past agreements between the authors and the journal seem to have been broken – we will see the real progress of the retraction. Considering how the journal has publicly shifted its position and based on what we have seen from those who claim to have made threats to the journal, it is now almost impossible for Frontiers to come out of this well.

          1. I certainly hope that the rest of the correspondence is eventually revealed! This will someday make a good case study.

          2. Skeptical Science have ‘heard of the ‘Backfire Effect’ – perhaps they should look up the ‘Streisand Effect’

            AND I would LOVE to see the correspondence between Frontiers and the authors and UWA,

          3. Speaking of ‘releasing correspondence’, readers should recall that this controversy is being fueled in large part by Lewandowsky’s (and the University of Western Australia’s) refusal to release the original data behind his “moon landing hoax” paper. Like Michael Mann, Lewandowsky’s flat refusal to allow independent replication of his “science” draws the ire of real scientists, and casts doubt on his entire body of work. He could do himself a huge favor simply by conforming to the accepted practices of scientific research.

      3. This paper had serious issues from day 1, as does the underlying LOG12 paper it is based upon. Do you care to comment on the game of music chairs that went on with peer reviewers, or any of the other problems raised?

        The first reviewer, Michael Woods, is well qualified with specific, direct domain experience – both in Psych Science and in conspiracy ideation. Mr. Woods raised concerns with the paper as a result of his review, which were not addressed by the authors, nor presumably by the Editor, Dr. Virem Swami. As a result Mr. Wood requested his name be withdrawn as a reviewer.

        Then Prof. Sabitha Nateson from the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies at the Univ of Texas, who is highly experienced in, and teaches, Psych statistical analysis, was briefly named and then just as quickly removed as a reviewer. Ms. Natesan was a perfectl reviewer, espeically for the LOG12 paper and its issue, which underlay and provide the basis for the Recursive Fury paper.

        From there Mr. Swami – the Frontiers Editor responsible for overview and decisions regarding this paper – apparently named himself a peer reviewer as well as Editor. While his credentials certainly do appear to make him qualified as a reviewer I cannot see a bigger conflict of interest than being in a position where the Editor is also a reviewer. This eliminates the entire accountability and oversite layer the Editor is supposed to perform. It is a glaring example of the worst of the ‘pal review’ issue.

        Mr. Nuccitelli – please comment on:

        1. Mr. Swami in his Editor role, appointing himself a peer reviewer.

        2. Ms. Nateson being named and then removed as a listed peer reviewer?

        3. How do you reply to the fact that perhaps the most qualified reviewer, Mr. Wood – with both Psych statistics and conspiracy ideation expertise, REQUESTED his name be removed as a reviewer.

        4. Lewandowsky and UWA’s refusal to release data so Lewandowsky etal’s work can be replicated and validated.

        1. I can reply to your point 1 as a scientific editor. The editor is always the first reviewer – they decide if the paper is appropriate to send out for review. In a sense, an editor is also always a subsequent reviewer. The editor choses the reviewers, makes the decision about which reviewer comments are appropriate, and decides if the authors respond appropriately. The editor also often adds his/her own corrections. When it is difficult finding an appropriate reviewer and an editor has the expertise, then it is entirely appropriate for the editor to be an official reviewer. The only valid reasons for excluding the editor from the reviewer pool would be (1) conflict of interest, (2) lack of expertise, and (3) lack of time.

          1. The Editor’s job is review, oversight and making decisions on publication – that the rules for publication have been followed and that the paper is eligible and properly reviewed. If it was appropriate for Editors to also be peer reviewers then it would be done all the time and save considerable effort. There is a reason Editors are not also peer reviewers on the same papers

            Swami was not the reviewer until several other reviewers had withdrawn. Michael Wood in particular raised issues with the authors about the paper which were not addressed. Swami, as Editor, made the decision to publish online without having satisfied those peer reviewer concerns, and as a result Mr. Wood withdrew his name as reviewer and asked to be removed from the paper.

            Prof. Sabitha Nateson from Univ of North Texas was then appointed, and just as quickly withdrawn.

            Ms McKewon was not remotely qualified as a reviewer. A JOURNALISM student with no qualifications to review this paper – other than her support of Lewandowsky and her support of his claims.

            Mr. Wood was highly qualified, with specific domain experience and a research focus on conspiracy ideation. Ms. Nateson was also highly qualified, as a member of the Psych school and teacher of Psych statistics. Both were named and withdrawn.

            Only then did Swami apparently name himself as the 2nd reviewer.

            First the Editor, Swami, should never have released and approved for publication with issues outstanding with the primary reviewer. And his actions subsequent were even more suspect. Neither Mr. Swami nor the Journal have addressed these issues.

    2. It seems likely to me that Frontiers had a higher level review of this matter after the retraction notice was written (in conjunction with Lew). That review found that the lower level response was just wrong and that the complaints were substantive. It does seem to me that the lower level people in this instance are not the most experienced or qualified, including the reviewers themselves, one of whom is a graduate student and has gone public with her views. Normally peer reviewers are anonymous, at least in more rigorous fields. And they are sometimes selected from disagreeing scientists.

  14. It’s just really sad to see Frontiers self-destruct and try to take Lewandowsky et al. down with them. They obviously made a mistake in deciding the paper needed to be retracted. They received more blowback from the academic community than they would have from the denial community had they just left the paper published. Those threatening legal action didn’t have a leg to stand on – UWA’s lawyers knew it. But the journal made the mistake and caved to the threats – and yes, they caved, despite their denial of that obvious fact.

    Now they throw the authors under the bus, claiming their revised submission “did not deal adequately with the issues raised by Frontiers.” I happen to know the authors agreed to all the revisions requested by Frontiers, so if those revisions did not adequately deal with the issues they raised, that’s Frontiers’ own fault for not requesting changes that would satisfy them. To announce that like it’s Lewandowsky et al.’s fault is just despicable behavior by Frontiers.

    The authors and the journal agreed to language regarding the retraction, and now Frontiers has reneged on that agreement too in order to throw them under the bus. It’s hard to think of how Frontiers could have handled this whole fiasco any worse. They’ve made one stupid decision after another, and frankly I suspect they’ve now opened themselves up to legal action by the authors whose legal agreement they broke.

    1. Dana

      I happen to know the authors agreed to all the revisions requested by Frontiers, so if those revisions did not adequately deal with the issues they raised, that’s Frontiers’ own fault for not requesting changes that would satisfy them. To announce that like it’s Lewandowsky et al.’s fault is just despicable behavior by Frontiers.

      The most you can know is that in your opinion or that of the authors they made changes they think should have satisfied Frontiers. Evidently, Frontiers opinion differs.

      Presumably the authors could publish both the communications from Frontiers and their own revised manuscripts and then we could all decide for ourselves? Of course, if the authors are mistaken about the law, publishing their own revisions might open them to the liabilities Frontiers perceives to exist. Still, it’s up to them.

      You seem to be privy to lots of inside information. Can we anticipate the authors self-publishing their revised manuscript along with the guidance from Frontiers?

      1. If I was an editor in a competing journal, I would be looking at this paper right now. I suspect that we may even see this republished in a more respected journal, making Frontiers look even worse.

      2. “The most you can know is that in your opinion or that of the authors they made changes they think should have satisfied Frontiers. Evidently, Frontiers opinion differs. ”


        I didn’t say “the changes they think should have satisfied Frontiers”. I said “the authors agreed to all the revisions requested by Frontiers.” There’s a big difference.

        1. dana,
          Fronteirs view is “crucially, did not deal adequately with the issues raised by Frontiers.” So, once again, you seem to be of the opinion that the authors agreed to all revisions requested– but Frontirrs evidently holds a different view.

          I’ll ask this again

          You seem to be privy to lots of inside information. Can we anticipate the authors self-publishing their revised manuscript along with the guidance from Frontiers?

          1. Frontiers said “We’re concerned about legal liability so make ‘X’ changes to the paper to alleviate those concerns”. Lewandowsky et al. made ‘X’ changes. Frontiers decided to retract the paper anyway, and now is saying “Lewandowsky et al. did not adequately deal with the issues raised by Frontiers.”

            So whose fault is that? It’s easy to see that it’s Frontiers who’s at fault here, at least when it comes to the revised paper supposedly not addressing Frontiers’ concerns. That’s BS.

            I’ll also say this story is far from over.

          2. We don’t see any evidence for your assertions, Dana. Maybe it happened that way, maybe not. Right now we have only statements from Frontiers, which do not fit your narrative.

          3. “Right now we have only statements from Frontiers”

            That’s all you have, and that’s the problem. You’re assuming Frontiers is being honest and accurate in its new statement. You’re only getting one side of the story – that will change next week.

          4. “You’re only getting one side of the story – that will change next week.”

            Why not tell us now?

            Do you not think information should be just clearly imparted to people as and when it is available.

          5. Dana, perhaps your and Lew’s transparent attempts to blame the retraction on “yielding to threats” may be in fact partly responsible for the journal editors feeling a need to correct the record.

          6. Interesting. From your description, it sounds like it wasn’t Frontiers caving in to legal threats from the involuntary human subjects of your experiment, but Frontiers spinelessly caving in to legal threats from the authors. I’m interested in the evidence for that.

            As far as I’m concerned, the paper was both incompetently done and unethical. It was an attempt to use the high ground of an academic journal to fire more pot shots in the climate war, with smears and distortions that would have been disreputable even in a blog post. How Frontiers could ever have thought it was publishable is beyond me – I don’t know if they were ‘on side’ or just naive. It sounds like it took them several goes to find reviewers who would pass it. And then of course when the storm hit they must have realised almost immediately what had happened, and there was evidently a lot of behind-the-scenes argument between the editors, lawyers, and authors about how to get out of it. I’m guessing the initial plan was to rewrite with the minimum changes needed not to get sued, and then the senior editorial staff got involved and had the cojones not to let their journal be used as an attack platform in this nasty polemic war. They probably had the wisdom to see it wouldn’t end there.

          7. Yes, Nullis. According to the latest from Lewandowsky on his blog, Lewandowsky and the Journal had their lawyers negotiate the original retraction statement. Lewandowsky’s allies’ subsequent comments about the way this was handled must have been a big surprise to Frontiers.

        2. Dana, can you provide evidence for your claim that

          “I didn’t say “the changes they think should have satisfied Frontiers”. I said “the authors agreed to all the revisions requested by Frontiers.” There’s a big difference.”

          Senior people at Frontiers contradict your statement.

          1. The evidence will be forthcoming in short order. Ultimately it’s going to be the authors’ words against the journal’s words, though email exchanges between the two groups support the former, not the latter. So do all public statements except the newest Frontiers comments.

    2. Dana, just over a week ago you were telling us the damage legal action against journals and publishers could have (even though, it would appear, no legal action was being pursued against the journal at the time). Yet this comment above seems to implicitly endorse legal action. Can we take this as a change of view?

      Also, assuming the agreed text of the retraction was an informal agreement, I don’t see which law would have been broken by changing it. Would you care to enlighten us which statute/article/instrument you were thinking of?

      1. I think you will find that it was a formal agreement. There is no way lawyers would be called in and this thing would be settled over a handshake. I can only see this getting more and more messy for Frontiers.

        1. Alvin, we’re talking about the note used to describe the retraction. There is no legal obligation to any agreement. I don’t see why even a handshake would be needed. The journal has complete rights and authority to retract articles as it sees fit. Why would the journal enter into a formal agreement to tie its own hands when it is under absolutely no obligation to do so? It makes no sense at all.

          Of course people do odd things sometimes, so it isn’t impossible, but I certainly don’t see it as probable.

          An informal agreement seems far more likely, not tying the hand of the journal, but trying to manage the media response to the retraction. Of course, that turned into a complete train wreck when Nuccitelli and Lewandowsky hit the press. A train wreck I assume frontiers wanted no part of.

          1. The moment lawyers were brought in over the possibility of libel, it is very likely that a formal agreement was made. If not, then we could be in for very interesting times with this over the next week and some people might be questioning the quality of their legal team.

          2. I think we’re well past the point of questioning the quality of Frontiers’ legal team at this point. The decision to retract the paper was more than enough to prove their incompetence to me. The story certainly isn’t going to end with them contradicting the statement they agreed upon with the paper authors.

          3. This is incredible on two counts. Whatever the journal’s earlier statements might have been, it has clarified there were ethical issues with the paper. That’s what the journal actually thinks. It was UWA and Lewandowsky who requested the university’s ethics documentation be kept under wraps (see:, not the journal. Now you are saying the journal agreed to keep quiet about the paper’s problems.

            Don’t you find it a tad troublesome for Lewandowsky and Cook, that their paper’s problems had to be kept out of public discussion because of legal agreements? Doesn’t that contradict the actual text of the retraction which squarely blamed potential legal threats from complainants for the retraction?

            It is quite likely your article with its framing of ‘caving in to threats’ that triggered the dissolution of these hitherto secretive legal arrangements.

          4. You’re assuming the journal kept quiet about ethical concerns and isn’t just inventing them now in its damage control efforts. There is no basis for that assumption.

          5. What damage was the journal trying to control?

            The damage that was caused by the several one-sided opinion pieces that appeared in venues sympathetic to Lewandowsky, blaming the journal for ‘caving in’, ‘spinelessness’, ‘buckling to intimidation’, cowardice and so on.

            These went over and above the fuzzy but narrow remit of the original retraction statement that permitted all parties some breathing space. But then Ms McKewon, an involved party to the dispute, had to present her view. Is it any surprise the journal was moved to respond?

            The basis for ‘assuming’, well there is no need to assume anything, for demonstrating the journal’s stance on the ethics concerns is their latest statement. It states unambigiously the authors failed to protect research subjects.

          6. What may have happened is that the Editor assigned the Lew paper negotiated a retraction statement with Lew that allowed all to save face. Then Dana and Lew tried to blame the journal publicly. They the senior editors at the journal intervened and found that the Editor had screwed up and that the complaints about the paper were in fact true and accurate.

          7. Alvin, there are two problems with this line.

            Firstly, you say that “lawyers were brought in over the possibility of libel”. On what do you base this claim? Frontiers have not, at any point, mentioned libel. Their original vague retraction statement alluded to legal issues but they did not say libel, and they have now confirmed that they received no threats. The only people to state libel was a factor were Dana and Lewandowsky, and their story has no real credibility left.

            Secondly, why do you think there would need to be a formal agreement? The journal is at liberty to retract any paper it sees fit to do so. No formal agreement or lawyers required.

    3. Perhaps if the work was sound to begin with, if the authors were not, as it appears to me, using the guise of a scientific paper as an excuse to gain media coverage of purposely sensationalized claims of minor findings (findings based on the thinnest of threads (appx N=4 posts out of appx 150 total) which claims all but dissappear altogether when the clearly “manipulated” survey responses are removed), they wouldn’t have been susceptible to any of this criticism.

      Even one of the staunchest Skeptical Science (and CAGW) supporters and proponents, Tom Curtis, had this to say about Lewandowsky’s work:

      It was Lewandowsky’s decisions and actions – and his alone – that have created this situation.

      I prefer an intelligent reasoned debate, rather than arbitrarily silencing comment one doesn’t like.

        1. Alvin, Frontiers said:

          Frontiers did not “cave in to threats”; in fact, Frontiers received no threats.

        2. A ‘paper in response’ is an impossibility until Lewandowski and UWA agree to disclose the raw metadata. From the onset, this entire issue (echoing the Mann case) has been about ‘scientists behaving badly.’ (To say nothing of the behavior of poorly educated journalists.)

        3. Exactly. A paper in response which is only possible when the authors follow the rules, and the scientific process, and make their data available so their work can be replicated.

          I call for Lewandowsky and UWA to stop stonewalling and demand that they release the full data on their papers.

    4. As any lawyer knows, not all agreements are legally enforceable contracts. I would like to see a copy of the “contract” entered into between Frontier and Lewandowsky. Was the contract supported by legally sufficient “consideration” on Lewandowky’s part? (i.e. What did Lewandowsky promise to do or refrain from doing to create a legally binding contract?) Did the contract prohibit Frontiers from providing additional reasons for the retraction that were not set forth in the retraction statement? Curious lawyers want to know.

  15. It is fascinating that the author has asked for commentary from others who read Retraction Watch to get a sense of the feeling of the community – meaning I assume the scientific community – and yet the vast bulk of responses have been from the deniers whose social networks have clearly sent them here.

    In so many ways, the commentary here which bends the facts around this paper to suit a narrative and the responses (some even suggesting conspiracies) are just further evidence of the accuracy of the Recursive Fury paper. There is another follow up study in this comment thread alone.

    1. Alvin, your position expressed on this thread is that the journal’s editors are lying when they issued this new statement:

      “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….”

      [emphasis added]

      Interesting position you’ve taken….. so do you know better than the journal’s editors what is really in their minds? Or do you think the journal’s editors are secretly colluding to mislead the public and scientists about what went on here?

      1. Please note that Zucca & Fenter are not the journal’s editors. They are much higher up the chain (executive and editorial director of Frontiers).

        1. So replace “the journal’s editors” with “the journal’s senior editorial staff”. Anyway, Fenter’s title is “Executive Editor”—even by title he’s an editor.

      2. I’m basing my response on the first statement made by Frontiers, as I have said a number of times. The ethics reasoning in the new statement is strange after previously stating they were happy with the ethics and the science.

        I also strongly suspect, as i have note before, there was a formal legal agreement and now that this has been broken, we may actually see the chain of communication released to the public. I certainly hope so, because this has been messy and foolish.

    2. Alvin, I am a researcher, and I’ve done human subject research. And I”m not by any stretch a denier.

      I just don’t accept that people should behave unethically and perhaps illegally, or that this behavior should be applauded let alone lauded.

      1. First, I will admit that I do not have the time to wade through all of the hundred or so comments here, so I my question may have already been answered. What specific statements in the original paper are being objected to? I read quickly through the paper, and I see nothing defamatory or inappropriate. Will someone who feels upset please cite direct quotes from the paper, and explain why they are not correct?

          1. Lucia HERSELF complains that four ‘psychopathological’ qualities are attributed to her. This is her term, it does not appear anywhere in the entire paper under discussion. The 4 qualities cannot by any reasonable person be described as ‘psychopathological.’ They include, for example, NI, which is shorthand for speech in which Nefarious Intent is ascribed to something. This cannot be called ‘psychopathological’ – it simply describes the language used. Just as you characterize Lewinsky’s speech as ‘false and defamatory.’ The difference is that Lewinsky gives explicit examples, but you seem to be simply slandering him without providing evidence.

          2. Tom: are you aware that the journal itself is describing the characterizations as “psychopathological?”

          3. Craig Thomas @ April 5, 2014 at 8:19 pm

            Point references can be found at Ms. Liljegren’s blog.

          4. Craig:
            Which points of my claim do you find meritless?

            Did he quote me? Yes.

            Am I identifiable? yes. One can read the quote, load the link provided, find the quote and see it was written by “Lucia”. My contact information at my blog gives my full name. That’s “identifiable”.

            Did he attribute NS, NI, and so on to people who say what I say? (Which would a fortiory include me)? Yes.

            Are these traits “psycholpathological”? He gives explicit definitions, which fit that category. Frontiers also thinks they fit that word.

            I should think my claim he did these things has merit: he did them.

          5. “Did he attribute NS, NI, and so on to people who say what I say? (Which would a fortiory include me)? Yes.”

            No, the authors of the paper did not do that.

          6. Craig,
            I’m not sure how you are intepreting what is written. But Lewandowsky specifically says that “paronoid ideation” can be observed in responses and are “revealed” in a statement I made.

            “We suggest that some of the variables that predict
            conspiracist ideation|viz. low trust (Goertzel, 1994) and paranoid ideation (Darwin et
            al., 2011)|were observable in the response to LOG12. Those variables are revealed by
            statements such as:”[(insert verbatim quote traceable to me here]

            I really don’t know how you can read this as something other than characterizing my text as revealing paranoid ideation. Maybe some people would agree with you. But I would suggest that if someone was on the ‘defendant’ end of a lawsuit, they would be pretty nervous that a jury would interpret that the way I do.

            What I’ve said is I would have a colorable case– and you will note that in comments, I also said I might lose. But I do think I would have a colorable case under laws that apply in the jurisdiction in which I live.

          7. It is obvious that this second-rate journal is trying to justify its gross violation of scientific ethics – retracting a legitimate paper based only on mischaracterizations by bloggers. The point is that the paper that was retracted does not use this term and it takes willful mis-reading of the paper to apply the term. The paper does not attribute psychological disorders to anyone. This journal has lost all credibility and I will be happy to see it eliminated.

          8. I knew nothing about the journal before this uproar. I do know about scientific publishing. This journal has done two unforgivable things. First, it retracted a paper based on its own spinelessness. Second, it violated the confidentiality of the peer review process – at least if we are to believe the claims of those who declare that they know who the reviewers were, etc. No legitimate journal would do either of these things. The fact that a scientific study can be retracted by a journal based on political attacks by non-scientists is simply appalling.

          9. So, why do you think Lew decided to publish his paper in such a journal?

            “The fact that a scientific study can be retracted by a journal based on political attacks by non-scientists is simply appalling.” The journal has stated it didn’t receive any threats.

          10. Tom – Frontiers publishes the peer reviewers names with the paper. And they published names of the interim reviewer as well.

            I think you would agree that CHANGING peer reviewers after publication shows a serious problem in itself. Publication should mena the paper has passed peer review and the Editor has determined that peer review was sufficient. In the case of this paper one of the orig two reviewers raised concerns during review. Those concerns were not addressed, yet the Editor – Dr Viren Swami – chose to publish anyway. The primary reviewer Michael Wood then withdrew as a reviewer and asked his name be removed.

            Prof Sabitha Nateson from Univ North texas was then listed as reviewer but that name was quickly removed as well – replaced with the Editor Swami appointing himself reviewer. Swami has a relationship with Lewandowsky, with Swami 2010 being the core of Lewandowsky’s LOG12 paper – which was the basis for this Fury paper.

            The Fury paper was not objected to based on “political attack.” It was objected to because it is highly flawed – it is not science – but rather a poor and thinly veiled attempt to smear and demean those the authors disagree with, in my opinion.

            Exactly as occurred with Lewandosky etal’s similarly flawed LOG12 “Hoax” paper. The authors attached a highly sensationalized headline which address a minor finding of the paper – a find barely supported by the evidence – a tiny handful of responses out of the appx N=150 total – with most of those few responses found to be manipulated attempting to negatively “game” the survey.

            Despite the authors knowing full well the tenuous nature of their claims – they attached the sensational headline and submitted to the news media months in advance of any publication. Which had the intended effect of being picked up by media around the world – and ridiculing and smearing the targets – those people skeptical of the global warming claims.

            Even one of the biggest warming proponents at Skeptical Science – Tom Curtis – stated the LOG12 work was junk – that there was nothing of value to draw conclusions from in the paper.

          11. Tom DeCoursey,

            The Frontiers conditions of publication are that the reviewers names are to be published along with the article.

            Second, where one other the first or second retraction statement does it say the paper was retracted due to political attacks from non-scientists?

          12. ‘Moon Hoax’ implicitly identifies Lucia by quoting easily traceable statements. Lewandowski explicitly categorizes Lucia as a ‘denier’ or ‘skeptic.’ Anyone who reads Lucia knows she is neither. So there are the first two problems: 1) implicitly naming Lucia and 2) knowingly and falsely labeling her incorrectly.

            Then, in ‘Recursive’, Lewandowski labels Lucia’s statements as implying ‘nefarious intent.’ Yes, the labels are purely speculative and have no basis in the DSM-IV, but he has created these 4 labels as types of ‘conspiracist ideation.’ His stated intent is to demonstrate that in his opinion, based on labels he invented, certain specific Internet personalities are ‘nuts.’

            So, yes, by connecting the dots, Lewandowski said Lucia is a nutter.

            Had this remained a blog-based exercise, as it started, it would have rightly amounted to nothing, since it has zero statistical or scientific merit. BUT, the fact that an editor contrived (conspiricist ideation alert*) to get it published, in a respected (?) professional journal, raised this from mere personal ideological speculation to the level of ‘real’ (cough) science.

            *contrived may be too strong a word, here. But I find Dr. Woods’s withdrawal and request to remove his name telling. What I ‘suspect’ here is a qualified person with a modicum of integrity who consciously chose not to take part in rubber stamping a dismally unsound – indeed laughable – paper for publication. To put it more bluntly, Woods refused to participate in ‘pal review’.

  16. Parsing the retraction notice and the blog post from Frontiers suggest a little problem to be resolved. Zucca & Fenter suggest the legal question is clear enough, in that the article did not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. The retraction notice the legal question was _not_ clear. One of the two cannot be correct.

    1. You yourself admit that manuscript’s author was involved in the original retraction statement, and it’s obvious he was not an author of this document, which reflects the position of Frontiers senior editorial staff.

      This is the view of solely the editorial staff, and should be viewed as the basis for their decision to retract the paper, whereas ethe other is not. So I’m not exactly sure what you think there’s anything to clear up here.

    2. In either instance, Marco, the paper stands retracted.

      What are the legal issues in this case, apart from those involving (the lack of) protection of human subjects, i.e., the ethical issues? The legal issues flow from the ethical ones. What the journal meant in its negotiated statement refers to there being no outright black holes in the ethics paperwork, such as research being conducted without the ethics board even being informed.

      If you are sure, you should ask UWA to release Frontiers from their gag orders and release their institutional ethics review documentation publicly.

      1. UWA is unlikely to be involved in the “gag” orders. It is likely to be a legal agreement between the authors and the publication. That is the way things generally work in the publishing industry.

          1. Shub,
            Frontiers hasn’t violated the gag order you show at your blog. It only requires them to keep the contents of UWA’s ethics investigation private. None of that’s been released. That the paper identified individuals and categorized their behavior in terms of psychopathological characterisitcs is evident by reading the paper.

          2. That Frontiers has violated the agreement is not my claim (in which I think we agree). It has not disclosed the contents of the UWA ethics documentation. It is interesting however to note however that Dana Nuccitelli thinks such an agreement entails the journal to accept UWA’s conclusions there were no ethics issues.

  17. Textual search reveals Alvin Stone has used the word denier/deniers 14 times already in comments to a blog post.

    Is Alvin stating opinions or facts? Does anybody know the meaning of the word according to Alvin? Would a whole Internet analysis of Alvin’s commentary oeuvre elucidate the point?

    1. I counted eight “conspiracies” (as verb, noun etc. you name it) by Alvin Stone. The Lewandowsky paper said “many…exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking.”
      But they were referring to the ‘sceptics’, of course.

      1. Oh joy, now I’m under attack. I’ll wear that as a badge of honour.

        Yes, I call people who oppose the idea of anthropogenic global warming deniers. With the overwhelming scientific evidence, you could only be a denier to imagine otherwise. It’s the same as anti-vacs, HIV /AIDS deniers and even moon landing deniers. Deniers is an apt and exact description.

        This is a conspiracy paper and I have observed some conspiracies even start in this selection of comments. Acknowledging them is to be expected.

        Thank you for your textural search but in a discussion about conspiracy theories and denier websites/complaints what would you expect me to mention, Wombles?

        1. Alvin – do you have any evidence of any commenter here, or anyone quoted in the Lewandowsky paper, “opposing” “the idea of anthropogenic global warming”?

          1. Simply look up half the names of the commenters on this article and you quickly find such positions are held. I even recognise some from past forums with climate scientists.

          2. No Alvin really please show you’ve done what you’re asking others to do. Any ” looking up” shows eg Lucia isn’t “opposing” Agw, in my opinion. Same for Barry, and myself, and Geoff.

            So who do you have in mind?

          3. Q. do you have any evidence of any commenter here, or anyone quoted in the Lewandowsky paper, “opposing” “the idea of anthropogenic global warming”?

            Alvin. look up half the names of the commenters (sic) on this article and you quickly find such positions are held.

            In my field claims demand evidence.
            Can you give us the names of posters who disbelieve that increases in atmospheric CO2, caused by human-kinds burning of fossil fuels, will not cause an increase in back radiation and so cause an increase in the average temperature of the Earth?

            I suspect you will not be able to find that this position rejected by more than two of the people who have posted on this thread.

            Name the people you ‘know’ disbelieve in the ability of rising atmospheric CO2 levels to increase the levels of IR radiation warming of the Earths surface.

          4. Alvin, most of the names and pseudonyms on this thread are familiar to me, to some degree, and I am not aware of anyone who has posted here who takes the positions you claim.

        2. I assert that (almost) everyone you are claiming fits a “denier” category in comments on this blog is in reality a very pro-science, highly educated person. I certainly am.

    2. omnologos – Speaking of denier-calling, Elaine McKewon, the other peer reviewer had just started second year of a post-graduate journalism course when she peer reviewed Fury. Her twitter account shows over 800 tweets, mostly climate related, with over 100 containing “denier” or a derivative.

  18. It seems that many commenters do not quite understand the extent of ethical codes that are involved with this matter.

    According to the paper: “Preparation of this paper was facilitated by a Discovery Out-
    standing Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council to the first author.” Accordingly, since ACR has provided part of the funding, the ACR policy concerning research integrity seems to apply:

    “The Australian Research Council is committed to fostering the highest ethical standards in research. Projects approved for funding by the ARC may not begin without appropriate ethical clearances from the relevant committees and/or authorities.
    ARC-funded research should comply with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code).
    Research involving humans or animals must comply with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) codes.
    See also National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).
    The ARC has processes in place for handling research misconduct allegations associated with ARC funding. Further information is available from the ARC’s website.”

    The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research seems to create a number of problems for the Fury-team and the UWA:

    In addition, ethical codes from other countries (and need for ethics approval from those countries) might be applicable since the study was based on information gathered through the internet, involving people from other countries than Australia, where the researchers were located.

    All in all, not surprising that the journal retracted the paper which had received a number of ethics complaints.

  19. If the intent was to test for conspiracy ideation at the outset, then great care would be needed in the research design to avoid becoming part of the conspiracy meme. The design would have said paper A is the stimulus to test reactions, the authors of A would then be participants and could take a stimulatory role to generate comments suitable for the real final conspiracy paper. However, the assessment would need to carried out be an independent second group with full access to data on all sides so as to be able to distinguish between debate about fact and debate about motivation (a difficult job). Since these are online discussions, ideally they would draw comparisons with the way other online debates ebb and flow – examples might be opposing football fans after an important match, opinions of the EU in the UK or other bipolar subjects as they would need to show the items labelled as ‘conspiracy ideation’ are exceptional and not just part of typical discourse. It is not clear than any such prior design protocol was created or ethically approved in which case it leaves the follow up looking like an opportunistic attempt to use peer review to label critics of the first paper. For such a sensitive topic, it is surprising that Frontiers chose one reviewer that apparently had no background in psychology or in the design of experiments into sensitive subjects.

    1. What may have been the reason they chose “one reviewer that apparently had no background in psychology or in the design of experiments into sensitive subjects”???
      You said “apparently”. If it had been apparent, why did they neglect that apparency? Have they been biased? Had these peer reviewers been assigned or commended for some reasons still unknown?
      Was it a Pal Review???

  20. ” it seems to be saying that researchers need consent, presumably based on a protocol approved by an institutional review board or its equivalent, to draw conclusions based on material posted to Twitter or other publicly available social media.”
    I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion at all. Relevant text is:
    “… 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. ”
    that’s very different from saying that you cannot draw conclusions based on material that is publicly available. To paraphrase crudely, it is saying you cannot identify people as being nutters.

    There are other issues about the ethics of human research. UWA has its own code of practice, and it would be nice to imagine this research on human subjects is compatible with that code. There is some commentary here: Once you start talking about research that “categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics” it is very difficult to see how that can fail to infringe the relevant national ethics guidelines.

    There is another interesting angle here, in that the original retraction notice and this clarification notice sit uneasily together. A lesson to learn for the journal, methinks.

    1. Incredible. 93 responses in about 1 day. I never saw a single mention, in all comments, of the term “free speech”, and what this entails. Good luck with survival, Frontiers. Provided that RW stays up and running, anyone Googling Frontiers will come accross this story and will have somewhat of a fermented bean after-taste in their mouths after reading the criticisms.

      1. jatds – very few appear to have ever thought on RW that this saga has ever concerned “free speech”. If you click back to the previous posts on the topic, there are two mentions here

        They are both by individuals who go at length to explain there is no absolutely no problem with Lewandosky’s right to free speech.

        As I said in some other place, it cannot be right for, say, a cardiologist to remote-diagnose a cardiological problem for a never-ever-met stranger via the internet, and to make the “finding” public in a peer-reviewed cardiology paper in a cardiology journal.

        If the cardiologist really feels so much compelled to say it, he or she has plenty of opportunities to tell the world about it in an opinion piece. That’s free speech indeed.

        1. Omnologs, agreed about your position on free speech. As for climate change, it’s an overly hyped field of research. The politicization of this topic, its use for things like CO2 credits and the powerful lobbyists behind this whole climate change research story just make so much of what is published with the term “climate change” or “global warming” seem borderline fake. Just today, I witnessed three radical events of climate change over my home. In the morning, it was sunny and warm, by afternoon, it was rainy and cool, and tonight, near-zero temperatures and a forst on the lawn. One problem though, it’s been doing this for at least 15 years. So, no perceivably visible change. Yet, look at the explosion of researchers entering this field of study. It’s not warranted. They go into this field of research because this is where the big bucks lie. So, when so many scientists are after money and funding, rather than chasing valid scientific hypotheses, then I say, you get the scrutiny that you deserve.

          1. I wish the researchers at my institution were seeing those big bucks.

            So here we go, the suggestion that researchers are in this for money and political gain. Then out comes the “no global warming for 15 years” meme (which is flat out wrong) and then the confusion between weather and climate.

          2. Alvin – the pause myth parroted above would seem to qualify this commenter as someone who denies human-caused global warming. Certainly that’s the inference is it not?

          3. Rob Painting, why do you think the pause/hiatus/etc is a myth. It is addressed in IPCC AR5.

          1. ” Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics. ”
            that’s what the journal says. Are you are saying they didn’t do that?

      2. Incomprehensible. What has this to do with free speech? Do you mean that a journal deciding that a paper does not meet their standards is a threat to free speech? If I would submit a paper to them, would they be obligated to publish it for the same reason?

        1. I think we are entering an era where “free speech” and the “freedom of speech” are now becoming quite separate concepts. In the former, in terms of academic journals, freedom is related to the gate-keepres, who will subjectively judge whether one is free, or not, to express, even facts. The latter, however, is now something that can be bought. Numerous predatory open access publishers allow for anything to be published, at a price. In other words, there is freedom of speech, but at a cost. Unlike Frontiers, which operates out of Switzerland, and thus is concerned about libel laws, some unknown and unheard of publisher operating from some unpronouncable city in India, Iran or Pakistan wouldn’t care about libel and such petty issues because for the revenues it was creating, it could flood the internet with enough trash for any lawyer to just yawn, and look away. Finally, I believe that Frontiers has a genuine concern because the financial stakes are high. Ultimately, it is not defending scientists’ “freedom of speech”, it is stating, quite boldly, that freedom carries two costs: one financial, the other, a retraction. Assuming that the authors paid 960-1600 EUR ( to get their paper published, will Frontiers now reimburse them?

  21. There are many journals of psychology in the world, which I am sure is well known to the authors of the ‘Recursive Fury’ paper retracted by ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ for ethical*** and legal*** issues.

    If the authors of the retracted ‘Recursive Fury’ paper think ‘Frontiers in Psychology’ has made an error in retracting their paper, then of course the authors should seek a journal that is less stringent about the professional capability and integrity of researchers.

    Then a new journal agreeing to publish the retracted version of the paper can explain why it is ethical, legal and academically acceptable.

    *** there is a problem with not listing academic issues as well, because ethical and legal issues are integrally bound to academic behavior in psychology.


  22. This has been one of the most entertaining episodes of people behaving badly being caught out I’ve seen in a while. Watching the defenders of Lewandowsky being handed their heads repeatedly after spouting falsehoods about the article and the subsequent retraction is a joy. Hopefully there are enough honest journalists left to encourage those with enough power, integrity and ethics at PS, UWA etc to drain the swamps.

    Anyone who has not read Anthony Watts’ letter to the editors and administrators of Psychological Science is shorting themsleves on the knowledge of “Nasa Faked The Moon Landing…….”

    Be enlightened, enjoy and make the wails of protest here even more shrill and vacuous than the language employed to impart them.

    1. Harkin, you are wrong.

      The Frontiers journal has made two statements that are at odds with each other. The 2nd statement contradicts the first. They have some explaining to do.

      And finally, if climate science deniers exhibit conspiratorial thinking in a public forum, often under fake names, where is the ethical breach in pointing out their conspiratorial thinking?

      1. “if climate science deniers exhibit conspiratorial thinking in a public forum, often under fake names, where is the ethical breach in pointing out their conspiratorial thinking?”

        But what if people with an interest in an area of leading scientific research and who take part in public exchanges of information are smeared as being delusional by academics, based on poor experimental design, poor data collision and biased analysis?

      2. I agree that Frontiers has some explaining to do but only in regards as to why they allowed this to be published in the first place.

      3. “The Frontiers journal has made two statements that are at odds with each other. The 2nd statement contradicts the first. They have some explaining to do.”

        One explaination may be that they essentially allowed the authors of the troubled paper to ghost-write parts of the first statement and then, when reality started to sink in, someone at Frontiers decided that a statement from Frontiers should actually come solely from management/staff of Frontiers.

      4. Rob Painting, I’m pretty sure the reason that the two statements are contradictory is because Lewandowsky participated in writing the first, but not with the second. I think it would have been helpful if the publishers were to add this to the bottom of the original retraction notice:

        “The authors of the retracted paper participated in the writing of this retraction notice.”

        One would not expect a compromise document to be semantically identical to one written by either side of a dispute.

        What Lewandowsky writes himself is

        “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.”

        So clearly you would *not* expect a document stating the journal’s position would to agree with one written by the authors, nor would you expect a compromise document that both sides to agree with to reflect fully either’s position on a matter.

        1. Precisely, Carrick. The retraction was in the form of an agreement hashed out between both sides. Lewandowsky’s side appears to have violated the agreement, and Frontiers appears to have terminated the agreement. The paper is still retracted, but the retraction statement has been “clarif[ied], which seems to be a polite way of saying “nullified due to non-compliance.”

          One could say that the paper was initially retracted with regret, but that now there are no regrets.

  23. So Lewandowsky et al write a paper showing that if you believe in one conspiracy (faked moon landings, chemtrails, etc), then you’re likely to believe in others, including the wide range of conspiracies promulgated by climate science deniers. And it is a very wide range.

    Climate deniers don’t like the paper, despite the fact that they’ve been talking about a giant conspiracy between Governments, Academic institutions, journals and tens of thousands of scientists on climate science for years.

    So they launch a bunch of wide-ranging accusations of conspiracy against Lewandowsky: a veritable litany of wild conspiratorial theories. It was quite funny looking at the reaction, as they were acting just as Lewandowsky had described in the first paper. All of this was in public, on blogs. Did they not realise they were doing exactly what Lewandowsky had described? It was almost farcical.

    Lewandowsky then studied that set of accusations, as they had pretty much put themselves up for scrutiny, on blogs and in blog comments. They really were the perfect case study. He used google alerts, which underlines the public nature of those accusations.

    If you’re going to throw such accusations of conspiracy around in public, then surely it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that this might come under some kind of scrutiny at some point? His theories were able to be tested, and they stood up.

    Now of course that’s going to make the deniers mad, really mad, because it doesn’t make them look great. But for many of us who’ve been watching their conspiratorial chats on blogs for years, none of the material described in Lewandowsky’s paper is anything very new. He’s just categorised them and analysed them.

    So they shout defamation (and indeed, they did, as can be seen in the FOI papers described in Graham Readfearn’s article on DeSmogBlog and subsequently released by Stephen McIntyre himself). They brought huge pressure on Frontiers to retract what Frontiers itself said was a paper that stood up ethically and scientifically.

    Sensitive bunch. Maybe best to think about what you say in public in future?

    I hope Lewandowsky et al DO send the paper to another journal for publication.

    1. In this pair of studies (“Hoax” plus “Fury”) I argue that Lewandowsky strenuously avoided publishing what appears to be a far better supported conclusion: that alarmists are the ones most likely to have non-scientific perceptions, easily going with the flow of whatever claim supports their preconceived notion about reality… even when the data doesn’t fit at all.

    2. What the journal (as opposed to the compromise statement Lewandowsky was involved with) says:

      >>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. <>They brought huge pressure on Frontiers to retract what Frontiers itself said was a paper that stood up ethically and scientifically.<<

      Frontiers says they "did not cave into threats". They did not say the paper met appropriate scientific and ethical standards, they said it "does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subject".

      1. Carrick:

        The first paragraph you cite above is from the second statement, but the following:

        They brought huge pressure on Frontiers to retract what Frontiers itself said was a paper that stood up ethically and scientifically.<<

        I do not understand – are you saying this was in the Journal's statement? I do not see it.


        1. Harkin, I apologize, I was contrasting the statement actually made by the journal with cindybax’s claim.

          1. Got it, thanks!

            Knowing that and at the risk of repeating what has already been pointed out, the statement that Cindybax puts so much faith in was formulated (at least in part) by the very authors of the troubled paper. How anyone can put value in this statement after what transpired regarding subterfuge in approach, flawed methodology, errors in attribution, extreme bias by the peer reviewers (the ones that didn’t bail) the ghost-written addendum to the findings of the ethics “investigation”, refusal to supply supporting data etc. etc. etc. is indeed remarkable.

            Once the management at Frontiers decided to act like custodians of a responsible journal, speak for themselves and stop what can only be characterized as digging a deeper hole, light began to shine on something that is both fascinating and awe-inspiring, but not science. It’s to the point now that I think it could rank impact-wise with the Bellisiles “Arming America” fiasco. And if you remember that train wreck those who pointed out problems in a propaganda piece-as-research paper were attacked relentlessly by the thought police.

            Congratulations to everyone involved in exposing this sordid episode of ideology over truth. I can’t believe that UWA is looking at this and doing anything but looking for a way out with minimal damage.

        2. I didn’t notice that the bloggin software had eaten part of my comment till just now.

          This is the comment of the journal:

          ::: 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. :::

          And this is cindybax’s claim about what they said:

          :::They brought huge pressure on Frontiers to retract what Frontiers itself said was a paper that stood up ethically and scientifically.:::

          I don’t believe this software allows any html code, but nonetheless it seems to strip what it thinks is HTML code out.

    3. cindybax:

      “Climate deniers don’t like the paper, despite the fact that they’ve been talking about a giant conspiracy between Governments, Academic institutions, journals and tens of thousands of scientists on climate science for years. ”

      The people you call “climate deniers” seldom even think that “tens of thousands of scientists” oppose them. Can you quote someone making such a conspiracist claim?

  24. As it happens I do think that the current crop of climate predictions are likely to fail quite miserably in practice – but this in my view can be satisfactorily explained by scientific hubris rather than any deeper conspiracy ideation. I can also state clearly from my own experience that my limited involvement in online climate scepticism leaves me in no doubt as to how rare my penetrating understanding of modern events is in such circles.
    Can I further point out that in the most recent paper, using data that was collected by a professional internet survey organisation and therefore less prone to the biases of the first survey conducted on climate science blogs:
    It appears according to my calculation that if you said “agree ” or “strongly agree” to the proposition that most warming over the last 50 years was due to CO2 you had an odds ratio of 2.1 of believing that the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by the US government and an odds ratio of 1.6 of believing the moon landings were hoaxed compared to those who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the CO2/warming proposition.

    1. Thanks for sharing that last bit, LGR. Exactly what I was noting above.

      A trojan horse paper, in a sense.

  25. Has anybody understood Craig’s or Alvin’s reasoning in using the word “denier” in their comments?

    The latter has gone from ” opposing Agw” to “doesn’t cite peer reviewed papers”.There’s no evidence either applies to anybody here or to anyone referred to by the Lewandowsky paper, as far as I can tell, and Alvin has provided no names.

    Craig’s seems to be against the use of FOI, plus he mentions “fraud” and some unspecified “unbalanced approach”. Once again no names are listed and none of the commenters here whom I am familiar with has used the word “fraud” here or elsewhere against climate scientists.

    Am asking as the word “denier ” has been part of this whole saga from the start.

  26. Going back to the original questions in the post about consent and the Internet, there is this relevant link in his very recent twitter feed:

    “Friday Feedback: Is Consent After the Fact OK?”

    It’s a post about whether post-treatment consent should be allowed in clinical trials, and what considerations should clinicians take into account. One of the physicians reached via email on the topic, Ruth Macklin, PhD, replied:

    “Obtaining informed consent before enrolling an individual in biomedical research has been a bedrock ethical requirement for more than half a century. Internationally, the requirement goes back to the 1947 Nuremberg Code, following the gruesome experiments by the Nazis. Even more relevant is the Declaration of Helsinki, a living document whose latest revision was issued by the World Medical Association in October, 2013: ‘… no individual capable of giving informed consent may be enrolled in a research study unless he or she freely agrees.'[…]

    I haven’t had the time yet to investigate what was in the Declaration of Helsinki when Lewandosky started collecting data for Recursive Fury. Let’s leave aside any discussion about that paper for a moment.

    The Declaration of Helsinki can be found at the JAMA site:

    The text mentioned by Dr Macklin is at line 25, which is, in full:

    Participation by individuals capable of giving informed consent as subjects in medical research must be voluntary. Although it may be appropriate to consult family members or community leaders, no individual capable of giving informed consent may be enrolled in a research study unless he or she freely agrees.

    A question then like “[do] researchers need consent, presumably based on a protocol approved by an institutional review board or its equivalent, to draw conclusions based on material posted to Twitter or other publicly available social media[?]” could possibly and partially be answered with definitely yes, if their research falls within the remit of the Declaration of Helsinki.

    The question then becomes, what falls within that remit? Consider the first line in the Declaration:

    The World Medical Association (WMA) has developed the Declaration of Helsinki as a statement of ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects, including research on identifiable human material and data.

    This (together with the rest of the Declaration – many of its lines are relevant here) appears to indicate that the Declaration is relevant in each and every case of medical research involving human subjects. And by logical and practical extension, to all research (not just done by physicians) that includes some medical aspects, and human subjects.

    In the case at hand, Frontiers mentions that Recursive Fury categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics. Psychopathology of course is a term associated to a medical condition.

    Therefore at least for the period of validity of the current version of the Declaration of Helsinki, including the present and immediate future, a work that like Recursive Fury makes use of publicly available social media material needs (prior) consent by the human subjects at least when the researcher could possibly arrive to conclusions with medical aspects.

    This makes perfect sense. After all, IIRC all the problems with the Recursive Fury study were exactly due to the “mental disorders” attributed to some identifiable individuals. Otherwise, it will be open-season for all sorts of psychologists and psychiatrists to classify as mentally ill any section of humanity who has the temerity to write in social media.

    Perhaps Recursive Fury will see the light of the day again, in a format however deprived of any hint of medical diagnosis and identifiability of any of its “subjects”.

  27. On the positive side, it seems there is unanimity among Lewandosky and his supporters that Recursive Fury did not suggest its subjects were mentally defective or disturbed, or that they were displaying psychopathological characteristics.

  28. Does anyone else see the irony in Lewandowsky claiming intimidation by people who are threatening to sue Frontiers and the fact that he is now implicitly doing the same thing? If I recall correctly, no one who complained about being slimied in the article hired a lawyer. It’s now clear that Lewandowsky has been lawyered up for over a year and that it’s costing both sides a lot of money.

    1. I agree. What a waste of money to defend one’s pride. Well, it indicates at least that he has the money! At the end of the day, there has been no clarity about the legal issues, the OA community is in further disarray, and the only ones smiling… are the lawyers!

  29. Well, this will teach me to enter a hornet nest. Off and away for a few days, and a few hundred comments!

    Let me respond here to some of the responses to me, in particular those of Carrick.
    First the “standard” vs “common” practice of involving authors in the retraction statement. I’m not sure whether we are getting into semantic nitpicking here, but COPE recommends in its guidelines for retractions that “Whenever possible, editors should negotiate with authors and attempt to agree a form of wording that is clear and informative to readers and acceptable to all parties.” I though Frontiers was a member of COPE, but it appears only some of its journals are, and Frontiers in Psychology is not, so one could argue that it is not “standard” practice for that journal.

    Second the request for further clarification. Others have already noted this, including the corresponding author, namely that the retraction notice and the clarification make different arguments for the reason for the retraction. A lot of the people on this thread appear not to be common commenters/readers of RW, so perhaps they do not know that one common discussion point is opaque retraction notices or retraction notices that appear to contradict information available elsewhere. So, we now have an official retraction notice in the journal, which claims absence of ethical issues and unclear legal issues, and an ‘official’ notice on a blog, which strongly suggests ethical issues and also is more blunt on the legal issues. If the blog statement is the official story, the retraction notice in the journal should be corrected. It’s that simple.

    Third the conspiracy ideation being common. I may have said this a bit poorly, but my argument focuses on the mistaken notion that one can easily see when someone is a conspiracy ideationist. If this were so simple, Americans should see ‘nutters’ all around them, as shown by a recent poll by the Public Policy Polling of April 2nd, 2013. To give one example, 21% of those responding in the poll believe a UFO crashed in Roswell and the US government has covered this up. Even allowing significant overlap between conspiracies -crank magnetism- we easily get to 1-in-4 of all Americans believing in some sort of big conspiracy.
    To add some relevance to the current topic, apparently 37% believe global warming is a hoax…

  30. The Frontiers guidelines for authors includes the following: “For manuscripts reporting experiments on human subjects, authors must identify the committee approving the experiments and must also include a statement confirming that informed consent was obtained from all subjects. In Original Research Articles and Clinical Trial Articles these statements should appear in the Materials and Methods section.”

    The Recursive Fury paper did not satisfy the second criterion. Not only was the required statement not present, the authors did not seek and did not obtain informed consent. Makes one wonder how the paper was accepted in the first place.

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