Chief specialty editor resigns from Frontiers in wake of controversial retraction

frontiersAn editor at a Frontiers journal has resigned to protest the publisher’s decision to retract the controversial “Recursive Fury” paper that linked climate skepticism to conspiratorial ideation.

Ugo Bardi was chief specialty editor of Frontiers in Energy Research: Energy Systems and Policy. He writes on his blog:

…my opinion is that, with their latest statement and their decision to retract the paper, Frontiers has shown no respect for authors nor for their own appointed referees and editors. But the main problem is that we have here another example of the climate of intimidation that is developing around the climate issue.

Later, he notes his decision:

The climate of intimidation which is developing nowadays risks to do great damage to climate science and to science in general. I believe that the situation risks to deteriorate further if we all don’t take a strong stance on this issue. Hence, I am taking the strongest action I can take, that is I am resigning from “Chief Specialty Editor” of Frontiers in protest against the behavior of the journal in the “Recursive Fury” case. I sent to the editors a letter today, stating my intention to resign.

I am not happy about having had to take this decision, because I had been working hard and seriously at the Frontiers’ specialy journal titled “Energy Systems and Policy.” But I think it was the right thing to do. I also note that this blunder by “Frontiers” is also a blow to the concept of “open access” publishing, which was one of the main characteristic of their series of journals. But I still think that open access publishing it is the way of the future. This is just a temporary setback for a good idea which is moving onward.

This is not the first resignation of an editor linked to the publication of a controversial study about climate change. In 2003, half the editorial board of Climate Research, including the editor in chief, left their posts after the journal published a paper concluding that “the 20th century is probably not the warmest or a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium.” In 2011, the editor of Remote Sensing did the same after his journal ran a paper he found deeply questionable. And the resignation of Chris Brierley from the editorial board of Climate last year was for similar reasons.

Meanwhile, Frontiers editorial director Costanza Zucca responded to a request for comment we placed last week about the apparent contradiction between the retraction notice and a later statement by the journal. The former said that the journal “did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study,” while the latter said the paper “did not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects.” Zucca said:

There is no contradiction between the two statements. The reference to ethical considerations in the original retraction statement is a reference to the ethical clearance for conducting the study given by UWA.

The issue was not with the study as such, but with how the paper was written. The paper made it possible to explicitly identify subjects.

Zucca added:

Frontiers stands by its decision to retract the article, which it considers to have been the right and responsible course of action.

We’ve asked Zucca if the journal has any comment on Bardi’s resignation, and will update with anything we learn.

Update, 10 a.m. Eastern, 4/9/14: Zucca writes:

We regret Ugo Bardi’s resignation.

Update, 12:30 p.m. Eastern, 4/9/14: Björn Brembs writes that he “will send resignation letters to the Frontiers journals to which [he has] donated [his] free time for a range of editorial duties.”

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54 thoughts on “Chief specialty editor resigns from Frontiers in wake of controversial retraction”

  1. “There is no contradiction between the two statements. The reference to ethical considerations in the original retraction statement is a reference to the ethical clearance for conducting the study given by UWA.”

    I’m going to write this up for Frontiers in Zoology: I think I’ve identified a new species of weasel.

    1. Indeed. And it is interesting to me that a “specialty editor” editor of an impartial journal of science would also be an apparently extreme activist advocate for one political position on a topic. He wrote the “Plundering the Planet” report for the Club of Rome:

      This juxtaposition hardly augurs impartiality.

      The subject retracted paper did not actually investigate what it purported to; the retraction dances around the real issue, which is that data was not from skeptics, and correlations didn’t (and don’t) support the conclusions, the process was corrupted in many ways, and the trail covering is furious:

      But they knew this; the paper accomplished a political purpose. Interesting that the Journal is getting cold feet at this late date, just as many periodicals are straying from the hard line … and risking climate heresy.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

    2. This comes as no surprise to me. Below is a verbatim e-mail I received from the editor in chief, Henry Markram. I should add that I am a plant scientist. It should give some insight about how editors are truly vetted. The mail’s date is November 13, 2013.

      “Dear Colleague,
      Some time ago we contacted you about the launch of a new Frontiers journal. This project is now moving forward and we would welcome your thoughts and participation. Please do register your interest through the link below. Many thanks and all the best,

      Dear Colleague,

      I am glad to announce the launch of our new open-access journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, which from January 2014 onwards will be open for submissions on subcellular processes and biomolecules, from biosynthesis to structural biology, including molecular interactions and biomolecular engineering.

      Frontiers is a Swiss open-access academic publisher, launched in 2007 as a grassroots initiative by scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL). In 2013, we partnered with the Nature Publishing Group to further open-access and open-science tools.

      You can participate in the launch of Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences in various ways.

      · You can apply here to become Specialty Chief Editor, Associate Editor, or Review Editor of a section within Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences or suggest a colleague for these positions.
      · You can suggest a section for inclusion in the journal, for example Bionanotechnology, Metabolomics, or Molecular Modeling.
      · You can also build a personal profile to expand your research network and post comments, news, and post-publication feedback.

      We welcome your input because Frontiers’ mission is to let scientists rather than publishers determine how science should be disseminated. We will recruit an editorial board for every section within Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences for which there is interest. Online applications and suggestions will be automatically forwarded to the editorial office, but you are welcome to contact us if you have questions.

      At Frontiers, we are proud of our outstanding editorial boards, transparent and interactive peer review, and state-of-the-art web platform for organizing, integrating, and democratically distilling scientific content through article-level metrics and our unique tiering system.

      We are looking forward to launching Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences with you.

      All the best,
      Henry Markram

      Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers
      Professor, Brain Mind Institute, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)
      Founder and Director, Blue Brain Project
      Other links: TED Talk; The Human Brain Project”

    3. I’d like to call attention to behavior by another Swiss scientific publisher.

      The Swiss publisher S. Karger AG publishes the journal “Acta Haematologica” which publishes the paper “Inherited Bleeding Syndromes in Jordan” (
      ) by Elias A. K. Alsabti and charges for it. It seems to be a duplicate of Al-Mondhiry, H. A. (1977), “Inherited bleeding syndromes in Iraq”, “Thrombosis and Haemostasis”, 37(3):549-555,
      Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. apparently agrees that Karger has the copyright:

      Another remarkable point about “Acta Haematologica” is that Günter Henze is supposedly an editorial-board member (
      ) despite having the major disadvantage of being dead since January 2014 (

      The Swiss, scientific publisher MDPI AG which publishes the journal called “Publications” was also recently a target of complaints (Horacio Rivera and Ana Isabel Vásquez-Velásquez, “Irresponsible Authorship and Editorial Unaccountability Are Universal Malpractices”,
      , 2014).

  2. Zucca is correct. Frontiers issued an initial request for the ethics process behind the paper. Some documentation, presumably in the form of a letter statement, was provided. Frontiers wrote back requesting the original paperwork. Again, presumably, these were provided. But the second time UWA required the Frontiers evaluating panel to sign a ‘non-discosure agreement’, if you can call it that.

    I wouldn’t think journals would go into the veracity of ethics documentation provided to them, beyond ‘Does it look good on paper?’

  3. So nobody form the Psychology journal has resigned!!
    Reading his blog he seems to know very little about the papers (he even sites Sou – Hot Whopper blog,)
    he even ignores Tom Curtis (from Skeptical Science)

    Maybe this would raise an ethical concerns , if he had been aware of it
    (re-posted from Shaping Tomorrows world)

    Barry Woods

    I was defamed/libelled as much as Prof Richard Betts was (UK Met Office, IPCC lead author) we both appear in the data set. Big laughs…
    (and there were some at the Met Office as well, according to Richard)

    Frontiers must have taken a look at the copious examples of one or more authors being utterly conflicted in researching sceptics., both ethically and with conflicts of interest.

    just one example, Michael Marriott writing on his personal blog “Watching the Deniers” blog before after and during the research period, that I and Anthony Watts are Deniers, Disinformers, [part of ] Denial machine, writing Verified Bullshit and suffering form a psychological defect Dunning – Kruger – would give any psychology journal slight pause for thought, perhaps..

    especially as co-author Marriot has ZERO psychology qualifications.. he has also been attacking Jo Nova (named in the paper) and her husband David Evans for years (including a particulary nasty, conspiracy theory and anti-Semitic set of innuendoes:

    look at his [Marriott’s] about page – his affiliation listed for the ‘Recursive Fury’ paper – Climate Realities Research – appear to be purely a vanity creation, I can find no official records of a company or institution.

    1. “he has also been attacking Jo Nova (named in the paper) and her husband David Evans for years (including a particulary nasty, conspiracy theory and anti-Semitic set of innuendoes”

      There are indeed many nasty conspiracy theories found on the link you mentioned, but they all appear in quotes… from David Evans. I quote:

      “The paper aristocracy has overwhelming wealth. They own or influence all the media… They influence almost all the institutions that employ professional economists, by supplying the money for PhDs… the banksters have even killed the occasional thorn in their side – including, probably, two US presidents, Lincoln and Garfield… There are a small number of families who, over the centuries, have amassed wealth through financial rent seeking. They are leading members of the paper aristocracy. For example, the Rothschilds are the biggest banking family in Europe.”

      Do you agree with him?

      1. Taken way out of context, by Michael Marriot and turned into innuendo (and no I don’t agree DAvid about ancient USA poiltical history. did you get that quote from Marriott’s blog?

        take a look at how Marriott twisted it into something else…

        “This quote in particular is alarming:

        “…Over time the goldsmiths became bankers, governments introduced central banking, and finally, in 1971, the world financial system switched from using gold as its base money to using cash (paper money). The world financial system is now unpinned by cash, which governments can print at will. We have a fully paper system, with no hard constraints on how much money there is.”

        In Evans reasoning is that “goldsmiths” from the medieval period – let’s be frank he is clearly talking about Jews – founded a “paper aristocracy” that secretly rules the globe.



        Got it?

        Do I really need to spell it out? [1]” – Marriott

        Davis Evans and (wife) Jo Nova have a website/business called Goldnerds

        which is all about investing in gold, predominantly via mining stocks, etc. Marriott has taken an article by Evans about paper currencies, the gold standards and the history of gold in Europe, and twisted into a horrendous smear, ‘linking’ these quotes with quotes form other people who are anti semitic or just nutty conspiracy theorists, with inuendoes of ‘code word’ for “Jews’ amongst other people!

        Marriott, over a year later added a brief update at the bottom of the article, he thinks perhaps that is a strong accusation and perhaps he should do more research,he says maybe Evans is just a conspiracy theorist. Damage done – Jo now drives to her postbox to get her mail.

        Another example, Marriott talks David Evans talking about the Rothschild’s in the 1900 century as being a banking family, (very hard not to if you are talking about banking, money and gold and the history of paper currencies)

        and turn this into ‘code words’ for conspiracy theorists!..


        “For over a year now I’ve been watching the denial movement talk about “international banking”.Indeed this phrase peppers the language of much of the movement’s writings.

        I’m going to put my pet hypothesis out in the open: there is a strong anti-Semitic “flavour” to the sceptic movement.

        I’m not accusing all climate sceptics of being anti-Semitic.

        However, the “code words” frequently used amongst the anti-Semitic “community” frequently appear in the climate sceptic literature.” – Marriott

        Note, Prof Lewandowsky has talked about this in the media and a video, he even quotes Marriott word for word,and Evans words for word, Lewandowsky substitutes David Evans name, for ‘a well known contributor to the Australian’ (who is quite identifiable, if you live in Australia)

        Lewandowsky quotes David Evans totally talk, and loads it with innuendo (straight from Marriott’s blog) and links it to conspiracy theories.

        In this video here: (please watch it from the beginning as well)

        Lewandowsky then says in the video –

        “Rothschild’s, (pause) Bankers running the world (pause) – sounds familiar…….”

        I am shocked by Lewandowsky judgement, for him to think that Marriott is suitable researcher!

      1. Quoting somebody’s published material is not a issue that people are discussing.

        Quoting out of context to change the meaning in a way that is both false and defamatory, then refusing to correct the record… that’s an issue that people are discussing.

      2. Quoting from someone’s signed published material is libel

        If you remove modifiers within a sentence or sentences that frame a sentence. If he intent of the quote is to modify the meaning of the quote in context of its usage, then it can be libelous.

        ‘Eli is a very stupid bunny’ is an attack, but ‘Eli is a very stupid bunny, NOT1’ isn’t, quoting the former based on the latter is deliberate misrepresentation.

  4. If he’s willing to resign over research of such low quality, I’m glad that he won’t be responsible for publishing more research.

  5. Ugo Bardi’s resignation notice says: “I also note that this blunder by “Frontiers” is also a blow to the concept of “open access” publishing.”

    Does anyone understand what he means be this? What does the retraction have to do with the openness of access?

    1. Yes, I do understand what he means. But I’ll spell it out:

      He means that Frontiers, as one of the pioneering purely OA publishers, and today one of the most respected ones, is a leading light of the movement as a whole; so, if, as Bardi contends, Frontiers has damaged itself by this action, it has also damaged the movement, of which it is a standard-bearer.

      It’s quite simple.

  6. Quite how the Frontiers editor can say this with a straight face:

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

    when they had a lot of information and evidence of the authors (especially Marriott, publically attacking people named in the paper). before during (and directly interacting with)and after the research period for Recursive fury.

    ie even the perception of psychology researchers using academia to attack people they are opponents of with respect to the highly politicised topic of climate change..

    1. Barry, I’m thinking “did not identify any issues with … the study” remains silent with respect to any ethical issues with the paper as written.

      It seems a shame one feel obliged to read things so literally, but perhaps one must?

  7. Bardi was/is a advocate of excess population/limited resources, from what I can tell most of the global warming/climate change advocates support these agendas as well (first put forth in the mainstream by Paul Ehrich “the population bomb.”)
    I really have no scientific basis for advocating for or against these ideas, what I do oppose, is ideas put forth by the climate change advocates of “settled science”, or in this case publishing a paper calling people who disagree with global warming/climate change conspiracy believers (crazy, tinfoil hat crowd etc.) and to use such a low number of examples doesn’t seem to be well thought out.

      1. The correct term I was proposing is “bandwagon effect”, Research was/is conducted/paid for by the government in what ever popular idea is hot at the time. In the 70’s the DOJ paid million for crime/juvenile justice no matter how convoluted the connection was. Next was the healthily eating/fitness studies (remember coffee was bad for you, then coffee was good for you, oat bran etc.) then onto PTSD/social welfare, and now global warming, you could not not get government grants unless you tied it to one of these hot topics at the time (or it was much easier to get a grant if you tied it into the hot topic ). This new one is different in that, as I can recall, no one was called crazy to believe in the advocated theory of the past.
        AS I stated before I have no belief one way or the other on global warming, my issue with some in that advocacy group is that, there opponents are labeled as conspiracy theorist, or just plain crazy, that is neither scientific nor a actual argument based on facts.
        Yes I would object to any Phd/doctor making a clinical diagnosis based on a few post in a blog somewhere.

  8. Simply noting that the resignations of half the board at Climate Research were because of the execrable nature of the article that had been jackhammered in by another one of the editors.

    1. Yes, and there was interesting history behind all that. See Skeptics Prefer Pal Review Over Peer Review: Chris de Freitas, Pat Michaels And Their Pals, 1997-2003?,
      although the title should have used the more accurate “pseudoskeptics”.
      That’s the inverse of this case: one editor had been helping his pals, and finally it got too egregious.
      The incoming E-i-C wanted to retract the article, the publisher wouldn’t let him, so many people quit.

  9. “The issue was not with the study as such, but with how the paper was written. The paper made it possible to explicitly identify subjects.”

    I find this hard to believe, given the fact that Frontiers claimed that a completely anonymized version of the paper didn’t allay their concerns. Not to mention the fact that it was public statements, not “subjects” being analyzed to begin with. The discomfort with analyzing comments from identifiable sources is understandable, but once they’ve been made anonymous, it’s exceptionally hard to defend Frontiers’ decision.

    1. Dana Nuccitelli says that “Frontiers claimed that a completely anonymized version of the paper didn’t allay their concerns.” This implies Frontiers agrees the new version was “completely anonymized.” As far as the public record is concerned, it has never done so. Only the authors of the new version of the paper have made this claim. Is there evidence that Frontiers agreed with the authors on this point?

      1. I think the issue Frontiers had was that somebody could copy the anonymized statements and Google them to find their source. Which again, is because public statements were being analyzed, as is not uncommon. If you take issue with people analyzing your public statements, then don’t make them.

        However, within the revised paper itself the comments were completely anonymous. It would require additional effort for anyone to identify the sources.

        1. Dana Nuccitelli, you previously stated the rejected paper was “completely anonymized.” You seemingly contradict that now by saying one could “Google [quotes] to find their source.” What you describe is not a “completely anonymized” paper. It’s a paper which gives only a token nod to anonymity. Anonymizing requires the subjects not be identifiable. If identifying subjects requires only copying and pasting a quote into Google, the paper is not “completely anonymized.”

          According to your current description, Frontiers was correct in stating the authors did not address this issue. According to your description, Frontiers was correct to reject the paper. However, I believe Stephan Lewandowsky contradicts your depiction in a recent post.

          Regardless, it seems clear Frontiers does not agree with the authors that they suitably address the issue. Unless or until evidence is provided that allows people to judge who is correct, nobody has any real reason to believe the paper met the requirements the journal imposed. You may believe it if you want, but nobody need assume you’re right.

          Incidentally, authors of Recursive Fury were actively engaging, mocking and provoking the people whose statements they sought to analyze. When you actively engage with your research target, the target is unquestionably a subject of your research.

        2. They had a pretty good way of dealing with that issue (from STW)

          “Our narrative analysis was anonymized (by paraphrasing verbatim public statements until they no longer yielded hits in Google) to prevent identification of individuals while retaining the integrity of the study. “

          1. The point remains: all this is simply claims by Dana, Lewandowsky, etc. Frontiers has confirmed none of it, and claimed just the opposite: the new version did not protect the subjects adequately.
            Given Lewandowsky’s comments on his blog, and Dana’s, I think it is pretty clear that they do not agree that he actually has any moral or legal obligation whatever to protect the identity of the subjects. So it wouldn’t surprise me if they were quite comfortable with whatever they actually did, since it was a lot more than they thought they needed, and that Frontiers would disagree.
            Beyond that, they should make claims only if they are willing to back them up.

    2. Dana: “I find this hard to believe, given the fact that Frontiers claimed that a completely anonymized version of the paper didn’t allay their concerns.”

      Frontiers hasn’t claimed that. They said the new version failed to dequately protects the privacy and rights of the human subjects. Until the revised paper is made public, we have no basis for determining whether this judgement is correct or not.

      But given that fact that Lewandowsky wrote a second manuscript to address the concerns that his first paper didn’t adequately protect the privacy and rights of his human subjects, we can conclude that he was aware that this was the issue the journal was concerned about.

      And *NOT* that the journal was concerned *JUST* about being sued by the parties whose privacy and rights had putatively not been adequately protected.

      As I pointed out on another thread, there are few legal issues that also don’t also touch on ethical ones. The ethical issue I would argue is much broader: You have an *obligation* as a researcher to adequately protect the privacy and rights of his human subjects, regardless of whether your failure to do so is *actionable in a court of law.*

      1. I found this comment elsewhere:

        In the preamble of Australia’s National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research
        ( ) this statement can be found:

        ‘ethical conduct’ is more than simply doing the right thing. It involves acting in the right spirit, out of an abiding respect and concern for one’s fellow creatures. This National Statement on ‘ethical conduct in human research’ is therefore oriented to something more fundamental than ethical ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ – namely, an ethos that should permeate the way those engaged in human research approach all that they do in their research.

    3. Dana:

      Do you know if the completely anonymized version of the paper is available anywhere?

      Also – do you know if the blog names were also anonymized – or just the individuals names.

      Thanks for responding.

  10. I think Ugo Bardi’s post is amazing. I left a comment pointing out he had mixed up two papers (Recursive Fury and the paper which triggered the reactions examined in Recursive Fury). So did a number of other people. Even Tom Curtis, a person who disagrees with me about almost every other aspect of Recursive Fury, pointed out the same mistake.

    Instead of just acknowledging he made a mistake, Bardi insisted his “statements exactly describe what [Recursive Fury] is about.” He then claimed all the people pointing out his mistake were trying to use a “trick” to divert discussion. Of course, had he just fixed the mistake from the start, there’d have been no diversion.

  11. I’m not sure what to make of this, but the specialty journal in question had published 7 articles. Of these two were authored by Bardi, the ‘specialty chief editor” and the remaining were authored by people who are listed as some sort of editor.

    The 7 papers care listed at:

    The editors are listed at

    Associate editors of the journal appear to include

    Sgouris Sgouridis is author of the 2nd paper.
    Simone Bastianoni : lead author of 3rd paper.
    Léo Benichou: lead author of 5th paper.
    Luís Alexandre Duque Moreira De Sousa: author of the 6th paper.

    Guest associate editors (page 2) include
    Martin K. Patel co-author of the 1st paper.
    David Sander co-author of the 1st paper.

    So: every one of the 7 papers in this specialty periodical is authored by someone who appears to be listed as some sort of editor. I know this is a specialty issue and new. So maybe this is usual. I have not examined the papers themselves to evaluate their quality.

    1. Lucia

      If you go to the Frontiers site and do a “people” search, you’ll come up with a total of over 40,000 academics.

      If you then click on a selection of bios – you’ll find that about one in three appear to be described as “editors” of one sort or another.

      JATdS above described how they recruit their editors by indiscriminate direct mail approaches.

      I think we can be confident that “editorial status” at Frontiers is not a particularly rare or exotic achievement .

  12. Great comments from Bjorn Brembs, the second editor to resign from Frontiers.

    “if taking publicly posted comments and citing them in a scientific paper, discussing them under a given hypothesis which has a scientific track record and plenty of precedence constitutes a cause for libel or defamation lawsuits, it is certainly the law and not the paper which is at fault. It is quite clear, why the content of the paper may feel painful to those cited in it, but as long as “conspirational ideation” is not an official mental disorder, I cannot see any defamation. If you don’t want to be labeled a conspiracy theorist, don’t behave like one publicly on the internem … Frontiers retracted a perfectly fine (according to their own investigation) psychology paper due to financial risks for themselves.”

    1. Dana writes:

      “If you don’t want to be labeled a conspiracy theorist, don’t behave like one publicly on the internment”.

      That’s not the voice of a scientist seeking truth – it’s the voice of an activist trying to punish & silence his opposition.

    2. Mr. Brembs (and I presume Mr. Nuccitelli) seems to be laboring under the misunderstanding that this is a legal issue, not an ethical issue. Many things which are legal to do are not ethical to do, especially by the ethical standards of psychological research. Such as, for instance, causing pain to research subjects, an outcome which Mr. Brembs seems to dismiss as irrelevant. He would be well advised to review the ethical standards of the publication, the university, and the funding agency.

      Furthermore, it is possible for the research to be ethical, but the paper reporting the research to be unethical. This case may be an example of that. (I say “may be” because there are still questions about the researchers’ interactions with their subjects; it is possible that the study was unethical as well.) Frontiers has been clear that they found no ethical problems with the study — though it sounds like they took the university’s word for that — but the paper breached some ethical boundaries, particularly regarding the privacy of the subjects.

  13. Dana,
    Some researchers appear to disagree with you

    Here’s how a recent paper analyzing tweets treated their data?

    These tweets and their content are openly available to the public on the web, and consequently their use for research is typically thought not to raise any ethical concerns [25]. However, in some cases the content of the tweets may contain identifiable and sensitive information and thus publicizing such information in an academic article may have unwanted side-effects. Therefore, one of the authors discussed the results in person with some of those people identified as prominent Twitter users through our analysis. Some of these individuals expressed concerns about having their names published in this paper. Collating and quantifying such tweets is a distinct research act from merely re-publishing publicly available individual tweets. Identifying an individual as a ‘top’ Twitter user in a polarized debate may bring them unwanted and disproportionate attention from those holding opposing views. Because of this we decided to anonymize all user data and treat it confidentially.

    Notice they seemed to think even publishing diagnositics like ‘top tweeter’ might cause something that someone might view as harm ( unwanted and disproportionate attention from those holding opposing views). And so they anonymized everything.

    So, it appears the authors of “Climate Change on Twitter: Topics, Communities and Conversations about the 2013 IPCC Working Group 1 Report” may view things differently from Lewandowsky and his co-authors.

    1. That’s a really good article, and most importantly shows that it is perfectly feasible to write a good scientific paper about people’s public comments without the glaring ethical problems that Fury ran into.

      The idea that this has a chilling effect on science is complete nonsense. But then most of the resignations complain about libel threats, which show that they are engaging with the false Lewandowsky/Nuccitelli narrative and not the actual facts of the case.

    1. It’s not at all clear to me how this Lew retraction places robust physical science at risk of legal challenge.

      1. He wrote:

        “Essentially, this puts large sections of science at risk.”

        Not “places robust physical science at risk of legal challenge.”

        1. Is it the case that this criticism suggests that:

          (a) flat earthers, anti-vaxirs, astrologists etc will be able to challenge research which places themselves, or their kind, as the human subjects.


          (b) flat earthers, anti-vaxirs, astrologists etc will be able to challenge the particular scientific understandings/conclusions which they disagree with.

          I would suggest that: (a) is correct–and is how it should be (for appropriate grounds); and that (b) is implied and is an incorrect summation from the professor.

    2. Given the Frontiers editors explicitly said that there were no legal threats, it’s a pithy non-sequitor.

  14. Despite the frequent claims that Frontiers “caved under pressure from the deniers”, it is crystal clear which side is trying to overwhelm Frontiers with pressure, and has been from before the retraction was announced. It is clear which side is making legal threats; Dana mentions them frequently.

  15. Frontiers has clarified further.

    The retracted Recursive Fury paper has created quite a blogger and twitter storm. A sensational storm indeed, with hints to conspiracy theories, claims of legal threats and perceived contradictions. It has been fury – one of the strongest human emotions – that has (perhaps understandably at first sight) guided the discussion around this retraction. Not surprisingly though, the truth is not as sensational and much simpler. The studied subjects were explicitly identified in the paper without their consent. It is well acknowledged and accepted that in order to protect a subject’s rights and avoid a potentially defamatory outcome, one must obtain the subject’s consent if they can be identified in a scientific paper. The mistake was detected after publication, and the authors and Frontiers worked hard together for several months to try to find a solution. In the end, those efforts were not successful. The identity of the subjects could not be protected and the paper had to be retracted. Frontiers then worked closely with the authors on a mutually agreed and measured retraction statement to avoid the retraction itself being misused. From the storm this has created, it would seem we did not succeed.

  16. Rabett says: “Quoting from someone’s signed published material is not libel”.

    To me, however, it sounds almost like a dictionary definition of libel as long as the quotation is an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others

  17. This statement by Lew:
    “We are not aware of a single mention of the claim that our study “did not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects” by Frontiers throughout the past year”
    followed by:
    “Frontiers rejected this replacement paper on 12 February, claiming that it failed to deal adequately with the defamation issue.”

    Can’t wait to see who lied. An email and correspondence between Frontiers and Lew should substantiate one of these two, although I could imagine poorly worded communication that could leave both claiming they were right.

    But I would love to see and email, to Lew saying, “concerning the aforementioned ethical issues…”

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