A paper on “the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial” whose puzzling publication (and retraction) history formed the basis of a series of Retraction Watch posts in 2013 and 2014 is back, as part of a new article in a different journal.
Retraction Watch readers may recall a paper published in 2013 in Frontiers in Psychology. That paper, “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation,” was an attempt by Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues to describe the reactions to another controversial Psychological Science paper Lewandowsky had co-authored, “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science.”
The reason we started writing about the Frontiers paper was that it was removed from the journal’s site in March of 2013, for unclear reasons, before being formally retracted a year later with a reference to an investigation that “did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study” but found that “the legal context is insufficiently clear.” That didn’t really clear things up, however: A statement from the journal a few weeks later, we noted in our coverage, seemed to contradict the retraction notice. (Of note: Earlier this year, a different Frontiers journal allowed an HIV denial article they published remain in the literature, but reclassified it as opinion.)
Today, in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, Lewandowsky and colleagues publish “Recurrent Fury: Conspiratorial Discourse in the Blogosphere Triggered by Research on the Role of Conspiracist Ideation in Climate Denial.” Here’s the abstract:
A growing body of evidence has implicated conspiracist ideation in the rejection of scientific propositions. Internet blogs in particular have become the staging ground for conspiracy theories that challenge the link between HIV and AIDS, the benefits of vaccinations, or the reality of climate change. A recent study involving visitors to climate blogs found that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science and other scientific propositions such as the link between lung cancer and smoking, and between HIV and AIDS. That article stimulated considerable discursive activity in the climate blogosphere—i.e., the numerous blogs dedicated to climate “skepticism”—that was critical of the study. The blogosphere discourse was ideally suited for analysis because its focus was clearly circumscribed, it had a well-defined onset, and it largely discontinued after several months. We identify and classify the hypotheses that questioned the validity of the paper’s conclusions using well-established criteria for conspiracist ideation. In two behavioral studies involving naive participants we show that those criteria and classifications were reconstructed in a blind test. Our findings extend a growing body of literature that has examined the important, but not always constructive, role of the blogosphere in public and scientific discourse.
The article reports 3 studies that examined the discourse in the climate-“skeptic” blogosphere in response to an earlier publication in Psychological Science by Lewandowsky, Oberauer, and Gignac (often known as LOG12) which reported a small but significant (and replicable) association between the endorsement of various conspiracy theories and the rejection of climate science.
The paper discusses the retraction — the authors refer to it as a withdrawal, while Frontiers calls it a retraction — and related issues:
There are indications that seeking the retraction of inconvenient papers has become a routine practice among individuals who are denying (climate) science: We already noted the circumstances surrounding Recursive Fury at the outset. Moreover, one of the bloggers who was also involved in the response to LOG12 recently called for the retraction of a peer-reviewed paper that had underscored the pervasive scientific consensus on climate change through an analysis of nearly 12,000 peer-reviewed articles (Cook et al., 2013). To date, we have become aware of 7 instances in which editors were subject to what can reasonably be classified as harassment or intimidation in order to achieve the retraction of inconvenient papers. The potentially chilling effects of those activities on academic freedom must be analyzed further.
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