Caught Our Notice: Climate change leads to more…neurosurgery for polar bears?

Title: Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy

What Caught Our Attention: There’s a lot going on here, so bear with us. (Ba-dum-bum.)

First, there was the paper itself, co-authored by, among others, Michael Mann and Stephan Lewandowsky. Both names may be familiar to Retraction Watch readers. Mann is a prominent climate scientist who has sued the National Review for defamation. A study by Lewandowsky and colleagues of “the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial” was the subject of several Retraction Watch posts when it was retracted and then republished in a different form. And the conclusion of the new paper, in Bioscience, seemed likely to draw the ire of many who objected to the earlier work:

By denying the impacts of [anthropogenic global warming] AGW on polar bears, bloggers aim to cast doubt on other established ecological consequences of AGW, aggravating the consensus gap.

Indeed, there was the predictable reaction to the paper. Judith Curry referred to it as “absolutely the stupidest paper I have ever seen published.” And Susan Crockford, one of the bloggers referred to repeatedly in the paper, and now in the correction, raised questions. (In several blog posts, natch.) Crockford reported last week that the journal would be issuing a correction. Which it now has.

But what really caught our attention was that the correction appears not in Bioscience, but in another journal from the same publisher (Oxford University Press), Neurosurgery. If you’ve ever tried to perform neurosurgery on a polar bear — and hey, we’d like to hear from you! — then perhaps you can understand the mixup. We, however, are chalking it up to a typo in the DOI for now.

In an already fraught case like this, it’s the sort of thing a journal’s production team needs like it needs a hole in the head.

Journal: Bioscience…and Neurosurgery

Authors: Jeffrey A. Harvey, Daphne Van Den Berg, Jacintha Ellers, Remko Kampen, Thomas W. Crowther, Peter Roessingh, Bart Verheggen, Rascha J. M. Nuijten, Eric Post, Stephan Lewandowsky, Ian Stirling, Meena Balgopal, Steven C. Amstrup, Michael E. Mann

Affiliations: Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Netherlands; VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands; Gouda, Netherlands; Institute of Integrative Biology, Switzerland; University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Amsterdam University College, Netherlands;  Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Netherlands; University of California, Davis, USA; University of Bristol, United Kingdom; CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia; University of Alberta, Canada; Colorado State University, USA; Polar Bears International, Montana, USA; University of Wyoming, USA;  Pennsylvania State University, USA

The Notice:

This paper has been corrected online and in print in order to clarify Dr. Crockford’s scientific expertise and financial links in relation to the arguments made in the paper (BioScience 68: 281–287). The corrected text is as follows:

First change: Notably, as of this writing, Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on the effects of sea ice on the population dynamics of polar bears.

Second change: Some of the most prominent AGW deniers, including Crockford, are linked with or receive support from organizations that downplay AGW (e.g. Dr Crockford has previously been paid for report writing by the Heartland Institute).

The authors apologize for any confusion.

Date of Article: November 2017

Times Cited, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science:  Article not yet indexed (for either journal)

Date of Notice: March 28, 2018

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8 thoughts on “Caught Our Notice: Climate change leads to more…neurosurgery for polar bears?”

  1. The study by Lewandowsky which was “the subject of several Retraction Watch posts when it was retracted and then republished in a different form” has now resurfaced in the Oxford University Press Encyclopaedia of Climate Science as referenced material, in both its retracted and republished versions. A complaint about OUP citing a retracted paper which failed to protect the rights of subjects” (and which was also full of errors, many of them libellous) was rejected by the editors. Details are at:

  2. The correction is coming up 404 as linked, so perhaps they noticed the problem but didn’t finish fixing it. Or something.

  3. A website that is devoted to watching journals needs to keep a high bar on diction.

    The use of natch, really caught, and hole-in-the head, are just three examples of where you are lowering the bar.

    1. I disagree with the esteemed gentleman above. I got laughs from the ridiculous article (Dr. Curry is correct) and the lighthearted presentation by RW—diction be darned!!!!! Today is payday and I will be making a donation to RW. Simply first rate work and of immense importance.

  4. As in previous papers authored by Lewandowsky and Mann, the Harvey paper has basic errors with data collection, statistical analysis, and interpretation. Authors and editors know about this, but decided not to correct the record.

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