The involvement of conspiracist ideation in science denial

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol
Posted on 5 February 2013
Filed under Cognition

There is growing evidence that conspiratorial thinking, also known as conspiracist ideation, is often involved in the rejection of scientific propositions. Conspiracist ideations tend to invoke alternative explanations for the nature or source of the scientific evidence. For example, among people who reject the link between HIV and AIDS, common ideations involve the beliefs that AIDS was created by the U.S. Government.

My colleagues and I published a paper recently that found evidence for the involvement of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of scientific propositions—from climate change to the link between tobacco and lung cancer, and between HIV and AIDS—among visitors to climate blogs. This was a fairly unsurprising result because it meshed well with previous research and the existing literature on the rejection of science. Indeed, it would have been far more surprising, from a scientific perspective, if the article had not found a link between conspiracist ideation and rejection of science.

Nonetheless, as some readers of this blog may remember, this article engendered considerable controversy.

The article also generated data.

Data, because for social scientists, public statements and publically-expressed ideas constitute data for further research. Cognitive scientists sometimes apply something called “narrative analysis” to understand how people, groups, or societies are organized and how they think.

In the case of the response to our earlier paper, we were struck by the way in which some of the accusations leveled against our paper were, well, somewhat conspiratorial in nature. We therefore decided to analyze the public response to our first paper with the hypothesis in mind that this response might also involve conspiracist ideation. We systematically collected utterances by bloggers and commenters, and we sought to classify them into various hypotheses leveled against our earlier paper. For each hypothesis, we then compared the public statements against a list of criteria for conspiracist ideation that was taken from the previous literature.

This follow-up paper was accepted a few days ago by Frontiers in Psychology, and a preliminary version of the paper is already available, for open access, here.

The title of the paper is Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, and it is authored by myself, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer, and Michael Marriott.

I enclose the abstract below:

Conspiracist ideation has been repeatedly implicated in the rejection of scientific propositions, although empirical evidence to date has been sparse. A recent study involving visitors to climate blogs found that conspiracist ideation was associated with the rejection of climate science and the rejection of other scientific propositions such as the link between lung cancer and smoking, and between HIV and AIDS (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, in press; LOG12 from here on). This article analyzes the response of the climate blogosphere to the publication of LOG12. We identify and trace the hypotheses that emerged in response to LOG12 and that questioned the validity of the paper's conclusions. Using established criteria to identify conspiracist ideation, we show that many of the hypotheses exhibited conspiratorial content and counterfactual thinking. For example, whereas hypotheses were initially narrowly focused on LOG12, some ultimately grew in scope to include actors beyond the authors of LOG12, such as university executives, a media organization, and the Australian government. The overall pattern of the blogosphere's response to LOG12 illustrates the possible role of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science, although alternative scholarly interpretations may be advanced in the future.

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Comments 51 to 86 out of 86:

  1. And to answer your question @49, you can cite anything you like. The point of citing is so that others can check your information, to acknowledge the work of others, and to provide the evidence for the work you have not done yourself (but may have built upon).

    But if you base your work on something that is unproven or weak, and which is later shown to be false, then your work may also be invalidated.

    If you are going to base your work on unproven work, then you are accepting the risks of doing so. But that doesn't mean you can't do it.
  2. Mandas, how do you feel about peer reviewers with direct links to the authors or their institutions?

    And what is your opinion about peer reviewers being changed after release of a paper?
  3. A Scott

    How about, instead of death by a thousand questions, you tell me what the point of all this is?

    I have already told you that it does not matter what the relationship between the peer reviewer and the author of the paper is, as long as the peer reviewer acts in an ethical fashion.

    And you can't change a peer reviewer after the publication of a paper. Peer review occurs before publication, so unless you have a time machine your second question is moot.
  4. Can you write a paper about why conspiracy theorists seem to write much longer posts than everyone else?
  5. Mandas ... if you are correct about peer review, then perhaps you can ask the authors of this paper where their time machine is?

    As, in the short period since this current paper was published online, the peer reviewer list has changed now at least 3 times:

    Reviewed by: Michael J. Wood, University of Kent, United Kingdom
    Elaine McKewon, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

    Rev. 1:
    Reviewed by: Viren Swami, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
    Elaine McKewon, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

    Rev. 2:
    Reviewed by: Prathiba Natesan, University North Texas, USA
    Viren Swami, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
    Elaine McKewon, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

    Rev. 3:
    Reviewed by: Viren Swami, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
    Elaine McKewon, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

    I agree with you peer review is very important. I also agree with you, once an article is made publicly available that readers should be able to rely on the fact that peer review has been satisfactorily and professionally completed.

    And I most definitely agree with you that once a paper is made publicly available that the peer reviewers should not be changed or manipulated.

    Especially with work as controversial and inflammatory as this. And considering that the underlying paper - LOG12 - this paper is entirely based upon, has not, despite the authors claims of being "In Press" now going on 8 months, been published, and the authors have admitted they have obtained additional data and noted they are revising the LOG12 paper - many months after it was alleged to be fully peer reviewed and accepted for publication.

    No conspiracy theory there - just facts admitted by the authors.

    Add the post publication (online) peer reviewer shuffle - and the extremely sympathetic remaining reviewer, with her direct ties to UWA (per her CV), and I believe it entirely legitimate to ask serious questions about this work. Just as there are with the authors LOG12 paper.
  6. Scott

    Such a long post - so many factual errors and baseless assertions. Let me put you straight on a few issues.

    Firstly, there is a huge difference between 'publishing' on-line and publishing in a peer reviewed journal. Anyone can publish anything on-line. That would be obvious from reading the dross that poses as science on such notable denier sites like wattsupwith that, or fossil fuel advocacy organisation sites like SPPI. In a real journal, papers must pass peer review before publishing, and once published they are then available for comment and for referencing. They would only be peer reviewed again if they were going to be updated and republished.

    Second, why is it a problem for this paper to have been peer reviewed on multiple occasions? That can only strengthen the work.

    Third, there is nothing 'controversial' about this paper at all. In fact, it would be the least 'controversial' paper I have ever seen. I would put it into the category of stating the bleeding obvious. Anyone who has spent any time blogging on climate change sites knows that the denier echo chamber abounds with conspiracy nutters and people who wear tin foil hats. Professor Lewandowsky is just quantifying what we already know.

    Next, I have already explained that it does not matter what the relationship of the reviewer is to the author. It only matters that the reviewer acts ethically. If you believe that this has not occurred in this case, how about you produce the evidence instead of making baseless assertions. It would be easy you know. If the reviewers did not do their job properly, there would be obvious flaws in the paper. How about you tell us what they are, and explain why the reviewer should have picked them up.

    Finally, I do agree that it is legitimate to ask serious questions about this work. But then, I am a scientist. I believe it is legitimate to ask serious questions about all work - and I do so. It is only the denier echo chamber that thinks it is legitimate to ask serious questions about work of this nature, while completely abrogating their responsibility to ask serious questions about the crap which is served up by other deniers.
  7. Factual errors, baseless assertions? I think not - I stated simple facts, easily verifiable - and backed up by the authors own words.

    The current paper has been published by a peer reviewed journal. The authors have claimed the LOG12 paper is peer reviewed and "In Press" in a professional journal as well.

    However, we have never seen LOG12 in any such publication, or - to my knowledge notice such publication is pending, despite it now being 8 months since their release of the paper to the media and first making the claim.

    Further, the authors have stated themselves they have done additional work and are making revisions to the LOG12 paper - yet they also continue to claim it is peer reviewed and "in press" and have used and cited it as reference in several subsequent papers. This would appear to be an problem, as there is no indication it has been peer reviewed in its revised form with its additional, new data.

    Regarding the current "Recursive" paper - this paper has been published online in a peer reviewed journal - Frontiers in Personality Science.

    Yet despite your unequivocal statement "you can't change a peer reviewer after the publication of a paper" they have done exactly that. Not once, but three different times since the paper was published Feb 5 - just 10 days ago.

    You were very clear "Peer review occurs before publication" ... and should never be changed once published.

    Despite the current "Recursive" paper being published by a professional journal - with the authors and journal clearly indicating it was peer reviewed when they published it - in the 10 days since, the listed peer reviewers have changed 3 different times. At present there is one reviewer listed, plus the Editor has also stepped into the role of a peer reviewer.

    A simple perusal of that one reviewer's CV shows her to be highly sympathetic to the work being reviewed. Her published papers include:

    McKewon, Elaine (2012) ‘Talking Points Ammo: The use of neoliberal think tank fantasy themes to delegitimise scientific knowledge of climate change in Australian newspapers’, Journalism Studies 13(2), 277-297

    McKewon, Elaine (2012) ‘Duelling Realities: Conspiracy theories vs climate science in regional newspaper coverage of Ian Plimer’s book, Heaven and Earth’, Rural Society 21(2), 99–115

    McKewon, E. (2009) ‘Resurrecting the war-by-media on climate science: Ian Plimer’s Heaven and Earth’,Proceedings of the National Conference of the Journalism Education Association of Australia, Perth WA.

    Some will certainly say these make her a perfect reviewer.

    Others might find them both more advocate than scientist - considering the subject matter and position of her work, along with her journalism training and advocacy - and might recall at minimum the LOG12 authors appearance of manipulating the media through early release of the LOG12 paper and similar use of inflammatory and sensationalized commentary to gain media and public attention.

    Regrettably, having an agenda, being an activist/advocate of, and taking a particular side in, the issue you "research" in itself does not necessarily disqualify today.

    However, her CV also points out another issue - a direct business relationship with UWA, who publish two of her books. Which is a direct listed conflict of the journal.

    I would note there is also no provision for the Editor to also be a peer reviewer, and while as I noted Dr. Swami would be considered well qualified as a reviewer, an Editor overseeing and reviewing their own work would seem to entirely defeat the purpose of independent peer review.

    Once again mandas - no conspiracy's here. Everything I wrote above is based on plain and simple facts - including direct comment from the authors.

    You made very clear "Peer review occurs before publication" and you "can't change a peer reviewer after the publication of a paper."

    Yet that is exactly what has occurred here. A paper is not published at Frontiers, nor are peer reviewers identified, until and unless peer review is complete and the article is accepted by the Journal. At that point it is posted online. Yet the listed peer reviewers have changed 3 different times in the 10 days since publication - with currently only one reviewer plus the Editor listed.

    I'll ask again - since all of this is a direct violation of your own statements and claims, when can we expect you will question the authors about their time machine?
  8. Oh dear Scott,

    Why is this so hard for you to understand? When I said that you can't change peer review after a paper is published I wasn't speaking about ethics, or conspiracy, or any other of the nonsensical things you are going on about. I was speaking about what is physically possible.

    So let me say this again, and try and understand this time. Peer review occurs before publication. It only occurs before publication. Once a paper is published in a peer reviewed journal it is written down. It is published. It is available for anyone to read. It is locked in. It is in black and white. It is on the street.

    You cannot change the peer review of the paper because that is something that has already occurred. It has happened. It is in the past. It is over. Done. Finalised. Completed. Unless you have a time machine you can do nothing about it.

    You can claim all you like that the LISTED peer reviewers have changed, but so what? Whoever peer reviewed the paper is not going to change, because they can't. It has already happened. And if the paper has not yet been published, then it can be peer reviewed again and again and again - but once it is published it can't. Do you get this yet?

    And once again, it does not matter who peer reviews it. It can even be the author's wife for all I care. All that matters is that the review is done properly. And we will know if it isn't, because the paper will have flaws.

    Now, have you identified any flaws in this paper which demonstrate that the peer review process was not done correctly? If so, produce them.

    Scott, I have to tell you that you and your ilk are pure gold. Anyone who has spent any time on climate change blogs knows for a fact that the denier echo chamber abounds with conspiracy theorists. When Professor Lewandowsky produced his first paper, everyone went, "Dohh - really? What is your next paper going to be on - that fire burns or that water is wet?". Of course, the denier echo chamber couldn't help themselves and had to confirm his findings with all sorts of allegations of further conspiracies in the gathering of the data.

    That made the second paper even easier to produce. All Professor Lewandowsky and John Cook had to do was collect more comments from the tin foil hat brigade.

    Now here you are, alleging further conspiracy to subvert the peer review process. You can't help yourself can you? You are so oblivious that you can't even see how deluded you are. Keep it up. I predict a starring role for you in the fourth paper.
  9. mandas:

    Clap. Clap. A Scott has been all over these threads since they started, spouting his "But... but..." ineffectual drivel. I fear he may eventually implode under the weight of that hat, to which more aluminium foil is added each week.
  10. Ahhh, so let me get this straight, now you imply the multiple changes of listed peer reviewers after the paper was released - was "on the street" - are just some silly and trivial housekeeping error?

    You seem to imply they just couldn't figure out who the peer reviewers actually were after they'd had the paper in review since Nov 2012, that it took them 3 tries to get them correct ... but that there is not a thing unusual or questionable there.

    You make what appear as little more than diversionary excuses, I report verifiable facts.

    It is a fact the journal does not place papers on "the street" until and unless peer review is complete, the Associate Editor approves the paper and the review, and the journal accepts the paper.

    Per their clearly defined rules, on completion of those tasks the paper is published in the journal online edition and the provisional PDF is posted.

    It is also a fact the journal does not identify peer reviewers until the review is complete and the paper is accepted for publication.

    You are welcome to verify these facts at the Journal's website.

    It is also a fact, that since publication, the listed peer reviewers have changed - three different times in the 10 days or so after publication by the journal.

    It is a fact, that at present, in addition to the Editor of the paper, only one peer reviewer remains - a highly sympathetic journalism graduate student with a direct business relationship with the UWA. Which the journals rules indicate would be a conflict of interest.

    You claim peer review must be completed before the paper is release "on the street" and that you cannot change the peer reviewers after that time. I fully agree and so do the journals rules.

    The provisional PDF released stated the same quite clearly: "This Provisional PDF corresponds to the article as it appeared upon acceptance, after rigorous peer-review."

    Yet the fact remains - the peer reviewers have been changed - three times in the 10 days since publication - something you insist should not and cannot happen. Of the 3 different peer reviewers that have been listed only the one remains, plus the papers Editor has now been listed as the 2nd reviewer.

    Additionally, the PDF of the paper was removed from the Journal site a few days after posting. The authors posted several places, that a copy remained available at their website, however a link in the authors post above now goes to the Journals Abstract page and not the paper itself.

    And don't seem the least bit curious even - why something you claim can not happen - change of reviewers post publication - is happening anyway.

    It is also a fact that the authors of the current paper also have continuously claimed - from July 2012 to present - the LOG12 paper was peer reviewed and "In Press". During this same time they claim the LOG12 paper was fully peer reviewed and in press, the authors have also stated they have gathered new data for the LOG12 paper and are rewriting parts of it.

    Considering 8+months have passed with no indication, I am aware of, from the journal as to any publication or planned publication, and considering the authors own statements they have obtained additional data and are revising the documentation, how do you support the authors claims this paper (LOG12) is a peer reviewed and "published" work?

    Last - if you consider their LOG12 paper to be legitimately considered as published, how do you support the fact, despite the repeated references to it, the authors have not made the Supplemental Information available and have not responded to the many requests made to provide it?

    Either the paper is peer reviewed, published and available, including the Supplemental Information, which the authors have noted contains the information necessary to properly review the paper, or it is not.

    Which is it?

    No conspiracy theories here, just indisputable facts, including based on the authors own words. And simple, legitimate questions as a result.
  11. Then I guess the answer to my own question - "do you get this yet?" - is a resounding no.

    And have you had a chance to answer my other question - have you identified any flaws in the paper that would indicate that the peer review process was not done correctly?
  12. I posted a number of verifiable facts, including those supported by the authors own statements. And identified issues those facts support. You refused to address a single one of them and instead try the standard response - diversion.

    You asked, and I presented a detailed fact based response. Please answer the questions posed to you.
  13. No implosion Steve ... just simple facts and a quest for answers, in order to validate the work, which the authors so far have refused to provide.

    I think its quite humorous that they base this recent paper on the fact none of the appx 30 other 'similar' papers they looked at got anywhere near the critical response theirs did.

    Couldn't possibly be that high level of responses was because of the designed intent of their paper - purposely using a highly inflammatory, sensationalized title - which reflected a minor alleged finding of the paper, a finding supported by the thinnest of threads. Support which evaporated when the very likely "scammed" responses were removed.

    A title that drew strong rebukes even from strong CAGW believers, and supporters of the author.

    Are they conspiracy theorists too?
  14. "......And have you had a chance to answer my other question - have you identified any flaws in the paper that would indicate that the peer review process was not done correctly?...."

    So that's a no then?
  15. More deflection and diversion mandas - plenty of issues with the paper itself, not the least of which is the base premise of the paper.

    The authors claim the LOG12 paper received a higher level of response than any of the other 21 similar papers provides support for their conspiracy ideation association. When in fact the ONLY reason the Moon Landing is a Hoax paper received the attention it did was because of the inflammatory and sensationalized title, which reflected a minor point of the paper, and was supported by the thinnest of threads - support which evaporated altogether when the highly likely to be "scammed" responses were removed.

    A title which was highly criticized, including by domain experienced pro-AGW supporters.

    None of the papers they compared to had a remotely inlfammatory title. And while I have not read them I striongly suspect none of the papers title reflected a minor, barely supported, fining.

    The sole reason their paper received any enhanced notice and comment was that they purposed intended and planned for it to do so.

    They chose a highly inflammatory title, barely supported by the data, which painted critics in a significantly denigrating fashion, and then released it to the news media, claiming it to be peer reviewed and published - "in press" - despite that even now, 8 months later, that statement has not been proven accurate or true.

    The very basis for this paper - that the increased attention was somehow unusual, and as such was support for conspiracy ideation by the authors critics - is completely unsupported by the facts.

    As the basis is without merit or fact, the entirety of the rest of the paper which relies on that basis, becomes moot.

    My questions still remain. Unlike the paper itself they are directly supported by fact, including the authors own statements, and the rules and standards of the publication.

    You yourself unequivocally stated peer review must be done before the paper is released to the street. You yourself said peer reviewers cannot be changed after the fact - after the paper has been released.

    Yet exactly that has occurred.

    No more excuses or diversions - please address and respond to my questions - which were a direct response to your claims.
  16. Its like this Scott.

    You have asked me many questions, and I have answered virtually all of them. But you have consistently refused to answer a single one of mine.

    And I have only one. Have you identified any flaws in the paper that would indicate the peer review process was not done correctly.

    That's all.

    And I will not keep reiterating things that are physically impossible, so this is the last time. You cannot change the peer review after the paper has been published. I did not say it MUST not be changed, or SHOULD not be changed. I said it CAN'T be changed. Just like you can't change what you had for breakfast after you have eaten lunch. You can't change the past. End of story.
  17. You keep claiming peer reviewers can't be changed after the paper is released. And I keep agreeing with you that is the way its supposed to work.

    Then you turn around and ignore that is exactly what has occurred. Since the paper was posted the peer reviewers have been changed 3 separate times. This is a fact. Yet you keep ignoring - refusing the acknowledge - this simple fact.

    Then you have not paid attention mandas. I answered your question
  18. Pure gold!

    BTW Does anyone know whatever happened to the AScott/WUWT data? Did the Auditor bury it?
  19. What "auditor" would bury it? Nope - its all safe and sound and keepin' on trucking.

    Any comments from you on the multiple changes in peer reviewers after release and publication?
  20. @- A. Scott
    "...Then you turn around and ignore that is exactly what has occurred. Since the paper was posted the peer reviewers have been changed 3 separate times. This is a fact. Yet you keep ignoring - refusing the acknowledge - this simple fact."

    I think this is your mistake, you state it is a simple fact that the reviewers have been changed when this is a temporal impossibility after the fact.
    If you had stated that the list of reviewers had changed after publication then the situation becomes clearer. Either the initial list was incorrect or a later one is. Or perhaps all the reviewers listed had a role at different stages, or none.

    If there is an identifiable flaw in the paper that you have identified then there is a case for finding which reviewers might have missed it. But updates or corrections to the list of reviewers after the fact does not change who actually reviewed it. It might indicate a certain lack of accuracy in the original or subsequent listing of reviewers, or if you are so motivated, you could construct a conspiracy theory to explain the changes to the listing of reviewers.

  21. faustusnotes at 01:10 AM on 1 March, 2013
    I guess it's a little late to be commenting on this post, but I would like to point out that the original analysis did have flaws, and the data doesn't show what Lewandowsky et al claim. I showed this at my blog back when the original brouhaha blew up. LOG12 makes certain assumptions prior to analysis which enforce certain conclusions, and I don't think they should have made those assumptions.

    The data actually shows that climate "skeptics" are not more likely to be conspiracy theorists, and actually only cling to one conspiracy theory (the AGW one). I don't think Lewandowsky's follow up paper (which looks really interesting) is going to present any data that contradicts this.

    Also while people are piling onto A. Scott I would like to say that he or she has behaved very well during this whole debacle, and although obviously having an agenda has tried (and mostly succeeded) to rise above it, showing objectivity and doing a lot of work to try and support his or her own view about what is wrong with the data. The same, obviously, can't be said for The Auditor, who has behaved very poorly throughout the whole episode.

    A. Scott, I would really like to get access to the data you collected. McIntyre obviously isn't going to analyse it, and I think we both know why ...
  22. I stated exactly what occurred. Clearly and succinctly. Try as you might to re-phrase or re-frame what occurred, it will not change what has occurred.

    I clearly stated the listed peer reviewers have changed at least 3 times within the week or two after the paper was published online.

    I also accurately noted that at present there is only one peer reviewer remaining. The 2nd peer reviewer currently listed is the Editor of the paper.

    The original 2nd reviewer has been removed. The interim reviewer listed who replaced the original has also subsequently been removed, replaced by the Editor, Swami. I noted, that while Dr. Swami would likely be well qualified as a peer reviewer, it seems highly problematic and unethical for an Editor to also be a peer reviewer on a paper they are responsible for Editorial control over.

    These are simple, indisputable facts.

    Additional facts include that the original two peer reviewers are both also cited in the references for this paper. Not necessarily an issue in itself, however, when taken as part of the whole - considering one has a business relationship with UWA which would appear to violate the journals rules, and considering the apparent highly sympathetic views of both original peer reviewers - there is at least a strong appearance that this was far more "pal" than "peer" review.

    Add the fact the PDF of the paper has been pulled from the journal and the authors websites.

    Now take the inconsistencies and problems apparent with this current paper, and add the context of the issues with the LOG12 paper:

    - The early release to mainstream media of a flawed paper with a highly sensationalized inflammatory title - a title attacked and vilified by even strong supporters of the authors

    - A title that reflected a minor finding of the research, a finding barely supported by the data, and which all but disappeared when the suspect responses were removed

    - The strong and relevant issues with the authors data collection practices and the resultant very small sample of alleged "skeptic" responses

    - Add that, despite the authors continued claims - including cites in their subsequent papers - that the LOG12 paper has still not, 9 months later been published, and to best of my knowledge there has been no independent public confirmation or announcement that it has been accepted for publication

    So we have one paper - LOG12 - which has serious questions about its data collection, data quality, statistical analysis and conclusions ... and which has to date primarily been used for advocacy/attack thru its release to the media by the authors. A paper that has never been published, despite repeated and continued claims by the authors it was "In Press."

    And now we have a new paper, which cites, and is directly based on the unpublished and unverified LOG12 paper, with its serious and un-addressed questions as to quality and accuracy ... and this new paper has similar issues, including outright false claims about other authors work. A paper where legitimate concerns have been raised about multiple changes to listed peer reviewers which occurred after the paper was published online.

    Instead of critical questioning why peer reviewers have been changed - not once, but three different times, in the week or so after publishing - all we see is excuse making from supporters and outright silence from the authors.

    I will repeat - I have stated irrefutable, verifiable, facts. Facts that show a pattern across now several papers by these authors - with legitimate criticism which has been ignored by the authors.

    It is highly unusual that a paper will see changes to the listed peer reviewers after publication ... a single change is extremely rare, let alone 3 different changes with 4 different reviewers listed, in a short period.

    There is zero logical, or for that matter legitimate, reason for there ever to be a change of listed peer reviewers after publication. Both, as noted above, because peer reviewers can not change once review is complete, and because the journals own rules provide that reviewers are not identified until the paper is complete, signed off on by Editor, and accepted by the journal for publication.

    The only acceptable reason a listed reviewer might change is to correct a simple error - that somehow the wrong individual was listed. We know beyond all doubt that was not the case here. For several reasons. Both initial reviewers are listed as a reference in the paper, so we know both are involved. And we know it was not a simple mistake, as the listed reviewers have changed three different times.

    A 3rd peer reviewer was added to replace the initial listed reviewer, then she was removed as well, replaced by the Editor, Dr. Swami. This was clearly no mere typographical error. You don't get the listed peer reviewers for a paper wrong three different times after publication.

    It is, to my knowledge, also unusual for an Editor to also be a peer reviewer of a paper they are responsible for editing.

    These are fair and legitimate questions and criticisms - all based on fact. Perhaps there are simple answers, but as is now seemingly becoming a pattern there are no answers forthcoming from the authors.

    There is no conspiracy theory, nor is one needed. They are valid, legitimate questions. The authors have refused to address them just as they refused to address questions about the LOG12 paper ... despite repeated claims from the authors that the answers could be found in the Supplemental information - no SI has ever been provided and they continue to ignore all requests - all the while continuing to claim the LOG12 paper has been peer reviewed and is "In Press" and citing it in their subsequent work.

    This is not the mark of professional scholarly work and/or ethical and open authors.

    These actions lend support to the claims this is not scholarly work, but rather an extension of the authors extreme advocacy and activism in support of their "Cause".

    It is not 'conspiracy' to ask authors to respond to legitimate criticism and questions. It is not 'conspiracy' to expect authors to provide the necessary support to validate and verify their work.

    Nor is it 'conspiracy' to attempt to validate, verify and replicate their work ... something even the authors admit.
  23. faustus .. thanks for the support ... I try to do the research and ask legitimate questions, based on facts.

    Send me an email if you want -
  24. As the authors have not responded to any of the questions submitted regarding the “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation” and the underlying LOG12 papers …

    I formally submit the following direct questions for Mr. Lewandowsky (and/or any of the authors of either paper).

    1. You have repeatedly claimed, since approx. July 2012, that the "LOG12/Moon Landing is a Hoax" paper has been peer reviewed, accepted for publication by Psychological Science, and has been published. You repeat that claim in the current "Recursive" paper and again in your comments above. You have also cited the LOG12 paper as a reference in multiple subsequent papers, including the current "Recursive" paper. Yet to the best of my knowledge the paper has never been published, online or in print, nor has Psycholigical Science ever acknowledged acceptance of the paper for publishing.
    Please provide:

    (a.) … evidence that shows the LOG12 paper has been published, and/or;

    (b.) … information which shows, or provides acknowledgement, that the LOG12 paper actually has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by Psychological Science.
    2. You have repeatedly claimed, including in this blog, and again several times in the “Recursive” paper, that the online supplementary material for LOG12 contains the raw data, information and detailed methods necessary to review and validate the LOG12 findings.
    Please provide:

    (a.) … evidence this supplementary material has been peer reviewed, accepted for publication, and published, and/or;

    (b.) … information on where this supplementary material may be accessed online as you have repeatedly claimed, and/or;

    (c.) … how/where the supplementary material may be obtained from the authors?
    3. Legitimate questions have been raised regarding the current “Recursive” paper as well. Here too you have claimed the paper was properly peer reviewed, accepted for publication, and has been published. In this current case, we at least know the paper has been published online by the Frontiers journal. However, there are a number questionable activities associated with the publishing of this paper as well.
    Please provide a response:

    (a.) It is well established that peer review must be completed prior to acceptance, and certainly prior to publication. Yet here the list of peer reviewers has undergone 3 significant changes in the weeks after publication – there have been 4 different iterations of listed peer reviewers in the course of a few weeks post publication.

    The current listed peer reviewers include the Associate Editor of the paper, which seems highly suspect and of questionable ethics and professionalism – when we know other qualified reviewers were available.

    The sole remaining independent reviewer is a graduate student in journalism, not Psychological Science, with a pretty clearly identifiable, highly sympathetic bias towards the authors positions, and a business relationship with the authors institution. Whether true or not, this creates a clear perception of “pal” not “peer” review of this work.
    Question: How and why have the listed peer reviewers changed multiple times after publication, and why were apparently qualified reviewers removed, after being listed, and replaced by the Associate Editor in charge of the paper?
    (b.) Upon publication a PDF was provided of the full paper. This PDF was included on the Frontiers page for the paper, and is referenced by Mr. Lewandowsky in the blog post above. In the days after publication, this PDF was removed from the Frontiers page. And several days later the link in the authors blog post above - which clearly states it is to the PDF of the paper - has been changed to point only to the abstract.
    Question: Why was the PDF removed and when will it be replaced?
    (c.) The authors of “Recursive” several times in the paper reference the supplementary material, and that it contains the additional detail information to support the claims and findings of the paper. Yet, as with the prior LOG12 paper, no supplementary has, by all appearances, been made available.
    Question: How/where can the supplementary material be obtained from the authors?
    4. In the Recursive paper the term "LOG12" appears 120 times. The LOG12 paper is cited by the authors as a reference. And in fact the LOG12 paper is the entire basis for the Recursive paper. Yet the LOG12 paper as we know has not appeared in print or online, has not been published in any form to date, and no independent public acknowledgement has been made that the work has been reviewed and accepted by a scholarly journal for publication.
    Question: Please explain the professional, ethical and scholarly reasoning behind citing prior work as a reference in subsequent papers when this work; (a.) has drawn significant criticism (including from supporters of the authors), (b.) has not been published, and where (c.) the authors actions in withholding supplementary material – including raw data, methods and information which they note is critical to the papers findings – have resulted in the inability of outside reviewers to validate this work.
    5. In the “Recursive” paper the authors note as one of their “recursive hypothesis” the conspiracy theory “Control data suppressed (6)” … regarding the authors failed attempt to collect a “control” sample for the LOG12 papers findings from the campus population. The authors attributed this conspiracy theory to “the pervasive belief that something must be wrong (NI, MbW)”.

    In footnote “5” regarding the above comments, the authors note note they ”subsequently obtained a control sample via a professional survey firm in the U.S” and that “This representative sample of 1,000 respondents replicated the results involving conspiracist ideation reported by LOG12.”

    The authors own actions regarding this concern - that the criticism prompted the authors to admit their campus survey had failed (a fact they did not disclose in the LOG12 paper) - and that they subsequently obtained a professional “control” survey, show that something most definately was wrong, and thus the criticism was valid and well founded.
    Question: Please explain how you find well founded criticism - showing something indeed was wrong and the criticism was accurate - to be a “conspiracy theory” ... an example of conspiracist ideation?

    Please explain how when the authors directly react to, and upon, the criticism, how this finding is not demonstrably proven false by the authors own response to the criticism?
    These are legitimate, reasoned, questions of the authors. They deserve a professional and honest response.
  25. Professor Lewandowsky

    I am commenting late on this thread because I have just become aware of several serious instances of falsification and academic fraud in this paper - one of which involves myself.

    It appears that words in a comment I made on this blog were linked in a way which completely changed their meaning and context - with the clear intention of fraudulently supporting the paper's aims while exposing me to ridicule for an opinion I had never expressed.

    I replied to a comment by Eli Rabett who had used the words "Human Subject folk" as a reference to your university's ethics panel. The discussion centred on whether you you could hide behind your ethics people to avoid naming the sceptical blog proprietors you claimed to have directly contacted. I expressed doubt that the Human Subiects even existed since I didn't believe you had contacted the individuals ( a surmise which subsequently proved to be correct).

    You linked to my comment, in the paper, as an example of "conspiratorial" belief that no human subjects had taken part in the research, a completely different proposition and one which, if true, would confirm the psychological defects you were alleging in people who share my opinions.

    The fact is, it wasn't true - and using my comment in that way was fraudulent. I have also taken preliminary legal advice and determined that it may also have been libellous - provided that I can show that there are a reasonable number of readers who are aware of my real identity - which is the case.

    I have now made contact with UWA Human Research Ethics Dept, as well as your Board Chairman and Vice Chancellor, and requested that they investigate this complaint.

    I am also approaching the University of Queensland with a similar complaint about your co-author John Cook. I understand that, because of certain provisions of the legal code in Queensland, there may also be criminal aspects to this type of behaviour there.

    The purpose of this post is to give you an opportunity to withdraw the offending material from the paper and make a public apology to me here.

    The full details of the academic frauds you have perpetrated on myself and others are covered in this linked blogpost at WUWT - where I will also post this comment in case it does not appear here.

    If you wish to make contact with me to discuss the wording of an apology - you may contact me using the email address I have already supplied to your university's authorities.
  26. Looks like Foxgoose is auditioning for the next paper. Two conspiracy ideations: one new, one recycled.

    Weird and weirder.
  27. Well, your fellow Treehouse Dweller Tom Curtis doesn't agree with you Sou.

    He thinks Lew et al made a teensy weensy slip up and completely misquoted me:-

    What, however, of the alleged misquotes. In the first, a quote from Foxgoose is presented as alleging that no humans took the survey for Lewandowsky et al, 2012, whereas he actually alleged that no “skeptical” bloggers where(sic) contacted by Lewandowsky. This is actually a misquote. However, the meaning of Foxgoose is far from clear, even in context. Indeed, Shollenberger, having quoted Foxgoose in full, finds it necessary to refer to the original discussion for further context to show that it is a misquote. Even that further context, involving as it does a comment by Eli Rabbet, is far from clear. The most probable cause of the misquote is simple misunderstanding of Foxgoose’s intentions.

    Hard to understand how it got through multiple peer reviews though - eh?

    Only in "climate science"!
  28. That's not what's weird, Foxgoose. What's really weird is that you're not saying you don't hold conspiracy theories, you're telling Prof L that you believe a different conspiracy theory.

    At the same time you are assuming 'nefarious intent' by the authors - double conspiracy ideation!

    (It's okay, I don't expect you to understand, Foxgoose. Someone should write a paper about it :D)
  29. Umm, Foxgoose - Tom Curtis isn't saying what you seem to think he's saying, by the way.
  30. Sou ... do you believe factual statements are conspiracy theories?
  31. No, A Scott. Do you? Why do you ask?

    When someone thinks something despite the facts (like Foxgoose has admitted to with his repeated 'no skeptic blogs were contacted') and meets certain other criteria (nefarious intent, ""they" are just making it up to slander us" for example), then that can be classed as a 'conspiracy ideation' at the very least.

    Don't tell me you hold the same 'theories' as Foxgoose does!
  32. Sou - I think making up your own version of reality is probably even more worrying than believing "conspiracy theories".

    Lewandowsky said "he" had contacted the sceptic blogs.

    In fact, we now know he got an unknown assistant to email them and a subsequent FOI request revealed that he did that deliberately to keep his name hidden:-


    "Because I am interested in soliciting opinions also from these folks, I would like to withhold my name from the survey as I fear it might contaminate responding"

    This is a plain recorded fact.

    It may be unpalatable to you - but that doesn't make it a "conspiracy theory".
  33. Finally.

    Good to see you are capable of evolving your conspiracy in the light of facts, Foxgoose. You really had us all going there for a bit.

    How would you describe your theory now? (I get the sense you see something nefarious still in play, but just what it could be eludes me.)
  34. Sorry Sou - I don't think I can help you any further with your comprehension difficulties.

    By the way - prefacing your comment with the word "finally" doesn't guarantee you the last word in an argument ;-)
  35. geoffchambers at 23:50 PM on 13 March, 2013
    There are two main problems with this paper
    1) The count of recursive hypotheses subsumes all criticisms of the LOG12 paper, of whatever kind (Lewandowsky 2013 p.31)
    2) The content analysis only begins on 28th August, whereas detailed criticism on at least six different threads on five sites begins in late July.
    A full analysis can be found at
  36. Will A. Scott be disappointed or elated?

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