Clarifying a revisited retraction

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 13 April 2014

Frontiers has issued a further statement on the retraction of our paper “Recursive Fury” (available at uwa.edu.au/recursivefury). This statement is signed by their editor in chief. It cannot be reconciled with the contractually agreed retraction statement signed by the journal and the authors on 20th March.

Whereas the agreed retraction statement clarified that the journal “…did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study”, the latest statement raises a concern about identification of ‘human subjects’ that escapes classification as anything other than an ethical issue.

This latest statement renders inescapable the following two conclusions:

  1. As detailed previously, Frontiers made no mention of their concern for human subjects throughout the past year during which they focused exclusively on the risk of defamation. It thus appears that the journal withheld its true concerns from us for a year or that they failed to discover those concerns until recently.
  2. The journal signed a retraction statement that they are now explicitly contradicting.

The latest statement furthermore claims that “all efforts were made to work with the authors to find a solution.” What that statement omits is the fact that we submitted another paper to Frontiers in January 2014 that was completely de-identified and that did not permit anyone to ascertain the identity of the people whose public statements were analyzed.

If Frontiers were concerned about identification of ‘human subjects’, why did they decline publication of a paper that was de-identified and written in compliance with their specific criteria to resolve this issue? The only grounds offered for this declination were continued concerns about defamation.

This declination sits uneasily with the journal’s current public focus on ‘human subjects.’

Whatever might have caused the journal to take multiple and conflicting public positions on their most widely-read paper, the evidence that they were at the receiving end of intimidation and bullying has become impossible to overlook with the growing number of individuals who are publicly claiming to have done so.

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48 Comments


Comments 1 to 46:

  1. Perhaps Frontiers just perceives the risk that the authors are perceived as activists on the issue of climate change, and perceive there is the danger that the journal and the field of psychology is being used to settle scores with the critics of the 'NASA Moon Hoax' paper, using the field psychology to label their long standing opponents negatively?

    And perhaps because of this perceived risk, Frontiers do not want to be associated with the paper?


    My point, authors Prof Lewandowsky, Cook and Marriot (all involved with the Skeptical Science website), are just way to close to the subjects they are observing(and are also publically very antagonistic towards them), any reasonable person can see this, any surely the journal can see this.

    What makes it really fascinating is clearly Professor Lewandowsky and John Cook do not see this!

    for example:
    In 2010 Lewandowsky organised John Cook to write a book called 'A skeptics guide to the Sceptics Handbook' as a counter to Jo Nova's a Sceptic Handbook. and organised students to hand it out at Anthony Watts/Jo Nova's lecture at the University. Prof Lewandowsky and colleagues even organised a counter event the same week. I suppose it was only fair, as in 2009, Jo Nova handed out copies of the 'Sceptics Handbook' 7 months previously at a debate about climate science with Professor Lewandowsky on the panel.. (would they be perceived as opponents then? , absolutely)

    Cook writes that Jo Nova and Anthony Watts are his direct opposition (Yale forum 6 weeks after the Moon survey)

    John Cook:
    “The kind of people who visit my site regularly are not the same people who look at the skeptic sites,” Cook said. As for skeptic sites that he sees as his competition, “the closest thing to mine in Australia” is joannenova.com.au, which he said gets about the same level of monthly traffic as his own site. He identified Anthony Watts’ WUWT site as a counterpart American skeptics blog, “though he gets an order of magnitude more traffic than my site gets.”

    Pointing to climate change sites such as Tim Lambert’s Deltoid, Tamino’s Open Mind, and Michael Tobis’s Only In It For The Gold, Cook said that “all the climate bloggers, we all keep in pretty close touch. There’s a whole bunch of them.” - John Cook - Yale 2010
    http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2010/12/skeptical-science-founder-john-cook/

    Those bloggers that keep in close touch, all hosted /previewed the 'NASA Moon hoax' survey - just John's mates surveyed?

    and as for Marriott - the Watching the Deniers blogger - one look at his website where he attacks people named in the paper - should be (and appears to be, because I sent relevant links to Frontiers) should give any journal a very serious reason for concern, that the authors might be PERCEIVED by the public as using the journal to go after critics/opposition.
  2. What that statement omits is the fact that we submitted another paper to Frontiers in January 2014 that was completely de-identified and that did not permit anyone to ascertain the identity of the people whose public statements were analyzed.

    Along with their after-the-fact "mistake" statement, it looks as if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing at Frontiers.

    Very odd behaviour on the part of the journal.
  3. ...the evidence that they were at the receiving end of intimidation and bullying has become impossible to overlook with the growing number of individuals who are publicly claiming to have done so.


    I'm not sure about the "growing number" I have seen two, possibly three, individuals who fit the category of people later confirming they used legal terminology in their request for correction or removals regarding the use of their statements.

    The concept of bullying here seems a double edged sword, these individuals are, well, just individuals; not organisations. There is no indication they coordinated an attack on the paper AFAIK. The 'evidence' so far seems to depend on subjective opinion. So far, as evidence, we have Frontiers initially making a vague statement about uncertainties around a "legal context"; which has moved on to Frontiers now explicitly saying they have not been threatened; and stating their concern was in fact the use of named human subjects.

    While I have sympathy with the criticism that Frontiers now appear inconsistent with their original statement, we can see they have now released two later statement that are consistent with each other and add further information that the original statement was in fact a compromise with the authors.
  4. Jonathan Cook at 22:05 PM on 13 April, 2014
    Of course resubmission of Climate Psychology papers is now infinitely easier - with this new tool >>>

    http://eric.worrall.name/kant.cgi

    Admittedly - this tool is lacking an automated Peer Review function - possibly this will be implemented in the next release?

    Keep trying Stephan - it can only be a matter of time before Recursive Fury is back where it deserves to be.
  5. Stephan (if I may)

    As I said at the outset, this has all the hallmarks of a screw-up. The journal caved in to the threat of barratry, realised too late the reputational damage it had caused itself, and tried to shift the focus away from its craven behaviour and onto your work.

    In the process, it has inevitably contradicted its original statement and the contractually agreed retraction statement signed by the journal and the authors on 20th March.

    The boot is now on your foot, should you wish to do some kicking.
  6. Professor Lewandowsky:

    You indicated that the retraction statement was "contractually agreed" in your post.

    Could you post the contract please.

    I would like to review it to determine exactly what was contractually agreed.

    Thanks in advance.
  7. Professor Lewandowsky writes:


    1. As detailed previously, Frontiers made no mention of their concern for human subjects throughout the past year during which they focused exclusively on the risk of defamation. It thus appears that the journal withheld its true concerns from us for a year or that they failed to discover those concerns until recently.
    2 The journal signed a retraction statement that they are now explicitly contradicting.


    I would suggest re #1, that the concern over a lawsuit, however slight, and the concern for the rights of the subject are not mutually exclusive. That they are essentially the same thing. That you can be concerned about the risk and the
    rights of those who were the subject of the witch hunt. Yes, Professor, that is what it was.

    Re #2, that is your conclusion based on your observations. Is it an objective assessment? Or are you trying to salvage your reputation? And why should we believe you? In your case the presumption of objectivity that is extended to most scientists was lost long ago when you began your "scientific study."
  8. Volpoca, is it not time you paused in this crusade to take an honest look at yourself and the perception that others have of you?

    You reject the findings of thousands of climate scientists as represented by the IPCC reports, in favour of crank websites and astroturfed distribution of pseudo-scientific ideas, with conspiracy theories bridging any gaps. You even have to find a method to disregard representative sampling, a technique applied to mass data in a mass society for decades and certainly (along with 'models' used by the corporate backers who sponsor the rubbish you prefer to believe.

    Dr. Lewandowsky is asking the correct question: how can that be? His studies into what drives the crank universe couldn't be more timely.
  9. Volpoca

    I believe your publishers have finally recognised this and that it will not be long before the universities you are associated with are forced to recognise it too - whatever the views of the individuals who support you there.

    And I believe you may be mistaken on both points. See #6.

    Most of the contrarian commenters here seem so sunk in conspiracist ideation that they are effectively unable to parse reality (your comment is a fine example and I thank you for providing it).
  10. Conspiracist Ideation: the conspiratorial belief that skeptical attitudes toward incomplete, uncertain and often shoddy climate science riddled with confirmation bias are indicative of psychological dysfunction.
  11. incomplete, uncertain and often shoddy climate science riddled with confirmation bias


    :-)

    Keep going...
  12. I intend to. What are you going to do? Emulate Soviet pyschiatry and have me institutionalized for showing symptoms of your phony "psychopathological" malady?

    Skepticism is not a "psychopathological" disorder.

    Attempting to silence it through phony pyschoanalysis is.

    "What I’m convinced of is that we don’t understand climate, and so that’s sort of a neutral position. I’m not saying the majority is necessarily wrong. I’m saying that they don’t understand what they’re seeing. It will take a lot of very hard work before that question is settled, so I shall remain neutral until something very different happens."

    Freeman Dyson defining skepticism on climate.
  13. Freeman Dyson isn't a climate scientist, and agnosia is only a cloak for denial. Denial *is* a psychological disorder as it prevents the sufferer from parsing reality. You are a fine example. I like the paranoia and victimhood stuff that's crept in. Please continue.
  14. pottereaton @ #13 "Skepticism is not a "psychopathological" disorder".

    Indeed not. However, the inability to actually be sceptical and to swallow wholesale the lies and misrepresentation of actual real science by cranks, charlatans and fossil fuel funded think tanks, and to further trust and be gulled by those ersatz sources over those of the source science requires a peculiar disorder of some kind, I'd have thought. Did a scientist's dog bite you as a child, perhaps?

    Most lay sceptics are nothing of the kind.
  15. I'd be interested in Chek giving me a list of the "lies and misrepresentations of actual real science by cranks," that he thinks I've "swallow[ed] wholesale."

    I was inclined to believe the alarmist viewpoint for several years but now I realize there is too much they do not know, there is too much uncertainty in the science at this stage, and their predictions of future catastrophes they believe to be imminent are simply not supported by any reliable data.

    As for Dyson not being a climate scientist, neither was Al Gore. Who do you think would be a more creditable a source on the subject?

    This is how it always goes. I quote someone and you say he's not a climate scientist. I quote Lindzen, and you say he's got connections to the tobacco industry. I quote Judy Curry and you or someone like you, says she's "anti-science." I quote John Christy or some other climate scientist and you say he's out of the mainstream.

    Does the mainstream believe in CAGW? I don't think so. I'd be surprised that the majority of scientists in the climate science industry still believe in CAGW. But how can they admit it, given the scorn that would be heaped on them for doing so?

    For that reason you won't see the warmists doing a confidential survey on that question because it might falsify the ridiculous 97% figure.
  16. pottereaton

    As for Dyson not being a climate scientist, neither was Al Gore. Who do you think would be a more creditable a source on the subject?


    James Hansen ;-)

    Does the mainstream believe in CAGW? I don't think so.


    It's hard to find Earth System scientists that disagree with the consensus that modern warming is predominantly anthropogenic and potentially dangerous if CO2 emissions continue unchecked.

    The reason for this scarcity of dissent is that Earth System scientists - and I very much include paleoclimatologists here - understand the problem and are not denying its significance.
  17. Volpoca

    Your delegitimisation attempts aren't a substitute for substantive commentary. In fact they are its opposite.
  18. I quote Lindzen, and you say he's got connections to the tobacco industry.


    No, I would say that his ideas have been refuted. Here is an incomplete list of replies in the literature to Lindzen starting with his 'infra-red iris' hypothesis (Lindzen et al. 2001):

    Hartmann & Michelsen (2002)
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0477%282002%29083%3C0249%3ANEFI%3E2.3.CO%3B2

    Lin et al. (2002)
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/1520-0442%282002%29015%3C0003%3ATIHANO%3E2.0.CO%3B2

    Harrison (2002)
    http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2F1520-0477(2002)083%3C0597%3ACODTEH%3E2.3.CO%3B2

    Fu et al (2002)
    http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/2/31/2002/acp-2-31-2002.html
  19. More recently, we have:

    Replies to Lindzen & Choi (2009)/Spencer & Braswell (2009):

    Trenberth et al. (2010)
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2009GL042314.shtml

    Lin et al. (2010)
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022407310001226

    Murphy et al. (2010)
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL042911.shtml

    Dessler (2010)
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6010/1523.abstract
  20. And finally:

    Replies to Lindzen & Choi (2011)/Spencer & Braswell (2011):

    Dessler (2011)
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/pip/2011GL049236.shtml

    Trenberth, Fasullo & Abraham (2011)
    http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/3/9/2051/pdf

    Now I would wonder why you might reference Lindzen at all. Because I wouldn't.
  21. This is what I mean by substantive commentary. If some of you want to make a fuss about me being foul-mouthed elsewhere, then go there and do it.
  22. Conspiracy ideation in evidence at #17 by pottereaton:

    Does the mainstream believe in CAGW? I don't think so. I'd be surprised that the majority of scientists in the climate science industry still believe in CAGW. But how can they admit it, given the scorn that would be heaped on them for doing so?

    Not just a good old-fashioned conspiracy theory that the majority stays quiet (and doesn't publish anything), while the minority publishes tens of thousands of papers each year, but also a logic fail: If the "majority of scientists" didn't accept that humans are causing global warming and that it's getting more dangerous, wouldn't the majority be the ones "heaping scorn"? Or does a "heap" from a small minority have a bigger impact than a "heap" from the majority?
  23. #1 Could Barry Woods please define what he means by "activists on the issue of climate change"? Specifically, I would like to know if this is how he would characterise the vast majority of relevantly-qualified climate researchers?

    Taken together, the conclusions contained within IPCC AR5 WG1 WG2 and WG3 reports (i.e. regarding near certainty of human attribution, vulnerability of human population to unmitigated change, and the danger of perpetuating business as usual/laissez-faire policies) can only be disregarded by the invocation of Agenda 21/New World Order type conspiracy theories.
  24. On the other hand, maybe Frontiers will want to consider whether Henry Markram abused (or (in)appropriately represented) his position - or otherwise.
  25. [A comment vanished. Apologies if this results in a repeat]

    Barry

    I think it was very brave of you to link to Greg Laden's post. Thanks for that.
  26. Eli also rather suspects Prof. Lewandowsky's patience with Frontiers is wearing thin. The asymmetry here is that Frontiers knows that their business model is at risk and they are panicking.
  27. BBD scoffed: “Freeman Dyson isn't a climate scientist....”

    Michael Mann: mathematician/geologist
    Phil Jones: hydrologist
    Peter Gleick: hydrologist
    Stefan Rahmstorf: oceanographer
    James Hansen: astronomer
    Al Gore: divinity major
    Bill Nye: mechanical engineer
    Rajendra Pachauri: railroad engineer
    Gavin Schmidt: mathematician
    David Suzuki: geneticist
    Paul Nurse: geneticist
    Eric Steig: geologist
    John Cook: bachelor of physics
    Bill McKibben: journalist
    Joe Romn: physicist
    John Holdren: plasma physicist
    Grant Foster (Tamino): theoretical physics
    Dana Nuccitelli: masters degree in physics
    Tony Watts: meteorologist

    Only the last has a degree related to computer modeling of the atmosphere upon which all alarm is based.
  28. NikfromNYC

    I did not scoff. I pointed out a matter of fact. If you think that it is a matter of fact that eg. Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Stefan Rahmstorf, James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt and Eric Steig are *not* climate scientists, then we have a puzzle.

    I can see a considerable body of published literature on climate science where these individuals are lead or co-authors.

    I can see none for Freeman Dyson.
  29. Eli Rabett at 05:00 AM on 16 April, 2014
    Eli also rather suspects Prof. Lewandowsky's patience with Frontiers is wearing thin. The asymmetry here is that Frontiers knows that their business model is at risk and they are panicking.


    And I rather suspect that Eli knows bunny droppings about anything to do with any kind of business.
  30. 29#

    I'm as qualified as the next guy then! ;-)

    BSc Applied Chemistry.
    and if I'm cynical about climate models.
    mainly because my MSc was modelling n-body systems, in the same department of Cybernetics that gave us James Lovelock's later work..
    but even he is not in favour anymore
  31. Volpoca

    And I rather suspect that Eli knows bunny droppings about anything to do with any kind of business.

    We cannot know. But I have some knowledge of business, and Eli's views are aligned with my own (see eg. my entire comment history here, summarised at #5).

    Coincidence? It's always possible.
  32. Barry

    I'm as qualified as the next guy then! ;-)

    For what, exactly?
  33. Bless 'im! Barry's been away from the real world for so long he thinks having the qualifications gets you the gig!
  34. Tony Watts: meteorologist

    Only the last has a degree related to computer modeling of the atmosphere upon which all alarm is based.


    My irony meter just exploded.

    As to the dismissal of the earlier subject in the list, the only way to more clearly tell the world that one has no clue whatsoever would be to buy space next to a Heartland billboard.
  35. ...subjects...
  36. "Tony Watts: meteorologist

    Only the last has a degree related to computer modeling of the atmosphere upon which all alarm is based."

    Hilarious. Watts has a high school education and never completed a university degree. I suspect that this is related to his inability to understand first-year algebra, among other things.

    So much for skepticism.
  37. RickA asks:

    > Could you post the contract please.

    RickA might have forgotten to mention this:



    I practice as a full-time patent attorney.



    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/reader-background/#comment-25995

    Full disclosure and all.
  38. willard @37:

    I still don't get your point.
  39. Here, RickA:

    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/news.php?p=2&t=52&&n=221#3829

    Thank you again for your concerns.
  40. willard #39:

    Yes - that update is about the expert report. Not about the contract. I am inquiring about the agreement related to the retraction statement - not the expert report.

    Although I would like to see both documents of course.

    Perhaps it will be necessary to breach confidentiality of more of the expert report in the future and we will learn more.
  41. > Yes - that update is about the expert report.

    The question you asked me was not, so that precision is irrelevant.

    Why do you think it will be necessary to breach confidentiality, RickA?
  42. You are one sick puppy. You should get help.
  43. willard #41.

    I didn't say it would be necessary - I said perhaps it will be necessary.

    One scenario where it would perhaps be necessary for one of the Authors to breach the confidentiality of the expert report would be if somebody (perhaps Frontiers) said something which an Author thought could be rebutted by quoting a section from the report.

    That is what happened before - so it could easily happen again.
  44. > I said perhaps it will be necessary.

    That's a strange modality, RickA. You could also say that perhaps it could be possible. Perhaps you could. But perhaps it's necessary to say "necessary".

    As the Auditor says, "lots of theories":

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/1640585432

    ***

    > One scenario where it would perhaps be necessary for one of the Authors to breach the confidentiality of the expert report would be if somebody (perhaps Frontiers) said something which an Author thought could be rebutted by quoting a section from the report.

    So if A obtains, B will be necessary. And A already obtained. What should we conclude?

    That B is not really necessary. Only perhaps. Just when we thought counterfactual thinking was interesting.

    This argument presumes that what Lew did was necessary, btw. I'm not sure about that.
  45. willard #44:

    In the post after this one, Lew said:

    "I released the above section of the report because it spoke directly to an issue on which Frontiers made public statements that were irreconcilable with both an agreement they signed and their own expert report. This was done after extensive legal consultation and after inviting the journal to correct its latest public statements. I posted this unabridged relevant section only after the journal declined the invitation to set the record straight.

    If it weren’t for these special and legally vetted circumstances, I would have honoured the confidentiality of this report as I have honoured all other agreements. The confidentiality of the remainder of this report remains in full force."

    So all I am saying is that Lew did it before, so he might find it necessary to do it again.

    Is that really that hard to understand?
  46. > So all I am saying is that Lew did it before, so he might find it necessary to do it again.

    There's a difference between "he might find it necessary" and "perhaps it will be necessary." The latter is consistent with the possibility that other persons than Lew find it necessary. The two expressions does not offer the same elbow space for speculating consistently.

    And no, RickA, I don't think this was "all" you were saying. Some may speculate that it was not even what you were "saying" at all. This might even be consistent with the evidence they have.
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