Recursive Fury: A Summary of Media Coverage

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 4 April 2014

The journal Frontiers retracted our “Recursive Fury” paper some time ago not for academic or ethical reasons but owing to legal fears. The paper can now be found at uwa.edu.au/recursivefury because the University of Western Australia has come to a different risk assessment and sees no reason not to host the paper.

There has been quite a flurry of media activity since the retraction, and a complete listing can be found over at Skepticalscience. This post highlights some of the mainstream coverage and provides some of the more notable quotes:

Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper

Blog Post published by The Guardian on 22 March 2014

Dana Nuccitelli:

It's unfortunate that the Frontiers editors were unwilling to stand behind a study that they admitted was sound from an academic and ethical standpoint, especially since UWA concluded the paper would withstand a legal assault. This series of events should be a wake-up call to editors and publishers that they must remain resilient to organized campaigns by the blogosphere. Academics can no longer be confident that the Frontiers staff will stand behind them if they publish research in the journal and are subjected to similar frivolous attacks. Frontiers may very well be worse off having lost the confidence of the academic community than if they had called the bluffs of the contrarians threatening frivolous lawsuits.

Fortunately, several journals and organizations have stood up against this type of contrarian bullying. The journal Environmental Research Letters easily withstood the campaign against our consensus paper, and the Australian Psychological Society has been very supportive of Lewandowsky and his team, as has the Association for Psychological Science. 

These groups offer a good example for journals to follow when subjected to organized bullying from contrarians trying to censor sound but inconvenient research.

Recursive furies, hurt feelings or confected outrage

Blog Post published by HotWhopper on 22 March 2014

Frontiers in Psychology is an open access journal that says:

Our grand vision is to build an Open Science platform that empowers researchers in their daily work and where everybody has equal opportunity to seek, share and generate knowledge.

By all accounts the journal could be viewed as taking a step backwards from that "grand vision" by caving into people who object to research.

...

The University of Western Australia is standing by the paper.  It's probably a lot bigger than the Frontiers in Psychology journal and almost certainly has more expertise in law. 

 

Journal pulls paper due to “legal context” created by climate contrarians

Magazine published by Ars Technica on 22 March 2014

The article cites Michael Kenyon, the Frontiers lawyer, as follows:

Frontiers is concerned about solid science and it's obviously a regret when you have to retract an article that is scientifically and ethically sound.
 

Academic journal bows to pressure from climate deniers

Magazine published by Salon on 22 March 2014, citing Kim Heitman, the UWA’s General Counsel:

‘I’m entirely comfortable with you publishing the paper on the UWA web site. You and the University can easily be sued for any sorts of hurt feelings or confected outrage, and I’d be quite comfortable processing such a phony legal action as an insurance matter.’

— Kimberley Heitman, B.Juris, LLB, MACS, CT, General Counsel, University of Western Australia

Thanks to Heitman, the study can still be found at the University of Western Australia’s website; a second study conducted by Lewandosky, which replicated the results of the first in a representative U.S. sample, remains where it was posted at PLoS ONE.

A Conspiracy Theory Researcher Falls Victim to Conspiracy Theories: Intimidated Journal to Retract Lewandowsky Paper

Blog Post published by the Union of Concerned Scientists on 21 March 2014

Such a retraction would reflect badly on the journal and may set a terrible precedent. Papers should be withdrawn based on significant concerns with the quality of the research, not based on threats.

...

This is yet another example of why researchers, journals, and universities need to be sufficiently prepared to effectively respond to outside scrutiny of their work. Sometimes that scrutiny is warranted and adds to public understanding, but in other cases, such as this one, it can be distracting and frivolous.
 

This is not the only scientific organization to be dismayed at the retraction; officers of the Australian Psychological Society have likewise expressed their distress at the retraction of Recursive Fury, as I discuss in this video.


The paper they don’t want you to read!

Blog Post published by Pharyngula on 21 March 2014

PZ Myers

Steve McIntyre wrote a “strongly worded” “formal letter” demanding that the “defamatory” article be removed, and accusing the authors of malice. Further, they complained that analyzing the content of blog posts and comments, public, openly accessible work, was an ethics violation.

Ludicrous as those claims are, Frontiers in Psychology is apparently about to fold to them. For shame.

You know, my university had a meeting with our institutional lawyers yesterday — I was called in to attend the information session for some reason, like having a reputation as a trouble-maker or something — and I was impressed with their professionalism and their commitment to actually defending the faculty and staff of the university. I guess not every organization is lucky enough to have good lawyers of principle.
 

Science Journal Set To Retract Paper Linking Climate Change Scepticism To Conspiracy Theorists After Sceptics Shout Libel

Blog Post published by Desmogblog on 20 March 2014

Graham Readfearn

In McIntyre's complaint letters (seen as item numbers 95 and 99 on the FOI document release), the Canadian blogger uses quotes hacked from a private forum of the Skeptical Science, founded University of Queensland academic John Cook and co-author on the Recursive study.

McIntyre cites the quotes in an attempt to demonstrate “malice” against him, even though none of those quotes were written by any of the authors of the paper.

Liability fears drive psychology journal to retract climate study


Blog Post published by Scholars and Rogues on 24 March 2014

… the fact that an informal group of critics was able to force the retraction of an ethically and academically sound study will embolden others to turn this into a legal tactic against research they disagree with. …

And in the process, those critics are demonstrating yet again that the conclusions of all three studies are correct: there is correlation between being a conspiracy theorist and believing that climate disruption is a hoax or scam.

'Conspiracist' climate change study withdrawn amid legal threats

Sydney Morning Herald 2 April 2014 (this also ran in the Canberra Times and the Brisbane Times)

Peter Hannam

Kim Heitman, a lawyer for the UWA, said the university had done its own risk analysis before publishing the paper online. “There’s no reason to take it down,” Mr Heitman said.

The university, though, had also received plaudits from around the world for its decision to publish the paper. “I couldn't list them,” Mr Heitman said. “And I wouldn't list them, having regard to the fact that anyone who issues a 'thanks UWA' will probably get their own enquiry.”

The journal that gave in to climate deniers' intimidation

The Conversation 2 April 2014

Elaine McKewon

This piece was written by one of the reviewers of the original paper and it tells her side of the story. She concludes:

In any event, the journal’s management and editors were clearly intimidated by climate deniers who threatened to sue. So Frontiers bowed to their demands, retracted the paper, damaged its own reputation, and ultimately gave a free kick to aggressive climate deniers.

 I would have expected a scientific journal to have more backbone, certainly when it comes to the crucially important issue of academic freedom.

 

By and large, the mainstream media coverage seems to have picked up on what’s really at issue here, namely academic freedom and editorial intimidation by a small band of vociferous individuals.

The Recursive Fury retraction is just one visible instance of such intimidation. Subterranean campaigns against inconvenient scientific articles by climate deniers have become increasingly frequent and they deserve to be exposed in order to safeguard the public’s right to be informed about the risks it is facing from climate change.

In whose hands the future?

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59 Comments


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Comments 1 to 50 out of 61:

  1. My personal favorite:

    "...‘I’m entirely comfortable with you publishing the paper on the UWA web site. You and the University can easily be sued for any sorts of hurt feelings or confected outrage, and I’d be quite comfortable processing such a phony legal action as an insurance matter."

    — Kimberley Heitman, B.Juris, LLB, MACS, CT, General Counsel, University of Western Australia
  2. I notice you link to the Pharyngula article. Are you aware that in the comments there a commenter called Travis Stewart - who stated his disappointment with the Frontiers retraction - had elicited a further response from Frontiers?

    They said to him - (my emphasis):

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/03/21/the-paper-they-dont-want-you-to-read/comment-page-1/#comment-770446

    Thank you for your message. Our decision on the retraction of this article was taken on the basis of a number of factors. This decision had nothing to do with caving in to pressure and was driven by our own analysis of various factors and advice received. Frontiers is not engaged in the climate science debate but is clearly engaged in favor of solid science, and that it is of regret that the weight of the different factors involved led us to the conclusion that we had to retract the article.

    Frontiers cannot comment further on this decision and we appreciate your understanding.


    If Frontiers are saying they have not caved in to any pressure, and also indicated their decision involved a "number of factors" and "various factors"; which seems to imply more than just a single "legal context"; does Stephan Lewandowsky think they are not being straight here?
  3. Apologies, in my last comment my bold emphasis should have stopped just after the following line in the Frontiers statement:

    This decision had nothing to do with caving in to pressure and was driven by our own analysis of various factors and advice received.

  4. Don't know what's happening with bolding going from comment to comment but I added an end bold tag at the beginning here. :)

    I think Stephan Lewandowsky may need to read the latest statement from Frontiers.

    http://www.frontiersin.org/blog/Retraction_of_Recursive_Fury_A_Statement/812

    Key quote. No emphasis required:

    Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects.
  5. Ian Woolley at 00:59 AM on 5 April, 2014
    As one of the people very briefly named in Fury, I'm curious to know whether the Professor now intends to examine the conspiratorial motives of the Frontiers journal itself now, a meta-recursive fury perhaps, in light of its retraction of the paper on ethical grounds.
  6. Ian Woolley at 01:03 AM on 5 April, 2014
    I hope so, anyway. Isn't one of the hallmarks of conspiracy ideation that every new bit of news or evidence fits into a predetermined scheme?
  7. Jonathan Cook at 02:28 AM on 5 April, 2014
    I've read the statement from Frontiers posted on 4th April by Costanza Zucca and Fred Fenter.

    I'm impressed by the Frontiers statement and the balance they display between the vital need to uphold and defend both the interests and freedom of academics - as well as protecting the subjects of academic research.

    From an ethical perspective - it is vital that subjects of academic research are not identifiable - especially with the context of exploring psychopathical characteristics.

    Well done Frontiers.
  8. Barry Woods at 03:43 AM on 5 April, 2014
    I recall somebody writing about the 'backfire effect'

    Frontiers have issued another statement: this bit sounds harsh?

    "We take this opportunity to reassure our editors, authors and supporters that Frontiers will continue to publish – and stand by – valid research"

    http://www.frontiersin.org/blog/Retraction_of_Recursive_Fury_A_Statement/812

    (Lausanne, Switzerland) – There has been a series of media reports concerning the recent retraction of the paper Recursive Fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, originally published on 18 March 2013 in Frontiers in Psychology. Until now, our policy has been to handle this matter with discretion out of consideration for all those concerned. But given the extent of the media coverage – largely based on misunderstanding – Frontiers would now like to better clarify the context behind the retraction.



    As we published in our retraction statement, a small number of complaints were received during the weeks following publication. Some of those complaints were well argued and cogent and, as a responsible publisher, our policy is to take such issues seriously. Frontiers conducted a careful and objective investigation of these complaints. Frontiers did not “cave in to threats”; in fact, Frontiers received no threats. The many months between publication and retraction should highlight the thoroughness and seriousness of the entire process.

    As a result of its investigation, which was carried out in respect of academic, ethical and legal factors, Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics. Frontiers informed the authors of the conclusions of our investigation and worked with the authors in good faith, providing them with the opportunity of submitting a new paper for peer review that would address the issues identified and that could be published simultaneously with the retraction notice.

    The authors agreed and subsequently proposed a new paper that was substantially similar to the original paper and, crucially, did not deal adequately with the issues raised by Frontiers.

    We remind the community that the retracted paper does not claim to be about climate science, but about psychology. The actions taken by Frontiers sought to ensure the right balance of respect for the rights of all.

    One of Frontiers’ founding principles is that of authors’ rights. We take this opportunity to reassure our editors, authors and supporters that Frontiers will continue to publish – and stand by – valid research. But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper.

    Frontiers is happy to speak to anyone who wishes to have an objective and informed conversation about this. In such a case, please contact the Editorial Office at editorial.office@frontiersin.org.

    Costanza Zucca, Editorial Director

    Fred Fenter, Executive Editor
  9. "There has been a series of media reports concerning the recent retraction of the paper Recursive Fury..."

    This post might be the basis of a case study in the psychology of hubris and the perils of overplaying one's hand.
  10. Well, Stephan, it sounds as if the entire editorial staff at your publishers have suffered from a serious attack of "conspiracy ideation".

    They have confirmed in their carefully worded statement that your paper was both invalid and unethical - something most of us have been trying to explain to you for well over a year now.

    This really makes the pompous bombast in your above post sound a bit hollow now.

    Shouldn't give us all another laugh by having another go at it?
  11. Richard Tol at 04:26 AM on 5 April, 2014
    Two retractions for U Queensland in a day ...
  12. Really, Recursive Fury appears to be a prime example of obsessive ideation on the imagined existence of a pernicious stratum of conspiracist ideation which forms the bedrock of the entire climate contrarian blogosphere. It just is not so Stephan and trying to make it appear so will result in one of two outcomes: you will be seen as deliberately vindictive and malicious towards those who dare to question the prevailing narrative, or you will yourself be viewed as something of a fruitcake. It appears that the former has happened, which apparently is why the paper has been retracted. Perhaps it is time to pack up your peculiar brand of psychoanalysis and turn it upon some other band of individuals who are maybe more deserving of dissection beneath your shrink-like lens. Hard-nosed, rational, logic driven sceptics were never going to put up with such unfounded allegations of 'mental instability'; it amazes me that you would ever think that they would.

    As a final aside, it does appear that in your paper you confuse allegations of collusion among scientists and others with accusations of full blown conspiracy. they are quite distinct.
  13. "Hard-nosed, rational, logic driven sceptics" - like the people who argue that climate science is a hoax?

    JaimeJ - from your comment it looks as if you haven't read the paper. Or maybe you subscribe to the view that a person can be just "a little bit pregnant" :)

    Barry Woods has finally find an all-consuming passion. He's discovered there is a purpose in life. Is there a blog anywhere or internet article about Recursive Fury (or the moon landing paper for that matter) where he *hasn't* written a very long protest comment?

    (Google alerts alert!)
  14. Steve Metzler at 11:16 AM on 5 April, 2014
    Beat me to it, Sou. "Hard-nosed, rational, logic driven sceptics..." Ha ha. That might just be a record for oxymorons in a single sentence. Your DK-induced screed neglected to mention Galileo. I thought that was part of the script.
  15. Alan Bryant at 11:17 AM on 5 April, 2014
    Is it just me, or has 3 of the authors for this website, Lewandowsky, Cook, and Nuccitelli all seems to have blown their credibility with this story?

    After having Frontiers write there was no threat made towards them of any kind from skeptics, doesn't it make it plausible that the only conspiracy being made here is by these guys?
  16. To Alan Bryant: I doubt it. Not in any circles that matter at any rate.

    If any credibility has been blown it's the journal's. Their retraction statement said they found no problem with the research itself from either an academic or legal point of view. They said they fudged and fumbled for "legal" reasons - because of complaints from a "small number" of deniers.

    Graham Readfearn posted some of the correspondence he got from UWA that suggests there were threats of legal action. He wrote for example: "One blogger, Geoff Chambers, wrote to Frontiers asking that the paper be withdrawn because it was defamatory towards him."(See the link above.) That would constitute a threat of legal action plain and clear - even though it would probably be thrown out of any court.

    If the editors are now saying it's not because of those legal threats, and they've already said it's not on academic or ethical grounds - one wonders on just what grounds they withdrew it. Their latest explanation doesn't stack up with their retraction notice.
  17. No, Alan Bryant, it's just you.
  18. That should read "no problem with the research itself from either an academic or *ethical* point of view."
  19. I asked the question at Professor Rabbet's and I'll repeat it here, using Graham Redfearn's reference to Geoff Chambers as an example.

    I am curious about how it is exactly that Recursive Fury is defamatory to Chambers, especially in any legal sense? Remember Kimberley Heitman of UWA was all over it and found nothing perturbing...
  20. Frontiers "Could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects" however offered to publish a revised version of the study. I don't think that the authors have been railroaded here. Sounds like some very rational caution on the part of the journal. There are venues where this type of survey can be published, but it would not be in any type of scholarly journal.
  21. 13 & 14, Sou and Steve. When you come up with a logical, rational, relevant response to my comments do let me know. :)
  22. Sou

    Ever heard the expression "when in a hole - stop digging"?

    You, and the motley selection of amateur activists and paid-for hacks assembled by Lewandowsky above, have all pronounced that Frontiers confirmed that the paper was academically & ethically sound - and only withdrawn because of legal threats.

    Their latest statement confirms beyond doubt that this assertion is false.

    Which part of the following statements do you have comprehension difficulties with:-

    Frontiers did not “cave in to threats”; in fact, Frontiers received no threats.

    Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics.

    Frontiers will continue to publish – and stand by – valid research. But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper.

    The conclusion is crystal clear.

    Frontiers have confirmed that they withdrew the paper because it was academically invalid and ethically unsound.

    I know you desperately wish it was otherwise - but no amount of howling at the moon by you and the rest of Lew's fan club will alter the simple fact that you've been made fools of.

    A period of quite contemplation and wound licking might be appropriate.
  23. Their latest statement confirms beyond doubt that this assertion is false.


    Or it's craven arse-covering by a journal that has just shot itself in the head, in public and now desperately wishes it had handled matters differently.

    Do you have a real-world job? How naive is it possible to be?
  24. Foxgoose, they have just switched from mitigation shovels to adaptation pile drivers.
  25. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics.

    Which brings us back to the question that none of you so-called "sceptics" will answer.

    Is it a matter of fact that conspiracist ideation is prevalent amongst "climate sceptics"?

    Yes or no.

    Since we all know the answer, we all know that Lewandowsky's conclusions are supported by the evidence. Which leaves us with nothing more - or less - than confected fury and barratry by the fake sceptics.
  26. Frontiers have confirmed that they withdrew the paper because it was academically invalid and ethically unsound.

    Frontiers *also* said:

    In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article.

    Which is why I know they are wriggling desperately now. You know it too, or you would if you had ever played the game at any level above beginner.
  27. The conclusion is crystal clear.


    Yep - just that it's not the one you've jumped to with your eager and misleading bolding of the word 'valid'. Frontier has already commented on that - "This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study."

    The following clause contains the relevant part: "But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper" I take a different view, but then I'm not the publisher.

    But it does highlight another aspect, those of the privacy rights of some cranks and yet also a posse of internet pipsqueak nobodies barking for data which is withheld for reasons of privacy.
    That's quite a schizoid double standard for any rational person to get their head around. Deniers may be quite used to it.
  28. BBD/chek

    Calm down dears - and reflect a moment.

    In the real world where the rest of us dwell, outside of the catastrophiliac hysteria zone, if an organisation puts out a detailed statement which is at odds with a previous statement - rational people assume they are correcting a previous error.

    Only someone suffering from a touch of conspiracy ideation tries to warp time and give the first, erroneous, statement priority.

    In any case, Stephan has confirmed that he was involved in drafting the original statement - so it was pretty well bound to be doomed to retraction eventually ;-)
  29. The first statement was not erroneous. It has not been withdrawn. It remains on the record.

    You are making things up again, FG.
  30. In the real world where the rest of us dwell, outside of the catastrophiliac hysteria zone, if an organisation puts out a detailed statement which is at odds with a previous statement - rational people assume they are correcting a previous error.

    In the real world, when the self-justification and contradictory claims start up, it's because someone has screwed up and is retroactively trying to cover their arse. Perhaps because someone else has popped out of the woodwork and spilled the beans. As McKewon did in this case:

    In any event, the journal’s management and editors were clearly intimidated by climate deniers who threatened to sue. So Frontiers bowed to their demands, retracted the paper, damaged its own reputation, and ultimately gave a free kick to aggressive climate deniers.

    I would have expected a scientific journal to have more backbone, certainly when it comes to the crucially important issue of academic freedom.


    Unlike you, FG, I don't have to make things up. I can just read the words off the page. It's blindingly obvious what happened and the conflicting noises coming out of the journal are exactly what one would expect.
  31. BBD

    It's blindingly obvious what happened and the conflicting noises coming out of the journal are exactly what one would expect.

    Keep on digging BBD!

    That's the best bit of "conspiracy ideation" we've heard in ages.
  32. Here's one of the legal threats, picked at random from the 118 pages (!) of them obtained under FOIA (PDF here).

    A correspondent wrote (p23):

    I should also remind you that if this proceeds to legal action, any court or tribunal would take a very poor view of you attempting to impose an arbitrary and unreasonable deadline of less than 24 hours for me to supply you with further information.

    [...]

    Please try to understand that academic fraud and defamation are serious matters which cannot be dismissed so lightly.

    And that's just one example. There are many, many more. Like this one:

    Although I contribute to blogs under the anonymous [sic] username of [redacted] I have sought legal advice which has confirmed that, as long as a reasonable number of blog readers are aware of my true identity and professional reputation (which is the case), I could potentially have a defamation action against the authors and publishers of this paper for an outright lie which was told about me.


    So we see that the claim that the journal wasn't bombarded with legal threats is false. And if the journal is lying about this now, one must ask oneself: why?

    The answer is obvious. It behaved cravenly in the face of the threats of barratry and is now pretending that this is not what happened. But McKewon's statements leave us in no doubt about what happened.

    Unlike you, FG, I don't have to make things up. I can just read the words off the page. It's blindingly obvious what happened and the conflicting noises coming out of the journal are exactly what one would expect. Let's read it again:

    In any event, the journal’s management and editors were clearly intimidated by climate deniers who threatened to sue. So Frontiers bowed to their demands, retracted the paper, damaged its own reputation, and ultimately gave a free kick to aggressive climate deniers.

    I would have expected a scientific journal to have more backbone, certainly when it comes to the crucially important issue of academic freedom.
  33. Problems with that. Let's try again:

    Here's one of the legal threats, picked at random from the 118 pages (!) of them obtained under FOIA (PDF here).

    Some nutter wrote (p23):

    I should also remind you that if this procedes to legal action, any court or tribunal would take a very poor view of you attempting to impose an arbitrary and unreasonable deadline of less than 24 hours for me to supply you with further information.

    [...]

    Please try to understand that academic fraud and defamation are serious matters which cannot be dismissed so lightly.


    And that's just one example. There are many, many more. Like this one:

    Although I contribute to blogs under the anonymous [sic] username of [redacted] I have sought legal advice which has confirmed that, as long as a reasonble number of blog readers are aware of my true identity and professional reputation (which is the case), I could potentially have a defamation action against the authors and publishers of this paper for an outright lie which was told about me.


    So we see that the claim that the journal wasn't bombarded with legal threats is a lie. And if the journal is lying now, one must ask oneself: why?

    The answer is obvious. It behaved cravenly in the face of the threats of barratry and is now pretending that this is not what happened. But McKewon's statements leave us in no doubt about what happened. Let's read it again:

    In any event, the journal’s management and editors were clearly intimidated by climate deniers who threatened to sue. So Frontiers bowed to their demands, retracted the paper, damaged its own reputation, and ultimately gave a free kick to aggressive climate deniers.

    I would have expected a scientific journal to have more backbone, certainly when it comes to the crucially important issue of academic freedom.
  34. You have to stand back in amazement at the cranks' incomprehension of basic English, along with their second hand versions and eagerness to switcheroo the conspiracy ideation like it's a boomerang.

    Must be the fourth time in less days that some crank has tried that one on.

    Anything rather than admit it's their lifestyle of choice, in a feedback loop created by the natural habitat of their crank web sites with all their concomitant and commonplace accusations of fraud and data fixing by the scientific community.
  35. BBD

    Multiple posting doesn't increase the impact of your already verbose ranting.

    You've just shot yourself in both feet (again).

    The quotes you're getting hysterical about are my own.

    If you didn't know that - you've been spending too much time in the climachondriac sensory deprivation tank again.

    I have explained on Twitter, and multiple blogs where the subject has cropped up, that I certainly threatened UWA and Frontiers with legal action when Lewandowsky took a quote I made in a completely different context and faked it - to brand me with "conspiracy ideation".

    Shortly after my complaint the offending passage was removed from the paper, presumably because the institutions concerned realised that my allegation was true.

    This ended the matter personally, as far as I was concerned - although I continued to draw attention the the blatant fraud and malpractice in both papers.

    Trying to resurrect my long resolved complaint and brandish it as "threat" which caused the paper to be withdrawn a year later just makes you look even more of a down than usual.
  36. My apologies, just in case anyone is in any doubt - "down" should read "clown".

    Bloody spellcheckers!
  37. If there were academic and/or ethical issues with the study, why have they not been acknowledged as the reason for its withdrawal? Why make a clear statement to the contrary in the retraction announcement and point to legal threats as the main cause?

    Why would a journal withdraw a paper and then make misleading statements about its reasons for doing so?

    It almost sounds as though you suspect some kind of conspiracy is taking place.
  38. BBD

    I think you've spun so many times you're dizzy.

    Why? Why? Why? Why?

    It's pretty obvious who's imagining conspiracies.
  39. OK, the retraction statement says:

    "Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical, and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article."

    This quite clearly implies that Frontiers withdrew the paper because of litigation fears, but NOT specifically BECAUSE of threats or 'bullying' etc. but because they saw that by continuing to host the paper, they were clearly leaving themselves open to litigation. The mere fact that that they identified litigation as a source of likely loss means therefore that sceptics were probably in a good position to rightfully and legally claim defamation. Recall that they specifically state that there were no 'threats' and that they took seriously, it would seem, only those 'well argued and cogent' complaints.

    Is it not abundantly clear then, to all parties concerned, that Frontiers withdrew Recursive Fury because they recognised the very real possibility that they could be sued for defamation of sceptics, ergo Recursive Fury was defamatory. However much you wish to argue that that, 'Oh, but yes, it was still ethically and academically sound', if this WERE TRULY the case then, by definition, any litigation would be likely to fail. Frontiers obviously made the risk assessment that such litigation would NOT be likely to fail, ergo, the ethical and academic merit of the paper is automatically brought into question, even though Frontiers spares the authors such ignominy by not specifically declaring this to be so.
  40. Yes, and prior to that statement was this statement:

    "This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article.
    The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.”

    Your ergo therefore is something you're not qualified to second-guess.
  41. It's pretty obvious who's imagining conspiracies.


    Actually, it isn't. I'm not, as I have explained above, but I think you may be. You dodged the question, which is suggestive:

    Why would a journal withdraw a paper and then make misleading statements about its reasons for doing so?
  42. BBD


    I dunno.

    Maybe because THEY WERE UP TO NO GOOD!
  43. Thank you for that, FG.
  44. Perfect.
    I hope you're taking notes Stephan.
    And if so have also recognised already that FG isn't capable of irony.
  45. 40. Chek

    "Yes, and prior to that statement was this statement:"

    You then proceed to quote the identical statement which I in fact quoted in the post to which you are referring. On this basis, you therefore conclude: "Your ergo therefore is something you're not qualified to second-guess."

    ? Que ?

    Run that by me again.

    Furthermore, to which 'ergo' are you referring?

    Ergo 'Recursive Fury was defamatory' or ergo 'the ethical and academic merit of the paper is automatically brought into question'?

    If you wish to question my 'unqualified' conclusion(s), please provide evidence of your own relevant 'qualifications' and/or evidence of case histories in law where academic papers have been judged to be likely defamatory but still academically and ethically robust.
  46. JaimeJ

    You keep insisting that the paper was "defamatory". Why? What evidence do you have that this was the main or only legal issue which caused the journal to retract it?

    And you haven't bothered to address the core question, so I will repeat it for you:

    Why would a journal withdraw a paper and then make misleading statements about its reasons for doing so?
  47. Why has the formal statement by the journal not been altered or removed?

    In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical, and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.


    You need to address this. Your claims that there were academic and ethical issues with this paper are purely assertions.
  48. JaimeJ @ #13

    To clarify, Frontiers' initial statement which I repeated is difficult to reconcile with their later statement and doesn't allow you to claim 'Recursive Fury was defamatory' nor that 'the ethical and academic merit of the paper is automatically brought into question' on the back of Frontiers' ambiguity.

    Frontiers' have decided not to put it to the test, and folded prematurely. Perhaps because they aren't familiar with the tactics of the denier zoo.
  49. Foxgoose @ #10
    "Maybe because THEY WERE UP TO NO GOOD! "

    On the off-chance that some may interpret your comment as cranky-wanky ideation, would you care to clarify or even expand on your ideation? What 'no good' could 'they' be up to?

    If it's just the frothings of a jumped-up, has-been never-was, well then, that's just grist to the mill - deniers thrashing about in desperation. But if you actually had something, well then - it'd be a whole different ball-game, would it not?
  50. So let's recap. A journal retracted a paper, on the grounds that though it was academically and ethically sound, there were legal issues surrounding it that weren't sufficiently clear. Many academics (the very people who provide them with material to publish) responded with concern and even outrage. The journal responded by claiming that the retraction wasn't about legal concerns (contradicting the earlier statement) and suddenly claimed (again contradicting the earlier statement) that "Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics," thus purporting to find an ethical problem with the paper after all.

    Some here seem prepared to cherry pick, ignoring the first declaration (no ethical issues) while swallowing the second whole (and eagerly). A curious move: surely the journal by now should have lost credibility with both sides.

    As to the actual issue here, I have to say I'm puzzled by the claim that academic work based on published material is ethically dubious merely because it happens to conclude that the author(s) of that published material show signs of some form(s) of psychopathology. I publish letters to the editor, blog comments and academic papers and books fairly regularly, and while I might well object to a paper claiming to show I'm a bit off the beam, my objections would focus on whether or not the paper was accurate in its citations and used appropriate methods to reach its conclusions. They would not focus on the claim that it was somehow unethical to draw on my published writings in an academic study.

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