Ethics at the University of Western Australia

Last week we covered the latest Lewandowsky scandal. Remarkably, this week it gets worse. Steve McIntyre picks up the story:

Following the retraction of Lewandowsky’s Fury, the validity of University of Western Australia ethics “investigations” is again in the news. At present, we have negligible information on the University’s investigation into Fury, but we do have considerable (previously unanalysed) information on their earlier and illusory “investigation” into prior complaints about the ethics application for Moon Landing Hoax (“Hoax”).

This earlier “investigation” (recently cited at desmog here and Hot Whopper here) supposedly found that the issues that I had raised in October 2012 were “baseless” and that the research in Hoax was “conducted in compliance with all applicable ethical guidelines”.

However, these conclusions were not written by a university investigation or university official but by Lewandowsky himself and simply transferred to university letterhead by UWA Deputy Vice Chancellor Robyn Owens within minutes after Lewandowsky had sent her language that was acceptable to him.

Simply incredible.

(HT: Bishop Hill)

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46 Responses to Ethics at the University of Western Australia

  1. Rabz

    the research in Hoax was “conducted in compliance with all applicable ethical guidelines”.

    Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

    Beyond parody.

  2. Ant

    Did Robyn add a citation?

    Standards seem to have gone south a tad since I was at uni.

  3. Megan

    Ethics are an unknown concept to the likes of Lewandowsky and Owens. Being right is far, far, more important than being honest.

  4. Arnost

    Being right left is far, far, more important than being honest.

  5. Rabz

    Being right wrong is far, far, more important than being honest.

  6. Baldrick

    Here kitty kitty kitty … I can hear Lew’s cat getting strangled even as I type.

  7. Cato the Elder

    What’s amazing is not the corrupted processes but the stupidity. They committed all their conspiracy to e-mail? What rock have they been living under? E-mail is not private and lasts forever.

  8. Lewandowsky’s “research” is aimed at creating the prejudice that those he opposes are his intellectual and moral inferiors. My conclusion of yesterday, is that the only way to counter such claims is the promotion of pluralism and competition. Trying to resolve issues of truth, ethics and research standards by committee and consensus will lead to the opposite of intentions.
    http://manicbeancounter.com/2014/03/23/lewandowskys-setback-on-campaign-to-undermine-academic-pluralism-and-excellence/

  9. Tom

    Apart from the hive of Good Germans at UWA who enabled his misconduct, Lewandowsky has done more than any other individual to trash the institution’s standing as a reputable capital-city Australian uni.

  10. politichix

    Does James (who has the link to UWA in his gravatar) have a view on what’s going down at the University? Is this being talked about in the corridors?

  11. JC

    However, these conclusions were not written by a university investigation or university official but by Lewandowsky himself and simply transferred to university letterhead by UWA Deputy Vice Chancellor Robyn Owens within minutes after Lewandowsky had sent her language that was acceptable to him.

    How do we know this to be true?

  12. Lem

    OT..Thommo sent to the big house…

  13. How do we know this to be true?

    If you read McIntyre’s post, JC, you could see that he quotes e-mails:

    A couple of hours later in the same afternoon (Oct 15 17:07; FOIT, 9), Dixon forwarded Lewandowsky’s re-draft to Owens:

    Hi Robyn,
    Please see the following updated text with insertions by Stephan and the rational for those.
    Cheers, Mark.

    Ten minutes later and without any further consideration or reflection (Oct 15 17:16; FOIT, 8), Owens asked her secretary to put Lewandowsky’s revision on her letterhead for signature to be sent to (presumably) Eich:

    Dear Bernadette,
    Can you put the following on my letterhead for signature, to be sent to [^ - Eich ?]. He’s at ^.

    On October 16 (FOIT, 4), DVCR Owens sent (presumably) Eich the letter exactly as re-drafted by Lewandowsky.

  14. politichix

    JC
    #1238096, posted on March 25, 2014 at 10:44 am
    How do we know this to be true?

    Blow by blow on Steve McIntyre’s blog

  15. JC

    Deadman

    How did the email get out? Someone released them?

  16. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    “Hi Robyn” ????

    Very pally.

  17. Token

    What’s amazing is not the corrupted processes but the stupidity. They committed all their conspiracy to e-mail? What rock have they been living under? E-mail is not private and lasts forever.

    Now when I am asked to explain Hubris, I point to glowball worming cultists like the Lewd, Robyn “100 Meters” Williams, Flim Flam and “Hockey Stick” Mann.

    I am tempted to learn how to write plays as there is a lifetime of plots for modern versions of the old Greek tragedies begging to be used.

  18. Token, the old Greek tragedies featured renowned characters who suffered because of a tragic fault; the warmists are not noble characters but merely scamming villains whose downfall should excite neither pity nor fear. As Aristotle explained (In Poetics II, xiii):

    A perfect tragedy should, as we have seen, be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. It should, moreover, imitate actions which excite pity and fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. It follows plainly, in the first place, that the change of fortune presented must not be the spectacle of a virtuous man brought from prosperity to adversity: for this moves neither pity nor fear; it merely shocks us. Nor, again, that of a bad man passing from adversity to prosperity: for nothing can be more alien to the spirit of Tragedy; it possesses no single tragic quality; it neither satisfies the moral sense nor calls forth pity or fear. Nor, again, should the downfall of the utter villain be exhibited. A plot of this kind would, doubtless, satisfy the moral sense, but it would inspire neither pity nor fear; for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. Such an event, therefore, will be neither pitiful nor terrible. There remains, then, the character between these two extremes—that of a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty. He must be one who is highly renowned and prosperous—a personage like Oedipus, Thyestes, or other illustrious men of such families.

  19. Token

    Token, the old Greek tragedies featured renowned characters who suffered because of a tragic fault; the warmists are not noble characters but merely scamming villains whose downfall should excite neither pity nor fear

    I am happy to be corrected as there is not a shred of nobility within these characters.

    That said, the rise of the glowball worming scare in the 2000′s and the fall is fertile ground due to the jaw dropping hypocricy, the sheer vanity and dreadful depravity which is on display.

  20. Leo G

    Are we playing the academic version of the Rock, Paper, Scissors game?
    How does it go now, with professional ethics, tenure and academic freedom?
    Academic freedom subverts professional ethics; professional ethics subverts tenure; tenure subverts academic freedom.

  21. Leo G, UWA has been here before with the Bowdler-Rindos affair. You might like to see my comments on it in this article also, which is one of the external links to this piece.

  22. DaveA

    The quotes don’t make it clear that the prior ethics approval was a bait and switch. Lew put forward one study for approval then made significant and ethically relevant changes which he described as minor. McIntyre explains that an escalation of authority was required which didn’t happen.

  23. Shauno

    Thats one University you want to keep well clear of. The other is University of Canberra a raving left wing institution you wont have to look far there to find a statue of Lenin some where on the grounds.

  24. Jessie

    Was the approved research actually a well conducted survey or the opportunity using public funds to prove a point?
    Ross McKitrick comment from McIntyre post

    Administrators at UWA need to bear in mind that the end result of this sequence of negligence on the part of UWA and the journal publisher is that a group of involuntary participants in a UWA research project were named without their consent in a publication and described as having clinical psychological disorders. Before they waive this away as a laughing matter they really ought to have the file read by someone who isn’t a partisan for Lewandowsky.

    Philippa, thank you for posting your essay. In regard to the Rindos affair there seem to be two x Gil Harwick associated with UWA.

  25. Leo G

    “I was reprimanded in a class in 1990 for suggesting that male aggression was not simply the product of social conditioning but was connected to testosterone” – PM
    More directly to cortisol in my view, and to sex-linked differences in co-operative behaviour- which are basal in a physiological hierarchy of needs and which can lead to irreconcilable conflicts.

  26. More directly to cortisol in my view, and to sex-linked differences in co-operative behaviour- which are basal in a physiological hierarchy of needs and which can lead to irreconcilable conflicts.

    Forgive me, Leo. It was 1990, I was only 20 years old, and I was still working solely in the humanities.

  27. cohenite

    As profound and destructive example of ipse dixit as you could get: Lewandowsky is right because he said so; this is AGW in microcosm. Literally a [pseudo]scientific based perception of reality which is merely an expression of the beliefs of is inculcators.

    Fucked.

  28. manalive

    Ethics are an unknown concept to the likes of Lewandowsky and Owens …

    Writing on that ever so scholarly website The Conversation Lewandowsky quoted Churchill in defence of Gleick’s lying and lying in general for the greater cause of fighting the “vicious and well-funded” denialists: “… truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies …”.
    He omitted the qualifying “in war-time …” but he thinks fighting Climate Change™ denial is even more serious than WW2.
    The intricacies tend to swamp the overall point about Lewandowsky and his sidekick Cook (UQ Global Change Institute) that their survey results are so obviously bogus, that no disinterested observer who is even casually interested in following the Great Global Warming debate would believe them (faked moon landing, 97% scientists etc.) and although they might get a headline for a day, the general public are indifferent.

  29. Cold-Hands

    The alumni of UWA should really be up in arms over this; it devalues every degree ever awarded by that institution. Given the silence from the MSM, I can only assume that most alumni are ignorant at what has been transpiring at their alma mater.

  30. MikeS

    “The alumni of UWA should really be up in arms over this; it devalues every degree ever awarded by that institution.”

    Dents credibility of future research and pretty much shreds the reputation of the School of Psychology there but this hasn’t yet discouraged anyone. It probably takes a cancelled endowment or a slide on the Best University league tables to get real attention.

  31. Alice Thermopolis

    As for UWA alumni, one small step…

    They recently acted on Lewandowsky’s blog, Shaping Tomorrow’s World.

    http://www.convocation.uwa.edu.au/__data/page/186983/First-Ordinary-Meeting-2014.pdf

    Business arising

    At the First Ordinary Meeting of Convocation held on 20th
    March 2013, a member of Convocation, Mr Michael Kile,
    indicated that he was still awaiting response on a query
    he had raised at the Second Ordinary Meeting held in 21st
    September 2012. This query related to the use of the UWA
    logo on a website Shaping Tomorrow’s World.
    As Adjunct Professor Kerr was unaware of this query,
    following the First Ordinary Meeting where he was officially
    elected the Warden of Convocation, Adjunct Professor Kerr
    immediately contacted Mr Kile to ascertain the background
    to the query. He had then facilitated a response from the
    University’s Acting Director of Public Affairs, Ms Janine
    MacDonald who advised that since the website was not
    a UWA website, nor was the University an associated
    affiliation, she would be contacting those who were
    responsible for the website to advise them that the UWA
    logo and references of affiliation with UWA should be
    removed from the website.

    Much more, however, to be done.

  32. GO MICHAEL KILE!

    He is the scourge of these people.

    Plus he bought me dinner at the UWA club once. Steak. Damn fine.

  33. Myrddin Seren

    One of the commentators at Lucia’s place that SLew inserted the odd predendum into the links to the retracted paper, which Lucia suggests contains an heroic interpretation of US law.

    More wishful thinking on SLew’s part ?

  34. Des Deskperson

    ‘Thats one University you want to keep well clear of. The other is University of Canberra a raving left wing institution you wont have to look far there to find a statue of Lenin some where on the grounds’

    But the UWA has or, perhaps, had, some sort of reputation for excellence. On the QS university rankings for 2013, it was the 7th ranked university in Australia, while the University of Canberra could only manage 27th place.

  35. johanna

    Nice find, Alice T. and great work by Kile. If the Convocation starts making waves, they willpay attention, as they are endlessly seeking donations and favours from alumni.

  36. Bons

    Ethics – university humanities departments? Could someone please explain this hypothesis to an old, obviously scientifically challenged, engineer?

  37. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    “I was reprimanded in a class in 1990 for suggesting that male aggression was not simply the product of social conditioning but was connected to testosterone” – PM

    Haha, Philippa. At not much older than 20 I was also reprimanded in a university Arts seminar for suggesting that there might be actual physiological differences in the brains of men and women that related to their genetics, hormones and the resultant interactive developmental effects on the foetus in utero. Oh no, they all said. Never! Men and women are the same.

    I was eight months pregnant at the time, and showing!!

  38. johanna

    Just had a look at Lewandowsky’s blog, and guess who is on the Advisory Board?

    Why, it’s that other paragon of ethics, Carmen Lawrence.

  39. Alice Thermopolis

    From Minutes of Second Ordinary Meeting of UWA Convocation held on Friday 21 September 2012

    http://www.convocation.uwa.edu.au/__data/page/185724/SOM2012_Minutes.pdf

    10. OTHER BUSINESS
    A question was raised from the floor by Mr Michael Kile regarding how to deal with conflict-of-interest situations that may arise.

    Mr Kile referred to the website Shaping Tomorrow’s World (partly funded by the University). Mr Kile stated a number of alumni are concerned about the tone and quality of recent activity on the site. Mr Kile questioned whether its operation is consistent with Convocation’s aims and the University’s mission to “achieve international excellence”, and asked the following question:

    “Mr Chairman, in your capacity as a member of STW’s editorial board, could you clarify at some stage if there is any governance provision that would require an STW board member or principal to, for example,
    (i) stand aside if under investigation by the University for alleged breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2007), or for any other complaints regarding research misconduct; and
    (ii) cease involvement in the site’s management during the duration of any investigation, with reinstatement depending on the outcome?”

    The Warden proposed that he would consult with the STW principals and respond to Mr Kile.

  40. Alice Thermopolis

    Thanks Johanna

    FYI Lawrence spoke to UWA Convocation last Friday. Kile posted on it today:

    http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2014/03/fine-paper-retracted/

    The ‘Fine’ Paper That Had To Be Pulled

    The University of Western Australia’s Stephan Lewandowsky, scourge of climate sceptics, likened “deniers” to moon-landing conspiracy buffs. Now that his, er, research has been withdrawn, the catastropharian chorus reckons he’s the real victim .

    Carmen Lawrence’s speech last Friday to University of Western Australia Convocation alumni in defence of the Academy was impressive – except for one word and a revealing sentence.

    Lawrence made an aside that puzzled many – and worried more than a few:

    “Stephan Lewandowsky just emailed to advise he is [still] being pursued by climate deniers in an extravagant way.”

    UWA Winthrop Hall Undercroft dedicated to Socrates. Now there was a chap who knew the difference between aurum philosophicum and aurum vulgi, who could separate the wheat from the chaff, genuine knowledge from psycho-babble, etc.

    Alice

  41. johanna

    Interesting, Alice.

    That sentence of Lawrence’s (apart from being semi-literate – how can someone be pursued “extravagantly”?) is typical of the doublespeak that we have come to expect from Lewandowsky’s supporters. The use of the d-word, and the assumption that he should not be criticised because he is one of the Good Guys, is all too familiar.

    It is particularly ironic that Lew is complaining about this when his first paper sought to portray people who disagreed with him as nutters, and then the second went on to name them. This is a new low in academic discourse in Australia, IMO.

  42. incoherent rambler

    Stephan Lewandowsky is an anagram of “What Lysenko Spawned”

  43. “What Lysenko Spawned”

    Well played.
    Also: “a lewdest phony wanks”.

  44. Alice Thermopolis

    Lewandowsky quote:

    “Please do not assume that those individuals are guided by the same ethical standards to which we subscribe.”

    http://climateaudit.org/2014/03/24/lewandowsky-ghost-wrote-conclusions-of-uwa-ethics-investigation-into-hoax/

  45. James Hargrave

    Ethics – when last did a university have those? I though that these committees were set up to teach them ethics (no, I am not that naïve). More of the good old ‘never commit yourself, committee yourself’).

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