Lewandowsky research unethical: Journal editor

Henry Markram the editor of Frontiers – the journal that retracted Lewandowsky’s Fury paper – has made the following statement (emphasis added):

Like all other journals, Frontiers seriously investigates any well-founded complaints or allegations, and retraction only happens in cases of absolute necessity and only after extensive analysis. For the paper in question, the issue was clear, the analysis was exhaustive, all efforts were made to work with the authors to find a solution and we even worked on the retraction statement with the authors. But there was no moral dilemma from the start – we do not support scientific publications where human subjects can be identified without their consent.

But of course the issue isn’t just that human subjects were identified without their prior consent; those human subjects were “diagnosed” as having mental health issues, and then identified without their consent. Not just a violation of research ethics but of professional ethics too.

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66 Responses to Lewandowsky research unethical: Journal editor

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    His previous paper the “Moon Landing” paper which this is a sequel to, was even worse. It used an unsecured anonymous webpoll which was hosted only on blogs hostile to sceptics, and based its conclusions on just two unverified datapoints. I have never seen a worse experimental design in my over 3 decades in science R&D.

    Its said a lie can go around the world before the truth gets its boots on. But Prof Lewandosky is now finding that when the truth catches up it wins every time.

  2. Tom

    The deathly silence from the rest of the academy about this shonky third-rate propagandist is astonishing. And they wonder why public trust in science is at an all-time low.

  3. politichix

    Is the University of WA still hosting the paper?

  4. johanna

    It’s been a fascinating saga, and if you made it up few would regard it as credible.

    The most striking thing to this observer is the sheer incompetence of both of Lew’s papers. They would have been failed in any decent first year undergraduate course. Yet this mediocrity is a Professor, who has recently been headhunted by the University of Bristol and given a pay rise.

    He has received grants from the Australian Research Council (thanks, taxpayers!), been feted by the Royal Society, and is allowed to publish papers where one of the “peer reviewers” is a PhD student in journalism at Wendy Bacon’s little empire in the University of Technology.

    Academia these days is a publicly funded cesspool, where standards are non-existent and ethics only means being on the right side of the debate.

  5. Andrew

    Politichix, I believe they’re still hosting it with a disclaimer of sorts, AND still covering up by withholding data on the appropriately named “Hoax” paper. Rumour is he’s the subject of a new mural to watch the “Nobel” one on the dept of Psych walls.

    I think UWA jumped the shark with the Murali fraud, but they are a laughing stock now.

  6. Des Deskperson

    Lew fell hook line and sinker (as they say) for the Arlene Composta hoax, you would have thought that the name would have given him a clue.

    Another prominent dupe was compassionista and serial ACT Literary Prize winner Tony Kevin.

  7. Anne

    Johanna, as a layman I find your comment frightening.

    May I infer from the last sentence that there is a debate happening?
    If so, where?

    The public would be better served if the ABC presented one issue with one voice for each side instead of the mass-debating model of Q&A.

  8. Cato the Elder

    the mass-debating model of Q&A.

    Was that deliberate? ‘Cos it’s pretty funny.

  9. johanna

    Well, I think that the Australian people voted on the “debate” at the last election, with results that all can see.

    In places like UWA, no, there is no debate allowed.

  10. Kae

    It’s true of many university schools.
    Anyone who disagrees will not speak out for fear of losing their tenure (or job if they don’t have tenure).

    Follow the money, it’s survival.

  11. Senile Old Guy

    Academia these days is a publicly funded cesspool, where standards are non-existent and ethics only means being on the right side of the debate.

    Johanna, as a layman I find your comment frightening.

    It’s an exaggeration and an insult to those who take their work seriously, especially the more data and experiment driven STEM disciplines. Note that Lewandosky is in psychology, a discipline which tends to have more than it’s fair share of nutters. On the issue of climate change, a lot of the noise comes from disciplines outside the sciences, who simply assume the worst case scenarios are reasonable and go from there.

    With the IPCC, the further you get from the underlying science (which is often hedged with caveats and cautions), the more hysterical the language becomes. But, because the MSM has largely accepted AGW, the hyperbole is the angle that is pushed and prominent. The encouraging thing is that, despite the deluge of propaganda, the public are largely not buying it.

  12. Senile Old Guy

    Anyone who disagrees will not speak out for fear of losing their tenure promotion (or job if they don’t have tenure).

    In most places, you would have to go seriously off the reservation to lose tenure. But you would be ostracised (even though some colleagues would privately agree with you).

  13. johanna

    Sorry, SOG, but the so-called “sciences” have been in it up to their necks. Physicists, biologists, chemists and all the rest have contributed mightily to supporting the mythology of CAGW.

    I am not saying that there are no decent academics left. But they have been singularly impotent in preventing their universities from being taken over by the catastrophist/greenie element, of which UWA is just one example. Remember, UNSW helped to fund Turney’s “Ship of Fools” expedition, and we have not had a peep of criticism from them since.

  14. .

    Remember, UNSW helped to fund Turney’s “Ship of Fools” expedition, and we have not had a peep of criticism from them since.

    Never forget.

  15. Kae

    Losing tenure for rocking the boat happens.

  16. Anne

    Well, I think that the Australian people voted on the “debate” at the last election, with results that all can see.

    Yes, of course Johanna but for many that may have been limited to the ALP’s malefactors and Nincompoops, the economy and boats.

    What about presenting reasoned, sophisticated debates on things like, “Impact of Islamisation of Western Democracies” and “Socialism, can it work in the 21st Century?” These are important issues that may well affect Australians in the next twenty years.

    I fear kids in High school and University get spoon fed “Racism bad, Equality good”. End of story.

  17. Des Deskperson

    ‘In places like UWA, no, there is no debate allowed’

    Depressingly, in 2013 , UWA actually improved its rating on the Times Higher Education World University Ranking from 190 t0 168.

    The detailed 2014 figures don’t seem to be available yet, but I’d be interested if anyone could find them.

  18. .

    Depressingly, in 2013 , UWA actually improved its rating on the Times Higher Education World University Ranking from 190 t0 168.

    Seriously. These things are a crock of shit.

  19. john constantine

    the debate is settled.

    The lefties that control the grants process control all. You do not have to be a scientist, all you have to do is have mates that put you on a panel of politicals that control the funding.

    the cannon fodder that walked into the machine guns for stalin didn’t have to believe in stalin, they just had to believe they would be ruthlessly shot down from behind by the political operatives that did believe in stalin.

    the csiro study that proved that northern australia couldn’t be farmed was produced at gunpoint. Any scientist that disputes the desired leftie ideology is sent to australias gulags–unfunded for life.

    Have phd, sent to rouseabout in shearing sheds among the dags for being ‘not quite right’.

    the scientists haven’t turned, the freaks that control their funding have occupied the chokepoint.

  20. politichix

    Looks like there’s another example of cooking the books. An interesting critique of the NHMRC paper on wind farms and health.

    Your review has looked, however cursorily, at an astounding total of 3354 documents consisting of:

    1778 Peer-reviewed articles in the “black” literature, you excluded all but 7.
    1070 Non-peer-reviewed article in the “grey” literature, you excluded all.
    506 Public submissions to the NHRMC, you excluded all but 4.

    The reviewers report a very rigid and fine-grid examination of this literature and in so doing excluded all but 11, and indeed only looked at 7 studies they considered met their futile and restrictive criteria.
    2697 submissions from 3354 were excluded on title or abstract alone. This does not represent a rigorous analysis of the available literature. Each and every step of discovery, review and rejection with the assembled criteria used represented an opportunity for error or bias.

    That’s a serious effort in excluding papers – almost puts the IPCC to shame.

  21. Aynsley Kellow

    SOG,
    The problem is too often the cascade effect. Many researchers take the IPCC projections of warming as given (often the upper limits) and then model the impact s of warming on (say) disease vectors (usually making some heroic assumptions about a whole lot of things being held constant) and then prognosticate about the impact on (say) human health (assuming that the distribution of disease is solely dependent on climate). The we get the IPCC (in AR4) ‘projection’ that Sydney will have malaria because of climate change — ignoring completely the fact that malaria is a disease of poverty — unknown where GDP per capita exceeds about $US3,500.

    There’s a nice quote I used as an epigram in a book that captures nicely how this received wisdom has been ignored by the ‘scientists’ writing for the IPCC:

    ‘[In] recent years it is apparent that the enormous significance attached to climate in earlier times was somewhat overdone because people failed to see that many of the effects that seemed to be due to climate in itself were really due to quite different factors only indirectly related to climate. . . . This is not to deny that cli- mates have their own specific qualities or that nobody, if they could help it, would choose to live in Ghana, that dreadful Turkish bath supplied by nature, or in Death Valley or even Alaska, but what has this to do with health? The answer is: Nothing at all (see Hypothermia).’
    Pears Medical Encyclopaedia J.A.C. Brown, compiler, (1969), pp. 118–20.

  22. Sir Fred Lenin

    These “socialist progressive “acadenics amuse me ,these highly paid useless mouths ,get together to Direct the world their way,its like ” 432 Cardinals passed a unanimous motion “”"” the Roman Catholic Church is the Best. church in the World”"”" so what did you expect them to say? Birds and Feathers comes to mind.

  23. Senile Old Guy

    johanna:

    Sorry, SOG, but the so-called “sciences” have been in it up to their necks. Physicists, biologists, chemists and all the rest have contributed mightily to supporting the mythology of CAGW.

    Didn’t argue that they weren’t; only that it was more of a problem in the soft sciences. But there are a whole lot of people working on real problems but they have nothing to do with CAGW, or other “hot” issues, so you don’t hear anything about them.

    To damn all academia as a “cesspool” is over the top and an example of why some people quickly browsing the Cat will think that we are all extreme nutters.

    To people who do not move in the university world, your remarks can seem authoritative and definitive. Well, no, they are not.

    And, by way, those “so-called ‘sciences’” of physics, biology and chemistry are sciences, there’s nothing “so-called” about them. Yes, an unknown percentage have jumped on the CAGW band wagon but the remainder are working on other things.

  24. .

    The we get the IPCC (in AR4) ‘projection’ that Sydney will have malaria because of climate change — ignoring completely the fact that malaria is a disease of poverty — unknown where GDP per capita exceeds about $US3,500.

    Mein gott. The research is of even lower quality than I thought. Selection bias, latent variables…what worthless pieces of crap the IPCC reports are.

  25. cohenite

    Lewandowsky and his collaborators including the odious Cook should have been sued. But the O’Farrell complex runs deep on the non-left/progressive side and the people who Lewandowsky slurred did not take this person to court. As a result Lewandowsky continues on his malelovent way.

  26. johanna

    True, Anne. Andrew Montford and John Shade have issued a devastating report on the greenie politicisation of education in the UK, and how it has even invaded seemingly neutral subjects like learning French.

    Christopher Pyne, and Liberal State Ministers, need to get cracking on purging this rubbish from our own curricula. The notion that kids should be spending time in the school vegie garden or tending chooks in order to “save the planet” is deeply ingrained in our education system. Meanwhile, they can’t read, write, spell, add up or multiply (except in the biblical sense).

  27. Anne

    Paul Krugman has been hired and paid $25,000 a month plus perks by a US University to talk about “inequality of Income”. Priceless!

  28. .

    Mates kid came home from his estranged mother. Said he wanted to be an “environmental warrior”.

    We weren’t sure if it was the school or the mum.

    We set him straight. “That’s not a real job, those people are leeches who prey upon the workers like your poppy who grows food”

  29. Tel

    It’s an exaggeration and an insult to those who take their work seriously, especially the more data and experiment driven STEM disciplines.

    They insult themselves by refusing to speak out about something they know is wrong.

  30. Senile Old Guy

    The problem is too often the cascade effect. Many researchers take the IPCC projections of warming as given (often the upper limits) and then model the impact s of warming on (say) disease vectors (usually making some heroic assumptions about a whole lot of things being held constant) and then prognosticate about the impact on (say) human health (assuming that the distribution of disease is solely dependent on climate). The we get the IPCC (in AR4) ‘projection’ that Sydney will have malaria because of climate change — ignoring completely the fact that malaria is a disease of poverty — unknown where GDP per capita exceeds about $US3,500.

    I repeat merely to agree. The “malaria” thing has been debunked so many times it is ridiculous. But most of this stuff comes from WG2 and WG3. The most hysterical claims are inserted into the Summary for Policy Makers (separate summaries for each WG).

  31. Senile Old Guy

    It’s an exaggeration and an insult to those who take their work seriously, especially the more data and experiment driven STEM disciplines.

    They insult themselves by refusing to speak out about something they know is wrong.

    Have you noticed how the most strident critics are either in a different career but with relevant experience, retired or very, very senior?

    And I notice that most people who post here, do so under pseudonyms?

  32. Anne

    Thanks for that link Johanna. I’ll send it to my friends with kids.

    I’ve been multi-tasking, watching Fox, listening to 2GB and reading The Cat but I simply must get out of bed now and start the day.

    Happy Easter everyone!

  33. Tel

    SOG, people with a decent technical background can easily change career if they choose to… lots of work exists in the private sphere where you are judged by what you can do, not judged for political correctness.

    Strident criticism is not necessary, just honest skepticism and refusal to be “nudged” into doing what you don’t believe in. Everyone has choices. People who are judged by the choices they take should not be shocked.

  34. will

    Losing tenure for rocking the boat happens.

    Like what happened to Geoffrey Blainey?

    Though admittedly the study of economic history was in decline (and now sadly neglected everywhere) at the time of his departure from Melbourne Uni.

  35. johanna

    SOG, I described them as “so-called” because of the absolute rubbish that their peers have allowed to be put out under the misapprehension that because someone has a degree in physics, he or she is a trustworthy “scientist.” Why did these other scientists chock-full of integrity not call them out?

    Aynsley Kellow, your mention of J.A.C. Brown tweaked the memory. Sure enough, I have a very fine book of his, published in 1963, called “Techniques of Persuasion” (subtitle: from Propaganda to Brainwashing) which is a superb exposition of why people can’t actually be “brainwashed” in the literal sense. It goes on to carefully analyse the ways in which the various techniques work, and their limits. He was a very fine thinker and scholar, and a good writer as well. I will re-read the book in the next few days.

  36. Aynsley Kellow

    SOG and .:
    Part of the problem is the separation of tasks:
    1. The SRES set out future emissions, assuming (as David Henderson and the late Ian Castles pointed out) that GDP per capita would increase enormously over the next century.
    2.WGI then takes those emissions scenarios and produces some ‘projections’ of what ‘could’ happen. (These are then often reported by the media and NGOs as what will happen).
    3. WGII then assesses the impact of these projections of climate on people – usually assuming they are the impoverished people in the Third World we have now, or who for some reason choose not to spend any of their newfound wealth on adaptation, vaccination, better hygiene, insect screens, etc. Forgetting (as in the malaria example) that the affluence that drives climate change is also going to mean the distribution of the disease vector is now a meaninglessly small part of the equation.
    They forget that ‘The Ague’ was rife in England, malaria was once endemic up to the Arctic circle, and was eliminated in Europe only c1970 — with climate not a factor.

  37. incoherent rambler

    Tom – he deathly silence from the rest of the academy about this shonky third-rate propagandist is astonishing. And they wonder why public trust in science is at an all-time low.

    sog – To damn all academia as a “cesspool” is over the top

    Sog – the silence of “the people working on other things” when Garnaut had the podium, damned the sciences.
    Tom is correct.
    The gutless are more of problem than the Lewandowskies.

  38. Senile Old Guy

    SOG and .:
    Part of the problem is the separation of tasks:

    Which is what I was trying to say but you put much better. Each of those steps gets further from the physical science.

  39. Senile Old Guy

    The gutless are more of problem than the Lewandowskies.

    Okay folks, everyone posting here under pseudonyms is less gutless than the behaviour of people most of whom you do not know, who are in situations you have no idea of, and whose actions you have no knowledge of. Very credible.

  40. incoherent rambler

    Senile Old Guy #1269575, posted on April 18, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Your writing, in part, confirms my assertion. I am not sure what you are trying to say. But every scientist and engineer has a duty to keep reason to the fore.
    This is a libertarian blog, more people with economics/commerce backgrounds than science backgrounds. More reason is on display here (trolls excepted) than you will find in some “science” journals.

  41. johanna

    SOG, if you posted under your own name, your complaints might have more credibility.

  42. manalive

    Oh look who’s popped up at UWA School of Psychology, Lewandowsky’s Bucky Barnes.

  43. Senile Old Guy

    SOG, if you posted under your own name, your complaints might have more credibility.

    A better example of missing the point would be harder to find.

  44. stackja

    Not just a violation of research ethics but of professional ethics too.

    Certain people do not need to worry about ethics. They are protected. Most people know them for what they are. Sinc you are like a voice crying in the wilderness but we hear you.

  45. johanna

    SOG, you can’t have it both ways. You decry people for not using their own names, but won’t use your own. Quite on point, I would have thought.

  46. Senile Old Guy

    You decry people for not using their own names, but won’t use your own.

    I have not criticised people for using pseudonyms; that would be hypocritical. I am noting that people posting using pseudonyms (for, no doubt, good reasons) are criticising other people for not speaking up, and potentially risking their livelihood.

  47. johanna

    Bullshit. There are plenty of tenured academics both here and overseas who did not risk their tenure by pointing out the fallacies and outright lies of people like Lewandowsky and Mann. And what about the “honourable” ones at places like UWA and UNSW? Like ICAC during the Labor government, they have been missing in action.

    Sitting in your office and collecting your salary while the entire superstructure of learning is trashed around you, when you are a person whose life is supposed to be dedicated to it, is utter cowardice.

  48. tomix

    If people were able to post as Anonymous, traffic would explode. imho

  49. Anne

    Tomix, if that is your real name…

    Who cares. It’s just a sharing of ideas and views. I love that anybody can comment on any subject or issue without having to throw a résume on the desk.

    Many cats are expert and erudite. Thank goodness. But I like to think there’s room for some home spun country girl sagacity as well.

  50. tomix

    Tomix, if that is your real name…

    Couse it’s not my real name….doofus

  51. incoherent rambler

    Sitting in your office and collecting your salary while the entire superstructure of learning is trashed around you, when you are a person whose life is supposed to be dedicated to it, is utter cowardice.

    Spot on johanna.

  52. cohenite

    A lot of good people have suffered by putting their names up against the lie of AGW:

    Bob Carter
    Murray Salby
    Ian Plimer
    Clive Spash
    Ferenc Miskolczi
    David Bellamy
    Christopher Monckton

    The fact is AGW alarmists now hold positions of power and they employ censorious character assassination techniques against sceptics.

    I still think litigation should have been employed in a number of instances; Robin Williams comparison of sceptics to drug-pushers and paedophiles is a case in point; and any number of outrageous scare-mongering statements by prominent alarmists should have been actioned; and BOM and CSIRO need a few writs thrown at them.

    Still, who in their right mind wants to start litigation after the New Zealand NIWA case?

  53. Senile Old Guy

    Sitting in your office and collecting your salary while the entire superstructure of learning is trashed around you, when you are a person whose life is supposed to be dedicated to it, is utter cowardice.

    Abusing someone, whose circumstances you have no idea about, on an internet blog, while posting anonymously is, of course, so brave.

    I am about as humiliated as I could possibly be…which is not all all.

  54. DrBeauGan

    Part of the problem is that narrow specialisation pays off a lot better than intellectual breadth in a bureaucratic world. Those STEM people who ‘do other things’ usually do them honestly but what they seldom do is pause and look at the pathetic shonks in other ‘disciplines’. They are not able to assess the quality or lack of it. If they were capable and did, many so called ‘disciplines’, including Education, anything with ‘studies’ in the title, Social so called science and Psychology would have been closed down. Instead they have been growth areas as universities struggle to put bums on seats for an increasingly dumbed down entry. So a big factor in the degeneration of universities has been central bureaucratic control with its KPIs.

  55. DrBeauGan

    That is why Johanna is at odds with SOG. An academic who spends his time pointing out that someone is shonky is wasting valuable time when he could be producing papers that only a coterie will read.

  56. cohenite

    The problem is that clowns like Ludlam are elected to parliament.

  57. DrBeauGan

    SOG is defending good honest technicians, who certainly exist, and Johannah is damning them for not being philosophers. This is exactly what you get when bureaucrats count KPI scores to decide who to hire and promote.

  58. Anne

    cohenite
    #1269800, posted on April 18, 2014 at 1:50 pm
    The problem is that clowns like Ludlam are elected to parliament.

    Cripes that guy is creepy. Everyone jokes about 666 here but that guy is straight out of The Omen!

  59. johanna

    DrBeauGan
    #1269805, posted on April 18, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    SOG is defending good honest technicians, who certainly exist, and Johannah is damning them for not being philosophers. This is exactly what you get when bureaucrats count KPI scores to decide who to hire and promote.

    What a bizzare interpretation of what I said.

    Firstly, you mention “good honest technicians” – well I applaud them, but they are not scientists.

    Then, you claim that I want them to be philosophers. Since when is pointing out shonky methodology and crappy extrapolation “philosophy?” It used to be called science.

  60. tomix

    dillberry!

    ..Pronounced “dilbry”. Haven’t heard that for a while.

  61. DrBeauGan

    Johannah, the terms technician and philosopher are used by physicists in particular to refer to academics. The former are narrow specialists and the latter are not. Freeman Dyson is an example of a philosopher in this sense, Steven Hawking is a technician in the same sense, though I wrong him a bit.

  62. Leo G

    “There are plenty of tenured academics both here and overseas who did not risk their tenure by pointing out the fallacies and outright lies of people like Lewandowsky and Mann. And what about the “honourable” ones at places like UWA and UNSW? Like ICAC during the Labor government, they have been missing in action.” – johanna

    You failed to refer to the outright incompetence of Lewandowsky’s formal reasoning. Consider for instance this prominent statement from his Shaping Tomorrow’s World website:

    “A fundamental tenet of capitalism is a continually growing economy that produces more and more goods.”

    A fundamental tenet of capitalism that economies always grow? Negative growth impossible?
    A continually growing economy that produces more and more goods? Lew produces more and more tautologies.
    His work abounds with such fallacious reasoning. Intellectual flotsam.

  63. DrBeauGan

    Quite so, LeoG. And very, very few serious academics would trouble to read the rubbish. Pity, but it’s the way things are these days. There are no brownie points in pointing out that another academic is an inept nitwit. And universities are now in the brownie point business.

  64. Boambee John

    “Birds and Feathers comes to mind.”

    To borrow from the Instapundit, tar and feathers might be better.

  65. Bons

    I have been spending a lot of time lately pondering how all this happened and why I didn’t notice it occurring. As someone said recently, a large number of Australians did not realise that we still had significant unions until 1997 – but they were plotting away in the background while the rest of us were working, raising kids, saving for the future etc.
    And, I am sure that 99% of us had no idea that there were still Communists in the Country – now they are in control. It was very well orchestrated. Quiet perversion of the ABC, creation and perversion of the ridiculous media schools, the history wars that few people understood as being a direct threat to freedom, and the brilliant effort by the Chalkies in utilising over protective parents to totally destroy the fundamentals of education.
    After the inevitable violence, the historians are going to have a field day exposing how it was that the least productive, least intelligent, least motivated, least moral and least courageous gained control over those who display the opposite of all of those weaknesses.
    I must have had my eyes closed for decades – and, even worse, I thought that Gough had morals – just goes to show that education is no indicator of intelligence.

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