WTF Frontiers in Psychology Journal? Scientists publish a peer reviewed paper in your journal, a bunch of cranks complain about it, and successfully bully you into taking the paper off your web site? Do you seriously want the rest of the scientific world to take you seriously, ever, from now on? I’m thinking that’s not going to happen. We await a full and unmitigated apology to Stephan Lewandowsky, JohnCook, Klaus Oberauer and Michael Marriott, the authors of Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation

In the mean time, since you felt the need to dispose of any semblance of ethical and professional behavior and remove the paper from your web site, here is a copy of it for anyone who wants it. That should be available until further action is taken to silence these scientists.

Also, I won’t be writing about any papers published in this journal in the future until the above described apology is produced.

Here’s the background for those of you who don’t know it, from Stephan Lewandowsky’s blog post about it:

[Recursive Fury] reported a narrative analysis of the blogosphere’s response to publication of [an earlier paper,] LOG12. The blogosphere’s response bore a striking resemblance to the very topic of LOG12: our finding that rejection of climate science is associated with conspiratorial thinking triggered elements of conspiratorial discourse among those who sought to deny that denial of climate science involves a measure of conspiratorial thinking…

Recursive Fury attracted some media attention…as well as critique. It should come as little surprise that this critique did not involve a scholarly response, such as submission of a rejoinder for peer review, but that it entailed a barrage of complaints to the University of Western Australia (UWA), where I was based at the time, and the journal Frontiers.

While not retracting the paper, Frontiers removed the article from its website in March 2013. The journal then commenced an arduous process of investigation which has now come to a conclusion.

Frontiers will post (or has posted) the following statement on its website today:

“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.”

In other words, the article is fine but Frontiers does not want to take the legal risk that its restoration on the website might entail.

Go to Stephan’s post for additional links and a much richer context and history of this bone-headed move by Frontiers and the climate science denialists.

And again, here’s the paper.

Comments

  1. #1 dean
    March 22, 2014

    …that the legal context is insufficiently clear

    This is the scariest effing part of the entire statement. They found no problem with the academic or ethical portions, but “legal” issues caused their decision? How long will it be before similar pressure is brought against other journals on the same way?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    March 22, 2014

    Dean, I’m assuming that this is a floodgate tossed wide open.

  3. #3 Smarter Than Your Average Bear
    March 22, 2014

    When I read about this earlier I was encouraged to read that the University of Western Australia was telling the bullies to bring it on as it were. I really doubt there is any case (solid or otherwise) for defamation of any kind. This was a cowardly act by the journal – of course given how financially fragile most publications say they are these days perhaps they feared any kind of litigation would end up destroying them, regardless of whether they won or not.

  4. #4 dean
    March 22, 2014

    Wow. I just had time to read the comments at Stephan’s site. The clowns who are posting the most virulent attacks aren’t helping their argument that the paper was crap and shouldn’t have been published in the first place.
    I wonder how financially stable Frontiers is. If they are living on the edge I’m sure that would weigh heavy on their minds, but still…. (echoing STTAB above).

  5. #5 catweazle666
    March 23, 2014

    What’s a “Climate Science Denialist”?

    You know, you Warmists do your cause no favours bandying insults like that about.

    No wonder you’re hemorrhaging public support like a gut-shot haemophiliac when you use hysterical epithets like that to describe your detractors.

    In fact, one and another what with the “pause” and all, I suspect it’s you lot that can be more realistically described as “Climate Science Denialists” these days.

  6. #6 Richard Chapman
    March 23, 2014

    In effectively censoring legitimate science the denialists have breached a barrier that will more often work against them than for them. If papers and journals are going to give in to peer pressures it will most likely be the legitimate scientists who come out on the winning end. I see this as a trend towards the eventual censorship of denialist speech.

  7. #7 dean
    March 23, 2014

    “Climate Science Denialist”?
    Someone (like you, I’m guessing) who denies the thousands of reviewed and published items of science demonstrating climate change is occurring.

    “what with the pause and all …”
    There is no pause, only a common lie that one exists from the deniers. Thanks for verifying what you are.

  8. #8 Christopher Winter
    March 23, 2014

    catweazle666: What’s a “Climate Science Denialist”?

    I’ll give you an exact definition. It’s someone who, for short-term gain, promotes the public misunderstanding of climate science.

    Note this is a different category from “climate science denier.” The denier might simply be ignorant of science. Or, he might be trusting the wrong people. It’s neither illegal or immoral to misunderstand something. But it is wrong to cling to your misunderstanding when presented with the facts.

  9. #9 Robert Clark
    March 23, 2014

    Pot, meet kettle. The authors of the paper named people skeptical of their views and accused them of having a personality disorder where they see conspiracies at every turn. Then when those individuals object, the authors call them the bullies.

    Bob Clark

  10. #10 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 24, 2014

    I’d like to try to ask for clarification on a couple points. On Twitter, I saw Greg Laden say the journal was “pushed into retraction by … well … a conspiracy, actually.” Do people stand behind this comment? Similarly, this post seems to suggest that supposed conspiracy was by “climate science denialists.”

    I ask partially out of curiosity, but primarily because I was one of the individuals who filed a complaint with the journal. I’d like to know just what I am being accused of. It seems people think I am a climate science denialist who engaged in a conspiracy to bully a journal into retracting a paper.

    Is that correct?

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2014

    Brandon, you have manufactured a specific complaint against you and are now playing the victim. So you tell us. Did you do that? Personally I think you are making this up. Do you have any evidence of what you claim you did?

  12. #12 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 24, 2014

    Greg Laden, I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking if I did/what you think I’m making up. To be clear, are you asking if I really did file a complaint with the journal?

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2014

    Brandon, the current denialist dogma related to this matter and other matters is to play the victim. You are playing the victim here. I personally don’t believe you have anything whatsoever to do with this, and I’m asking you to prove that you do.

  14. #14 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 24, 2014

    I have no idea why you think I’d lie about having filed a complaint. I’ve publicly discussed having done so on multiple occasions. I can’t imagine why I’d lie about this for nearly a year now.

    Anyway, if you give me an e-mail address, I can forward you a number of e-mails I sent regarding the complaint I filed with the journal. I can also send you e-mails with the complaint I filed with the university. I can even send you a copy of a document I prepared for such a complaint. Some of these e-mails, and that document, can be seen in the material released via FOI as provided by this DeSmogBlog post: http://desmogblog.com/2014/03/20/science-journal-retracts-paper-showing-how-climate-change-sceptics-were-conspiracy-theorists-after-sceptics-shout

    I assume that should suffice?

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2014
  16. #16 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 24, 2014

    I sent an e-mail to that address copying the first contacts I had with Frontiers and the UWA. Unfortunately, neither was included in the package released by DeSmogBlog. I think they should be enough to convince you I filed a complaint as I said though.

    If not, I can go ahead and send you more of the e-mails.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2014

    Brandon, I stand corrected! You really do seem to have been part of the effort to shut down this particular group of researcher’s work! The question that remains of course is this: were your efforts to silence academics over the short term successful because you are so good at it, or because the journal acted inappropriately?

    Longer term I see this backfiring on you.

  18. #18 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 24, 2014

    Now that we’ve clarified I was one of the complainants, can I ask if that means you think I am a “climate science denialist” who was part of a conspiracy to silence academics?

    I’d just like to be clear on what I’m being accused of/called.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2014

    Sorry, Brandon, I was not aware that you accept the climate change science and understand that AGW is real and also important. Thanks for clearing that up.

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2014

    For some reason this comes to mind:

    http://metronews.ca/news/london/981339/western-university-professor-mike-arntfield-is-talking-the-trolls-language/

    Western U professor learns the web trolls’ language

    “Western University’s Mike Arntfield has gained federal funding to study the language of the trolls. He has two research assistants collecting text samples from social media posts, with the eventual aim of drawing up a “lexicon” of the way online bullies talk.

    And, just like criminal profiling allows experts to predict the behaviour of killers and other violent offenders, that lexicon could provide signposts that show when trolls are about to do something more sinister.

    “I’m surprised to some extent that I’m the first scholar to study this using these reports (social media posts),” said Arntfield, who is also studying the relationship between online bullies and their victims. The reaction from victims, who get upset to different degrees, can be a variable in how a bully behaves.”

    Let’s get this guy’s research pulled from any publications he puts it in! Arrrr!

  21. #21 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 24, 2014

    Greg Laden, I’m afraid your response makes no sense to me. I didn’t say anything like what you suggest. Imstead of answering my simple yes/no question, you seem to be responding to something nobody has said.

    I don’t get that. All I asked is for you to clarify whether or not you stand by the insults you have made. It’s a simple question.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2014

    Brandon, you asked “can I ask if that means you think I am a “climate science denialist” who was part of a conspiracy to silence academics?” which I take to be an objection. Are you now saying that you ARE a climate science denialist who does not “believe in” global warming?

    I haven’t made any insults of any kind.

  23. #23 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 24, 2014

    Greg Laden, I’m not sure why you took that as an objection when it is basically the same question I’ve been asking from the start. All I’ve wanted is for you to clarify what you’re saying about me.

    As for insults, I’m relatively certain most people would consider calling someone a denialist to be an insult. I suppose calling someone a member of a conspiracy might not be though.

    Anyway I haven’t been saying anything about myself in this topic (other than saying I was a complainant). I figure nobody here would care what I have to say about myself, so why bother? All I want is to clarify just what is being said about me.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    Well at this point, I don’t know what to think about you, Brandon. I had guessed you were a climate change denialists but you now seem to indicate such a thing would be shameful. But you don’t agree that you are not. You seem to be claiming that you single handedly got an academic paper withdrawn which I find remarkable. What else can I say?

  25. #25 Philip
    March 25, 2014

    It appears that the septics’ attempt to stifle the paper has, in fact, backfired. Lewandowsky writes today that so many have been interested in downloading the paper that it now has been moved “to a more focal server within the University of Western Australia, and the UWA web manager has kindly created a special link to the paper that identifies its host more clearly: uwa.edu.au/recursivefury.”
    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/rf2.html

    Shortly after seeing Lewandowsky’s post, I read this delighted comment by Victor Venema on And Then There’s Physics:

    “I think the retraction is the best thing since sliced bread.

    It is an open access journal, so the article is still available. The journal performed the peer review and the retraction was not for academic reasons, so that review is still valid. In other words, the paper is still fully intact.

    On the other hand, the retraction has produced much publicity and therewith helped spread the ideas of the authors. And it showed the kind of people the climate dissenters are and that does not look good.”
    http://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/energy-budget-estimates-explicitly-using-feedbacks/

    I may be wrong, but I think this belongs with the ongoing Mann case as an example of hubristic overreach. The outcomes of the retraction and lawsuit will not be what the septics had hoped for, but instead of knowledge (Erkenntnis), I think the results will lead to a reinforcement of their climate conspiracy nuttiness, paradoxically underlining the point Lewandowsky has made.

  26. #26 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 25, 2014

    Greg Laden, I’m getting the impression you are either incapable or unwilling to read simple sentences. I have done nothing to suggest I “single handedly got an academic paper withdrawn.” I find this delusion of yours remarkable, but I suspect for a different reason.

    Regardless, I don’t see the point in describing myself. You made certain derogatory remarks. All I want is for you to either stand by them or retract them.

    It’s not difficult. Do you stand by what you said?

  27. […] Again, here is Stephan’s own discussion of the events. Also Greg Laden has an interesting posting. […]

  28. #28 Rob Honeycutt
    March 25, 2014

    Philip… You’re so exactly right. Brandon and his ilk became so emotionally inflamed about the RF paper that their efforts to attack it have catapulted the paper from obscurity and into the limelight.

    What’s very clear is that Lewandowsky struck a nerve with this paper.

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    Brandon: ” I have done nothing to suggest I “single handedly got an academic paper withdrawn.” I find this delusion of yours remarkable, but I suspect for a different reason.”

    So you were working with others?

    “You made certain derogatory remarks. All I want is for you to either stand by them or retract them.”

    I have not made any derogatory remarks.

  30. #30 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 25, 2014

    Greg Laden, your interpretation of my last comment is nonsensical. It’s difficult to see how you could so consistently fail to understand simple sentences. I hope you’re trolling me. Any other explanation would be depressing.

    For the record, you have made derogatory remarks, and you should be man enough to admit it and stand by (or retract) them.

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    What remarks?

    (Pro tip: Saying “for the record” doesn’t actually do anything.)

  32. #32 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 25, 2014

    Greg Laden, I’m not inclined to give a detailed listing to rebut such a silly position of yours. At a minimum, every time you call someone a denialist, you are making a derogatory remark.

    Now then, will you please acknowledge I have not claimed to have worked with others?

    Also, you might want to note Frontiers itself claims it did not retract the paper due to outside pressure.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    ” every time you call someone a denialist, you are making a derogatory remark.”

    If you think being called a denialist is derogatory than you should stop being one and you’ll feel better about yourself! (Assuming you are one, I’m going only on what you’ve said in comments here).

    “Now then, will you please acknowledge I have not claimed to have worked with others?”

    You seemed to indicate that you’ve worked with others. Are you now asserting that you’ve not? Can you prove that?

    “Also, you might want to note Frontiers itself claims it did not retract the paper due to outside pressure.”

    That would be a lie. Here’s what the journal said, emphasis added.

    “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. ”

    It is pretty clear that the journal reacted to outside pressure, and was worried about SLAPP or other legal issues brought on by denialists who complained about the paper. You claim to be one of the denialists who complained about the paper. You’ve gone back and forth between claiming to be the main reason the paper was taken down, if I understand you correctly, and claiming that it was an organized group of you, again, if I understand you correctly. Please clarify if I’ve got that wrong.

  34. #34 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 25, 2014

    Greg Laden, whether or not I am a denialist has nothing to do with whether or not it’s a derogatory term. You claimed not to have made derogatory remarks, but given it is derogatory, that claim was false. Quit being a coward and just admit you insulted people.

    As for whether or not I’ve worked with others, I didn’t say one way or another. You falsely claimed I seemed to be suggesting I single-handedly got the paper retracted. I pointed out I had said nothing of the sort. That says nothing about whether or not I worked with other people.

    As for my supposed lie, you’re just throwing out baseless accusations at this point. You quote Frontiers as though it has only said one thing about this issue. It hasn’t. It’s been giving out a boilerplate response to people who ask. One person posted it here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/03/21/the-paper-they-dont-want-you-to-read/comment-page-1/#comment-770446

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

    They’ll tell you the same thing if you contact them. The fact is you haven’t communicated with them, yet you’re accusing me of lying about what they say when I have communicated with them.

    As for your last paragraph, everything you say I’ve said or done is wrong. I’m not going to bother going into more detail than that though since you apparently feel you can call people a liar without having the slightest idea why they say what they say.

  35. #35 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    “As for whether or not I’ve worked with others, I didn’t say one way or another. You falsely claimed I seemed to be suggesting I single-handedly got the paper retracted. I pointed out I had said nothing of the sort. That says nothing about whether or not I worked with other people.”

    Quit being a coward and come clean. Did you or did you not?

    “As for my supposed lie,”

    I was not suggesting you lied. You were demanding that I say something that I would have regarded as a lie.

    ” You quote Frontiers as though it has only said one thing about this issue. It hasn’t. It’s been giving out a boilerplate response to people who ask. One person posted it here:”

    That’s interesting. Thanks for the link. Do forgive me if I don’t spend a lot of time reading the innumerable comments on PZ’s blog!

    I was going on what they said publicly. What they say publicly appears to be at odds with what is claimed in this comment. So, according to this comment (assuming it is legit for the moment) Frontiers retracted a paper based on “… analysis of various factors and advice received.” What the heck does that mean? I’m not sure if it is a good idea to retract a paper and say only that about it.

    I’m sticking with the assumption that what they said on their website is their reasoning. If the second reason, the one at the comment at PZ’s blog, is legit, then they have some explaining to do. Again, thanks for pointing it out.

    They are taking a lot of heat for apparently caving into denialists to remove a paper about denialists. I suppose that could explain, but not excuse, this second mealy-mouthed verbiage.

    “bother going into more detail than that though since you apparently feel you can call people a liar without having the slightest idea why they say what they say.”

    Except you”ve got that wrong. An apology is in order.

  36. #36 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 25, 2014

    Greg Laden, according to Frontiers, my complaint wasn’t a or the reason for the paper being retracted. Therefore, I could not have gotten the paper retracted, single-handedly or otherwise. To answer your question though, I did not work with others. However, other people did file complaints of their own.

    You were certainly suggesting I lied. I pointed out Frontiers did something, saying you should note it. You said saying Frontiers did it would be telling a lie. Based on that, I’d have to be lying to say it did it.

    As for what Frontiers said in that quote, it does not remotely contradict what it said in public. What it said in public is it had legal concerns regarding the paper. It never said those legal concerns were related to the contents of the complaints it received. You’ve simply over-interpreted its public statement and are now presenting a false dilemma.

  37. #37 dean
    March 25, 2014

    but given it is derogatory,

    But being called a denier (or denialist) when you are one isn’t derogatory, it is a statement of fact. Saying that the thrust of the science behind climate change is false is denying science.
    I don’t see how you can say it is a derogatory term when it simply describes
    a) a person’s actions (active, denier)
    b) their inclusion in a larger group (membership, denialist)

  38. #38 dean
    March 25, 2014

    I butchered that blockquote. Hope I didn’t splatter anyone.

  39. #39 dean
    March 25, 2014

    I may be wrong, but I think this belongs with the ongoing Mann case as an example of hubristic overreach.

    I’m not so sure. I think if you surveyed people about the first issue and asked what they remembered it would be the original hullabaloo but not the resolution.

    In this case I can easily see the memory being “Oh yeah, that was the paper the journal retracted because there was something wrong with it.”

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    ” However, other people did file complaints of their own.”

    I’m not aware of those complaints.

    “You were certainly suggesting I lied. I pointed out Frontiers did something, saying you should note it. You said saying Frontiers did it would be telling a lie. Based on that, I’d have to be lying to say it did it.”

    No, as I said, I refused to make a statement that I would have regarded as a lie. You are now ether lying yourself or being as dumb as a brick. So, apologize.

    “As for what Frontiers said in that quote, it does not remotely contradict what it said in public. ”

    You can make up whatever interpretation you like of events and of Fronteir’s waffling and behavior.

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    “In this case I can easily see the memory being “Oh yeah, that was the paper the journal retracted because there was something wrong with it.””

    Good point. I suppose this might even be grounds for a law suit!

    I suppose if people who respect the peer reviewed literature, you know, like actual scientists and such, went after Frontiers they’s have to unretract the paper and make up some more mumbly crap about what they were up to.

    In the mean time, if I was in that field looking for a place to publish I’d avoid the journal. They can’t be trusted at this point to back up their own decisions. You either publish a paper or you don’t, and unless it is retracted for scientific reasons you leave it there and let it stand as part of the record.

  42. #42 Brandon Shollenberger
    March 25, 2014

    Greg Laden, given you’ve repeatedly interpreted my comments in unjustifiable ways, I don’t think you have much room to claim I’m “either lying… or being as dumb as a brick.” Heck, you’ve apparently stood by your ridiculous claim to have never made a derogatory remark, and you now claim Frontiers is contradicting itself based upon nothing. This is only after you said you believed I was lying about having filed a complaint with the journal and that it’d be a lie to say Frontiers said what it really did say.

    As though getting basically every point wrong during this exchange isn’t bad enough, you’ve refused to answer the simple question I’ve been asking all along. Only the most biased of individuals would take you seriously at this point.

    You’ve basically admitted to not knowing basic details about this issue, and yet you’ve boldly claimed this paper was retracted due to a conspiracy in direct contradiction to what Frontiers says. I think you’ve managed to meet all six of Lewandowsky’s criteria for conspiratorial ideation.

  43. #43 Greg Laden
    March 25, 2014

    “his is only after you said you believed I was lying about having filed a complaint with the journal and that it’d be a lie to say Frontiers said what it really did say.”

    Now you’ve very clearly demonstrated your lack of interest in having a real conversation.

    “, you’ve refused to answer the simple question I’ve been asking all along”

    I’m pretty sure I’ve answered any outstanding questions. If I did not, in what manner to you intend to force me to answer some question you’ve got? Freedom of information act request? Law suit? Constant harassment on the internet? What’s your plan?

    “yet you’ve boldly claimed this paper was retracted due to a conspiracy”

    Are you referring to the off the cuff remark I made on Twitter? You make me laugh.

    Yes it may well be that the harassment of these authors is a matter of conspiracy. Maybe you’re even involved in it, I don’t know. You’ve had opportunities here to present evidence clearing your name but you’ve failed to do so. What does that mean? I’ll leave it to my readers to decide that.

    I’m still waiting for an apology. Your next comment will have that apology in it.

  44. #45 dean
    March 25, 2014

    In the mean time, if I was in that field looking for a place to publish I’d avoid the journal. They can’t be trusted at this point to back up their own decisions.

    I agree. My point was simply that (in my experience) most people remember the saucier bits of the initial outcry but do not remember the resolution or comments about the resolution, unless they are equally saucy.

  45. #46 catweazle666
    March 26, 2014

    Desperation is rearing its ugly head, I see.

    AGW = It’s All Gone Wrong!

    LOL © soosoos

  46. #47 Obstreperous Applesause
    March 26, 2014

    Deniers object to the term because it’s a categorization. That their bundle of rhetorical practices can be so easily identified and shown to be intellectually bankrupt, and that their inadequate scientific poses are so transparent, is disturbing to them.

    So true to type, they protect their egos and obfuscate their deficiencies by pretending that somehow THEY are really the victims. Sad, desperate little fig leaf.

  47. #48 Philip
    March 27, 2014

    “I’m not so sure. I think if you surveyed people about the first issue and asked what they remembered it would be the original hullabaloo but not the resolution.

    In this case I can easily see the memory being “Oh yeah, that was the paper the journal retracted because there was something wrong with it.””

    If you surveyed people about the Recursive Fury retraction the overwhelming reaction would be: What are you talking about? There will be no general memory of this because very few are aware of it. The coverage has basically been limited to the predictable internet blogs. It’s also been covered on Salon:

    ” Academic journal bows to pressure from climate deniers
    A study linking deniers to conspiracy theorists was retracted — despite being academically sound.”
    http://www.salon.com/2014/03/21/academic_journal_bows_to_pressure_from_climate_deniers/

    Of mainstream publications, I’m only aware of The Guardian’s post by Dana Nuccitelli with the headline “Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper,” and the standfirst,
    “After threats of frivolous libel and defamation lawsuits, a journal will retract an academically sound paper”
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/mar/21/contrarians-bully-climate-change-journal-retraction

    Neither the Salon nor The Guardian posts would lead to your conclusion.

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