Lewandowsky’s ‘Recursive Fury’ – the subject of many posts here – has been retracted by the journal Frontiers in Psychology. The news of the retraction came pre-packaged with spin and bluster – on how only legal issues affected the journal’s decision and how Lewandowsky’s former employer was still hosting the paper’s pdf draft.
But actions speak louder than words. The question in front of the journal was two-fold: (a) the risk of legal action if the paper was published, and (b) its chances in court in the event of litigation. It would be fair to say their answers were: (a) not insignificant, and (b) quite poor.
The journal’s instincts are on display in FOI documents (pdf) from the University of Western Australia. It set up an external team of senior academics to evaluate the paper and complaints. The journal put polite but pointed questions to the UWA office.
In turn, the university extracted compliance to a gag order from the journal:
Frontiers review team signed the above document to obtain a ethics report from University of Western Australia on the retracted Lewandowsky et al 2013 Recursive Fury paper
Why would UWA not want the ethics report not be made public, and want the journal roped in? This was before the decision to retract was made. With the information available, it is evident the paper underwent no formal ethics review. If true, this would have been immensely damaging to both the paper’s authors and the journal.
Lewandowsky and his co-authors are said to have signed gag orders as well. However, with the release of a 45-min video, and write-ups in the Guardian, Shaping Tomorrow’s World and numerous other venues pushing his narrative, it’s not clear what gagging is taking place at all.
What complainant names is Lewandowsky protecting by not disclosing names? The same people whom he defamed by labeling them conspiracists in his paper?
The so-called gag is of the same kind thrown up as reason for not revealing which skeptical bloggers Lewandowsky sent his Moon Hoax survey to. In both instances, the involved people whose names he refused to utter sprung forward of their accord to identify themselves publicly.
It doesn’t match with the FOI material (pictured above) which shows UWA to have demanded silence from Frontiers academics.
The journal didn’t exactly cover itself in glory either. The numerous switches and changes it made to reviewers reflect the difficulty it had finding someone suitable. The final two reviewers are a revealing pair. Reviewer one - Viren Swami - was in addition special topics editor for the issue the paper appeared in. Reviewer two was a former UWA graduate and current journalism PhD candidate one Elaine McKewon. A committed climate consensus supporter, she is hardly the objective person to be reviewing a paper on the psychologic profiles of allegedly conspiracist mental defectives she does not hesitate labeling ‘deniers’.
Arising from McIntyre’s digging to previously released FOI documents, it appears Lewandowsky himself co-wrote portions of UWA’s ethics report inquiring into his previous ‘Moon Hoax’ paper. You can bet the senior academics on Frontiers’ panel must be wondering about the provenance of material UWA fed them leading them to conclude there were no issues with the ethical aspects of the present paper.