Frontiers and Lewandowsky: the scab-picking begins anew

Stephan Lewandowsky has climbed back into the news again. Though they pretended otherwise, the retraction of Recursive Fury is a major fiasco for climate alarmists. Retraction of a paper is no small matter. Many egos have been bruised: Lewandowsky, the university, their lawyer and the paper’s reviewers. They refuse to go quietly into the night.

Starting anew with the paper’s reviewer for Frontiers in Psychology Elaine McKewon, a rash of articles have popped up at favourable venues (Sydney Morning Herald, Conversation).

McKewon’s story is long, and wrong, but fortunately a few new things emerge. This blogger’s initial impressions are strengthened. It appears the journal did a far better job than what comes across. They verbally discussed matters with the university, the paper’s authors and the reviewers. An ‘agreement’ to modify a couple of sentences appeared to emerge and the authors and reviewer (McKewon) hoped that was it.

McKewon’s judgement of course was clouded. Tweaking a few sentences was not enough for the journal. It would not have been enough: the paper’s basis was ‘narrative analysis’, which is an euphemism for the authors weaving their critics into an elaborate yarn as inmates of a conspiracist madhouse. Each suitable comment was chosen, chopped and bowdlerized to fit a story with real names and Webcitation archives. If you set out to ‘modify’ things to rescue the paper it would wholly come apart.

McKewon misses this point as well: the question was not about making changes acceptable to the journal. It was the journal’s chances in court should legal threat/s materialize. As she points out, UK libel law changed in the interim to favour academic freedom of expression. But yet the journal decided against the paper. Why?

The reasons are not hard to guess: the authors and reviewers’ excuses did not sell. The ethics process appeared weak to non-existent. The risks would have been transferred from the authors to the journal. It bears repeating: the risk of litigation and a successful outcome following litigation are two different things.

The University of Queensland, John Cook’s home, announced in a statement by the acting pro-vice chancellor that “retraction of the paper has arisen solely as a consequence of the journal’s legal considerations”. (emphasis mine). These elaborate resuscitation measures indicate matters reached a head.

Contrary to the spin on how only legal issues remained, Frontiers has given a different answer when pushed.

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

It would be interesting to see if the scab-picking stops here.

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