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.



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



  1. tlitb1

    Yes picking a scab is a good metaphor for this. Trying to present Lewandowsky as the poster boy academic bullied by a monolithic force simply can’t stand up to scrutiny at any level.

    Let them keep picking I say 😉

  2. stewgreen

    Shub you forgot to mention an important recent event to do with one of the papers 4 authors
    “It is possible I have misread or been misled by Mike Hubble-Marriott”
    said journalist Michael Taylor ending a page titled : Apology To Dr David Evans
    That astonishing groveling apology was issued after Taylor did a hatchet job on Evans (who is Jo Nova’s husband).
    – Turns out all the info was wrong, and Taylor blames it on his source Marriot, who turns out not to be an acadaemic working in UWA, but a raving blogger entitled Watching The Deniers. What the heck was a UWA acdaemic ike Lew doing including such a guy as a partner on his paper ? Talk about credibility gap !

    – WUWT has a little more detail : Lewandowsky co-author Mike Marriott, serial climate goof, strikes again

  3. stewgreen

    Shub this came up .. one of the peer reveiwers of Lew RC was a too psychology/climate scientist No in fact she’s a journalism student who is totally “open minded about climate NOT” as you can see fro mer twitter feed :
    absolutely raving comments

    her previous article
    – any skeptic who commented there was then banned

    – Yesterday on BBC World Service they had a guy on for 2 minutes saying sea level in Chennai has risen 6m since 1995 no one picked or seems interested in my interpretation that the poor confused guy means 6m closer to the road not 6m deeper

  4. Barry Woods

    There is a video where Lewandowsky repeats word for word Marriott accusations against David Evans
    (but he did leave out the name)

  5. Barry Woods

    Lewandowsky repeats word for word Marriotts attack- about a contributor to the Australian (David Evans)

    and then says (smear by innuendo)
    – Rothschilds, Bankers running the world, sounds familiar”

    this is [one] Marriot’s ridiculous post ( a smear that got a lot of traction)