Fury Recursive: the curtain refuses to fall

(c) Gary Killon Photography

The Recursive Fury story has undergone a sea change. In one quick motion, senior Frontiers editors turned the carefully stage-managed Lewandowsky narrative upside down. Rarely does a succinct statement as this get so many key elements of a complex dispute, right on the mark.

Suddenly, the numerous Fury-friendly articles in Lewandowsky’s favourite media outlets and blogs are tottering (for e.g., here, here, here). Ironically, it was perhaps these very news items that precipitated the journal’s statement.

The Lewandowsky narrative, as evidenced by the running Hiroshima clock in his talk video, took its time coming. Carefully timed articles in the Guardian and Desmogblog made their appearance alongside news of the retraction decrying academic censorship and the squelching of scholarship. The University of Queensland issued a special statement in support of student John Cook.

When was the last time an academic paper’s retraction was accompanied by a carnival parade with the authors on floats covered in robes of martyrdom waving to the crowds?

But with everything there’s a price. None of the articles on the retraction news contacted a sceptic who submitted complaints to the journal. With no dissenting voices and the unrelenting ‘Crusher Crew’ rhetoric, it fast became clear the journal itself was being scapegoated for the retraction, forcing its hand.

With the statement, Team Lewandowsky is suddenly in a shambles (they do well when they can control everything).  Skepticalscience principals tumbled on to Retraction Watch betraying surprise and dropping dark hints of ominous revelations. Apparently, these could include plans to sue the journal.

With this, Frontiers has been given a good hard look at the nature of the parties they dealt with. Following the implosion, Lewandowsky has released a lengthy, tight-lipped statement. It gives a sense for how Fury was to be stuffed, wings clipped, into a delicate cage and perched atop a legal tinderbox. Only that never happened. Instead they lit the bonfire of publicity at the same spot and blew it all up.



  1. Brad Keyes

    Can’t help themselves, can they? They don’t even seem to be clear on the concept of bonfires. (Hint: you’re not supposed to use your own vanity as an accelerant.)

  2. Hilary Ostrov (aka hro001)

    The University of Queensland issued a special statement in support of student John Cook.

    This “statement in support” is (at least currently!) dated April 2. But here’s an irony-meter busting April 4, News Item from UQ:

    Journal retracts article on UQ advice

    The journal Aphasiology has retracted an academic paper following advice from the University of Queensland.

    The University advised the journal of concerns about the article after a formal research misconduct inquiry that resulted in UQ seeking the retraction of another article by two former staff members, published in the European Journal of Neurology.

    UQ President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj said the University sought the European Journal of Neurology retraction last year, on the grounds that no primary data could be located and no evidence had been found that the study described in the article had been conducted.


    It did raise concerns about statistical methodology in the Aphasiology paper, and about the attribution of authorship of a small number of papers.

    UQ provided details of those concerns to the editors of the journals to enable them to make informed decisions on what action, if any, they would take.

    The Aphasiology retraction states:
    The retraction is due to the findings of an investigation by the University of Queensland, which has established that: the manuscript claims to have a control group of 15, however only 7 control participants were documented and some control data were re-used to enlarge the control group. This lack of independence within control data is not acknowledged in the manuscript.

    Perhaps Lewandowsky drafted UQ’s “statement of support” for Cook;-)

  3. stewgreen

    Put aside all the complex science arguments and look at the integrity of the climate debate.
    – AFAIK skeptics own up to errors and correct them quickly, and generally behave politely and sanely. Integrity rating 9/10.
    – The alarmists on the other side has a strong abominibal component who namecall, make mistakes, never correct themselves and generally behave deviously and furthermore their media and science authority friends never speak up, but rather circle the wagons and play along ..Integrity rating 3/10.

    So skeptics could be wrong, but CLIMATE ALARMISTS CANNOT BE TRUSTED !

  4. Paul Matthews

    I find it interesting that Lew and his crew were so heavily involved in the year-long process. Those who complained, on the other hand, were not involved at all after the initial complaints. In fact the journal did not even have the courtesy to write to inform me of the outcome.

  5. RickA

    I find it interesting that a large part of Lewandowsky’s defense of his “new” paper (with names removed but probably not the blog names) relied on a change in law in the USA – that defamation findings in other countries not be enforced in the USA.

    Aside from the ethics problems, given that certain blogs are associated quite firmly with certain individuals – I am sure that Frontiers was concerned about being sued in other countries than just the USA.

    I mean really – isn’t Lewandowsky’s defense that yes, we may have defamed some people, but don’t worry that legal result isn’t enforceable in the USA?

    Does anybody know if the anonomized paper was ever publisehd?