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Recursive confirmation

Last month, I reported on a paper that was about to be retracted by a journal; the paper by Lewandowsky and others analyzed public articles and comments by climate change denialists and found evidence that they were populated by wacky conspiracy theorists and thin-skinned paranoid weirdos (it’s true!). Said conspiracy theorists, weirdos, and industry shills proceeded to dun the journal with threats of legal action and accusations of defamation. And eventually the journal folded and withdrew the paper.

Said nutcases regarded this as vindication. My inbox and twitter feed were filled with triumphant loons crowing about their victory. They didn’t seem to care that they excuse given by the journal was that the paper didn’t address “ethical concerns” about the “studied subjects” — which would be a legitimate issue if the subjects had some expectation of confidentiality. These were all public web posts on subjects they were proud about expounding upon, so their defense of the retraction is basically that they might be embarrassed and ashamed if someone examined their public utterances? Makes no sense. They should be embarrassed.

I guess we’re all ethically compromised for daring to discuss what Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Bryan Fischer and Deepak Chopra say on the radio and in print.

But now there’s another twist. Another editor of that same publisher of the Frontiers series of journals has resigned in protest.

Ugo Bardi was chief specialty editor of Frontiers in Energy Research: Energy Systems and Policy. He writes on his blog:

…my opinion is that, with their latest statement and their decision to retract the paper, Frontiers has shown no respect for authors nor for their own appointed referees and editors. But the main problem is that we have here another example of the climate of intimidation that is developing around the climate issue.

Later, he notes his decision:

The climate of intimidation which is developing nowadays risks to do great damage to climate science and to science in general. I believe that the situation risks to deteriorate further if we all don’t take a strong stance on this issue. Hence, I am taking the strongest action I can take, that is I am resigning from “Chief Specialty Editor” of Frontiers in protest against the behavior of the journal in the “Recursive Fury” case. I sent to the editors a letter today, stating my intention to resign.

I am not happy about having had to take this decision, because I had been working hard and seriously at the Frontiers’ specialy journal titled “Energy Systems and Policy.” But I think it was the right thing to do. I also note that this blunder by “Frontiers” is also a blow to the concept of “open access” publishing, which was one of the main characteristic of their series of journals. But I still think that open access publishing it is the way of the future. This is just a temporary setback for a good idea which is moving onward.

This is what happens when you let conspiracy theorists, weirdos, and industry shills dictate what can be published.

But of course now the climate change denialists are all pissed off at Ugo Bardi…and their responses simply confirm the conclusions of the Lewandowsky paper.


  1. says

    Hence, I am taking the strongest action I can take, that is I am resigning from “Chief Specialty Editor” of Frontiers in protest against the behavior of the journal in the “Recursive Fury” case.

    Ugg…I hope that’s true. I fear with him gone, that then just leaves opportunity for someone who is accommodating to the shills to be promoted into that vacant spot. I hope Ugo Bardi will be able to move on to where his attitude is better appreciated so that he can continue to take strong action.

  2. Artor says

    A journal that lets deniers control it’s editorial policy is no longer a credible scientific journal. Good on the editors for bailing out. I hope they get jobs at a reputable journal that stands behind it’s submissions.

  3. says

    Of course that ignorant, bloated sack of excrement Anthony Watts thinks it’s somehow a positive thing for his side that Ugo Bardi “is NOT the editor of Frontiers in Psychology” and that “he’s just some guy that works for the same publisher on another publication.”, not realizing that the fact that an editor not related to the publication making such a bold statement on behalf of journalistic integrity is a far greater gesture than had he in fact worked for the publication in question.

    But then again, Watts isn’t exactly known for understanding even the most simple to grasp concepts, is he?

  4. says

    @Artor #2 – “A journal that lets deniers control it’s editorial policy is no longer a credible scientific journal.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  5. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Wow. Climate change is nothing. These authors are ingenious.

    You really want to get on the research grant gravy train for life?

    1. Write a paper about conspiracy theorists acting wacky in public.
    2. Write a paper about conspiracy theorists reacting wackily to describing the wacky that was already in the public domain.
    3. Propose long-term longitudinal study.
    4. Keep renewing study as your subjects seem mysteriously immune to being “lost to follow up”.
    5. When a 93 year old conspiracy theorist with a history of pneumonia drops off the internet only 17 days after announcing a move to hospice care, resulting in the first “loss to follow up” in 26 years, write a paper about conspiracy theorists acting wacky in public over the disappearance of someone in a government funded study.
    6. Begin new research project on conspiracy theorists acting wackily in public over publicly describing the wacky…
    7. return to step 3.

  6. Rich Woods says

    No matter how hard I try, every time I see the initialism WUWT some insidious part of my brain initially parses it as TWUNT. This is going beyond Pavlovian.

  7. Alexander says

    @2 Artor:

    A journal that lets deniers control it’s editorial policy is no longer a credible scientific journal.

    A journal that lets any outside source control it’s editorial policy is no longer credible. Doesn’t matter if that’s a scientific journal like Frontiers in Psychology or the Wall Street Journal; the standards of integrity for science and journalism agree on this point.

  8. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    I hope that they can get published somewhere else. There’s publicity in this and there’s a craven journal out there. I just know it.

  9. grumpyoldfart says

    You mentioned “industry shills” several times and the word bribery popped into my head – aren’t I the silly one?

  10. says

    When I heard about this, I considered whether the fact that the article was suppressed would mean that the conspiracy theorists would believe in it more, especially how they howl about how the “real information” is always suppressed. But no, I guess that consistency would make too much sense to the kooks.