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.