Frontiers in Psychology vindicates Lewandowsky’s critics

Following a number of articles in the media making false claims about the retraction of Lewandowsky, Cook, Oberauer and Marriot’s “Recursive fury” paper, the journal Frontiers in Psychology  has issued a statement clarifying the situation.  They say that

 Frontiers did not “cave in to threats”; in fact, Frontiers received no threats.

The statement goes on to confirm what critics of the paper said about it in their complaints.

Frontiers came to the conclusion that it could not continue to carry the paper, which does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects. Specifically, the article categorizes the behaviour of identifiable individuals within the context of psychopathological characteristics.

We take this opportunity to reassure our editors, authors and supporters that Frontiers will continue to publish – and stand by – valid research. But we also must uphold the rights and privacy of the subjects included in a study or paper.

So they are saying that the paper was not ‘valid research’.

Here is part of what I wrote in my complaint to the journal, a year ago:
“The labelling of named individuals as conspiracy theorists in the text and accompanying table is contrary to the ethics of your field which requires individuals to be treated with respect.

Most of the excerpts listed as espousing conspiracy theory are no such thing. They merely point out errors and bias in his procedures. His response to criticism is to label his critics as conspiracy theorists.

Labelling individuals as conspiratorial, as this paper does throughout its text and in the accompanying data sheet, is derogatory and does not constitute treating participants with respect, even if such allegations were correct.”

Update 14 April:

Frontiers issued another statement on 11 April, Rights of Human Subjects in Scientific Papers, which reiterates the vindication of Lewandowsky’s critics.  They say “It is well acknowledged and accepted that in order to protect a subject’s rights and avoid a potentially defamatory outcome, one must obtain the subject’s consent if they can be identified in a scientific paper” and go on to add “While the subjects and their statements were public, they did not give their consent to a public psychological diagnosis in a scientific study. Science cannot be abused to specifically label and point out individuals in the public domain.”  Anthony Watts notes that “Frontiers agrees” with his complaints. 

8 thoughts on “Frontiers in Psychology vindicates Lewandowsky’s critics

  1. I noticed one more thing in the email I sent to Frontiers. I said I hoped that this matter could be sorted out with the minimum of fuss for the benefit of all concerned. Oh well.

  2. What I found to be most revealing about Frontiers’ statement today is the fact that they gave Lew and crew the opportunity to prepare a “Son of Fury”, so to speak (just as Lew and crew had produced “Son of Hoax”).

    Yet “Son of Fury” turned out to be no better.

    This suggests to me that Lew has got to be one of the slowest learners on the planet;-)

  3. Paul Matthews:

    I said I hoped that this matter could be sorted out with the minimum of fuss for the benefit of all concerned.

    Frontiers in their statement of 4th April:

    Until now, our policy has been to handle this matter with discretion out of consideration for all those concerned.

    Isn’t the history of ideas interesting? 🙂

  4. Paul, they say “handle the matter with discretion?” But publishing the paper in the first place showed no discretion at all for any of us named in the paper.

    After all, if they’d contacted any of us, we could have been so helpful in explaining what kind of swamp they were about to dive into.

    It would have saved them so much pain.

    I’m not feeling very sympathetic.

  5. Your original complaint was one of the most succinct and pointed Paul – prescient in view of the recent developments.

    I’m pretty ignorant of inter-academic politics – but surely there must be some way Bristol University can be made aware of the risk they’re running by appointing this charlatan as their Chair of Cognitive Psychology.

    They are already becoming a laughing stock.

  6. At the third Frontiers statement, I wrote a comment welcoming it but saying there were still unanswered questions regarding what steps they had put in place to prevent this happening again and why it took them so long.

    The editor who wrote the article, Henry Markram, has also added a comment:
    “My own personal opinion: The authors of the retracted paper and their followers are doing the climate change crisis a tragic disservice by attacking people personally and saying that it is ethically ok to identify them in a scientific study. They made a monumental mistake, refused to fix it and that rightfully disqualified the study. The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate, in my opinion. Why even debate this with contrarians? If scientists think there is a debate, then why not debate this scientifically? Why help the ostriches of society (always are) keep their heads in the sand? Why not focus even more on the science of climate change? Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared? Is that not what scientists do? Does anyone really believe that a public lynching will help advance anything? Who comes off as the biggest nutter? Activism that abuses science as a weapon is just not helpful at a time of crisis.”

    There is a Bishop Hill thread about this comment.

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