Frontears of mediocrity: Lewandowsky & Mann on the march

A little over four months ago, Dr. Judith Curry had excerpted and commented on what I would call a meeting of the mindless, i.e. a joint whine paired with cheesey (and unsubstantiated) allegations, co-authored by two self-declared “experts” – psychologist, Stephan Lewandowsky and climate scientist, Michael Mann – who share an extreme aversion to disclosing the data and code behind their contributions to the annals of so-called “peer-reviewed” literature in their respective fields.

Leader of Camp CookLewNut (aka John Cook, Stephan Lewandowsky and Dana Nuccitelli), Lewandowsky is known for his magnificent obsession and his mediocre “scholarship” riddled with self-serving lies, while Mann’s stream of misrepresentations and abuse in lieu of reasoned discussion of his unsubstantiated claims via Twitter and Facebook is nothing short of legendary – almost as legendary as his most notorious “creation” [h/t Joelle Gergis], his iconic “hockey-stick”.

Here this newly formed dynamic duo of Lewandowsky and Mann set the tone for what could most kindly be described as a creative writing exercise, in which they attempt to bolster their whinging fictions and other assorted reconstructions of reality by tossing in some citations and References [5 of Lewandowsky’s work, 2 of Mann’s, and 1 each of their 3 (co-opted?!) co-authors, Linda Bauld, Gerard Hastings, and Elizabeth F. Loftus]:

This article surveys some of the principal techniques by which the authors have been harassed; namely, cyber-bullying and public abuse; harassment by vexatious freedom-of-information (FOI) requests, complaints, and legal threats or actions; and perhaps most troubling, by the intimidation of journal editors who are acting on manuscripts that are considered inconvenient by deniers. The uniformity with which these attacks are pursued across several disciplines suggests that their motivation is not scientific in nature. [emphasis added -hro]

Oh, my! These poor little lambs, eh?! Makes one’s heart bleed, doesn’t it?! With the benefit of hindsight, however, one might reasonably surmise that the main purpose of this November 2013 “paper” was to plant the seeds of excuses that sprang forth and blossomed, on March 21; i.e. on the virtual heels of a much delayed “retraction” (or at least a “[wish] to retract” that perhaps the somewhat biased journal Editor is trying very hard to hide.1) by Frontiers SA, publisher of the considerably less than prestigious journal, Frontiers in Psychology.

Nonetheless, a full-reading of this “paper” might well lead one to ask, as did Curry:

My first reaction was ‘How on earth did this get published in a journal?’

Some excerpts from Curry’s excerpts of this “paper” that somehow passed muster for publication – in the somewhat more prestigious, or at the very least more familiar – annals of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) Observer:

During the last 9 months, the first author [Lewandowsky] has been subject to numerous requests for correspondence and other documents, including trivial pedantry such as the precise time and date stamps of blog posts. In a paradoxical twist, accusations of impropriety were launched against the first author when an FOI-release confirmed that inconvenient research (Lewandowsky, Oberauer, & Gignac, 2013) was conducted with ethics approval.


Even more concerning is another line of attack that directly targets the integrity of the scientific process: We are concerned about the activities of individuals outside the scientific community and of little scientific standing, who systematically insert themselves into the peer-review and publication process to prevent the publication of findings they deem inconvenient. Those insertions typically involve emails to editors which have been described as “bullying” by some parties involved. Far from being isolated incidents, at last count we have identified 7 editors of several journals [an unsourced “identification” in their “paper” – hro] who have been subject to such bullying tactics across two disciplines; viz. climate science and psychology.

[…] As in most cases of intimidation and bullying, we believe that daylight is the best disinfectant. This article is a first step in this effort towards transparency. Knowledge of the common techniques by which scientists are attacked, irrespective of their discipline and research area, is essential so that institutions can support their academics against attempts to thwart their academic freedom. This information is also essential to enable lawmakers to improve the balance between academic freedom and confidentiality of peer review on the one hand, and the public’s right to access information on the other. Finally, this knowledge is particularly important for journal editors and professional organizations to muster the required resilience against illegitimate insertions into the scientific process.

Translation of the above for the CliPsychSci-challenged: How dare they question our “research” and “conclusions”. Here are the Lew-Mann rules: free speech for us (and freedom to call you whatever distasteful and inaccurate names our hearts desire) but not for you. It is also worth noting that Lewandowsky and Mann appear to have redefined both “daylight” and “transparency” in the interest of furthering their respective and/or mutual “causes”.

Although, speaking of their “causes”, it is unclear at this point which has the higher priority: their shared “cause” of ostensibly saving the planet from the “danger” and/or greatest threat of the week, or their flogging of David Irving-ish unwarranted high opinions of their respective selves. But I digress …

Before we fast-forward from November 2013 to March 2014, lets take a look at the roster of contributions to the APS’ Observer Vol.26, No.9 November, 2013 in which our dynamic duo had made their collaborative début. They didn’t exactly get top billing. In fact, far from it, although one-half of the duo did get honourable – and unquestioned – mention in that issue’s “Cover Story” by Scott Sleek (APS “Director of News”):


Tags: Animal Research, Cognitive Psychology, Experimental Psychology, False Memory, International, Psychological Science

Throughout history, scientists have found themselves the subject of scorn, slander, ridicule and even violence when their discoveries have failed to mesh with authoritative doctrine or public sentiments.


[Sleek’s glowing gloss on Lewandowsky et al:]

Conspiracies and Denials

Stephan Lewandowsky at the University of Bristol, in the United Kingdom, and University of Western Australia, has been among the most recent psychological scientists to be targeted — oddly, for his studies on the very psychological variables that lead to people’s acceptance or rejection of science. In a high-profile paper titled “NASA Faked the Moon Landings — Therefore (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science,” published earlier this year in Psychological Science, Lewandowsky detailed his research suggesting that people who reject climate science also tend to believe in assorted conspiracy theories, such as the 1969 lunar landing being a hoax and AIDS being a disease unleashed by the government.

Lewandowsky’s study involved questioning people who write and read blogs related to global warming. He surveyed the individuals about their views on climate science, other scientific propositions, and their environmental leanings; their perceptions of what scientific “consensus” means; their beliefs about free-market economics; and finally, their views on a number of well-known conspiracy theories ranging from fears of a World Government (a right-wing idea) to the belief that 9/11 was an “inside job” (typically embraced on the left).

In examining the results, Lewandowsky found that those who support unrestricted capitalism were much more likely to strongly reject climate science — probably, he surmises, because it portends regulations on the marketplace. But he also found that free market advocates were more likely to reject other established scientific findings, even the (undisputed) facts that smoking causes lung cancer and HIV causes AIDS. They also believed in theories unrelated to the environment, such as NASA staging the moon landing or the CIA having killed Martin Luther King, Jr. Lewandowsky concluded that some people have a cognitive style that leans toward beliefs in conspiracies, and this makes them prone to reject scientific facts.

His study prompted a flood of denunciation, primarily from people who deny that humans are the major cause of climatic changes, or who deny that the climate is changing at all. The detractors described the research as malicious, incompetent, unscientific, agenda-driven, and unethical. Some even called for the journal to retract the article pending an investigation into Lewandowsky’s conduct. The journal, and Lewandowsky’s university, stood behind the study. The critics were invited to submit a commentary for publication in Psychological Science, but never acted on that invitation**. Lewandowsky replicated his study with a large representative sample of the US population. The peer-reviewed study, with a virtually identical outcome, recently appeared in PLOS ONE (Lewandowsky, Gignac, & Oberauer, 2013).

** I do stand to be corrected, but to the best of my knowledge, only one of Lewandowsky’s critics, Steve McIntyre, received such an invitation. Although, I’m not sure how one is supposed to submit a “Commentary” on what was then a still unpublished paper. In fact, as Anthony Watts had reported:

I asked Psychological Science editor Robert V. Kail to investigate this paper, as did others. Crickets.

Furthermore, in describing the reactions to Lewandowsky’s Moon Hoax “study” as “malicious, incompetent, unscientific, agenda-driven, and unethical”, Sleek appears to have conflated the responses to this paper with those that arose pursuant to his subsequent Fury abomination. Not only that, but Sleek has omitted mention of by far the majority of responses to Moon Hoax: mockery and gales of laughter, including my own (here, here, here and here).

As an aside, I just can’t help wondering how the ego that walks like a Mann must have felt, knowing that he was playing unnamed second fiddle to Lewandowsky in Sleek’s dutiful homage.

But, unlike other establishment institutions, such as the U.K. Guardian, or The Independent, at least APS’ Observer shows a willingness to feature and publish contrary (and far more insightful) views, as an article in the same issue (which also received a higher billing than Lewandowsky and Mann’s cheesey whines) on an address by Scott O. Lilienfeld observed.

There are certainly some parallels and lessons to be learned by the CliPsychSci crowd.

Psychology’s Image Problem
Award Address
By N. Susan Emeagwali

Tags: APS 25th Annual Convention (2013), APS Awards, Experimental Psychology


Data show that large percentages of the public don’t perceive psychology as scientific and harbor doubts about the field’s usefulness in society. Lilienfeld, a professor of psychology at Emory University, has spoken and written extensively about public skepticism of psychology and ways to address it.


Psychological science must resist the temptation to blame all of the misconceptions about the field on the public, Lilienfeld said. At least some of the skepticism is deserved, and in order for that to be remedied, psychological scientists must disseminate good science to battle the bad science being popularized.

“Maybe we should be asking even more how are we doing as a profession and be willing to take the public’s answers to heart even if their answers are not to our liking,” Lilienfeld said. “I am a firm believer that if we can embrace this attitude of healthy self-criticism and healthy skepticism we can place the field of psychology on firmer scientific footing.

Reading this article reminded me that one of the (many) matters I find curious about Lewandowsky’s magnificent obsession is why he might have taken his so-called “replication” paper to PLoS ONE and his now retracted (sort of) Recursive Fury to Frontiers rather than to Psychological Science. Could it be that he did try to flog them there2 – but the editors (in their much belated wisdom) had determined that one Lew-paper rife with very bad science was more than enough?!

Which brings us back, of course, to Curry’s question: ‘How on earth did [Lewandowsky and Mann’s Subterranean piece] get published in a journal?’ – let alone a journal of the APS, I would add? The answer may lie in the fact that unlike the APS flagship, Psychological Science the Observer does not claim to be “peer reviewed”. Although, I fail to see how Subterranean could possibly have met the standard of “promot[ing] the scientific values of APS Members”.

[I was going to put an interesting timeline here; but en route, so to speak, I discovered more .. well … interesting frames and games that Lewandowsky (and/or his pals and promoters) choose to play. But I believe they warrant a post of their own.

For now, suffice it to say, that inconsistency and obscurantism are probably Lewandowsky’s forté – which do not serve his credibility well. His skills (and/or the skills of those who might be aiding and abetting his “scholarship”) could put Ernst Zundel and David Irving to shame. They are both prolific Holocaust deniers. The former is known for his “Hit me! Hit me! Hit me!” And when someone finally obliges, he wails, “Bwaaaah … he hit me!” techniques. While the latter, in addition to having an ego that rivals that of Lewandowsky and Mann is known for his “add a word here, change a word there” mode of doing “history”. A mode which Lewandowsky and Mann have admirably succeeded in emulating in their respective fields of endeavour.

And as Steve McIntyre documents in a mind-boggling must-read post, today, Lewandowsky has evidently been imbued with the power to “exonerate” himself when confronted with clearly documented instances of his blatant violation of UWA’s ethics standards and requirements – not to mention his many other self-serving lies.]

For the record (since his Supplementary Information is no longer publicly available) for some reason probably best known only to Lewandowsky and/or his comment harvesters, the following observation which I had made on Sept. 15, 2012 landed my blog in his Fury “data sheet”:

Lewandowsky’s “survey” – and the paper he has purportedly “published” – has so many deficiencies, even from a transparency perspective let alone from the perspective of those who know far more about survey design (e.g. Thomas Fuller) and statistics (particularly Steve McIntyre) than Lewandowsky has been able to demonstrate he possesses.

This was categorized in his Fury schema as “Methodology flaws” – of which there were many, as was noted while his 2012 Moon Hoax “survey” inadequacies were still in the limbo of “recently published … forthcoming” (and previously flogged to sympathetic but equally statistically and methodologically challenged media buddies since July 2012).

But, following on the heels of an alleged “gag order” – the timing of which is unknown, although one presumes that it was fairly recent3 – on March 20, the blogosphere was awash with “now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t, now-you-do” postings at the appallingly misnamed propaganda shop, Skeptical Science (aka SkS, virtual home of dedicated Lewandowsky sidekicks, John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli) of Lewandowsky apologia.

On March 21, Frontiers finally announced that they “wish to retract” Lewandowsky et al‘s Fury paper [see Steve McIntyre’s Lewandowsky’s Fury for details] and Nuccitelli took to the airwaves at the U.K. Guardian. Notice any November “seeds” that seem to have sprouted up, folks? Hear any echoes or familiar bells ringing in the headline, tagline and the last line of the following:

Contrarians bully journal into retracting a climate psychology paper
After threats of frivolous libel and defamation lawsuits, a journal will retract an academically sound paper

[“Revisionist” narrative]

Fortunately, several journals and organizations have stood up against this type of contrarian bullying. The journal Environmental Research Letters easily withstood the campaign against our consensus paper, and the Australian Psychological Society has been very supportive of Lewandowsky and his team, as has the Association for Psychological Science. These groups offer a good example for journals to follow when subjected to organized bullying from contrarians trying to censor sound but inconvenient research.

And speaking of headlines … when scrolling through the comments I noticed one from the U.K. Met Office and IPCC-nik, Richard Betts. Here’s what he wrote:

richardbetts [in reply to] BarryJWoods
21 March 2014 8:08pm

Barry is correct, I was mentioned in the supplementary info under the category “espousing conspiracy theory”, or something like that (can’t remember the exact terminology). This concerned a comment I made on the Bishop Hill blog, in which I criticised the methodology of gathering the data for the paper. It was a perfectly normal comment of the kind that I’d make about any paper I felt had shortcomings – scientists often criticise each other’s work. I was extremely surprised about it being labelled with “conspiracy theory”, hence my reaction. The authors since said they didn’t mean to imply I was a conspiracy theorist. My guess is that this arose because of where I posted the comment (a sceptic blog), not the actual content of the comment. It did cause some hilarity! Stephan Lewandowsky and I had a coffee together when we happened to meet at a conference recently, and cleared the air. [emphasis added -hro]

Oh, isn’t that nice! Betts had coffee with Lewandowsky and they “cleared the air”. One wonders if he had made his criticism elsewhere (i.e. on an “approved” scientist’s blog), his comment would not have landed where it did! It’s also interesting to note, that Betts did not seem to have any problem at all with the cooked up headline, tagline or lastline.

How strange! Then again, perhaps not. Betts does seem to apply a double-standard [see my comment of Mar 20, 2014 at 11:33 AM] when it comes to unfounded, “highly irresponsible” headlines about which he chooses to comment and those about which he seems to prefer to remain silent (at least as long as he possibly can!)

Amazing. Simply amazing.


1 Even though Frontiers has issued a rather milquetoast flavoured “retraction” of Fury, the “abstract” page still reads:

This article, first published by Frontiers on 18 March 2013, has been the subject of complaints. Given the nature of some of these complaints, Frontiers has provisionally removed the link to the article while these issues are investigated, which is being done as swiftly as possible and which Frontiers management considers the most responsible course of action. The article has not been retracted or withdrawn. Further information will be provided as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience. [emphasis added -hro]

There is no discernible link to the retraction and the following notation is also on this page:

Received: 05 Nov 2012; Accepted: 02 Feb 2013.
Edited by:
Viren Swami, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Reviewed by:
Viren Swami, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Elaine McKewon, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

What is not noted, however, is that (as Geoff Chambers has documented) that there were three review panels, Swami was included in all three. He was also cited by Lewandowsky in Moon Hoax, Fury and his PLoS ONE ‘Son of Moon Hoax’

One of the questions Frontiers put to UWA during the course of their “investigation”, was as follows:

Whether the recommendations referred to in UWA’s letter concerning dealing with conflicts of interest means that UWA considers that conflicts of interest were present in this case

So I can’t help wondering if Frontiers’ own “standards” regarding “conflict of interest” might have taken Swami’s extensive involvement into account. I also wonder why they are permitting the “abstract” page to continue to promote the myth that Fury “has not been retracted or withdrawn”.

2 During my perusal of the correspondence released to Australian Climate Madness‘ Simon Turnill under FOI, I did come across one E-mail from Lewandowsky which indicated that (with no anticipation of acceptance) he had submitted that which eventually ended up at PLoS ONE, first to the cream of the peer-reviewed crop, Science magazine.

3 See Lewandowsky’s 42 minute video excerpts [Mar 21, 2014 at 5:24 PM] of which, in self-less above and beyond the call of duty, have been transcribed by Geoff Chambers (whose own archive of Lewandowsky related material makes excellent background reading, if you are unfamiliar with this sorry and sordid saga of Australian academia. You would do well to begin with his timeline)

10 thoughts on “Frontears of mediocrity: Lewandowsky & Mann on the march

  1. Erich Eich (cheif editor- Psychological Science) suggested to me a comment should be submitted, when I pointed out the factual error in LOG12 (survey non SkS appearance)

    I later asked him if he would help me in obtaining the information and data, I had previously requested of Lewandowsky and his co-authors, if they refused to (again, or just completely ignored me)

    “Dear Barry–Sorry to disappoint, but no. Best, Eric”

    On 27/08/2013 10:20 AM, barry.woods wrote:
    > Dear Professor Eich
    > Ok.
    > I will try to contact Professor Lewandowsky (& UWA) and ask him again.
    > If he fails to respond to my requests, will the journal consider
    > asking on my behalf?
    > Best Regards
    > Barry Woods

    > —–Original Message—– From: Eric Eich
    > Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 5:47 PM
    > To: barry.woods
    > Subject: Re: Word document format – Concerns about LOG12 – “Nasa faked
    > the Moon landing…..”, Lewandowsky et al – Psychological Science,
    > that I believe require the papers withdrawal
    > Dear Mr. Woods: It is UWA’s concern, as I’ve already said twice (now
    > three times). Please take it up with them (or try again). Best regards,
    > Eric Eich
    > On 2013-08-27 9:25 AM, barry.woods wrote:
    >> Sorry, I had actually missed your earlier email, only just the
    >> original found it in my spam folder..
    >> I am seeking help from Psychological Science journal in obtaining my
    >> requests of the authors.
    >> As neither Professor Lewandowsky nor UWA will respond to me, will
    >> Psychological Science please put my requests for data and information
    >> about LOG12 to the authors of the paper.
    >> Best Regards
    >> Barry Woods

  2. REf the below, when I asked Lew/Cook did it mean I was a conspiracy theorist, They ignore me completely – I did this at the same time as Richard – air not cleared with me….

    As it was me I think that tipped Richard off about his name being in the data set, alongside mine originally

    richardbetts [in reply to] BarryJWoods
    21 March 2014 8:08pm

    Barry is correct, I was mentioned in the supplementary info under the category “espousing conspiracy theory”, or something like that (can’t remember the exact terminology). This concerned a comment I made on the Bishop Hill blog, in which I criticised the methodology of gathering the data for the paper. It was a perfectly normal comment of the kind that I’d make about any paper I felt had shortcomings – scientists often criticise each other’s work. I was extremely surprised about it being labelled with “conspiracy theory”, hence my reaction. The authors since said they didn’t mean to imply I was a conspiracy theorist. My guess is that this arose because of where I posted the comment (a sceptic blog), not the actual content of the comment. It did cause some hilarity! Stephan Lewandowsky and I had a coffee together when we happened to meet at a conference recently, and cleared the air – Betts

    I wrote to Frontiers and UWA not to get the paper withdrawn, but to get my name out of the dataset, as both the researchers Cook/Marriott and Lewandowsky had a vested interest in attacking me, and that Marriott HAD been attacking me (and Watts, Nova, etc) personally on his own blog, before, DURING, and after the research period of Fury…. about a third of the FOI’s correspondence to Frontiers is mine.

    Marriot was publically calling me (and Anthony Watts) a disinformer, part of denial machine, denier, as writing ‘Verified Bullshit, and suffering a psychological defect – Dunning-Kruger. on his blog, and he was brought in by Lew to be independent/neutral -his blog is called Watching the Deniers!

    This is psychology! where even the faintest possible perception of biased, unethical behaviour is utterly frowned on, let alone this conduct.

    • Marriot was publically calling me (and Anthony Watts) a disinformer, part of denial machine, denier, as writing ‘Verified Bullshit, and suffering a psychological defect – Dunning-Kruger. on his blog, and he was brought in by Lew to be independent/neutral -his blog is called Watching the Deniers!

      This is psychology! where even the faintest possible perception of biased, unethical behaviour is utterly frowned on, let alone this conduct.

      I had my own encounter with Marriott and his WTD site during the 10:10 débacle. See:

      A close encounter of the Orwellian kind

      He’s not partial to inconvenient questions. But, come to think of it, this seems to be fairly common among Les Warmerables [h/t Mark Steyn]

  3. Pingback: Lewandowsky: My Part in his Downfall | Geoffchambers's Blog

  4. There’s more duplicity:

    “But this obvious conclusion that those believing in global warming are very subjective and change their interpretation to fit their beliefs in sharp contrast to skeptics who tended to base their views only on the data and not what they were told the data showed, was not only omitted from the paper, but instead it was replaced with a conclusion very strongly suggesting the opposite.

    As such not only does this paper show that members of the public who believe in global warming change their perception of the global temperature graph to fit what they believe it shows, but it is also strong evidence that at least some academics are so strongly influenced by their beliefs regarding global warming that (to put the best possible interpretation on their actions) they are “blinded” to obvious conclusion that do not fit their world-view.”

  5. CookLewNut – a fruit that seems green on the outsde, but on the inside it is rotten , poisonous and emits a toxic odour. Despite tat itis very popuar in some regions.

  6. Pingback: Richard Betts clears it up with Stephan Lewandowsky – Shub Niggurath Climate

    • Thanks for reminding me of this, Roger. There’s been so much muddy water passing under Lew’s very shaky bridges in the past few years, one sometimes loses sight of the inadvertent amusement that he rarely fails to provide, albeit perhaps unknowingly.

      Perhaps because (pre-post-modernist) Psych and English are my background – and perhaps because Lewandowsky’s very own words damn him as such an inadequate and mediocre “expert” of both – I rather thought that his teaming up with Mann (and the “birth” of their invention of the skeptics ‘bully and intimidate publishers’ meme) was worth highlighting.

      Particularly considering that the début of this newly-formed dynamic duo was announced via an issue of the APS’ Observer in which they featured an article on a new APS initiative on “Replication” (a concept that has proven to be anathema to both Lewandowsky and Mann, since it requires full disclosure of an author’s data, code, and methodology). This unlikely juxtaposition simply tickled my irony bone;-) And (rightly or wrongly!) I could not let it pass unnoticed ;-)

      Sleek’s uncritical halo and glowing “revisionist” gloss could well have been written for him by Lewandowsky. And, as we now know, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Lew has inserted his warped views of reality into the missives of others in an attempt to drag himself out of the corners into which he has indisputably painted his green-tainted self.

      Lewandowsky – not unlike Mann (and Holocaust denier and conspiracy ideationist, David Irving) – blatantly tells lies on his blog. In one instance, for example, about having contacted skeptic blogs for his “survey” when he knows full-well that he had made absolutely no such contact. In fact, he had sought and received UWA’s ethical “blessings” on his intention to deceive, by having these email contacts made by his research assistant (with no mention of his name).This simply boggles the mind (well, my mind, at least!)

      So I do believe that – while his so-called “work” is probably not worth expending time and energy on, as you suggest (although my hat’s off to Steve McIntyre for having the perseverance to wade through Lew’s Lewdicrous Linguistic Lapses and Leaps of Logic™) – my humble musings on Lew’s dances of deception and mediocre “scholarship” are not totally unwarranted. Not to mention that I rather thought that Richard Betts’ apparent obliviousness to Lew’s obvious failings and intellectual dishonesty, now that they’ve “cleared the air” was worth a mention ;-)

      P.S. Congrats on your UKIP candidacy (and your recently accepted peer-reviewed paper) … And hope that both bring you much success (if not fame and fortune)!

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