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The Lew letters

Steve McIntyre and Barry Woods have published their correspondence relating to Lewandowsky's paper- Steve's complaint to Frontiers in Psychology and the University of Western Australia about breaches of the various ethical codes and Barry's attempts to get hold of the underlying data from the University of Western Australia.

This correspondence and the failure of the university to act upon any of it suggests that the problem at UWA is not restricted to one rogue researcher. The ethical failures seem to go right to the top.


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Reader Comments (66)

Perhaps now is the time to revisit the remarkable story of Lewandowsky, Cook, the ABC and Ms Alene Composta. Alene was an agoraphobiac who worried incessantly about climate change and deniers. She even had an opinion piece published on-line by the ABC's "The Drum" and created her own blog called Verdant Hopes.

She emailed Professor Lewandowsky asking advice about the abuse she received from climate deniers. "monsters like this" she called them. Not being a sceptic or a conspiracy ideationalist, Professor Lewandowsky replied offering advice and words of encouragement -

I deal with those comments and actions largely by ignoring them. Wherever possible, I insert some of them into my talks to point out to the audience what sort of people are engaging in this assault on science and by what means they operate.

Professor Lewandowky also mentioned "your distress" to John Cook who offered further advice -
deniers attack everyone indiscriminately from the lowly blogger to the most imminent climate scientists in the world. In fact, the level of attack that the climate scientists receive are the greatest - death threats, dead rats left on their door, legal harassment from conservative lawyers and ad hominem attack after ad hominem attack. No one is worthy of more respect than climate scientists who are the preeminent experts in the world, spending decades researching this stuff, and yet their name is mud to deniers.

This encouragement was not enough and sadly Ms Composta gassed herself two days later in an electric oven. Jo Nova has more on one of the most tragic events in Australian Climate Science.

Apr 6, 2014 at 8:55 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

So I guess that puts Professor Lewandowsky in a good position to research hoaxes. Maybe even the moon hoax.

Apr 6, 2014 at 9:03 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB


...deniers attack everyone indiscriminately from the lowly blogger to the most imminent climate scientists in the world....

Two days before The Day after Tomorrow?

Apr 6, 2014 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed


You stated per Lew "deniers attack everyone indiscriminately from the lowly blogger to the most imminent climate scientists in the world."

Is that verbatim? Did he mean "eminent" (I am honestly assuming that he did not actually write it himself...dictated possibly). If he did write it himself then poor form frankly.



Apr 6, 2014 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

Jones - it was on the (fictitious) Alene Composta's blog and it was forwarded by Lewandowsky as written or said by John Cook. I don't know who's responsible for the spelling error.
The overall point is that it was all a hoax about evil deniers and the famous psychologists fell for it hook, line and sinker. Because they understood her pain.

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:17 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

Aye Grant, I did get the drift of that bit but if I produced any correspondence (or even some reports I've seen) with such a fundamental error......well, not a good look at least.

Sorry, I'm just being a bit of a word Nazi.....Just pedantic.....

Cheers for that anyway.


Apr 6, 2014 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

Apr 6, 2014 at 1:27 AM | shub
"What legal agreements does a journal have to enter with authors who publish with it None!"

I have no idea whether it has any bearing on this whole debacle or not, but I have a little knowledge of publishing and associated copyright law. Afaik every serious publisher, whether publishing novels or journals or whatever, will require a a legal contract with their authors. Have signed a couple myself. One of the things these often do is protect the publisher from liabilities pertaining to proper ownership of the work or slander or whatever (maybe in the case of a journal, improper work too?). But in such documents the author's rights (for instance copyright) are also maintained. For small works, there are often clauses such as giving the publisher 1 or 2 years exclusivity before the work appears elsewhere; for larger works things would typically be more complex, but author royalties (if any) would be included. Even modest ebook distributors of short stories usually have such a document, albeit it may be a simple one-pager.

Apr 6, 2014 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndy West

Apr 6, 2014 at 8:55 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

Thanks for the laugh, GrantB. I missed this when it happened. Those unfamiliar with Elene
Composte should visit Make sure to read the comments. A few readers caught on quickly, Quite a few supposedly smart people were fooled.

Apr 6, 2014 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDuke C.

"clowns like Bill McKibben.... who is now calling for climate scientists to go on 'strike' because apocalyptic scenarios are not being embraced fervently enough"

Who would that inconvenience?

Apr 6, 2014 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

GrantB said:

Professor Lewandowky also mentioned "your distress" to John Cook who offered further advice -
deniers attack everyone indiscriminately from the lowly blogger to the most imminent climate scientists in the world.

I know what an "eminent" scientist is but where on earth do "imminent scientists" come from and when should we expect them?

Apr 6, 2014 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Looks like the linked article suggests frontiers is part of the denialist conspiracy. And the authors and reviewers have no choice but to sue.

I'd like to see that.

Apr 6, 2014 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterclovis marcus

skiphill reports in a Climate Audit comment that UWA in-house lawyer Kim Heitman, who reassured Lewandowsky thus:

“I’m entirely comfortable with you publishing the paper on the UWA web site. You and the University can easily be sued for any sorts of hurt feelings or confected outrage, and I’d be quite comfortable processing such a phony legal action as an insurance matter.”

"is also the President of the “Society of University Lawyers” in Australia. Yes, their acronym is “SOUL’…."

Is your paper in danger of being retracted because of climate deniers?

Better call Saul!

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

Lewandowsky has now issued a response on some points in a blog article at Shaping Tomorrow's World:

Revisiting a Retraction

Revisiting a Retraction

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol
Posted on 7 April 2014


I'm not going to enter any speculation on the accuracy of his narrative or the legal points regarding a document that is not (yet) public. Right now it's still in a "he said, he said..." impasse without sufficient information in the public realm.

All I can say is that if Lewandowsky's account is accurate then the journal may well need to scramble to defend its behavior. On the other hand, most of us have learned not to rely upon anything that issues from Lewandowsky, so we will have to see what other information emerges.

Apr 7, 2014 at 2:47 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Re Revisiting a Retraction.

It's tempting to classify the last 4 paragraphs of his response into the categories used in Recursive Fury itself :)

Apr 7, 2014 at 4:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterredc

Andy West:

Afaik every serious publisher, whether publishing novels or journals or whatever, will require a legal contract with their authors.

It may vary between disciplines. I have never encountered any such requirements in the Earth Sciences where I have published and also been a peer reviewer. Everything is done informally.

Apr 7, 2014 at 6:05 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

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