Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Reviewers Tale


WHAN that El Nino with his shoures soote  
The droghte of Californie hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan McIntyre eek with his tendre soul
Inspired hath in every blog and heeth
The bile, and Recursive Fury
Hath in the Wood his halfe cours y-ronne,
And bishps Hills maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open ye,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages:
Than longen folk to goon on searches,
And foia seken straunge imaginings,
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry data;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Australae, to Sydney they wende,
The holy blisful Reviewer for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.
Bifel that, in that sesoun on a day,
Conspirate ideation whiskeed  away

In which Elaine McKewon, a reviewer of “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation”. speaks her mind about the paper, the publisher, the retraction and the reaction
Recursive Fury was theoretically strong, methodologically sound, and its analysis and conclusions – which re-examined and reaffirmed the link between conspiracist ideation and the rejection of science – were based on clear evidence. Satisfied that the paper was a solid work of scholarship that could advance our understanding of science denial and improve the effectiveness of science communication, I recommended publication. Two other independent reviewers agreed.
As all the bunnies know the usual suspects raised a rukus and threatened to sue for libel.  The journal called a meeting of their lawyers, the editors, and the reviewers
. . . the lawyer raised concerns about two sentences in the paper that had been the subject of threats of litigation. By the end of the 20-minute conference call, we had all agreed that, if the authors made minor modifications to these sentences, the content would remain intact and the paper could be re-published without fear of successful legal action.

Before the call ended, three academics, including me, argued that scientific journals must not be held to ransom every time someone threatens litigation. In response to our concerns, we were assured by the journal’s representatives that the legal matter would be considered settled once the two sentences had been amended as agreed.
Sadly this did not happen and Frontiers will now have to live with the results.

25 comments:

Russell Seitz said...

Our Hoste doth swere as he were wood;
"Conys !" quoth he, "by nailes and by blood,
This was a cursed thief, a false justice.
As shameful fiske as hearte can devise."
Wherefore I say, that all day man may see
That giftes of modylls and of nature
Be cause of death to many a creature.
Eke as merchands advertyse ther lys
In ye very Antipodys,
Mine heart is brost for pity of this blog.
Thou bel ami, thou Pardonest ane body !"

Millicent said...

It seems to me that the Journal should put on the public record the names of the phony libertarians who issued the 'legal' threats.

Bernard J. said...

"It seems to me that the Journal should put on the public record the names of the phony libertarians who issued the 'legal' threats. "

From what I can see on the Frontiers retraction page's comments, those people tripped over themselves to do just that...

...and to provide Stephan Lewandowsky with yet more fodder for the next recursive iteration.

Russell Seitz said...

Herewith a much earlier Australian account of irate partisans lawyering up for the climate wars.

Stay tuned as one side or the other gears up to declare what it said inoperable.

Arthur said...

Just a note to say the adaptation of Chaucer was wonderful, really apropos. What a pilgrimage we have been on, what tales we do have to tell one another!

Lionel A said...

Thanks for that hint of The Pardoner's tale Russell.

Something did stick from the exams I took way back in grammar all those years ago.

On the activities of those that forced the retraction perhaps another English author has the ode:



'Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.'


Well more fodder for Recursive, the toves may be whooping at the moment but it is not their finest hour.


Anonymous said...

I can't stand Chaucer, it's all obsolete crap that you seem to quote like the bible. You classicist need to put your nuclear winter theories to the test. Even without that you've done a fine job on the planet.

Schaisser said...

HER LAND HATH WINE OSEY WAXE AND GRAINE

FIGGS, REYSINS HENY AND CORDOWEYNE

DATES AND SALT, HIDES, AND SUCH MERCHANDY

AND IF THEY WOULD TO FLANDRES PASSE FOR BY

THEY SHOULD NOT BEE SUFFERED ONES NOR TWYES

FOR SUPPORTING OF OUR CRUELL ENEMYES

1436

IN 1315 RAIN IN SPRING AND SUMMER
ONE THIRD OF GRAIN LOST
IN SOME PLACES

NAILS 1d FOR HUNDRED NAILS IN THE SPRING
3d FOR HUNDRED NAILS AFTER THE SUMMER

WARS? CLIMATIC WARS?

LET'S SE FRENCH REVOLUTION

1788 - 1,061 MILLION'S
UN MILLIARD DE FRANCS C'EST LE COMMERCE AVEC L'EMPIRE ET D'AUTRES EMPIRES

SOME YEARS OF BAD CROPS

AND ONLY IN 1848 FRANCE ACHIEVE THIS COMMERCIAL RESULTS

AND YOU HAVE PLENTY OF INFLATION IN 60 YEARS....

CLIMATIC WARS ARE VERY VERY ANTI-COMMERCIAL OR ANTI-TRUST'S?

let's see the extra e is shot down said...

lets seeee... 9 november 1612 , a dutch vessel catch near tidore (Moluccas) a fast oceanic current or a fast oceanic stream and arrive at solor 8 days before the remaining fleet....

Anonymous said...

Angech
Such a shame that you can sink this low as to support these articles. If you could put yourself in the shoes of normal decent people about whom this diatribe was written and feel their pain and hurt at being so labelled you might actually be regarded as a person with principles.
There are just some people who are so rank that even if their views agree with yours there way of expressing it means they need to be ostracised
I realise this is just wishful thinking on my part so good day to you
I do enjoy your wicked sense of humour when directed elsewhere.

BBD said...

No 'smiler with a knife' quote yet?

Marco said...

Angech feels for the people 'exposed' in Recursive Fury (it's not like their comments were public), but apparently has no empathy for the a multitude of people (sometimes supposedly) involved in publication of the Moon Hoax paper, who have been accused of all kind of nefarious actions with little to no evidence to back the accusations.

metzomagic said...

It seems that the public facing reason why Frontiers retracted the Recursive Fury paper was just lip service. Here is the real reason:

http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/rfmedia.html#3332

Excerpt:

As a result of its investigation, which was carried out in respect of academic, ethical and legal factors, 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. Frontiers informed the authors of the conclusions of our investigation and worked with the authors in good faith, providing them with the opportunity of submitting a new paper for peer review that would address the issues identified and that could be published simultaneously with the retraction notice.

The authors agreed and subsequently proposed a new paper that was substantially similar to the original paper and, crucially, did not deal adequately with the issues raised by Frontiers.

We remind the community that the retracted paper does not claim to be about climate science, but about psychology. The actions taken by Frontiers sought to ensure the right balance of respect for the rights of all.

One of Frontiers’ founding principles is that of authors’ rights. 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.


That's absolutely chilling. It basically puts forward the view that public comments on blogs can't be the subject of psychological research. Wow. I mean... you can't anonomise blog comments by redacting the poster's names, because people can just Google text fragments from the comments to find out who the original posters were. So this is basically giving free reign to all the nutters out there to say anything they like without any possible recriminations, except, of course, for being banned. What effing strange times we live in.

metzomagic said...

ETA: what I meant to say there was:

"..., for being banned at the discretion of individual blog owners."

Bernard J. said...

I am most certainly not a lawyer, so frankly I'm a bit puzzled about what the whole brauhaha is about.

If someone, whilst in full control of their faculties voluntarily makes a public statement to which they choose attach an identifier, and that statement can be trivially shown to be correlated to a psycholpathology, and the matter of identity becomes general public knowledge only after the identified person makes a noise about it, is it not the responsibility for the matter of libel or any other negative consequence the burden of the person so identified?

Further, what actual harm may have been generated by Recursive Fury specifically, as opposed to the harm that will now potentially have arisen as a consequence of the subsequent ironic behaviour of the people it studied? And isn't there a defense that someone whose reputation is already low (as would be a consequence of those who make many of the studied statements against climatologists...) can't suffer further reputational harm?

Not only that, but there is also the defense of making a statement in good faith and reasonable belief that it was true, which, in a correlational study, would be almost (if not actually) a defensde that is impossible to prove false. Not only that, the subject is very much one of public interest - another valid defense.

I think Frontiers was simply too scared for publicity reasons to endure the antics of the climate change deniers/dissemblers who squarked with such apparent umbrage.

It is telling that UWA retains the paper on its web site... I don't see the band of offended brothers making significant moves to have UWA remove the paper, and if their gripe was with the paper rather than with Lewandowsky they'd be after UWA with lawyers by now even though Stephan is no longer there. That they aren't strongly suggests that possible libel wasn't the primary aim of their actions, and that surely further erodes there case.

At least, this is all how it appears to me.

Bernard J. said...

...their case...

Wince.

Bernard J. said...

Another point on which some of the complainants seem to have harped is the matter of privacy, but as I noted at Sou's:

"Those "subjects" forewent their privacy in relation to their comments and the consequences thereof when they posted on the internet, and also when they drew so much attention to the very same postings following the "Recursive Fury" analysis."

Sou herself observes that there's also a claim that the subjects of Recursive Fury were "clinically diagnosed". Sou refutes this, and this is consistent with my indication above that the paper is simply a correlational study.

So really, what's the fundamental issue that had Frontiers in Psychology running for the emergency exit? It seems that there are "two sentences" especially that knotted their knickers - which two sentences were they and what was the controversial import contained therein?

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Bernard,

I don't think of conspiratorial thinking as a psychopathology, rather it is a cognitive style. For this reason I find the revised Frontiers statement puzzling, especially since the paper was based on public statements made by people.

Personally I found the paper interesting in the way it looked at the evolution of the various conspiracy theories which emerged and how they fit into a taxonomy of conspiratorial thinking.

John Mashey said...

Rattus:
The rules are simple:
1) Somebody can run a blog that encourages conspiracy thinking, defamatory speech and actions in the real world, like sending insulting letters/email to people.

If you want a bunch of examples, from blogs related to the topic at hand. see SalbyStorm. Some of the newly-invented conspiracies were amazing.


2) BUT if someone analyzes all that public discussion, they they have to gotten the permission of very commenter, most of whom are anonymous, of course. Otherwise, it is forbidden.

Easy.

Russell Seitz said...

The paranoid style in American climate politics seems less bizarre in regard to those who actually have policies.

Bernard J. said...

Rattus, good point.

I was running with 'psychopathology' as it was used in a particular context on the thread at HotWhopper, but as you correctly point out conspiratorial thinking is a cognitive style and only a portion of such may in fact reflect a psychological pathology.

Anonymous said...

I think the tale of Sir Robin has some relevance here too.

PS

Fergus Brown said...

Matthew was a scary boy
He used to scream and shout
Poo! in the playground
And chase the girls about.
Matthew grew, but hasn't changed
Attention is his mission
Philandery's his middle name;
He's now a politician.

:)

Susan Anderson said...

Having a fine old time looking up apocalyptic poets (h/t Fergus Brown's latest alongside of this):
http://whogoeswithfergus.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-morrow-project-chapter-one.html

A fine derangement of quotes here (note Thomas Merton and Neil Gaiman, among others):
http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/apocalypse

Here's a beauty (imho):

Stars and Planets

Trees are cages for them: water holds its breath
To balance them without smudging on its delicate meniscus.
Children watch them playing in their heavenly playground;
Men use them to lug ships across oceans, through firths.

They seem so twinkle-still, but they never cease
Inventing new spaces and huge explosions
And migrating in mathematical tribes over
The steppes of space at their outrageous ease.

It's hard to think that the earth is one –
This poor sad bearer of wars and disasters
Rolls-Roycing round the sun with its load of gangsters,
Attended only by the loveless moon.

Norman MacCaig

Susan Anderson said...

yes, I know that was. a mite ot, with apologies ...