Anthony Watts issues a correction? Surprised? Yes, you should be. Anthony Watts makes too many mistakes and publishes too many more. If he corrected all the wrongs on his blog WUWT would be one long correction. He didn't issue a correction for the following that have appeared on his blog in the past few days:
- We are about to enter an ice age (we're not. 2015 will almost certainly be another hottest year on record. Hotter than the current hottest, 2014.)
- UHI caused last year to be the hottest on record (it didn't)
- Sea levels physically can't rise by a metre this century (they can and quite possibly will.)
Nor did he issue a correction to his article that claimed that global warming is caused by steampipes in Russia, or that it's insects that are causing global warming.
And has Anthony published an apology and correction to his false allegations that NOAA researchers committed fraud - here and here and here? No, not at all.
But today, he's published an article (archived here) that complains that authors have issued a correction to a paper. That's right. Not only does Anthony Watts almost never issue a correction for the errors on his blog that are made multiple times every day - he has posted an article complaining that some authors did issue a correction!
It's worse than that. He did this without issuing a correction to the title he gave to the "guest author" who wrote the complaint - calling him "Dr", when on the Arizona State University website it shows he is just a graduate student yet to be awarded the title of Dr.
And that same guest author has never issued a correction let alone an apology for falsely accusing those same scientists of fraud.
Try to get your head around all that, if you can.
Anthony's (wrong) correction
Anthony did issue one correction, but he got that correction wrong. I'd say he didn't know what paper he was writing about. His wrong correction reads:
Note: This essay was originally published with an error about the paper name in the title, it has since been corrected to add the proper name “Conspiracist Ideation” rather than just the “Moon landing hoax” paper, which is apparently the source of the data in the paper published at PLOS one.Anthony seems to be confusing this paper with the original "moon landing" paper, which was published in a different journal, Psychological Science, not PLOS One. The source of the data in the paper published at PLOS One was a different survey conducted in the USA using a market research company. It was exploring similar but more things to the original paper and with a different segment. From the paper:
A sample of 1,001 U.S. residents was recruited in early June 2012 via electronic invitations by Qualtrics.com, a firm that specializes in representative internet surveys. Participants were drawn from a completely bipartisan panel of more than 5.5 million U.S. residents (as of January 2013), via propensity weighting to ensure representativeness. The panel from which participants were sampled is maintained by uSamp.com. Details about the panel and the sampling method can be found on the uSamp.com web page.
The LGO13 correction
By the way, the correction that the blogger was writing about (or raving about) was to a paper published in 2013. The correction was inconsequential to the conclusions. As the authors wrote: "none of the conclusions in the article are affected by these changes". Scientific papers often have corrections issued. It's something that happens a lot. It could be a mistake in a calculation or a figure that's been drawn wrongly. In this case it was to remove a response because of an age outlier (which meant the whole response was removed), and a mistake in one of the latent variables, which meant a figure was amended slightly. It also clarified that responses from minors were part of the study and complied with all ethical standards. None of these changed the conclusions of the paper, which were that (my emphasis):
... conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to GM. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science.
So, the irony in all this is that the paper in question is about world view and conspiracy ideation - links which the article at WUWT demonstrates very well.
Shades of Recursive Fury
This episode is turning into Recursive Fury all over again. Deniers didn't like that paper so they threatened the journal and the journal caved in and withdrew the paper. Not on any ethical grounds, not because of anything wrong with the research, but because of the threats from a few deniers. Now Anthony Watts and Jose Duarte and all the conspiracy theorising right wing deniers want another paper withdrawn. They don't want the world to know that "conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science".
That's probably why they are shouting about it to all and sundry.
(Is there a paper yet on how completely and utterly irrational the behaviour of climate science deniers can be?)
Unethical behaviour from a graduate student
I've pretty well ignored the ravings of Jose Duarte till now, but let me take the opportunity to point out a few things about him.
He's a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, but he's not a youngster. He's a blogger who has been seeking a lot of attention the past few months. The way he's been going about it has been completely unethical. For a mature age student he should know a whole lot better as should his patrons, which include Judith Curry. (Anthony Watts is without ethics, as you probably know. So we can put him aside.)
Jose has sought attention by accusing scientists of fraud. By calling not just for corrections, but for withdrawal of papers on the grounds that he doesn't like them, or for minor errors, or for flaws that aren't there except in Jose's warped imagination. In this article, he does it again, writing that:
The conduct of the UWA ethics office is consistent with all their prior efforts to cover up Lewandowsky’s misconduct, particularly with respect to Lewandowsky’s Psych Science paper, which should be treated as a fraud case. UWA has refused everyone’s data requests for that paper, and has refused to investigate. Corruption is serious problem with human institutions, one that I increasingly think deserves a social science Manhattan Project to better understand and ameliorate. UWA is a classic case of corruption, one that mirrors those reported by Martin.Not only is Jose accusing the researchers of fraud, he is accusing the University of Western Australia of a mythical "cover up". By claiming "a classic case of corruption" and likening it to "those reported by Martin", Jose Duarte is making unsubstantiated allegations that the work of Professors Lewandowsky, Gignac and Oberauer is plagiary and/or fraudulent. That in itself would be grounds for defamatory action by the scientists against Anthony Watts and Jose Duarte.
He falsely claims that the University has "failed to investigate". Worse, while being unethical himself, and talking about rights of "human subjects", which neither this paper or the original paper were related to, he wants the university to infringe the privacy rights of anyone who took part in the earlier study. He is saying that the University should have acceded to requests by denier blogger to release *all* the data, including IP addresses and more. Giving sufficient information to identify some of the individuals who responded to the survey. How unethical would that be? How unethical is Jose Duarte?
Much is made in the article of the fact that some young people were included in the Qualtrics sample. From the published correction was an extension to the Ethics Statement:
Several minors (age 14–17) were included in the data set for this study because this population contributes to public opinions on politics and scientific issues (e.g. in the classroom). This project was conducted under the guidelines of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC). According to NH&MRC there is no explicit minimum age at which people can give informed consent (as per https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/book/chapter-2-2-general-requirements-consent). What is required instead is to ascertain the young person’s competence to give informed consent. In our study, competence to give consent is evident from the fact that for a young person to be included in our study, they had to be a vetted member of a nationally representative survey panel run by uSamp.com (partner of Qualtrics.com, who collected the data). According to information received from the panel provider, they are legally empowered to empanel people as young as 13. However, young people under 15 are recruited to the panel with parental involvement. Parental consent was otherwise not required. Moreover, for survey respondents to have been included in the primary data set, they were required to answer an attention filter question correctly, further attesting to their competence to give informed consent. The UWA Human Rights Ethics Committee reviewed this issue and affirmed that “The project was undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).”
It's clear that neither Jose nor Anthony are qualified to make a judgement on ethics, as evidenced by their grossly unethical behaviour over time. However they, in their lack of wisdom, try to argue that the University of Western Australia was wrong (and by extension that the Australian ethical standards are wrong). In the PLOS One correction it states about including responses from :
"The UWA Human Rights Ethics Committee reviewed this issue and affirmed that “The project was undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).”I wonder how long it will take before Jose accuses the following organisations, who jointly drafted the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, of being unethical:
Is it time to call a halt
It's one thing to dispute results of scientific research. The proper place for that to be done is in the scientific literature. If Jose or Anthony thinks the results are flawed, then they can do their own research and get it published. If they think there is something wrong in the paper, they can write a comment and get it published.
They are not doing any of that.
Instead, Jose Duarte has been flouting ethics in his blog articles for quite some time now. With the Cook13 paper on the 97% consensus, calling for its "retraction". And on papers by Drs Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles E. Gignac. He labels their work "scam" and "scam" again, and "false" and has been calling for "retraction" of papers. He outright accuses scientists of fraud. He accuses the University of corruption. He has no grounds for any of this completely unacceptable behaviour.
If you read the articles at Jose's blog you might be excused for wondering about his competence. I argue that it's not up to us to determine whether he was of sound mind when he wrote the articles. It's sufficient that he is writing them and that he is touting them on various other blogs around the internet. The University has not judged him incompetent or he would not still be a graduate student.
Anyway, since Anthony is calling for his readers to "contact the journal editor" - even providing the editor's photograph (and probably flouting copyright in the process), to alert him to something the journal already knows (since it was told by the authors, and published their correction), then I'm going to wonder something myself.
Should someone be contacting Jose Duarte's supervisors and head of school or university about his multiple breaches of ethics? Shouldn't Jose's university be held at least partly responsible for what one of their graduate students gets up to? After all, he has his blog address listed on the Arizona State University website. At the very least, shouldn't they be made aware of his ongoing unethical behaviour and defamatory blog articles and comments? (I've never suggested anything like this before, and hopefully will never be prompted to again. The reason I'm thinking along these lines now is that Jose Duarte's behaviour is so far over the top and has been going on for so long. It shouldn't be tolerated.)
If you do send a warning to the University, for heaven's sake don't do as Anthony and Jose do - don't be unprofessional and unethical. Instead do as Anthony says: "please be professional and respectful". (Given it's Arizona State, a complaint might or might not get a hearing. I don't know.)
As a postscript on ethics. This research would be regarded as "low risk" when it comes to human research. It would at worst fall under the banner of "inconvenience", in that the research participants are completely anonymous, there is no identification of individuals or any information that could be used to identify such individuals, the survey was of opinions of people provided of their own assent to a quality assured survey company. The responses were reported in aggregate, not as individual responses. Also, the Australian ethics guidelines in no way prohibit collecting information from people under 21 years of age or 18 years of age. (On the contrary, the guidelines provide for research that involves minors and young children. This research did not include information provided by young children.).
Similarly, the research underpinning Recursive Fury and Recurrent Fury was completely ethical. It was research about public statements that people wanted the world to read. It was not research on individuals. It was analysis of the evolution of conspiracy ideation. Research on ideas, not of the people who expressed those ideas. The republished paper, Recurrent Fury was completely anonymised with data only made available to approved researchers on request. Oddly, while pretending to be concerned about ethics, which he doesn't understand, Jose Duarte seems to want to any old unprincipled Canadian to have access to information that would allow individuals to be personally identified. How unethical is that?
References and further reading
Lewandowsky, Stephan, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer. "The role of conspiracist ideation and worldviews in predicting rejection of science." PLoS One 8, no. 10 (2013): DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075637 (open access) - LGO13
Lewandowsky, Stephan, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles E. Gignac. "NASA faked the moon landing—therefore,(climate) science is a hoax an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science." Psychological Science 24, no. 5 (2013): 622-633. doi: 10.1177/0956797612457686 (pdf here) - LOG12
National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (Updated May 2015). The National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra (pdf here)
From the HotWhopper archives
- No need for fury: Ethics and internet research - April 2014
- Recursive furies, hurt feelings or confected outrage - March 2014
- How the unethical Anthony Watts goes for the ethical Michael Mann - December 2014
- Ethically-challenged Anthony Watts is seeking revenge, playing games with tragedy. How low can he go? - November 2013