The perils of science by press release, to get a headline, with data and publication following months later

(for the pedantic, I just don’t care about typos, grammar, it’s Easter holiday, time I should be spending with my family, may sort out obvious howlers later)

So, I read an article in a national UK newspaper  and was sufficiently interested in it to enquire further,  I contacted the author to check data for myself – (it was  available, ie had passed peer review, therefore presumably the supplementary data, will also have been finalized  for the peer reviewers to ask for it (did they? I don’t think they can have looked very closely)

Yet, when I asked for the names of the 5 sceptic blogs, this was not made available to me, despite the paper being widely circulated – Wide press attention and headline, but only now 8 months later, was the supplementary data put online with the publication of the paper.  And we find that the names of the 8 ‘pro’ (sic) and 5 sceptics blogs there all along in the data. If the paper can generate headlines around the world, why not include the supporting data

Climate Audit has published my email exchanges, very polite, in good faith, never having heard of the author, as far as I remember, so why withhold the 5 blog names, because perhaps it raises a few questions?

Were the peer reviewers asleep, where was the scepticism amongst journalists! A survey of sceptics, nice dramatic headline, not ONE, seemed to have thought ask, hang on no sceptic blogs posted the surveys!

I think the practice of new scientific papers being given press release and wide media attention, before the paper and supplementary data is available, or the paper actually available to read in the journal (or especially not possible to respond to) should stop.

(by all means chat amongst yourself if a paper is in press within your  field, where no doubt you would send the data to a colleague if asked?)

Being in press does not cut it, no one can respond formally, yet a media headline has been grabbed, perhaps a new grant achieved them months later, who knows what the formal response might find wrong with it, buried away in a journal where no journalist or politician will ever see. it.. just the headline remains.. a soundbite to denigrate..

The example of LOG12 I think demonstrates what can go wrong with science by press release.

NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science

Lewandowsky et al

Wide media coverage, activist tweeting sceptics are as nutty as moon conspiracy theorists, all happened. (will add later)

Yet because the paper was still in press, NOBODY could put a formal response forward to the journal, because (whilst it was still in press, it was not published, no one could check

Log12 spawned the Recursive Fury Paper Lewandowsky et, which were looking at examples of conspiracy ideation amongst the blog critics of the paper (oops sorry, sceptics)…

Citing LOG12, still in press at the time  of the published  Recursive Fury paper!)

On reflection now, this gives the huge risk to this field of scientist being perceived as using academic papers,  to attack their critics, before their critics of the former (in press paper) could respond formally to the peer-reviewed journals.. or even Punative Psychology

I do think the journals were blindsided here, science operates by the all actors operating in good faith

On August the 2nd 2012 I made this comment below, in response to the Guardian article (linked within) about sceptics, moon conspiracy theorists..

I think I was the first to find 6 surveyed links, out of the 8 anti-sceptic blogs:

( also posted these at Bishop Hill, in discussion threads about the same time)

I after reading the Guardian article,I thought to email Prof Lewandowsky, to ask for blog name (as the sceptic blog names are in the sup data, I bought the statement that because they did not run the survey he could not disclose them)

Steve has put this full email exchange into his comments at Climate Audit..

Reproduced from here:

(you might notice a number of sceptics names, that popped up in the Recursive Fury paper (not Richard Betts, that would have been really funny) Paul, Foxgoose, Geoff, myself and others)

Barry Woods August 2, 2012 at 10:51 am
How many ‘actual’ scep­tics will have seen these survey, or answered them..

as this paper based its research only from 8 ‘anti-sceptic’ blogs.

They asked 5 skep­tical blogs to post a link…
Who refused. [we now know some unaware, some spoke to Hanich](sus­pecting motives?, like those that com­mented below did)

The 8 blogs actu­ally sur­veyed were so called ‘pro-science’ blogs ! (who are all very anti-sceptic, with a lot of very derog­atory lan­guage & rhet­oric about deniers.
The blogs who posted the links are claimed to be:

even the locals didn’t think the ‘den­iers’ would fall for such a trans­parent survey…

“Yeah, those con­spiracy theory ques­tions were pretty funny, but does anyone think that hard­core den­iers are going to be fooled by such a trans­parent attempt to paint them as paranoids?”

Actual links to the ori­ginal art­icles.. these were the links I found:

I haven’t found the links yet to:

where even the locals thought it was a trans­parent and poor survey, an attempt to try to describe scep­tics as para­noids or nut.. ie. very likely, by the com­ments that the ‘anti-sceptic’ locals had some fun with it..

As no data is avail­able yet, it would be very inter­esting to see a break­down based on refer­ring URL’s as the blogs men­tioned some are MUCH more high traffic than others, which begs the ques­tion. did most of the survey res­ults come from just a few of these blogs (who detest sceptics) —
The per­centage of actual scep­tics taking this survey must be tiny…

making the Guardain art­icle con­clu­sions and claims rather laughable.


you would think Psychology as a field would be the first (and best equipped) to spot Lewandowky’s , Cook’s etc, conflicts.

I’, on the side of science, I asked for the data to check for myself, it was not forthcoming, despite we now find in the journals..

yet I find myself named in a psychological journal,  in a perp, where researchers hostile to their research subjects – one who had written on a blog, that my writing was DISINFORMATION, I’m a DENIER, or tagged BULLSHIT. with an adulterated graphic of my Watts Up With That article, red rubber stamped ‘Verified Bullshit” somehow makes me a rejector of science, cherry picker, anti-science or a climate denialist.

And I found Skeptical Science (John Cook) endorsed this blog article,  John Cook, M Marriott  were the supposed uninvolved researcher for the Recursive Fury paper, Lewnadowsky the lead author.  Yet Skeptical Science is in partnership with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project – Realty Drops.. But as far as SkS and Climate Reality Project, a debunking by random blogger – Watching the Deniers – with a red ‘rubber stamped ‘Verified Bullshit’ across a graphic of my named article, is good enough for Skeptical Science, and presumably Al Gore.. I think not

There latest project is Reality Drop, cut and paste ‘science quotes’ to rebut sceptics, by dropping these into comments of media article.. How many people doing this even read the article or understand the soundbite they’ve been given.

I notice Reality Drop as a user ranked Lieutenant, called Watchingthedeniers (same guy, saw it on his twitter feed)

but he researches me!

I have a number of friends and acquaintances in the climate science community (not a single one, would call me a denier, denialist or spreading disinformation, etc,etc, they are always happy to talk,.discuss thinks robustly as rational professional adults.

The names of both the 8 ‘pro-science‘ (sic) and the 5 sceptic blogs were in the supplementary data, it had passed peer review.

Are not psychologists the people most able to protect people from labels like denier, crank, etc . political rhetoric to alienate people, shut people thought down. What happened here. Recursive Fury, had phrases like ‘climate denialists’ in it, what is a climate denialist, exactly!, pure (political? environmental?) activist rhetoric?

I asked for the data, I had other questions, how many referrals from each blog (key question for this online survey) just like every climate scientist I know would have done (if an article in a paper sufficiently aroused their curiosity.

Lets ask Skeptical Science,etc who is anti-science again exactly?

graphic ‘thanks’ to Mike Marriot (co-author Recursive Fury)

wtd verified




(is this article my ‘Reality Drop’ – a truly awful idea – by Al Gore, Skeptical Science,

unlike SkS, I suggest you read it all, make up your own mind and check everything for yourself)

I/we all asked for the data.

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9 Responses to The perils of science by press release, to get a headline, with data and publication following months later

  1. Barry Woods says:

    moderation will be extremely slow, to non existant for a few days (Easter Holidays, family time)
    lots being discussed elsewhere.

  2. MangoChutney says:


    You have surpassed yourself. I’m talking about the typos of course 😉

    Clearly the Lewandowsky papers are the ones which should be rubber stamped ‘Verified Bulshit’ by the journals that published them.

    One thing more Barry, let the “dener” label go, it uses up too much of your precious time and and gives the cAGWers something to beat you with. I used to very active on Richard Blacks blog (why don’t the BBC allow comments on environmental blogs anymore?). cAGWers used to get my back up with the denier label (my mother is a survivor), but I decided to not let them distract me from correcting their mistaken posts. Once I stopped reacting, they stopped, although a couple of them still managed to unnverve me by dragging up comments I made back in 2007, when I really wasn’t sure about cAGW – it was almost like they had kept a record of my comments. Uh,oh, I’m now a candidate for the next Lewandowsky ‘Verified Bulshit’ paper!


    Have a great weekend Barry

  3. MangoChutney says:

    PS Reality Droppings will be a disaster for the Gorecal / Cook

  4. You’re on to something important here. How to deal with it depends on what comes out of the Frontiers post Easter conference.
    I was amazed at how similar your conversation with Lewandowky was to the conversation I had with Cook a month later. Obviously, I had no idea, but I bet they thought we were colluding!
    You say: “I do think the journals were blindsided here”. Frontiers have behaved correctly, but there are big questions over the behaviour of Psychological Science. Have a look at the article by their publisher’s “writer in residence” which went up the same day on their own site and at Huffington Post, where it picked up 400 comments, July 19th, 10 days before Corner in the Guardian, and with no link to the paper. 
    Wray Herbert goes way beyond simple PR for the paper (which I suppose is his job) having a good laugh at the expense of sceptics.
    I agree with Mango Chutney about the “Denier” label, ever since I saw Lindzen happily assume it in an interview.
    Now have a good Easter. I’m going to read a good book and do some gardening.

  5. Barry Woods says:

    I disagree, strongly

    Al Gore: Climate Reality Project


    Al Gore: RealityDrop


    Psychology of all fields of science should understand what is being attempted there (shutting questioning voices down) and Skeptical Science are partners with it!

  6. Barry
    I agree with you that it’s objectionable. I just won’t waste my time arguing about a word when there’s so much else to argue about. You can’t win arguing about a word. I’ve seen a thousand threads disrupted by this argument.
    But Gore’s campaign is weird. He’s lost all public sympathy and he doesn’t realise.
    I’ve just seen your post at Climate Audit under your correspondence with Lew about Corner. Off-topic but very funny.
    I may do something about the Corner paper on sceptic belief some time. It has some of the same issues as LOG12, though it’s better designed, and there’s no question of malpractice. But I’m giving it a rest for awhile.

  7. MangoChutney says:


    As Geoff says, allowing cAGWers to distract you by calling you an obnoxious name simply allows them to change the argument from something that mattes – the data – to something that doesn’t matter – their own beliefs

    Reacting to the label allows them to shut down questioning voices.


  8. Craig Thomas says:


    We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.
    We deny that alternative, renewable fuels can, with present or near-term technology, replace fossil and nuclear fuels, either wholly or in significant part, to provide the abundant, affordable energy necessary to sustain prosperous economies or overcome poverty.
    We deny that carbon dioxide—essential to all plant growth—is a pollutant. Reducing greenhouse gases cannot achieve significant reductions in future global temperatures, and the costs of the policies would far exceed the benefits.
    We deny that such policies, which amount to a regressive tax, comply with the Biblical requirement of protecting the poor from harm and oppression.

    This rubbish is signed by Roy Spencer, Joseph D’Aleo, Ross McKitrick, and dozens of other self-confessed deniers:

    You are concern-trolling.

    For the average Joe, all they see in this “debate” are letters to the in their local paper making outlandishly cranky claims as to the non-existence of the well-established theory of greenhouse gases, or letters claiming that the observed warming and consequent sea-level rise are an unlikely fraud being perpetrated by all the world’s reputable science bodies.
    Those trying to fit under the “luke-warmer” banner try to change the subject to the question of climate sensitivity as soon as the fringe-dwelling cranky nonsense is questioned, but due to the almost complete lack of supporting science for their low sensitivity, the “debate” always rapidly veers away from the science and onto disgusting personal attacks on the scientists involved in professional research in this area.

    If you are properly engaging with the science in a way that properly reflects your level of expertise, then nobody is going to call you a “denier”.
    If, on the other hand, you are (for example) a computer consultant from Melbourne pretending to have a PhD and authoring bizarre pseudo-academic and innumerate rants against real scientists, surely you can expect to have a variety of unpleasant but thoroughly-deserved labels applied to you?

  9. Barry Woods says:

    My Missing comment from this article below:

    I personally asked Professor Lewandowsky for some of the raw data for his survey (LOG12), including referring domains for survey participants, over a year ago, after I read an article about LOG12-Nasa faked the moon landings, therefore [climate] science is a hoax – in the Guardian.
    at that time Professor Lewandowsky supplied urls of the domains (ie that were surveyed, but not a direct link to the surveys on each website

    I recently asked Prof lewandowsky again for this data (following publication of LOG12 in Psychological Science) a couple of months ago, I also reported to him privately and formally a substantial methodological error in the paper (LOG12) and asked if he (as the lead author) could investigate it and correct it..

    (Proof of the timestamps to a blog entry is important, as it was claimed that the LOG12 survey had been posted at Skeptical Science in the LOG12 methodology, the paper also rested on a claimed readership and a diverse audience content analysis based on the survey being posted at Skeptical Science.

    A Skeptical Science, author and moderator (Tom Curtis) has absolutely confirmed (again)that the survey for LOG12 was NOT posted at Skeptical Science, writing on his own blog here:

    The nature of the error in LOG12 and it’s implications is linked below, in a comment I made on Prof Lewandowky’s website (he had not responded)

    I also reported the substantial factual error in the methodology of LOG12 to Psychological Science and asked the Chief Editor of Psychological Science to investigate it, and if he would ask Professor Lewandowsky to supply the proof of posting timestamps and the raw data to me, if Prof Lewandowsky failed to respond..

    and to quote, the Chief Editor said this:

    From: Eric Eich
    Sent: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 7:33 PM
    Dear Barry–Sorry to disappoint, but no. Best, Eric

    this was in response to my email request below:

    On 27/08/2013 10:20 AM, barry.woods wrote:

    “Dear Professor Eich


    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”


    Hard to make a comment about a paper, if a data request is refused, and the journal will not help get it.

    If the journal will provide the requested data, I will put a comment to the journal about this paper.

    However, given the Chief Editor’s email to me refusing to help me to obtain the requested data, how confident can I be that I am not wasting my time?

    I am a member of the public, who now finds this article (and the authors & APS response to my concerns) quite intimidating.

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