Lewandowsky forgets who funds his university: the Aussie taxpayer

Cook 'n' Lew

Cook ‘n’ Lew

UPDATE: Another article in Psychological Science claims that critics of Lewandowsky’s work were:

“invited to submit a commentary for publication in Psychological Science, but never acted on that invitation.”

I for one have never been invited to make such a comment, and I’m still waiting… (h/t Geoff in the comments)

Astonishingly, Professor Stephan Lewandowsky appears to have completely forgotten that, being on the staff at the University of Western Australia (UWA), he was paid out of the public purse, contributed to by my (and all other Australians’) taxpayer dollars, and as a consequence must accept that his work is subject the Freedom of Information (FoI) regime in force in Australia.

If he wishes to avoid such scrutiny, he should find a job in the private sector, which is not subject to the same rules, but where he would have to compete in the market for funding for his peculiar brand of research. Yeah, right, good luck with that.

Clearly peeved at his last few papers being ripped to shreds by the blogosphere, Prof Stephan Lewandowsky jumps the shark (with the willing assistance of Michael Mann) in his latest screed, lashing out at sceptics in all directions like a cornered dog. You know you’re pushing the right buttons when they resort to these kinds of hysterical outbursts of paranoia.

Entitled The Subterranean War on Science, Lew and Mann whine and whinge about all those nasty bloggers and sceptics (like me) who act up because they are sick and tired of being labelled as mentally deranged. Here’s a hint – stop demonising your ideological opponents, and maybe you wouldn’t get so many complaints and FoI requests. But let’s face it – that isn’t going to happen in a hurry, so Lew digs himself in deeper, labelling FoI requests as “vexatious” and constituting “harassment”.

The paper states, in relation to such FoI requests (by ACM):

During the last 9 months, the first author 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. The allegations — by bloggers unaccountable to any form of review or ethical scrutiny — cited the fact that ethics approval was granted expeditiously (for details, see Lewandowsky, Cook, et al., 2013). 

Taking those two claims in turn:

Trivial pedantry

The “trivial pedantry” which Lewandowsky casually brushes off was actually a perfectly valid attempt to work out whether Lewandowsky backdated a blog post on Shaping Tomorrow’s World in order to falsely claim priority on outing the identity of bloggers contacted as part of the research for the original “moon landing denier” paper. Steve McIntyre deals with this issue in great detail here. Personally, I wouldn’t call this either trivial or pedantic, when the claim to priority was not just published on a blog, but was then repeated in a second “academic” paper by Lewandowsky, the sole purpose of which was to prop up the conclusions of the first.

Ethics approval

As regards the ethical approval for the moon landing denier paper, I provide the documents released under the FoI which relate to this claim here (PDF, 4MB). These documents also contain the emails from Charles Hanich to various blogs.

Beginning on page 37 of the file is the original ethics approval submitted by Lewandowsky on 12 December 2009. That approval was for a project entitled “Understanding Statistical Trends”, the purpose of which was stated thus:

“The project seeks to explore people’s understanding of statistical trends in time-series data. If we are monitoring a stock price, what do we think will happen to it in the future?

Participants will be shown simple graphs of time series (samples enclosed) and will make predictions about the future trends.”

Approval for this project was given on 21 December 2009 (p 35).

However, on 12 August 2010, Lewandowsky emails Kate Kirk in the UWA ethics department in the following terms (p29):

Dear Kate,

I am writing to seek approval for an amendment to the procedure for RA/4/1/4007. In a nutshell, I want to administer the survey not in person but via the internet using professional survey software (e.g., http://www.surveymonkey.com or equivalent.) [a]

As before, completion of the survey will be taken to constitute consent, and as before a variant of the approved information sheet will be shown before the survey commences.

The survey will be modified slightly as follows,

(1) The graphical extrapolation task is removed [b]

(2) In addition to the already-approved items, some further questions will be presented that are enclosed in this email. [c]

»Note that the scale “H&G&Kahan” already has UWA approval under a different project (RA/4/1/4054).

»The remaining two scales, “BCTI” and “Happ&Sat” have both been used extensively in previous research elsewhere.

»To satisfy constraints of the Web software, some items may need to be reworded or altered; however, the enclosures accurately describe the thrust of the questionnaires.

(3) In all other respects, the approved procedure remains unchanged [d] except that it is administered via internet, with consent again being expressed by completion of the electronic questionnaire.

(4) Participants will be recruited by posting links at relevant websites (e.g., http://www.uwa.edu.au/climatescience or science-oriented “biogs”).

[a] – It is highly disingenuous to suggest that merely using survey software was the amendment “in a nutshell”, as can be seen from the following.

[b] – The graphical extrapolation task comprised the core of the original project, a point which is clear from its name: Understanding statistical trends.

[c] – “Some further questions”, dropped in casually as almost an afterthought, essentially redefines the project to introduce the conspiracy ideation element which eventually caused the reaction it did when the moon landing denier paper was published.

[d] – Translation: Move along, nothing to see here.

Despite all these red flags, Kate Kirk approved these amendments within 24 hours, to the amazement of Lewandowsky himself, who clearly couldn’t believe his luck, writing back (p27):

“Wow, thanks for the quick approval.”

If that wasn’t enough, Lewandowsky slips in yet another sneaky request:

Would it be possible to mention only my assistant’s name, Charles Hanich, on the online survey (with full contact d etails, plus the usual HREC address of course}? The reason for this is that I have been writing on the climate issue in public (e.g., http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2980286.htm}, and my name alone routinely elicits frothing at the mouth by various people (e.g., http://joannenova.com.au/2010/05/name-calling-fairy-dust-conspiracy-theorist/), not to mention the hate mail I receive. Because I am interested in soliciting opinions also from those folks, I would like to withhold my name from the survey as I fear it might contaminate responding.

Lew is clearly aware that anyone seeing his name would realise that he would be attempting to stitch up the “deniers” so excludes his name from the survey. Once again, this was jokingly waved through by Kate Kirk in about five minutes:

Hi Steve, Yes, fine for you to leave your name off as long as the standard complaints paragraph and contact details are there. I look forward to receiving the hate mail. I’ll let you know if I get any. Kate

So the ethics department at the UWA saw no problems with any of the above. None. Despite the fact that the eventual project was entirely different from that for which ethics approval was originally sought, there was no requirement for a resubmission of the application, with significant amendments simply waved through. The irony is that none of this would have come to light had Lewandowsky not used the research to demean his ideological opponents and insinuate that they were suffering from some kind of psychological condition. Unfortunately, he did, and provoked the ire of a very large number of people. All of it on taxpayers’ money.

Given the above, Lewandowsky has no cause for complaint whatsoever at the FoI requests, which were anything but vexatious, all of which makes his latest paper all the more tragic and desperate.

I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions from the documents themselves – LINK HERE.


  1. ahhh…..great picture….. the weasel and the toad.

    but which is which ? !!!!!!

  2. Lew Skannen says:

    An UTTER waste of money. I recently heard that an Asutralian uni paid Germaine Greer $3M for some of her ramblings.
    I do not want to EVER hear that Australian universities are underfunded while this sort of garbage is being produced on our dime.
    If they want our money they should start a major spring cleaning operation with this crap at the top of the list.

    • That was the Uni of Melbourne, where David Karoly works; Melbourne has just re-elected the ONLY green into parliament, I guess that tells you all you need to know about them.

  3. Reblogged this on The GOLDEN RULE and commented:
    Readers will be well aware of my views on CO2 being labelled a “climate change villain”. A CAGW advocate, instead of complaining about criticism, would be well advised to step back and have a closer look at his science that supposedly supports his views. Rather than criticize the system, or the persons involved, to address the criticizing material.

  4. There’s a second article spotted by WUWT reader André van Delft at
    in which the author says
    “Lewandowsky says that over the past year, his work has been subject to numerous requests for correspondence and other documents under freedom-of-information laws” and “The critics were invited to submit a commentary for publication in Psychological Science, but never acted on that invitation.”
    I only know of your two FOI requests. Any information on any others? Did you gat an invitation to submit a commentary?

  5. How childish can Lewandowsky get? Using the APS as an outlet for what is essentially, a very long-winded way of saying “it’s not fair, they all hate me”. Throw in a few references, and it looks “scientific”, but the tone of the paper is anything but objective and dispassionate.

    I think the blame for all this does not lie with Lewandowsky alone, it also lies with the apparently lackadaisical approach to ethics approval at UWA, as well as (in this case) the APS agreeing to (repeatedly) publish his rantings.

  6. Ethical Approval Switch?
    As if the above wasn’t enough condemnation of Lewandowsky’s complete disregard for the Ethics Approval process, it appears that the research approval sought and given was actually used to carry out research to produce and publish a paper titled ‘Climate Change is Set to Continue’, (which has since been withdrawn) but can still be read here: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/22/4/460.abstract

    The study involved Lewandowsky (one assumes his student), showing people graphs of climate data shown either as share price data or temperature data from 1970 and asked them to predict future levels. The finding was that they tended to predict continued rises. The conclusion of the research was that if you showed people actual temperature data from 1970 you could counter the claim by “some public figures that AGW stopped in 1998”.

    You can see why he would withdraw the paper since even the UN IPCC have agreed that there has in fact been no increase in global average temperatures since 1998, which was apparent in September 2010, when this paper was submitted, peer reviewed and published in December 2010. (And Lewandowsky is the one who calls others climate deniers!)

    As ACM wrote previously “The paper states that the survey was completed during February 2010, seven months prior to the request for the amendment“, [for ethics approval]. Note that in the email request for ethics approval, he states: “I want to administer THE survey not in person but via the internet”. The truth is, however, THE survey had already been completed and the paper written.” See here: https://australianclimatemadness.com/2012/10/14/lewandowsky-ethical-considerations-for-moon-landing-denier-paper/

    Wouldn’t an investigator, looking at the facts on face value be reasonable to consider the possibility that Lewandowsky never had ethics approval for the ‘Moon Landing’ paper? Lewandowsky appears to have simply tied the ethics approval for the research done on the ‘Climate Change is set to Continue’ paper which was withdrawn, to the ‘Moon Landing’ paper to cover the fact he had no ethics approval in place!

    If this is true then UWA would also need to be complicit in this cover up, because they have provided the ‘emails’ which they claim were part of the ethics approval process and they are pre dated to the internet survey.

    Yes I know Lewandowsky will say this is a conspiracy theory, but as far as I can tell it is a very reasonable possibility – but just a possibility, I am of course not saying it is fact as I have no proof.

    The very best spin you can put on this, if you take what UWA have provided at face value, is that Lewandowsky had figured he could simply use the same ethics approval for two different research projects, that is, unless he simply uses the same ethics approval application wording for every project!

    Using the same approval for a second quite separate and different project, runs counter to basic ethics approval requirements at any University. It is something a senior Professor would know. If this has happened, Lewandowsky has knowingly flouted the ethics approval process, and UWA’s lax processes, which allow approval by email, have allowed it to happen.

    It is not like there was a matter of urgency which required the approval to be done by email without supporting documentation supplied.

    In addition, in light of the attention drawn to the ‘Moon Landing’ paper and the complaints and FOI requests the UWA received, it should be obvious to the UWA that at best its ethics approval processes had not been followed and at worst, Lewandowsky had deliberately made a mockery it.

    Am I right to assume the UWA has not expressed any concern about their ethics approval processes or hinted at a review in light of these events?

  7. I had a grin, and thought of Lew and Cook when I read this piece in “No Tricks Zone” the German Climate blog.
    The url says it all, but “Doomer Depression” may explain their situation.

  8. The Chief Editor of Psychological comment invited me to submit a comment…..

    However, he would NOT help me to obtain the data I required,
    despite the fact I had previous asked Prof Lewandowsky for it.

    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 http://www.skepticalscience.com) 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.

  9. the trivial pedantry, is also more likely my request to Prof Lewandowsky for the timesatmps and proof that the LOG12 survey, was actually held at Skeptical Science..

    Tom Curtis a Skeptical Science moderator, has categorically said, that the survey was NOT shown there.

    Tom Curtis: Given this evidence, I must conclude, as did McIntyre that,

    “In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming that SkS never published a link to the Lewandowsky survey. In my opinion, both Cook’s claim to have published a link and Lewandowsky’s claim to have seen it are untrue.” Mcintyre

  10. Freddy Woods says:

    May I put this succinctly and be brutally honest are, Lewandowsky and Cook competent? Or are they just like many other pseudo scientists making a ‘buck’ for their own greed? Simply by using ‘scientific terms’, perhaps they are using the old adage ‘B*********T Baffles Brains’!!!!

  11. manicbeancounter says:

    Lewandowsky’s sneaky request “to mention only my assistant’s name, Charles Hanich, on the online survey” has particular relevance to what followed. Before Joanne Nova published her “Lewandowsky show skeptics are nutters…” post, she contacted a number of skeptic bloggers to search their inbox for Lewandowsky’s survey. There was no mention of his research assistant in the paper, so naturally all the resultant searches drew a blank. On this basis I wrote on 03.09.12:-

    The claim in the paper that they contacted five sceptical blogs to improve the spread of views is highly suspect.

    It turns out that my suspicions were correct. Stephen Lewandowsky had not contacted any of the skeptic sites, and deliberately kept people in the dark as to this fact.
    Lewandowsky posted on 10.09.12 at Shaping Tomorrow’s World

    1. When will an apology be forthcoming for the accusations launched against me? And how many individuals should now be issuing a public apology?

    To explore the magnitude of this question we must take stock of public statements that have been made about my research. For example, one blogger considered it “highly suspect” whether I had contacted any “skeptic” sites.

    Linking to my comment, Prof. Lewandowsky, knowing my suspicions to be true, brazenly demands that I apologize for daring to suspect him.
    He digs himself a deeper hole by saying later

    we now know that the presumed lack of evidence was actually evidence for a measure of carelessness or shoddy record keeping among the individuals contacted.

    It gets worse. Prof Lewandowsky co-wrote with John Cook a short pamphlet called The Debunking Handbook.

    It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

    What Lewandowsky engaged in was misinformation. He asked to keep secret his identity, gave obscure (non-existent) clues and then claimed bloggers “amnesia” when they failed to find emails sent to them by another. He did this believing that such misinformation would work to the advantage of himself and his unsupported beliefs, whilst undermining democracy.


  1. […] Climate Madness takes a swipe at Stephan Lewandowsky’s latest taxpayer-funded polemic. This is an extended version of my […]

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