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.

Lewandowsky and UWA – Freedom of Information Documents

More Lew paper

More Lew paper

I am providing a download link to all the UWA FOI documents relating to Stephan Lewandowsky and the “Moon Landing denier” paper. If you haven’t followed this closely, you can check out the whole story here.

The FOIs were in two stages, the first focussed on the emails sent to “sceptic” blogs, and the second was more general in scope. The ZIP file contains two folders with the various documents from each.

Download HERE (.zip file, 95.7 MB).

Freedom of Information Update

FOI update

Lewandowsky – Universtiy of Western Australia

Graham Readfearn complains at DeSmogBlog that climate bloggers including myself are:

“using FOI to rifle through scientists’ daily emails.

[FOI] is a law which appears to have been hijacked by climate science sceptics and free market think tanks as a means to rifle through their inboxes in search of anything which, when taken out of context, might be used to make them look bad.”

This has resulted in a release this week of more than 300 pages of correspondence, although the applicant, “Australian Climate Madness” blogger Simon Turnill, has yet to publish the files. Lewandowsky said:

“There will have been easily more than 100 person hours of publicly-funded time spent dealing with this request, which cost the applicant only $30 to submit – although I understand there was an charge of $400. Putting in FOI requests seems to be common practice now. There is no question in my mind that the intent is to intimidate and slow down research. These kinds of requests discourage scientists from doing their work.”

Yes, it cost me over $400, and like anyone else I am fully entitled to apply for documents under the Freedom of Information Act without having to give any justification, because I was curious to see how such a piece of research was ever agreed to by University of WA’s ethics department.

And no, the intention was never to “intimidate and slow down research”, it is to subject academics who vilify sceptics to proper scrutiny. I have only ever submitted FOI requests when a highly questionable claim is made in the mainstream media, as was the case here, namely that sceptics believed the moon landings were faked. In total, I have submitted just four FOI requests in two and a half years on just two news stories – hardly what can be regarded as vexatious.

Lewandowsky obviously forgets that our taxes (including mine) pay his salary. When he uses his publicly funded position to launch highly politicised attacks on those he disagrees with, thinly disguised as academic research, then there are likely to be people who find that offensive.

As to why the documents have not been published, it is because there are a number of key emails between Professor Lewandowsky and a significant third party which have been withheld because of the third party’s objection. I am awaiting the release of those documents in due course, following which I will be commenting further on them.

As an aside, I must mention that the FOI department at the University of Western Australia has been exemplary in its handling of this matter.

Death threats – Melbourne University

Readfearn correctly states that I recently received emails under an FOI from Melbourne University. Once again, the “non-death threats” story made the mainstream media throughout the world. It is entirely proper for such claims to be backed up by documentary evidence. Emails received from the ANU showed that whilst there was abuse, there were no death threats. In other words, the FOI was justified in providing a proper background to the story which the mainstream media failed to provide.

As with the UWA, I must give Melbourne University credit for the professional manner in which the request was dealt with. Both it and the University of Western Australia are in stark contrast to the handling of the FOI request by ANU, which was initially refused, forcing me to appeal to the Information Commissioner.

I am still working on these, but guess what? The worst I can find is: “Die you lying bastard”. Unpleasant and distressing? Certainly. A death threat? Certainly not.

More importantly, however, one of the scientists involved, a prominent name in climate circles, even admits that the timing of the death threats story was a “media beat up”, and that there was no evidence of a “conspiracy” by sceptics to intimidate climate scientists.

What do you make of that, Graham?

Lewandowsky: ethical considerations for "moon landing denier" paper

Ethical dilemma

UPDATE 2 [Tuesday 16 October]: Further research has unearthed the specific procedure for amending an ethics approval at UWA. It can be found here. It states, inter alia:

When would a new ethics application be required?

Should a request for an amendment propose a significant change to the procedures and ethical implications of a project, the applicant may be required to submit a new Human Research Ethics Application to the HREO.

In such cases, a new human research ethics project will be established with a new project reference number.

The amendments proposed in the email of 12 August 2010 would have constituted a “significant change to the procedures and ethical implications” especially given the approval had already been used for an earlier piece of research. The policy in force at the time of the amendment (see here) are less specific, and only require a request to be in writing, however, the old policy still anticipates that if significant changes are made to procedures and ethical implications:

“the amendments will be referred to the full Human Research Ethics Committee, which could request the resubmission of an application form.”

UPDATE [Monday 15 October]: The “first” paper – dealing with interpretation of graphical data – is in fact no longer “in press” but was published in the journal Psychological Science as far back in April of 2011. Abstract is here. The paper states that the survey was completed during February 2010, seven months prior to the request for the amendment. Note that in the email, 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.

The Freedom of Information documents received recently from the University of Western Australia (and discussed here) suggest that Prof Lewandowsky submitted a substantial amendment to an existing Ethics Committee (“EC”) approval, which had already been used for one study, in order to use it for the now infamous “moon landing denier” paper (see here).

The amendment was approved by an administrative officer in the EC in less than 24 hours, and I currently have an email in to the head of UWA’s Ethics Office with a number of questions regarding the conduct of the approval of the amendment. The text of the email is reproduced at the end of this post.

However, notwithstanding the above, I have spent a little time researching the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (which can be found here). The introduction provides some background to the Statement’s purpose:

The purpose of this National Statement is to promote ethically good human research. Fulfilment of this purpose requires that participants be accorded the respect and protection that is due to them. It also involves the fostering of research that is of benefit to the community.

The National Statement is therefore designed to clarify the responsibilities of:

  • institutions and researchers for the ethical design, conduct and dissemination of results of human research; and
  • review bodies in the ethical review of research.

The National Statement will help them to meet their responsibilities: to identify issues of ethics that arise in the design, review and conduct of human research, to deliberate about those ethical issues, and to justify decisions about them. 

In the introduction, the Statement discusses the basic principles which apply to ethical considerations in research involving humans:

[…] the values of respect, research merit and integrity, justice, and beneficence have become prominent in the ethics of human research in the past six decades, and they provide a substantial and flexible framework for principles to guide the design, review and conduct of such research.  

In section 1.1, Values and Principles of Ethical Conduct, we find the following with regard to “merit and integrity”:

Research that has merit is:


(d) designed to ensure that respect for the participants is not compromised by the aims of the research, by the way it is carried out, or by the results;


Section 1.6 deals with “beneficence”:

The likely benefit of the research must justify any risks of harm or discomfort to participants. The likely benefit may be to the participants, to the wider community, or to both. 

Section 2.1 deals in more detail with Risk and Benefit, and the following extract is from the section “Harm, discomfort and inconvenience”:

Research may lead to harms, discomforts and/or inconveniences for participants and/or others.

No list of harms can be exhaustive, but one helpful classification identifies the following kinds of potential harms in research:

  • […]
  • devaluation of personal worth: including being humiliated, manipulated or in other ways treated disrespectfully or unjustly;
  • […]

The next consideration is:

Do the benefits justify the risks?

Research is ethically acceptable only when its potential benefits justify any risks involved in the research.

Benefits of research may include, for example, gains in knowledge, insight and understanding, improved social welfare and individual wellbeing, and gains in skill or expertise for individual researchers, teams or institutions.

The UWA Ethics Office web site links the duties of researchers at UWA to the terms of the National Statement:

The ethical conduct of research involving humans is governed by a number of guidelines and by legislation. In particular, the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research embodies the key values, principles and guidelines for the design and conduct of human research.

The University, and its staff and student researchers, must comply with the principles and guidelines contained in the National Statement when designing and conducting human research.

Does the research raise questions regarding “respect”? Given Prof Lewandowsky is on the record, well prior to the research being carried out, that he was of the opinion that climate scepticism was linked to far-fetched conspiracy theory ideation (see here), it could be argued that there was a substantial risk of humiliation or disrespectful treatment of participants, given that it may be argued that the intention of the research was to make that link – which in itself is objectively demeaning (either to the participants or a subset of the “wider community”). Even if it did not reach the threshold for “harm” could be regarded at least as a “discomfort”.

The emails to “sceptical blogs” stated:

” … I am seeking your assistance with a web-based survey of attitudes towards climate science (and other sciences) and skepticism [sic]. The survey has been approved by the University’s ethics committee and carries no risks for participants.”

We will see what kind of approval the survey received in due course, no doubt.

What benefits did the research provide? Evidence that climate sceptics have a psychological inability to accept climate science, linked to an acceptance of wacky conspiracy theories? It would be easy to reach the conclusion that the purpose of the research was simply to confirm a belief already held and portray sceptics in a negative light, in order to make a political point.

This conclusion is lent weight by the close association between Prof Lewandowsky and the Skeptical Science web site, which is well known for ridiculing and demeaning anyone (including respected atmospheric and climatic scientists) who questions any part of the AGW consensus. Examples of the tone employed include sections entitled “Lindzen’s Illusions”, referring to MIT Professor Richard Lindzen, “Spencer Slip-Ups”, referring to Dr Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, Huntsville to name but two.

As it turns out, there were only 10 responses out of over 1100 that either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that the moon landings had been faked, and six of those also accepted the alarmist consensus on AGW. [In reality, of course, they were probably mostly fake response from “believers” wanting to assist with Lewandowsky’s effort – seriously, who in their right mind honestly believes the moon landings were staged? – Ed]

I consider that the above does not represent an appropriate benefit from supposedly impartial academic research.

I therefore suggest that the nature of the study, as understood from the final paper itself, would raise sufficient concerns regarding the criteria set out in the National Statement to require considerable evidence to demonstrate that they were not, in fact, sufficiently serious to warrant the study not taking place. The EC may, of course, have imposed special conditions on the approval, had a full review process taken place.

I further suggest that such a study, being as it was of a substantially different nature to that originally proposed, would require a fresh application to the EC at UWA, giving full details of the survey and the methodology to be applied. The casual email amendment to an existing approval (which, it appears, had already been used for another, different, paper) would be likely to be regarded as an inappropriate manner in which to seek ethical approval.

The email sent to the Ethics Office is as follows, and the response received will hopefully illuminate some of the questions above. If a response is not forthcoming, a further FoI request will be submitted for documentary evidence to show the what review of the amendment took place.

I have recently been provided a copy of the above document and various related correspondence via a Freedom of Information request to UWA.
I have some follow-up questions, which I would be grateful if you would address:
1. The original proposal provided by Prof Lewandowsky to the Committee in December 2009 related to a project entitled “Understanding Statistical Trends”. The approval relating to that proposal was RA/4/1/4007. It appears that the paper, Popular consensus: Climate change set to continue, follows from the specific research authorised by that approval. Is that correct?
2. Ethics approval for the paper that was the subject of my FoI request, NASA faked the moon landing—therefore (climate) science is a hoax: An anatomy of the motivated rejection of science, was sought not by a fresh application, but by an amendment to the existing approval above. Please would you kindly explain why it was not necessary for Prof Lewandowsky to submit a fresh application to the Ethics Committee, given that the nature of the paper and the methodology to be employed was substantially different from the first?
3. Prof Lewandowsky submitted the request for an amendment to the approval by email to Kate Kirk on 12 August 2010, for which approval was granted by her by email the following day. What form did the ethics review of that amendment take?
4. The amendments proposed by Prof Lewandowsky altered the nature of the research to such an extent that even the Title and Aim of the research (as set out in the original approval) were rendered wholly inaccurate, since no amendment was proposed to those sections by Prof Lewandowsky in his email. Why was Prof Lewandowsky not required to make consequential amendments to the approval so that the approval was at least internally consistent and made some sense in the context of the new research to be carried out?
5. Is it considered normal practice at UWA to amend an ethics approval granted for one project in order to use it for a second, entirely different, project? If so, how is this abridged process carried out to ensure that ethical considerations are fully understood and examined prior to subsequent approval, especially where there are such wholesale changes to the original? If not, why was Prof Lewandowsky permitted to use this course of action in order to seek approval for the second paper without going through the full ethics procedure procedure?

Lew – a few final thoughts

Cook and Lew – best buddies

UPDATE: Take a look at this article [backup link] on ABC’s The Drum, from May 2010, which reveals that Lewandwosky had already made the link between scepticism and conspiracy theories well before his paper was published – he just needed the right survey to confirm it:

Why would anyone believe that Prince Phillip is running the world drug trade? Why do some people believe that NASA faked the moon landing? Why is the internet abuzz with claims that 9/11 was an “inside job” of the Bush administration?

Conspiracy theories are part and parcel of modern life and some people clearly find their allure irresistible.

Likewise, climate “sceptics” obsessively yelp at the alleged frailties of the surface temperature record and accuse respectable scientific agencies of “fudging” data, oblivious to the fact that multiple independent analyses of the temperature record give rise to the exact same conclusion. The further fact that the satellite data yield precisely the same result without any surface-based thermometers is of no relevance to climate “sceptics.” It is also of no relevance to climate “sceptics” that their claims about the absence of global warming are logically incoherent with their simultaneous claim that humans didn’t cause the warming.

The conspiracy theory known as climate “scepticism” will soon collapse because it must be extended to include even the macrolepidoptera, including the rhopalocera, geometroidea andnoctuoidea. Yes, the European moths and butterflies must be part of the conspiracy, because they mate repeatedly every season now, rather than once only as during the preceding 150 years.

I’m not planning on posting any more on this ridiculous paper until I have some more news on FOI, but I do have a few final thoughts.

Steve McIntyre is doing sterling work digging into the data in great detail. But my question is, why bother? It’s lending credibility to a study which had zero to start with.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Lew is well known as a vociferous critic of anyone who questions the “consensus”
  • He’s buddies with John Cook, he of climate alarmist heaven Skeptical Science fame
  • He’s previously published a lengthy catalogue of patronising articles relentlessly and repetitively attacking “deniers”, and often questioning their psychological health
  • He has already decided that he can besmirch his ideological opponents by linking climate scepticism to kooky conspiracy theories, and designs an online survey accordingly [see article in the update above]
  • Alongside questions regarding the effect of CO2 on the climate, there are questions about HIV/Aids, smoking and cancer, JFK, the moon landings, and a bunch of other crazy conspiracies
  • He gets the survey published on a bunch of headbanger blogs, many of which have undisguised contempt for realists, and probably think that they can help achieve his unstated pretty clear goals
  • None of the sceptic blogs approached publish it (maybe because it’s so painfully obvious to them what he’s attempting to achieve and don’t want a bar of it)
  • 10 out of 1100 or so survey responses express belief in the faking of the NASA moon landings, a large proportion of which were probably faked by alarmists having a laugh…
  • Despite the fact that six of those ten also believe the consensus on climate change, he submits the paper for publication in a journal with a title linking moon landing “denial” to climate “denial”
  • Newspapers in the UK pick up on the story (Telegraph, Guardian) and in passing at the Sydney Morning Heraldmaking sure the moon landing bit features heavily in the stories
  • Objective to portray sceptics as nut-jobs achieved

And as a postscript, when any of the above is questioned by the great unwashed, Lew labels that a conspiracy theory as well. Enough said.

Last word goes to A Scott on WUWT:

For the first time, in a now total 9 blog posts on this paper, [Lewandowsky’s] most recent story is more talk, less condescension and derision towards those who would dare challenge his work. Well OK, mostly, sorta less. It is a long story, with lots of fancy terms, initials, equations and descriptions.

In it he reminds us lowly unwashed masses that we are knowledge-less simpletons – merely “toying” with his data. That we couldn’t possibly understand all the important stuff real scientists like him know. Or maybe he didn’t say it exactly that way, but it’s just how it came across.  

He takes the long way around to re-tell us why skeptics are somehow conspiracy theorists who believe the moon landing, and (science), is fake, or something like that. I guess the parentheses mean because the answers to some of the other questions about science were true, that we can perform a latent variable analysis, and prove we actually DO believe in that fake old moon landing even though we said we didn’t. Or maybe not.

That’s this cool new idea he shares – we can’t just look at the simple answers to the questions – like whether we believe the moon landing was fake, nah, those 10 people don’t know nothing – they’re just noise. Nothing to see here – no one behind this curtain – now move along …

No – we must look to the answers of the other questions, to determine if we believe the moon landing was fake and thus are nasty old science rejecters. And motivated ones at that. Or something like that.

I think we’ve given Lew enough oxygen for now.

Lewandowsky update

Lots of questions…

More on the moon landing denier paper:

I particularly like this bit in Lucia’s post in response to Lewandowsky’s third question:

3. Where do we go from here?

We read the contents of the invitations, note the dates and request copies of the other invitations and compare them. This will provide data to determine whether the method of inviting people was designed to introduce bias.

Precisely what the FOI will show. The University have advised that a decision will be made on 18 October 2012.

Lewandowsky update

Lewandowsky, Rose and Oreskes

Yet more on the ‘moon landing denier’ paper from the buddy of John Cook at Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science, who has a long history of smearing sceptics, and who devises a survey which conveniently shows that those who question the climate consensus are conspiracy theory kooks. Colour me surprised. Not.

The latest twist, according to Lewandowsky, is that the mere fact of querying the manner in which sceptic blogs were asked to participate in the survey is itself a “conspiracy theory” …


So explain to me professor Lewandowsky, how failure to receive or be able to find emails supposedly sent, without any other mode of contact or attempts at communication is somehow conspiracy theory.

If Lewandowsky sent an email, it likely ended up in SPAM. Lots of “take our quick survey” emails are spam these days. He should know better than to trust email as the only contact medium for something he deems important. Instead, he accuses us of being conspiracy theorists when we ask for proof.


I have absolutely no idea where anyone would get it into his wool-filled brain cavity that giving him permission to release information he claims to wish to release is evidence that I or anyone else harbor a conspiracy theory. I also don’t know why he thinks anyone would have egg on our faces if it turns out we are on the list. We are asking precisely because we want to know. Moreover, we are asking the information be shared because we want others to know.

I would also like to respond to his insinuation that we haven’t some how looked hard enough for the emails. I can only speak for myself, but I am happy to reveal why I am not going to look harder.

Conducting his survey may have been important to him at the time but it’s really nothing to me. I do not think its importance to him compels me to maintain records of our email exchanges for his sake. I does not compel me to burn email exchanges with perfect strangers into my memory nor to resurrect the hard drive which died in 2011 so that I can search for any emails he might have sent me in 2010.

As for me, I have searched all of my emails from 2010 with various search criteria, including old backups, and found nothing. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t sent, but it may have ended up in the spam filter, or in the trash. And for a time, my ACM mail trash was emptying every week for some unknown reason. So if it went in there at that time it’s gone for good.

Even if Lewandowsky does eventually release the names of the bloggers who were contacted, it won’t show the history of communication between the eight chosen sites and the five “sceptic” sites, or indeed any other sites that were contacted as part of the survey process.

However, the FoI certainly will, and will shows what steps were taken to secure the participation of any blog contacted as part of the research.

N.B. You can sense the contempt Lewandowsky holds for those who dare question his methods in the tone employed here. I guess he thought he could brand all sceptics as conspiratorial nut-nut jobs and we’d just quietly slink away and say, “Yeah, you’re right, we are nut-jobs”. And his defence mechanism to this criticism is to resort to childish sarcasm in his responses – as one commenter puts it, how “professorial” is that, professor?

Lewandowsky: FoI request submitted to UWA

UPDATE 2: This post explains why an FOI on this matter is warranted.

UPDATE: Lewandowsky responds to some of the points here. Sadly, given his previous form, I can’t help but agree with one of the comments over at Bishop Hill:

I think they dreamed up their dramatic headline conclusion of “climate sceptics are nutters” and worked back from there.

Once they got headline exposure in a couple of major newspapers, their mission was accomplished. (source)

Just an update on this. I have submitted a formal Freedom of Information request to the University of Western Australia for copies of all of Prof Lewandowsky’s emails to climate blogs (any climate blogs) in relation to the ‘moon landing denial paper’ as I’m calling it (see here and here).

The University may seek to avoid disclosure on the grounds of confidentiality, but I think there is a strong public interest case to be made.

Freedom of Information: request for donations

Karoly the activist*

UPDATE: Very many thanks to all of you who have made donations so far (you know who you are) – we now have enough to cover the present FOI expenses. However, if you haven’t donated yet, please consider doing so anyway to help cover some of the ongoing costs of hosting this site (which exceed US$150 per month). We’re still waiting for that Big Oil cheque to arrive. Must have got lost in the post… Perhaps I should try and get some Big Green funding instead – that seems a great deal more bountiful.

I don’t normally request donations, but in this case I am making an exception, so I hope you will forgive me in advance. Firstly a bit of background.

Since my ANU Freedom of Information request was covered by The Australian (see here for full details), I have submitted a further request to The University of Melbourne (or the “Parkville Asylum” as it is known). The request is again relating to death threat emails, this time in respect of Prof David Karoly and one of his colleagues.

Prof Karoly is a Review Editor for the IPCC’s Assessment Report 5 (see here – large PDF) and also on the science advisory panel for the WWF’s Climate Witness project. Apparently, being closely involved with an environmental activist organisation like the WWF does not present Karoly with any conflict of interest, whereas clearly any “denier” who earns one cent from a sceptic think tank is hopelessly compromised. Double standards are a wonderful thing.

[UPDATE: Karoly is also happy to be associated with other shrill environmental advocacy groups, like the naive Australian Youth Climate Coalition, presenting a video on “the science” here. Now we all know that if a geologist has even the most tenuous association with a fossil fuel company, he is immediately ostracised and never trusted or listened to again. So applying those same standards to Karoly himself, presumably we should never trust him or listen to another word he says either, right? No, wait…]

He is well known to readers of this blog as being one of the Gillard government’s climate advisors and a climate alarmist (see here for a recent example). Karoly was one of the climate scientists interviewed in the original Canberra Times article relating to death threats, and a month later gave a lengthy interview to The Age in which he recycles the tired old arguments yet again:

More broadly, however, [Karoly] notes an organised distribution of emails against mainstream climate change scientists.

He points to “so-called think tanks” established by climate change sceptics, whose claims are cited widely by conservative industry lobby groups in a bid to convince legislators that climate change science is full of unknowns.

He highlights the recent establishment of a website by a group called the Galileo Movement. “This site has [ Sydney broadcaster] Alan Jones as the patron and a list of the usual climate change sceptics as their scientific advisers.”

The journalist didn’t ask him about the WWF, sadly, and Karoly clearly has no awareness of the issues that climate science faces with regard to its credibility, given Climategate and the duff predictions of people like Tim Flannery (the Climate Commissioner).

Unfortunately, it seems climate scientists love to play the role of victim. The death threats story was perfect, as it allowed them to portray themselves as innocent bystanders targeted by evil “deniers” in the pay of big oil. And they can’t stop doing it.

You may recall the Gergis et al paper, which was withdrawn after blogger Steve McIntyre found flaws in its calculations? Karoly politely wrote to McIntyre about the issue, but once the dust had settled, was back in his old ad hom ways, accusing McIntyre in a book review of  “promulgating misinformation” (the original review by Karoly has been removed, but the Google cache still shows it, and I have preserved it in PDF here).

When asked by McIntyre to provide examples of such activities, instead of responding, Karoly retreats to the cosseted environment of Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science to resume his victimhood, protesting in the comments:

 In Australia, I have just received a threat of legal action from Steve McIntyre in Canada and am currently dealing with 6 different FOI requests.

There was no threat of legal action, just a “please explain” – but it’s so much better for The Cause if you don the mantle of victimhood and claim you’re under threat of legal action. Read Steve’s post over at Climate Audit here.

Also, one of those FOI requests was mine – I was going to let it drop, but seeing the  manner in which Karoly has reacted to McIntyre, I’m going ahead with it. So I am therefore asking if you would be so kind as to make a donation.

It is likely to be several hundred dollars, so if you are able to contribute anything (every single dollar helps) I would be personally very grateful. Please mark your donation “FoI” so that it can be allocated specifically to this project rather than towards general operating costs.

Click the Donate button in the Big Oil Tip Jar in the left sidebar to send funds via PayPal.

Thank you all in advance.

*Karoly’s t-shirt reads “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” – the slogan of the radical Left “Weather Underground” movement – see here. Again, it’s perfectly fine for Karoly to be an activist! 

Last words on ANU FOI

FOI request

ANU have stifled any further attempt to reach the truth in this matter, having (a) refused to comment any further through their media office; and (b) quoted nearly $40k to search through their documents for the further evidence I have requested – a ridiculous amount clearly intended to thwart my request.

You’d think they’d have a big red file labelled “Death Threats” on a shelf somewhere, but apparently not. The threats were so serious (allegedly) that they kept no easily accessible records and will need to spend over 2500 man hours trawling through all their documents. Bizarre.

This signals the end of the line. I could appeal the quoted fee, but to be honest, I don’t have the inclination to pursue the matter any further.

Chris Merritt pens the final summary in The Australian:

ATTEMPTS to verify last year’s sensational reports of death threats against climate change scientists have been stymied by the Australian National University, which wants to be paid at least $37,800 to search its records for evidence that would support those reports.

The university has justified that fee by asserting that the search would take 2520 hours and occupy six employees for 60 days working seven-hours a day at $15 an hour.

ANU has also given notice that the final bill could be even higher as it would need to include an additional sum to cover the cost of deciding whether to make available the results of the search. Before it starts looking, the university wants a deposit of $9450.

The money demanded by ANU has forced lawyer and climate change blogger Simon Turnill to abandon his latest attempt to check the veracity of the assertions.

“I don’t know how they have arrived at this figure of over 2500 hours of work to identify these documents,” Mr Turnill said.

“The simplest option would be for ANU to come out and admit honestly what was received and what was not received. Making us go through an endless succession of hoops to get to the truth seems a very defensive and strange response.”

As part of his FOI application, Mr Turnill had also sought access to all documents and records containing communications with journalists — particularly those at The Canberra Times — about threats to staff at the university’s Climate Change Institute. (source)

Chris also writes here about the police reports of threats sent to them in 2006, years prior to the story breaking last June, and how statements from the ANU staff concerned, which would have allowed police to investigate further, were never received. The description of the letters provided by police does not tie in with the description supplied by the ANU in its statement.

So I guess we will never know the truth. People will inevitably draw their own conclusions from the evasive manner in which ANU have handled this entire episode, which has done little for openness, honesty and ultimately the credibility of the institution.

Sharing information, whether it be climate data or evidence to back up claims of death threats, seems to be very difficult for our climate scientists.

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