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FOI: Coyne ridiculous

As many readers are aware, our old friend Stephan Lewandowsky has recently published a paper in Nature that sets out his views on the circumstances in which scientists should release their data to others - the thrust of the piece being that he thinks that a favourable answer need only be given to his mates.

I had rather rolled my eyes at this and wondered if I actually wanted to give him the attention that a rebuttal might bring, so I had resolved to ignore it. However, a post by Professor James Coyne, a psychologist who works in Groningen in the Netherlands, suggests that Lewandowsky's article is just part of a wider trend in academia.

Coyne is interested in the scientific controversy over chronic fatigue syndrome, and in particular the so-called PACE trial, a controversial UK-funded research project that assessed different treatments for the condition. The results were published in PLoS One, which demands that data should be made available on request, but unfortunately, when Coyne asked to see the numbers, the authors, led by Professor Peter White of Queen Mary University of London, decided that they were not going to comply. According to an earlier Coyne post, in order to reinforce their point White et al then set their lawyers on the journal:

PLOS One is squaring off with its lawyers against the PACE investigators and their lawyers who are resisting given me the data promised by the PACE investigators having published in PLOS One.

This is where it gets interesting, because familiar names start appearing at quite a pace:

It’s also no secret that Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet has put pressure on the PLOS management to quiet me down at both at their blog site and in social media. Yup, Horton demanded that PLOS clamp down not only what I upload to their blog, but what I say on Twitter and Facebook.

Horton, you will no doubt recall, was on Muir Russell's (alleged) inquiry into Climategate. [Update: Horton wrote the report on peer review for Russell but was not strictly a panel member]

Next up it's Lewandowsky. We learn that:

Peter White [...] enlisted Stephan Lewandowsky to disseminate a misrepresentation of the PACE investigators’ commitment to transparency

...the misrepresentation being, apparently, that Lewandowsky claimed that some of the PACE data had been released. I think it's fair to say that misrepresentation by Lewandowsky is not exactly a surprise. 

And then the Science Media Centre gets involved. Lewandowsky's co-author on the Nature article was Professor Dorothy Bishop, who we noted at BH towers some weeks back as a new advisory board member at the SMC. Now according to Coyne, the SMC has been quietly lobbying to get FOI laws amended:

The SMC is coordinating a letter writing campaign to Parliament instigated by Peter White attempting to get an exclusion from the Freedom of Information Act for request for data.

Just as you think Coyne is going to come out on the side of the angels, however, he says something that shows that his position on data transparency is almost identical to Lewandowsky's:

Lewandowsky’s claim was made in reaction to the two of them being criticized for lumping those who seek the PACE data, like me, with science deniers who must be resisted...

You would have thought that a full professor would have worked out that for FOI to have general support, it must be blind to the identity of the requester. Either we are equal under FOI law or we are not. If all you have to do to resist a data request is to shout "denier" or "vexatious" then not a single datum will ever see the light of day. From White's perspective, Coyne is a "denier":

[In another blog post I will] discuss the origins of the smearing of critics of the PACE trial as science deniers. I’ll explain why we are being lumped with animal rights activists and climate change deniers, but not opponents of fracking.

Grief, some people lack self-awareness, don't they?

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Reader Comments (61)

Harry Passfield, I think Aila's proposition to judge all climate science by a consensus of 97% Lewandowsky, and the other 50% as rubbish, seems very appropriate and logical, and is perfectly tuned to Lewandowsky's mind set and sense of fair play.

Feb 2, 2016 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

the simple fact is if there was any form of robust scrutiny of papers from all disciplines retractions would be running at a very high rate. unfortunately this is not the case and thousands upon thousands of papers that are complete dross are cited over and over again,sometimes forming accepted paradigms that are complete and utter b/s.

the bampot attp argues that only in extreme cases should papers be retracted, whereas it would be good practice to retract every paper that contains technical errors, incorrect assumptions based on the data used and anything else that renders the conclusions meaningless.

however,i think i am more likely to see the next ice age than the taxpayer funded climate science community get their access to data house in order.

Feb 3, 2016 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterbit chilly

Bit chilly 12:52, obvious solution is a massive cut in funding for climate science, and many of their pretend problems will vanish.

If the science is settled, why do they need more research anyway?

Feb 3, 2016 at 12:59 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Golf charlie (Feb 3, 2016 at 12:59 AM)
Lewandowsky doesn't do (much) climate science. He does psychology at a prestigious university. I put in an ethics complaint to Bristol about his new paper which plagiarises his old retracted paper using the same data and coming to the same conclusions. I got the brush off. Google an extract from the new paper and you get the retracted paper, still available on-line.
As bit chilly points out, it's in all disciplines - an academic closed shop, with fierce group loyalty protecting scandalous misbehaviour.

Hunter (Feb 2, 2016 at 11:07 PM):

“... he and those who practice what he suggests are simply hiding something ...”
Mann et al may hide things behind a forest of statistical jargon. Lewandowsky doesn't bother. It's visible to the casual observer. He actually says in his latest paper that the 22 truncated quotes which form his sole data have been altered. It's not even a pretence of science, not even scince. It's s***nce.

Feb 3, 2016 at 8:31 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

TinyCO2 is correct: "FOI shouldn't even be needed, it should be there to be examined at any time."

If they don't publish their data, nobody can check or correct (or reproduce) their work, so it's not then science at all, it's just preaching.

We should ignore the conclusions of anyone who won't explain how they arrived at them.

Oh wait - WE already do, it's the political class who are the problem - again.

Feb 3, 2016 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Duffin

"If the science is settled, why do they need more research anyway?"

gc - in one...... again.

bit chilly,

Also hits nail on head and very hard, averring that, most of these papers are execrable tosh and would not stand up to the harsh sunlight of proper, objective open investigation.

Imho, I will say, futhermore if one paper, er.... say one which a guy published, who was working in the Penn state Uni climatology dept - had his pudgy fingers on was released with data and computer methodology, warts and all. Hence, if it was found to be dodgy the jury would frown and logically of course desire to scrutinize all other works by said scientivist and he...couldn't have that now - could they/he?

Also, I would say - if public money [taxpayers dosh] has been used to fund said research - the public owns it not the promulgators of the green dogmas/activists university nor the scientivist whose work was actually published - after all they may wish to call themselves "scientists" but if you're on the taxpayer dollar/£ then in effect you INCONTESTABLY are a PUBLIC SERVANT.

Musing on, the defence used against Steyn, 'personal property' against public right to know, which to me, is a travesty of justice that, the defendant - he's managed to limp this far (help from above?) - he'll be praying for Billary to be shoed in elected supreme leader, though Bernie might not agree.

Finally if one of the 'consensus' was to be publicly defenestrated and reputation trashed - the whole shebang is put in a much different light, they've managed the fall out for serial woman botherer Svengali Pachauri, they got away with porkies about the Himalayas and just about everything else they've lied about not least "melting Arctic by next week or SOONER!" - to manage to pull the wool over the public's eyes and signing up some shi77y stitch-up in Paris - incredible. But if one of their main climate priests was defrocked and publicly humiliated at that - pretty much I'd say it was game over. All Lewandovsky does, is a deflection strategist, his insane ramblings are puny but all he seeks to do - is to take the pressure off the likes of senior bodgers of statistics at Penn State, NOAA et al.

In the end.

Cut off the public money hose - globull warbling ceases to exist.

Feb 3, 2016 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

My Lord Bishop, whilst your headline on this post is undoubtedly worth a chuckle, is it not rather improper for a man of the cloth?

Feb 3, 2016 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

James Coyne now has a new blog post Serious errors in Stephen Lewandowsky’s paper in PLOS One in which he quotes Duarte at length, after highlighting a comment that I put on his blog post about the stages of the Lewandowsky modus operandi.

Feb 4, 2016 at 11:48 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

In the U.S., biomedical science is actually headed in the opposite direction. The National Institutes of Health, the largest funder of biomedical research, now requires that grant applications address transparency, rigor, and reproducibility of data. Many biomedical journals require that large data sets (like DNA or RNA sequence data or proteomics data) be deposited in a public database before publication. I wonder why NSF and NASA haven't followed suit?

Feb 6, 2016 at 4:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Pruett

Coyne, unlike Lewandowsky, is actually a serious scientist. I've read a number of his papers on speciation, and they're first rate. His problem is the insularity of academics and the failure to face up to how pathological things have become in Academia and how the whole PC trend is now affecting areas of science - of which the most egregious example is ... (well, we all know the answer to that). In particular, Coyne doesn't understand (or won't face the fact) that the term "science deniers" is now a poisoned dart to hurl at anyone who doesn't accept certain received opinions; it's now another Willi-Muenzenberg-like weapon of the Left.

Feb 9, 2016 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered Commenternightspore

Whoops. I looked back at the post and realized I had the wrong Coyne - I know nothing about this guy. (Some of what I said still holds, however.)

Feb 9, 2016 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered Commenternightspore

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