More on the now infamous “moon landing denier“” statistical paper.
Question – how did this title for a scientific paper:
Understanding Statistical Trends
Turn into this?
NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science
Easy. You get ethics approval from your university for the first and use it to push the second. According to UWA rules, Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky was required to obtain approval for his survey from the UWA Ethics Committee. He got that, the process took a week.
Steve McIntyre writes about it:
The information showed that Lewandowsky used bait-and-switch. Lewandowsky had obtained approval for a project entitled “Understanding Statistical Trends”. The original proposal had nothing to do with his bizarre online conspiracy theory. Lewandowsky switched the proposal in August 2010.
In addition to Simon’s points, note that Lewandowsky stated the following in his ethics proposal:
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”
Nonetheless, Lewandowsky’s name was prominently displayed at some of the anti-skeptic blogs. Lewandowsky’s fears that the survey would be contaminated seem to have been justified.
What is even more interesting, is that when Lewandowsky asked the Ethics Committee for a change to the procedure, switching from a written passed around survey at UWA to one done on the Internet, that approval took only about 18 hours.
Lewandowsky was so surprised at the speed he wrote:
My question now is whether those last minute changes violated some required review procedures. The question is whether or not the changes were at the sole discretion of ethics committee chair Kate Kirk or if they required a wider review. If the latter, I’d FOI the results of that review.
Based on the timeline for the change approval, my suspicion is that Ms. Kirk just waived it through without really looking at it or consulting anyone else. That may or may not be procedurally kosher according to UWA ethics rules.
She seemed flippant in this exchange:
As advertised publicly in this other UWA online survey project:
For any ethical concerns regarding this research project please contact:
Kate Kirk (Kate.Kirk@uwa.edu.au, Ph:08 6488 3703).
I strongly advise any readers against sending hate mail, but instead ask how she allowed herself to be victimized by this apparent bait and switch by professor Lewandowsky and if that 18 hours from request to approval was mostly waiting for Ms. Kirk to read the email in her inbox, or if she actually sent it out to others for review.
Simon Turnhill deserves props for following this through. I advise visiting ACM and reading his full essay, leaving some thanks in the tip jar.