University of Queensland doubles down on Shollenberger – with a straw man argument on 'confidentiality' for names already listed in the paper!

The following is a statement from UQ acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and International) Professor Alastair McEwan.

Recent media coverage (The Australian, 17 March 2013) has stated that The University of Queensland is trying to block climate research by stopping the release of data used in a paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

This is not the case. All data relating to the “Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature” paper that are of any scientific value were published on the website in 2013.

Only information that might be used to identify the individual research participants was withheld.

This was in accordance with University ethical approval specifying that the identity of participants should remain confidential.



This is the first news we’ve heard of an getting an ethics approval by Cook, and  the raters are known and even acknowledged in the paper. See this screencap from the Cook paper:


It seems the ultimate straw man argument.

And, what supposed harm would the knowledge that a few people did some ratings on this paper cause, especially when all of them are already widely known?

Brandon Shollenberger responds:


Suppose it truly is important to keep the identity of raters private. Why then did I just load this image at Skeptical Science:


That shows the identity of 11 raters, and it’s been viewable on Skeptical Science for a couple years now (archived for posterity here). So too has this one (archived here):


This one also identifies nearly a dozen individual participants. It’s true we only found out about these images because of a hack, but that hack happened nearly two years ago. Surely the authors of the paper shouldn’t leave confidential information in a publicly accessible location for two years, even if people have already seen it.


Read it in entirety:





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U of Q have gone over all ‘Mannish’ in doubleing down , now let them ride the storm.


Mannish , the process by which a thin skin and massive ego work together so that a person or organisation only dig their own hole deeper by trying to defend the indefensible. While ignoring both common sense and good practice, often to the amusement of the very people there are trying to defame.


For us laypeople, is there an average time it should take to peer review a paper? Are we looking at 1 or 100 a day, based on the reviewer having a fulltime job?
How long and how many reviewers are needed to review ~12,000 studies?

Ethics not so much.
More like keeping the secrets of bone throwing in the family.


“All data… of scientific value” has been released. Scientific value is in the eye of the beholder. They must release all of the data and let competing researchers decide what is scientifically valuable… Just more perversion of science.

One calculation I remember from an earlier column here showed almost all of the paper summaries (abstracts) were reviewed by a very limited number of the reviewers, and that those averaged something like 220 – 280 per day.
So, 240/day over an 8 hour day = 30 per hour or two minutes evaluating each paper and recording the data and then getting or calling up the next paper fro the stack. No rest breaks, no lunch breaks, no coffee breaks. No pdf-load time (if on a computer) nor pdf search-for-title-time nor click-on-title time nor even a “write-the-title-down” time.


Thanks, that explains a lot. So, it seems they might have had just enough time to review the authors name(s), and compare it to the “approved” list?
And the hidden names and time stamps could expose this farce, correct?
Are the reviewers paid for this service? If so, how, and by whom?
The study count is not arrived at by different reviewers grading the same study? They are all separate studies that were peer reviewed for publication?
I find this incredible, especially after reading the Nic Lewis post on his review of the latest Mann study.
How many hours did it take Nic to arrive at his conclusion? Not necessarily the final post but just to know it was not worthy of publication?

UQ officially has self-disclosed that its employee Cook blatantly and willfully violated the UQ ethics approval for his paper when Cook published some abstract rater names in his paper.
Will John Cook and co-authors of ‘Consensus’ be disciplined for their violation of UQ ethics approval for their paper? Will UQ acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and International) Professor Alastair McEwan do his moral duty and discipline Cook et al?


There seems to be a poorly hidden bigotry and arrogance in the academic culture. Delaware, UQ, Virginia, UEA and too many others display a blatant hypocrisy when it comes to what data is public and what is witheld. The more UQ pursues this, the worse it is going to get for them and the culture they represent. But the better it will be for us who send our money, our taxes and our children. This self exposure is not going to accomplish what the fat cats in the Universities wish it would.

John Whitman makes a relevant point. If the UQ posesses any ethics at all, it will promptly and publicly reprimand their cartoonist for the violation they are impotently accusing Brandon of committing.
The behavior of Alastair McEwan and UQ is unethical in this matter. I sincerely hope they continue digging their hole. It will only hurt their rapidly diminishing credibility.

The only way the ethics claim makes sense is if the “raters” were the actual subjects of Cook’s bogus study.
I am sure, as I write, a good Australian citizen has put in a FOI for the ethics application and approval.

From the hacked/leaked SkS Forum – The Consensus Project – Ari hits 3000 [ratings]
John Cook:
“Damn, I only find out now that I could’ve been rating all this time on the iPad? So much lost opportunity! I just did a half hour exercise on the cross trainer and knocked off 30 ratings while I exercised. I could have spent the last month of exercise racking up 1000 ratings!”
Ari Jokimäki:
“I also have had rather pleasant moments with rating; in the other day I practiced my guitar playing and rated papers at the same time. 🙂 “

The Consensus Project [TCP]
2012-01-19 Marketing Ideas
John Cook
This thread is for general discussions of how to market TCP (began in this earlier thread) and make as great an impact as possible. Various surveys find that a disturbing proportion of the public don’t think scientists agree about global warming so I suggest our goal be to establish “strengthening consensus” as a term in the general public consciousness (that goal can be a topic for discussion if required).
To achieve this goal, we mustn’t fall into the trap of spending too much time on analysis and too little time on promotion. As we do the analysis, would be good to have the marketing plan percolating along as well. So a few ideas floating around:
•Press releases: Talked to Ove about this yesterday, the Global Change Institute have a communications dept (well, two people) and will issue press releases to Australian media when this comes out. No plan yet for US media.
•Mainstream Media: This is the key if we want to achieve public consciousness. MSM is an opaque wall to me so ideas welcome. I suspect this will involve developing time lines, building momentum for the idea and consulting with PR professionals like Jim Hoggan.
•Climate Communicators: There needs to be a concerted effort (spearheaded by me) to get climate communicators using these results in their messaging. I’ve been hooking up with a lot of climate communicators over the last month and will be hooking up with more over the next few months so will be discussing these results with every climate communicator I can get hold of, including heavyweights like Susan Hassol and Richard Somerville, to discuss ways of amplifying this message.
Also Ed Maibach is doing research on the most effective way to debunk the “no consensus” myth so I hope to contact him and hopefully include our results in his research. The more we can get climate communicators incorporating our results into their messages, the better.
•Blogosphere: The usual blogosphere networking. Note – Tim Lambert tried to do a similar crowd sourcing effort a few years ago but didn’t succeed in generating enough support for the crowd sourcing – I’m confident we can get it done.
•Climate Orgs: Also have been making connections with various climate organisations and occasionally talked about the possibility of collaboration so will use this project as a focal point as ways to work together. Have to think about this some more
•Google: Coincidentally, started talking to someone who works at Google, specifically the data visualisation department. So I’ve been working with them on visualising the consensus data in sexy, interactive ways. This will be one of the X-factor elements of TCP – maybe they can even provide an embeddable version of the visualisation which blogs and websites can use.
•Video: Peter Sinclair is keen to produce a YouTube video about the TCP results to publish on the Yale Forum on Climate Change.
•Booklet similar to Guide and Debunking Handbook, explaining the results of the peer-reviewed paper in plain English with big shiny graphics (with translations, I suppose – they’re a pain for me to convert but worthwhile doing).
•Kindle/iBook version of Booklet (can you publish free books on Amazon?).
•Embeddable widget: graphic showing the graph of strengthening consensus, updated each year, easily copy and pasteable into other blogs. I like this idea, can make TCP go viral and become ubiquitious on the climate blogosphere!
Other ideas very welcome.
Update – will continue to add to this list as more ideas come along.

The Consensus Project [TCP]
Strategy for anticipating denier response ‘we don’t deny that humans are causing global warming’
John Cook 2012-03-05
Expect that one denier response to TCP will be “we’ve always agreed that humans are causing global warming – we just dispute the degree of causation or that climate sensitivity is high” or something to that effect.
When someone posts this response, we can dig into the SkS database and find all instances where that blog/denier gave an argument under the category “It’s not us” – the SkS database will have all that information. Then we can post a blog post “XXX reverses position on humans causing global warming”, citing their worst examples of denying AGW along with their new quote “we don’t deny AGW”.
Then when they go on to post another argument for “It’s not us”, we can point out their contradiction again.
Not sure if we want to get that petty but just something to think about, anticipating the lines of attacks we will face.

Dr C

@ Brad – you are a bit confused as to what was going on for this ‘study.’ The allegedly anonymous reviewers were NOT reviewing entire papers. They were skimming ONLY the abstracts (5-10 sentence summaries of the articles) to see which way the papers ‘leaned.’ They were not tasked with reviewing entire papers, let alone doing an in-depth analysis of a paper, as Nic Lewis did with the Mann paper.
Nevertheless, doing 200 of these per day is entirely unreasonable. Fatigue will set in, hampering one’s judgement.


Dr C:
Thanks for reminding me of that. Being an engineer, I can’t ever read just the summary of a report and come to a conclusion. I have to dig in and see if their logic holds water or not. I see too many reports that are accepted simply because of who submitted them, or how thick they are and how many cool graphs they have. Or how they were written with lots of technical terms and jargon. “Engineerese”.
Unfortunately, many of those who are writing checks for the work simply do not understand what is presented. And when it is found out after the project is completed ($ millions) that the report had fatal flaws, the project gets buried and no one talks about it. No one gets taken to the woodshed, or called on the carpet to explain, much less make financial atonement.


I think it’s dangerous to say that the images in the latter part of the post were gained from a hack. What evidence is there for this? In fact if it’s what i think it is then there was no hack ever made at Skeptical Science but rather some half-wit attempted some housekeeping and inadvertently made everything on their server public facing. It’s not a hack if you don’t even have to look through the window to see what’s inside.
Also: If this is the first response that the university have since making their threats then it’s quite clear that those threats were bluff and bluster. I truly hope that some concerned Australian taxpayer is making strongly worded complaints to the appropriate authoritative bodies.
I would very much like to see the ethics application and response. That should be available under FOIA.

David Ball

Time to storm the ivory bastille. Entrenchment and group think have removed them from the real world. It is hurting science AND education.


Just read Cook’s email posted by Barry Woods above. Clearly written before the ratings were completed. Which means the consensus was done and dusted before the ‘study’ started. I expect that many of us understand this but I think more should be made of it. The whole nonsense was nothing more than a concerted effort by a few to push their preconceived notions on a disinterested public.

not an email – SkS moderators forum – leaked/hacked ages ago


The more of how Cook cooks the books, the bigger the ‘yuck’ factor.
He is a poster boy for sleazey, poorly done work dressed up as science.

Joe Public

Perhaps Greenpeace should have submitted the original FOI request?


So what does Brandon have that he wants to make public and they don’t want anyone to see?
IP addr? timestamps?
There must be more than a dozen names that are already known. What is all this fuss about ?


The deeper they dig….


There may be no end to attempts to acquire the UQ (Skeptical Science) data necessary to explicate and elucidate Cook et. al. data regarding their 97% consensus claims. And subsequent analysis to refute their claim may be fraught with even greater frustration.
Indeed, I believe that refutation can be more effectively assessed by meta-analysis of
(1) the search query the Cook team used to identify the papers in their study,
(2) their decision to focus on interpretation of ”abstracts” (as opposed to the more the revealing results and discussion sections of a paper), and
(3) their methods for analyzing the resulting data, which repeatedly winnowed out uncommitted,skeptical authors with no attempts to identify authors who simply pay “lip service” to AGW.
For those who have been relying on second-hand accounts, I strongly suggest that you refer to Cook’s paper Cook Paper . . . it’s eye opening.
Please read it; for me the money quote is:

“We emailed 8547 authors an invitation to rate their own papers and received 1200 responses (a 14% response rate).”

This quote tells me that only 14% of Climate Scientists were sufficiently engaged/enraged/dedicated/motivated to declare their AGW stance on a simple Skeptical Science questionnaire. And yes, I’m honest enough to concede that the low response rate may also reflect how low an opinion the scientific community ascribes to Cook and his team at Skeptical Science.
But where is the supposed AGW enthusiasm and endorsement?


From Barry Woods comments:
“To achieve this goal, we mustn’t fall into the trap of spending too much time on analysis and too little time on promotion.” and “Strategy for anticipating denier response”.
This is stunning and reveals the Cook trash is nothing but propaganda. The same journal ERL rejects Bengtsson’s paper for not providing “significant advancement in the field”. The “97% consensus” was already propagated by Oreskes so there is no “significant advancement”. ERL is not a science journal and nothing more than a propaganda rag.

William McClenney

UQ: A word to the wise.
“Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.”


One clarification to my recent post: “14% of Climate Scientists” should have been written ” 14% of Climate Science authors of papers analyzed by Cook et. al.”. My apologies.


Your link to Cook Papers seems off?
Couldn’t find the referenced paper?


Mannish , the process by which a thin skin and massive ego work together so that a person or organisation only dig their own hole deeper by trying to defend the indefensible

I’ve heard this description (of Mann) many times, but cannot but shake my head at this. Nothing in Mann’s behavior strikes me as a ‘big ego’ ! Rather he comes across as a very small (and narrow) minded insecure individual, who wants to conceal this by lots of loud (but mostly empty) bluster. Possibly this demeanor has been exacerbated by some early limited and subsequently overblown achievment (roughly two lines at an angle)
I mean, has this man every dared to debate, or even just meet, any of his critics on an even field? What I know is that he avoids or even flees any such situation, only gives interviews

UQ’s new motto – check your intelligence at the door. I think they adopted it from an American university.


Cook is a former (?) cartoonist for whom climate SCIENCE is a hobby. He decided to study psychology and is now attempting to manipulate public opinion by manipulating the opinions of scientists. He believes that the reason people doubt “the science of agw” is simply because the MARKETING MESSAGE has been lacking. He believes that “shiney graphics” and catchy phrases are all the simple folk need in order to jump on his bandwagon.
What is hilarious is that it doesn’t really matter what he tries to dress it up like. The generation that has grown up being taught the principles of “how to market…yourself, an idea, a product, a pyramid scheme, a meme…” can smell a sales pitch a mile away. HE seems to be new to these principles himself, and in typical narcissistic form, he assumes that if HE is new to something, everyone else must be too. His methods are enthusiastically obvious to everyone but himself. He’s nothing more than a psychological used theory salesman.

Everyone, it’s important to note note all raters were listed in the paper, and not everyone listed in the paper did ratings. For example, Robert Way did not rate any papers, but he is an author of the paper. A few of us have been discussing that issue in the comments of one my posts:
zootcadillac, I don’t care to revisit the subject at the moment (I have enough on my plate already), but Skeptical Science was hacked, and those images were made public knowledge as a result of it.

D.J. Hawkins

@DanMet’al says:
May 20, 2014 at 10:13 am
Survey response rates are subject to any number of influences. In the old days of mailed surveys, my dad, who was in advertising, once told me that typical response rates were around 1-3%, while a 10% rate was exceptional.

Chad Wozniak

As a former academic, I can assure everyone that the academic environment, far from being free, is so ideologically hidebound as to be as intolerant of dissent as Nazi Germany. UQ’s behavior is par for the course.

Chuck Nolan

If the subject of their research is the scientist’s papers and the conclusions of those papers then the people examining the scientist’s papers (Cook’s people) are the researchers and not the subjects and therefore hold no unique right to hide how each impacted that collating of papers.
Does that sound right?


D.J. Hawkins says:
May 20, 2014 at 10:42 am
Thanks D.J. for your response. Though I don’t have quantitative calibration, like you do, I guess I knew (and wouldn’t have expected) a really high response rate from the authors, because they have busy lives etc . etc.. But I would have thought that the response rates to a survey request from a supposedly respected climate scientist (i.e. Cook) on such an important topic would get a much higher hit rate than an anonymous marketing survey appeal. After all, cold-calling is a lot different than an appeal to your tribe members.
But I admit I have no expertise or significant experience in conducting such external surveys.
Thanks again for your response and perspective.

Hey guys. All the time I’ve spent on the Cook et al paper has made me re-visit an idea I had some time back. I discuss it a bit in a new post of mine. The short version is, I’m thinking about creating a web site to allow for a public re-analysis of the “consensus.”
I’m curious if I could get some feedback:

Here is an example of subjective Integrity => UQ demarcates climate science to include Cook. Cook demarcates climate science to exclude people who want to see all his data.
Here is a flawed hidden premise of UQ and Cook claims => they falsely presume to be in a position to demarcate correct climate science, but only the climate can demarcate what is climate science. The climate so far only supports demarcation of climate science to exclude the UQ’s or Cook’s imaginary consensus.
As to the publication of Cook’s ‘Consensus’ paper, the journal ERL lacked the intellectual tools to understand the flawed demarcation efforts of UQ and Cook.

Cold in Wisconsin

I love the fact that the Chancellor is “Pro-Vice.” I am actually Anti-Vice myself, but then I am a skeptic too.
And as far as the marketing or sales acumen of the Skeptical Science folk, I believe that they are getting better at their craft, but they are about level with Snake Oil salesmen at this point. If you are so slick that you can sell “sh.. in a tinbox” you may be a great salesman, but it is still Sh..!
To Brandon, if you do a public reanalysis of the Cook paper, please give reviewers more choices as to the level of agreement with AGW, and hopefully distinguish between AGW and CAGW.

Cold in Wisconsin

Kudos to Chuck Nolan for a very insightful distinction!!

Glenn Dixon

Professor Alastair McEwan did not say Cook’s project underwent ethical approval, but that it was simply in accordance with that policy. Those weasel words were carefully crafted.
And this is a man who has no trouble with such things. He likely boilerplates similar things to refuse all other FOI requests the university gets.
He may find this item may not be so easy to sweep under the rug.


So the reviewers and people who “peer” review this paper are to be a University secret? How can one trust and even know that the paper was then reviewed?
Perhaps the review was by someone named
Mr. Rubber Stamp!
There is a BIG reason why courts are open to the public. Can you imagine if all court cases are to be held in private?
The REASON why court proceedings are held in public is so the public can have trust of the public system. I mean lawyers used to be VERY respected profession. These days I cannot say they reached the same disrespect as Wall Street traders or climate scientists, but certainly widespread disrespect does exist for the profession these days.
While the public has much distain for many court rulings these days, can you image HOW BAD it would be if courts were NOT held in public view? We would have ZERO respect for courts if the norm was private sessions.
Even some big auto shops now have big bay glass windows in the customer waiting area allowing customers to “peer” down into the working area. In other words the “fact” that customers can view is enough for those customers in general not having or even wanting to view their car being worked on – but they can!
The court system LONG ago realized that to have any public confidence in the system the public must have access to court proceedings.
The idea that the people who rubber stamp such papers has any such history or precedent that their names be withheld and the public is to be keep in the dark as to who approved such papers is not only insane, but not of historic precedent.
If one takes away the tradition of disclosure and public viewing of WHO approves and reviews papers then anything can be produced without any kind of scrutiny.
The result will only be public disrespect and mistrust.
ALSO the door and temptation becomes WIDE OPEN to abuse by the institution used to create such papers.
The result then is the University ONLY can rely on some perceived authority, not on its hard fought integrity.


I bet there are quite a few UofQ alumni squirming with embarassment? The UofQ ‘management’ are a bunch of complete and utter tossers! sorry, but it had to be said……………….


Brad says:
May 20, 2014 at 10:27 am
Sorry for the confusion. . . I tested my earlier post; but obviously messed up! Try this link; it’s an informative dialog.
Cook Paper


What I find odd, is that a supposedly reputable university would willingly associate with a rag like the ironically named skepticalscience.

Robert Scott

At various points among this and other threads on this subject there have been suggestions that an Australian citizen might wish to submit an FOI request to the university, presumably because there is a conception that non-residents cannot do so. Knowing that here in the UK there is no such restriction, I have delved a little into Australian law. Unless I am mistaken, it seems that the position in Australia is much the same. The Aussie act refers only to “a person”, meaning (to me) anyone. True, there have been decided cases where corporations have applied but that was about the right of an individual to do so and whether a non-personal entity could do so.
I don’t wish to enter the fray for the well reasoned argument that too many combatants would be counter productive but those closer to that fray might wish to consider making a request, wherever they are located.


The top rater says:
“I am not a professional climate scientist, but just an interested layman who has been getting familiar particularly to the observational side of the issue by reading the research papers on the subject. I hope I can offer some relevant information on the subject especially as the public discussion on the subject tends to focus more on what climate models can do instead of emphasizing the observational body of evidence which is very large and in my opinion convincing by itself even without far-reaching climate theories or models (which is not to say that climate models are not important and useful tools – they are).!

Cold in Wisconsin, right now I know I want to have ratings for two different things:
1) Endorsement of the greenhouse effect
2) Endorsement of the idea humans are responsible for the majority of the observed warming.
I’m not sure if there’d be any need for a third category to cover whether or not that warming is dangerous. I think the distinction between that category and my 2 is important, but I’m not sure it’d be suitable for this data. There might not be enough abstracts to even look at that topic.
Then again, as long as people don’t have to select a rating for that for most papers (because the default is “no position”), it might not add much burden for the raters.


thank you for clearing up the details about the hack/leak issue. Clearly I am misremembering and conflating two separate issues. Heck, with the level of wine consumption here this weekend after a bereavement I may be making it all up in my head 🙂


albertkallal says:
May 20, 2014 at 11:57 am
So the reviewers and people who “peer” review this paper are to be a University secret? How can one trust and even know that the paper was then reviewed?
Perhaps the review was by someone named
Mr. Rubber Stamp!
=== === ===
I’ve just had a paper accepted for publication.
I can’t tell you by whom. Ever.
It does, however, clearly prove that CAGW-supporting Climate scientists have a smaller ~@~@~@ ;@;@;’ – by about 1.5%/publication – then normal folk of their gender and age.
This is based on a sample of about N [I can’t tell you how many] – but is true with a significance of 0.NN [were I to tell you either of those digits, my colleagues in the S#S would be obliged to neutralize you].
Fortunately, my paper has been peer-reviewed by several other S#@*es – all of whom wish to remain anonymous – and accepted for publication by the Editor’s Premiere Planet’s Personalities Panel, who, it seems, have public order reasons for not being identified.
But there we go – it’s proven that CAGW-supporting Climate scientists have a smaller ~@~@~@ ;@;@;’
Proudly Peer-reviewed Author [just don’t ask who or how!]
Hey – do I need to add /:Sarc?
If you think I don’t, please add.
if not – ignore.
This 797th Anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln

Consensus in science is just a waste of time. It’s like saying, we got 100 idiots to agree, so this is the absolute truth. Yea, because agreement is obviously the mark of correctness. Why if 200 doctors all agreed the best thing for your health was to jump off a bridge well I know some cartoonists who would obviously let others think for them and take the plunge.