UWA and @PsychScience look the other way on Lewandowsky's use of minors without consent in his "Conspiracist Ideation" and "Moon Landing" paper

Psychologist Dr. Jose Duarte writes:

The Lewandowsky, Gignac, and Oberauer paper in PLOS ONE has been substantially corrected. I had alerted the journal last fall that there were serious errors in the paper, including the presence of a 32,757-year-old in the data, along with a 5-year-old and six other minors. The paleoparticipant in particular had knocked out the true correlation between age and the conspiracy belief items (the authors had reported there was no correlation between age and anything else.) See my original essay on this paper, what the bad data did to the age correlations, and lots of other issues here.

Deeply troubling issues remain. The authors have been inexplicably unwilling to remove the minors from their data, and have in fact retained two 14-year-olds, two 15-year-olds, a 16-year-old, and a 17-year-old. This is strange given that the sample started with 1,001 participants. It is also wildly unethical.

To provide some context, let me lay out the timeline:

October 4, 2013: Lewandowsky was alerted on his own website that there was a 32,757-year-old and a 5-year-old in his data.

There was no correction. Recall that he had reported analyses of the age variable in the paper, and that these analyses were erroneous because of the 32,757-year-old.

August 18, 2014: On the PLOS ONE page for the paper, I alerted the authors to the 32,757-year-old, the 5-year-old, and the six other minors in their data (along with several other problems with the study.)

There was no correction.

September 22, 2014: I contacted PLOS ONE directly and reported the issue. I had waited over a month for the authors to correct their paper after the notification on August 18, but they had mysteriously done nothing, so it was time to contact the journal.

August 13, 2015: Finally, a correction was published. It is comprehensive, as there were many errors in their analyses beyond the age variable.

I’d like to pause here to say that PLOS ONE is beautiful and ethically distinctive. They insisted that the authors publish a proper correction, and that it thoroughly address the issues and errors in the original. They also placed a link to the correction on top of the original paper. The authors did not want to issue a proper correction. Rather, Lewandowsky preferred to simply post a comment on the PLOS ONE page for the paper and call it a corrigendum. This would not have been salient to people reading the paper on the PLOS ONE page, as it requires that one click on the Comments link and go into the threads. Notably, Lewandowsky’s “corrigendum” was erroneous and required a corrigendum of its own… It was also remarkably vague and uninformative.

A serious ethical issue remains – they kept the minors in their data (except the 5-year-old.) They had no prior IRB approval to use minors, nor did they have prior IRB approval to waive parental consent. In fact, the “ethics” office at the University of Western Australia appears to be trying to retroactively approve the use of minors as well as ignoring the issue of parental consent. This is ethically impossible, and wildly out of step with human research ethics worldwide. It also cleanly contradicts the provisions of the Australian National Statement on Ethical Conduct of Human Research (PDF). In particular, it contradicts paragraphs 4.2.7 through 4.2.10, and 4.2.12. The conduct of the UWA ethics office is consistent with all their prior efforts to cover up Lewandowsky’s misconduct, particularly with respect to Lewandowsky’s Psych Science paper, which should be treated as a fraud case. UWA has refused everyone’s data requests for that paper, and has refused to investigate. Corruption is serious problem with human institutions, one that I increasingly think deserves a social science Manhattan Project to better understand and ameliorate. UWA is a classic case of corruption, one that mirrors those reported by Martin.

Here is the critical paragraph regarding minors in the PLOS ONE correction:

“Several minors (age 14–17) were included in the data set for this study because this population contributes to public opinions on politics and scientific issues (e.g. in the classroom). This project was conducted under the guidelines of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC). According to NH&MRC there is no explicit minimum age at which people can give informed consent (as per https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/book/chapter-2-​2-general-requirements-consent). What is required instead is to ascertain the young person’s competence to give informed consent. In our study, competence to give consent is evident from the fact that for a young person to be included in our study, they had to be a vetted member of a nationally representative survey panel run by uSamp.com (partner of Qualtrics.com, who collected the data). According to information received from the panel provider, they are legally empowered to empanel people as young as 13. However, young people under 15 are recruited to the panel with parental involvement. Parental consent was otherwise not required. Moreover, for survey respondents to have been included in the primary data set, they were required to answer an attention filter question correctly, further attesting to their competence to give informed consent. The UWA Human Rights Ethics Committee reviewed this issue and affirmed that “The project was undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).”

The above may be difficult for people to parse and unpack. Here are the essentials we can extract from it:

1. There was no prior IRB approval for the use of minors. (UWA’s review was retroactive, amazingly.)

2. Parental consent was not obtained for minors who were at least 15 years of age.

3. Obtaining parental consent for 13 and 14-year-olds was delegated to a market research company. However, the term “consent” is not used in this case. Rather, the authors claim that the market research company recruited these kids with “parental involvement”. It’s not clear what this term means.

4. The UWA “ethics” committee is attempting to grant retroactive approval for the use of minors and the lack of parental consent, as well as the delegation of consent obtainment to a market research company. They cite the National Statement of (sic) Ethical Conduct in Human Research, even though it contains no provision for retroactive approvals or cover-ups. In fact, the Statement does not contemplate such absurdities at all.

At this point, I think PLOS ONE should just retract the paper. We can’t have unapproved – or retroactively approved – minors in data. UWA is clearly engaged in a cover-up, and their guidance should not inform PLOS ONE‘s, or any journal’s, decisions. This exposes a major structural ethical vulnerability we have in science – we rely on institutions with profound conflicts of interest to investigate themselves, to investigate their own researchers. We have broad evidence that they often attempt to cover up malpractice, though the percentages are unclear. Journals need to fashion their own processes, and rely much less on university “finders of fact”. We should also think about provisioning independent investigators. The standards in academic science are much lower than in the private sector (I used to help companies comply with Sarbanes-Oxley.) In any case, UWA’s conduct deserves to be be escalated and widely exposed, and it will be. This is far from over – we can’t ignore the severity of the ethical breaches here, and we won’t.

Read all about it here at his blog: http://www.joseduarte.com/blog/minors-lewandowsky-and-ceremonial-ethics

From Anthony:

It seems that nothing  is too ethically slimy for Lewandowsky and company, especially when the University of Western Australia backs up his lack of ethical standards.

Barry Woods adds in comments there (at Duarte’s blog):

from the Results section of:

NASA faked the Moon Landing, therefore [climate] science is a hoax – Lewandowsky et al, Psychological Science [LOG12} http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/5/622

“An additional 161 responses were eliminated because the respondent’s age was implausible (< 10 or > 95 years old), values for the consensus items were outside the range of the rating scale, or responses were incomplete. This left 1,145 complete records for analysis.” – LOG12

– being 11 years old is of course ‘plausible’ (/sarc) and/or appropriate (sarc) or any 11-17 non adults for that matter. How many 11-17 year olds were in the LOG12 data, we don’t know, the authors and UWA refuse to release the data.

So how many 11 to 17 year olds were there in the data, we know from PLOS One that two 14 year olds that believed in Moon Hoax conspiracy were included in the PLOS One data set..

Did one or [two] minors contribute to the headline of the paper, or the other conspiracy theories that had tiny numbers of believers (not to say 3 adults gives him any justification for the papers titular conclusions.)

oh we don’t know, because age and gender (and other responses,-Iraq War, lifestyle and metadata data) is redacted from Lew’s dataset. and University of Western Australia refuses to release the full dataset for LOG12, and Psychological Science refuses to do anything about it..

Thanks for all your effort, it really shouldn’t have been necessary.

I actually really believed when UWA refused to release the data for Moon Hoax, that Erich Eich might actually do something.. sadly I was mistaken.

Erich Eich

So, it seems the issues with minor in the data go all the way back to Lewandowsky’s original “Moon Landing Hoax” paper. Those that wish to contact the journal editor, professor Erich Eich to alert him of this issue of minors in the data, may do so at his university web page: http://psych.ubc.ca/persons/eric-eich/   See Note 3 below.

If you do, please be professional and respectful. Argue the issue from an ethics and policy standpoint.  There is a plethora of ethical issues in the many postings on Lewandowsky’s shoddy techniques here you can bring up.

As far as the journal run by the Association for Psychological Science, they have this guideline:

Ethical Considerations

Authors reporting research involving human subjects should indicate whether the protocol was approved by an institutional review board or similar committee and whether it was carried out in accordance with the provisions of the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki (available here). Authors reporting research involving nonhuman animal subjects should indicate whether institutional and national guidelines for the care and use of laboratory animals were followed.

The APS journals follow the code of conduct of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and follow COPE guidelines when misconduct is suspected or alleged.

Source: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/journals/psychological_science/ps-submissions#ETH

if you choose to contact them here, please point out the issues in a professional and respectful way.

Note:  This essay was originally published with an error about the paper name in the title, it has since been corrected to add the proper name “Conspiracist Ideation” rather than just the “Moon landing hoax” paper, which is apparently the source of the data in the paper published at PLOS one.

Note 2: Correction: Jose Duarte is a PhD candidate.

Note 3: It appears according to this page at Psychological Science that Erich Eich is no longer editor of Psychological Science as of July 1st 2015, but D. Stephen Lindsay is now the interim chief editor. One wonders if the the imbroglio over Lewandowsky in the past months might have been a factor. You can contact him here: http://www.uvic.ca/socialsciences/psychology/people/faculty-directory/lindsaysteve.php if you contact him, please point out the issues in a professional and respectful way.

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Paul Westhaver
September 1, 2015 11:12 am

Here is a link to the Nurenberg Code of research ethics as published on the NIH government website:
Rule 1)
“The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent;”
Children cannot give consent because they are.. children.

Reply to  Paul Westhaver
September 2, 2015 8:20 pm

That is applicable to the abortion issue.

September 1, 2015 11:13 am

If we write a paper how do we say the moon landing hoax, hoax?

NW sage
Reply to  Scottish Sceptic
September 1, 2015 5:10 pm

hoax x hoax = hoax squared? [can’t do a superscript 2]!

Reply to  NW sage
September 1, 2015 8:50 pm

The hoax about the “moon landing hoax.”

September 1, 2015 11:16 am

Did JZ Knight get “Lemurian warrior” Ramtha’s consent before channeling him for Lew?

Rob Morrow
September 1, 2015 11:24 am

Excellent work Dr. Duarte. This highlights the primary motivation for any “scientist” withholding their data; the data is crap.

September 1, 2015 11:31 am

Well done Dr. Duarte, This is fraud in any other field of endeavor. Your efforts to uphold standards is very commendable.

September 1, 2015 11:44 am

If the UWA allows retrospective consent with respect to minors their sports coaches must be having a fun time.
Ethical standards have to apply everywhere.

September 1, 2015 11:58 am

I guess they did not get the memo down under that there is significant push back underway on science fraud and science that cannot be replicated in the rest of the science community and even in science newsrooms outside of Australia.

September 1, 2015 11:58 am

Lew’s paper was crap in more than just its ethics , why the UWA us running interference for a person who no longer works there is a good question. Perhaps the VP shares the type of massive ego .that means they cannot ever consider themselves as wrong, which is common in so many working in climate ‘science ‘
Although to be fair , the poor professional and personal standards seen in this paper and its defenders is ‘normal ‘ for the area, so has bad as it is Lew and friends where working to the standard , one which is so low a snake cannot crawl under it , that is acceptable and even rewarded in their area.

Reply to  knr
September 1, 2015 12:25 pm

It’s not just Lew.
The paper was hyped at the Guardian (Dana’s 97% blog). And all the SkS pseudoscientists endorsed it.
They said things like “I’m a scientist and so I’m sceptical but this paper shows people I disagree with are genuinely crazy and not sceptical at all”.
Lots of the SkS pseudoscientists are on the books at the UWA. If they admit that they are pseudoscientists then they lose whole departments.

Reply to  MCourtney
September 1, 2015 1:28 pm

I have been in discussions at Skeptical Science. I was paralyzed by how intensely the ideas of consensus, inductive reasoning and abductive reasoning was defended. It was made very clear to me that it was a privilege to make comments at Skeptical Science and not a right. All in all – totally in breach with principles which are important within scientific endeavor. This makes me wonder what kind of scientific theory and ethics they teach at University of Western Australia.

Reply to  MCourtney
September 1, 2015 2:09 pm

and to think I was going to do post grad studies at the UWA😕. No way the UWA will be getting my money thanks to these charlatans.

Reply to  MCourtney
September 1, 2015 7:25 pm

Exactly. When a random TV presenter says the Arctic melting will “obviously” raise sea level, he is harming his own credibility, not the credibility of climate academics; nobody else will sink with him. Warmists can say “he is just a know-nothing TV host”, and rightly so.
Lew could have been an uninteresting sidekick of the social science of climate science (two abuses of the word “science” in a single sentence).
Lew could have sunk alone with his anything-goes-science. The physical description of the process, the computer models, the “NASA” studies(*), not a single totem of the climate establishment officially depends on the psychology and sociology fields. But they had to embrace this very amateur psycho-sociology.
(*) Warmists like to repeat “NASA(the-agency-who-sent-people-to-the-Moon) concludes that and that so it must be true” (as if sending probes, satellites and people in space had anything to do with average weather predictions for the next century); in this case I like to point out that nowadays, NASA can’t even send someone in low orbit.
Lew’s findings, just as Gilles-Eric Séralini’s (G.E.S) “results”, were too good to waste. Glyphosate and RR crops causing huge tumors were patently absurd. It was absurd not in a the Moon-is-made-of-cheese-theory way, but in a the Earth-is-only-made-of-cheese-theory way, given wide use of both Roundup and Roundup-ready crops for decades. But the anti-GMO and pro-organic crowd couldn’t not back it up. That the results were too good, too strong to be true did not bothered them. When G.E.S. (**) later admitted he did not do any statistical analysis on the effects observed in his study, it did not bothered his followers.
(**) in French, GES = les Gaz à Effet de Serre = greenhouse gases
Lew later admitted that the correlation between Moon landing hoax ideation and rejection of climate “science” (the main conclusion, widely hyped conclusion and title of his study) was weak. It did not bothered his followers.
Now I wonder if Lew could say he made up the whole thing and still don’t upset anyone who previously had his back.

September 1, 2015 12:01 pm

“conspiracist ideation” ( by the way spell, check likes neither word) strikes me as a strange formulation. What would Lewandowski call a conspiracy in fact, you know like the one Himmler was at the helm of? Sounds to me like his ideation is in keeping with Holocaust deniers!

Crispin in Waterloo
September 1, 2015 12:19 pm

Why is his university not ‘struck off’ for persistently defending their unethical staff? Clearly they do not know how to manage their staff. If they can’t manage their staff how can they claim to manage the education of students?

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
September 1, 2015 5:41 pm

Sadly, it is worse than that in what was once a very fine Uni. It can’t even handle its students let alone staff.
Students and staff forced UWA to withdraw from a $4 million grant agreed to with the Fed Govt (the study was simply to study optimum ways to address climate issues. It was to focus on Lomberg methodology – no science questioning was involved at all).
This follows the same myopic, inbred and stultified thinking which has hovered around “climate change.”
The only redeeming aspect is that it got rid of Lewandowsky but then went into bunkered damage control. The same sordid nonsense follows John Cook with his work at U of Qld and collaboration with Lewandowsky.

Caligula Jones
September 1, 2015 12:31 pm

Again I ask, naively, if the science is so settled, why on earth do they have to keep making so much of it up?

Reply to  Caligula Jones
September 1, 2015 3:26 pm

Lying is the only way liberals can impress other liberals !!

September 1, 2015 12:35 pm

Just the knowledge that a paper got through “peer review” with that 32,757-year-old is somewhat gobsmacking.
“You just want to find things wrong with the paper” – well, doh, looks like someone should have checked it.

Caligula Jones
Reply to  JohnWho
September 1, 2015 12:59 pm

One of the very few things I like about my job is that I get to try to “break” our various data products by pretending to be the dumbest client we could possibly imagine. To paraphrase, just when you think you’ve got a robust, unbreakable product, they come along with dumber rats.
Back in college studying media (before the Politically Correct crowd ruined everything), we learned that you should always give your copy to someone who doesn’t particularly like you, or at least your work. You’d be surprised what your friends will let got that someone who isn’t so friendly towards you will find.
Then again, when you look at the visceral hatred that is returned from many skeptic’s honest attempts at correction, I can’t blame some people from being reticent. Bless those who keep it up.

Reply to  Caligula Jones
September 1, 2015 3:24 pm

“(before the Politically Correct crowd ruined everything)”
Is this an example of the student inmates running the asylum? When I went to school, these kinds of shenanigans would have gotten one promptly expelled. But then when many of the top universities stop giving final exams, that might explain why we get the likes of the “top” people that we do in leadership. Apparently, much like the climastrologists, they will now do anything for money.
“Last spring, a mere 23 percent of the school’s 1,137 undergraduate courses gave exams, the [Harvard] magazine reports.”

September 1, 2015 12:37 pm

Autralian Universities became third rate after 1988 due to changes instituted by the Labor Keating Government, same with CSIRO ect

Reply to  Eliza
September 1, 2015 1:45 pm

What kind of changes?

Reply to  Science or Fiction
September 1, 2015 5:28 pm

It was the Dawkins paper, they consolidated small universities into fewer large ones and pretty much mandated that universities become more self funding – essentially prioritising paid applied science over knowledge for knowledge sake “Pure science”. It pretty much destroyed the research sector in Australia except applied science. That’s why you don’t see many breakthrough science discoveries coming out of Australia… They have to have a pay-off or the research is NOT DONE.
The Major problem with this model is that you implicitly need to be able to declare the outcome BEFORE the research is done!

Reply to  Science or Fiction
September 2, 2015 1:26 am

It wasn’t even really “small universities”. It was what Australians called Colleges of Advanced Education (CAE) and Colleges of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) which fell between but off to one side of high school and university. The lecturers and admin staff loved the idea of becoming small city or large-ish regional universities so they could have the perks, the titles and the salaries, especially in the administrators’ case. The CAE and TAFE system produced, for example, primary school teachers and plumbers respectively. Consequently we now have middling universities with middling pseudo degrees which are really trades certificates of old. TAFEs still exist and do a good job, but the CAEs have gone which is a shame because they did the diploma and advanced diploma stuff such as para-legal, teachers and more “office trade” subjects without the rigour of research and thinking which used to be required at a university. No wonder there has been a move to the trigger warnings and emotional responses of not hurting students’ feelings in the academic world given the consequent dumbing down of selection for university education for those who really should be in a senior high school environment where their hands can be held. But bobl and Eliza are correct too.

September 1, 2015 1:00 pm

I work with survey data in higher education. I’m required to be recertified every few years by this organization: https://www.citiprogram.org/. It’s a 15 hour course. Lewandowsky and coauthors should be barred from further publication until they comply with something similar.

September 1, 2015 2:02 pm

“They cite the National Statement of (sic) Ethical Conduct in Human Research, even though it contains no provision for retroactive approvals or cover-ups. In fact, the Statement does not contemplate such absurdities at all.”
Well, then contact the National Health and Medical Research Council so their rolling review of the Statement can include modification to deal with proper methods for cover-ups. 🙂

Ursus Augustus
September 1, 2015 2:07 pm

Lewy can be excused. He is a minor.

September 1, 2015 2:30 pm

The probability is for the “marketing company-minor-parental involvement” issue that either the participants or their parents were paid. Marketing research relies on polling specified “demographics.” They frequently pay their participants cash – I’ve participated a couple of times and received $100 on one occasion and $50 on another. It is clear here that Lew-sky apparently considered minors a “demographic.”

September 1, 2015 3:31 pm

Jose Duarte’s work on this as been outstanding. However, from his blog and the Arizona Stat site, he is still listed as a Doctoral Student. Obviously it could have recently changed, but we should not give “them” any ammunition to deflect or dismiss these important issues.

Gloria Swansong
Reply to  bernie1815
September 1, 2015 3:59 pm
Reply to  bernie1815
September 1, 2015 7:55 pm

Moderator: This needs to be corrected, if indeed it is not accurate.
[Corrected in “Note 2” at the end of the article. ~mod.]

Reply to  bernie1815
September 2, 2015 3:53 am

Thanks, but please see Barry Woods’ comments below. Apparently, Jose has defended his thesis. Someone needs to contact him directly to confirm his status. Apologies if I have created any confusion.

September 1, 2015 3:42 pm

Dang. This guy is a pitbull. I like it. We need more pitbulls in science.

Sweet Old Bob
September 1, 2015 3:46 pm

And this crap will continue as long as Lew , Gi , and Ob are rewarded. Will not stop untill it COSTS them more than they gain . The love of money , fame , etc. is strong in these ones ….

September 1, 2015 3:53 pm

Jose Duarte,
Hard hitting and clear case you’ve made on the ethical breaches and integrity issues permeating the Lewandowsky, Gignac, and Oberauer paper in PLOS ONE. It does prima fascia implicate UWA’s administration.
Their paper in PLOS ONE is one or more of the following:
1) counterfeit science
2) cargo cult science
3) pre-science
4) pseudo-science
5) Mann type ‘making it up’ science
6) Marx brothers science
PS: I know, I know. Shouldn’t have used the word ‘science’ at all in a reference to the Lewandowsky, Gignac, and Oberauer paper in PLOS ONE.

September 1, 2015 4:23 pm

It is obvious to me that Duarte is wrong.
The people that will be affected by the horrible climate change will be our great grand children, therefore they should be the only ones allowed to vote. The poll should include kids less than three weeks old. or younger

bit chilly
September 1, 2015 4:36 pm

i think the main issue is expecting anything ethical from lewpaper, uwa or indeed the sks crowd.

September 1, 2015 6:36 pm

Maybe they think people “denying” global something are subhuman (why would they be subterranean if they were human?) and not human so the rules don’t apply.
Not joking, sadly. Progressive liberal’s “inclusiveness” means non-liberals are merely tolerated.

Just Steve
Reply to  simple-touriste
September 1, 2015 7:13 pm

Remember…conservatives think liberals are wrong or misguided, liberals think conservatives are evil. Never forget that.

September 1, 2015 8:51 pm

Jose Duarte, excellent article. Science without honesty and transparency isn’t science, it’s propaganda. One needs only a lew, and some lew papers, for proper disposal.

September 2, 2015 12:10 am

I am pretty sure that José Duartes now has his PhD.. He just hasn’t updated his website!

September 2, 2015 1:35 am
Reply to  Barry Woods
September 2, 2015 3:50 am

Excellent. Congratulations to Dr. Jose Duarte.

Iterative Mike
September 2, 2015 5:20 am

“nothing is too ethically slimy for Lewandowsky” is the long form of simply saying something is “so lewandowskied” or “not beyond Lewandowsky” or the like. La Lewny is the new turd standard for ethical sliminess, IMO.

Reply to  Iterative Mike
September 2, 2015 5:49 am

The Lew is even a larger unit of lack of ethics than the Séralini.
I didn’t thought it was possible.

September 2, 2015 6:03 am

I do not think Lewandowsky and ethics can be used in the same sentence. Using mentally deranged and scientifically challenged is ok.

Kon Dealer
September 2, 2015 6:17 am

Ugh! I sincerely hope that slimeball, Lewandowsky, wasn’t allowed anywhere near minors.
The thought of that creep, talking to kids, really freaks me out.

Reply to  Kon Dealer
September 2, 2015 7:38 am

The thought of anything out of that island really creeps me out, seeing as it was “settled” by criminals and the ones who thought they were better to oversee them. So sad the Marois and Bushmen didn’t have better ways to defend themselves. In a real world, Lew etc. would be tarred and feathered, before being hung up.

johann wundersamer
September 2, 2015 9:49 am

contributing Hoax to real existing Hoax is
a) testing opportuninities
b) fretting on the laid.
Done ev’ryday some 1000 times on WallStreet – why not down migrate to the middle Class.

September 2, 2015 1:40 pm

Ethics? They don’t need no stinking ethics!

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