“It’s unfortunate that openness and transparency facilitate science”

This article in the Times Higher Education calls for “an open data adjudicator to combat ‘disinformation.’”

Stephan Lewandowsky warns that academics can ‘lose control’ of their data and see it used as ‘political propaganda’
By John Elmes
Twitter: @JElmes_THE
June 2, 2017

Independent national bodies should be set up to adjudicate on how much of the data underpinning research needs to be released to satisfy scholarly needs while preventing its being used as “disinformation”, a leading academic has said.

Stephan Lewandowsky, professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Bristol, told the World Conference on Research Integrity that “open data is highly political” and that there is a danger that some people will use scholarly information as “noise, nonsense, commercial interests or political propaganda”, to further their own interests.

“There is a difference between evidence-based science on the one hand, and political noise on the other,” he told delegates at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. It was unfortunate, he went on, that openness and transparency facilitate science but at the same time they “disproportionately also aid in the dissemination of noise and politically motivated disinformation”.

Open science meant that academics no longer had jurisdiction over their data, Professor Lewandowsky said, and people could now “cherry-pick” the bits that they wanted for their own ends. He cited as examples the tobacco industry, which, he said, had reproduced research data after removing evidence of the negative association between smoking and health, and climate science, where universities have been “peppered” with data requests for emails between researchers and other information.

“If you make your data openly available as a researcher, you will lose control [of it],” Professor Lewandowsky said. “There are some concerns being articulated about the implications – especially in biomedical data – about letting go of them entirely and making them publicly available.”

Speaking to Times Higher Education after his presentation, Professor Lewandowsky said that “open data is terrific, but we have to be open-eyed”. He said that one solution was to ensure that the availability of data was “enshrined or agreed upon” during the peer review process.

“In some circumstances, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve made data available, because whoever says that you haven’t will continue saying that and will always ask for more; and sometimes you can’t deliver more because it would be unethical to do that. Having that established during peer review is a good idea,” Professor Lewandowsky said.

Professor Lewandowsky added that having an independent national body that could resolve disputes around the availability of data was “crucial”. “I think that’s something that would be doable, especially in the UK, because it’s a very well-organised and relatively small community – unlike the US, which is immense,” he said. “The research councils would be, in theory, capable of administering such a thing.”

In his keynote, Professor Lewandowsky advocated “symmetry” between the expectations of those who want information and the academics who produce it.

“I think we’re entitled to expect the same rigour, accountability and preregistration on the part of people who want our data for their own purposes as we expect of ourselves,” he told the audience. “At the moment, we don’t do that. But there’s no reason why we shouldn’t. If somebody wants my data, sure they can have my data; but why shouldn’t they preregister their analysis plan for my data in the same way I preregistered mine?”

Professor Lewandowsky told THE that applying the “same principles and scrutiny to people who want your data as you do to the people who generated them” is the “obvious solution” and would minimise loss of control of data. “Why shouldn’t they say what they’re going to do with the data?” he asked. “In fact, you could even argue that if it’s politically sensitive, their proposed analysis…needs ethics approval.”

john.elmes@timeshighereducation.com

I’ve submitted a comment:

The idea that the release of “data underpinning research” needs to be “adjudicated” in order to prevent its being used as “disinformation” is an odd one. But Professor Lewandowsky’s attitude to the release of data underlying his own studies has always been complex.

In a 2013 paper “ NASA faked the Moon Landing, therefore climate science is a hoax,” by Professor Lewandowsky, a partial release of data revealed that the headline claim of a statistical relationship between belief in an absurd comspiracy theory and climate scepticism was based on an invalid statistical analysis of just ten out of over a thousand respondents to an on-line survey. Further requests for release of the rest of the data were refused. Instead, Professor Lewandowsky produced a second paper “Recursive Fury” (since retracted) accusing me and a number of other named critics of suffering from various psychological ailments, including paranoid tendencies and an inability to reason. When this paper was retracted by the journal’s editors he wrote a third paper (“Recurrent Fury”) apparently based on the same data making the same accusations relating to unnamed individuals whose identities could eaasily be ascertained via a simple Google search. Finding myself defamed on the basis of misquotations for a second time, I requested the data, but received no reply.

Professor Lewandowsky advocated “symmetry” between the expectations of those who want information and the academics who produce it. “I think we’re entitled to expect the same rigour, accountability and preregistration on the part of people who want our data for their own purposes as we expect of ourselves,” he told the audience. “…If somebody wants my data, sure they can have my data; but why shouldn’t they preregister their analysis plan for my data in the same way I preregistered mine?”

The “analysis plan” underlying my critique of Professor Lewandowsky’s oeuvre is made clear in a number of articles at

https://geoffchambers.wordpress.com/category/stephan-lewandowsky/

It is to justify my frequently expressed claims that Professor Lewandowsky is a liar and a charlatan. He can begin to refute my first claim by backing up his statement above that: “If somebody wants my data, sure they can have my data” by releasing the data for the two non-retracted papers I mention above.

Should I have said what I really think? That the idea of inviting Professor Lewandowsky to give a keynote speech at a World Conference on Research Integrity intrigues me as much as the idea of inviting the champion slug in my garden to lecture me on the importance of eliminating slime on my lettuces? That Professor Lewandowsky has co-written an article in Nature that suggests (ever so scientifically) that it might be people like me who challenge his scientific findings who wrote him an email calling him a Nazi kike? That Professor Lewandowsky in defending the morality of Dr Peter Gleick who lied in order to obtain private documents which enabled him to fabricate a false document in order to defame the source of the documents he had fraudulently obtained, has demonstrated that he is perfectly capable of writing emails to himself accusing himself of being a Nazi kike?

[Declaration of Interest: I don’t like Professor Lewandowsky.]

31 thoughts on ““It’s unfortunate that openness and transparency facilitate science”

  1. Lewandowsky, like a drunk baby, says far more than he knows:

    Openness and transparency facilitate science, and obstruct climate science.

    And that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Geoff,

    Pro satire tip:

    Unfortunately, the premise of someone “inviting Professor Lewandowsky to give a keynote speech at a World Conference on Research Integrity” takes your comedy from the sublime to the ridiculous, and then from the ridiculous to the logically abortive, in one slightly-too-fell swoop. And you were going so well until you indulged in that completely unbelievable detail.

    Remember, parody is all about retaining a kernel (or two) of verisimilitude. Once that kernel goes pop, you’re just doing Dadaism.

    I’d rewrite it if I were you, and have him get lost and stumble into a World Conference on Research Integrity because he’s so jet-lagged from an endless series of airline tickets, or whatever. Maybe he’s due to speak to a drug conference about a promising new once-a-day paranoia treatment, Pursuox, but he inadvertently gets off on the wrong floor because he’s so busy trying to stay in the ‘blind spot’ of the security cameras.

    See, that’s an UNLIKELY contingency, but at least it doesn’t violate any laws of physics.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. [Declaration of Interest: I don’t like Professor Lewandowsky.]

    I’m really sorry to hear that, Geoff. It likes you just fine. Of course, not being a social species, it doesn’t have the intricate facial musculature of the more modern pongidae, but I think you’ll agree it’s doing its primate best to put on a smile of placation, propitiation and even, dare we imagine?, ‘friendship’ for you:

    Trying to smile

    OK, so it’s not a Duchenne-quality imitation of human emotion, but come on. Would you expect a man with no arms to carry a bucket, or a dog to ride a unicycle, or a plumber to do heart surgery, or a dog astrology journal to peer-review its articles with the same rigor as, say, Nature?

    Cut the world some slack, Geoff.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Canman. What d’yah mean “IF this is a parody”? Do you have any data you can retain to support this claim?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Can *anybody* abide Lewandowsky? Even my climate-concerned acquaintances won’t defend him on the charge of perverting the course of science and generally being an ambulant teratoma. Calling him the morally gangrenous, intellectually copremetic Lovecraftian obscenity that he is is like pushing at the front door of the Ministry for Glasnost, where the sign reads

    Sorry, We’re
    OPEN

    on both sides.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Brad you have “climate-concerned acquaintances”? Quelle suprise. You with your persuasive literate skills and outright ability to make fake news malleable should have caused mass conversions. They don’t call you Brad the climate Baptisma for nothing.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. “It’s unfortunate that openness and transparency facilitate science”. . . . . . . because their exact opposites, data censoring and deliberate obfuscation, facilitate pseudoscience, and I am only really interested in ensuring that the latter is protected in the public domain – my own and that of others.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The main problem with the TES article is shown in its title
    “Stephan Lewandowsky warns that academics can ‘lose control’ of their data and see it used as ‘political propaganda’”.
    The contentious word is “their” as applied to data. In most cases the data is not theirs, as in they physically collected it, using their own resources. Most of the time climate data is acquired from others using public money. Real scientists will only restrict access to data if it belongs to others (known as the CRU defence), or is required to publish an academic paper in the near future.

    Data may also be lost (also a CRU gambit) or the computer may go AWOL. Data may also be used nefariously by bad people to prove the original research wrong, and that is a BAD, BAD thing!!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Brad

    I’m sure you’re right about parody, but I’ve been away this weekend, and it’s rained hard in my absence, so slugs were on my mind.

    I should have pointed out that the square brackets in the article are in the article. So when journalist John Elmes says “’If you make your data openly available as a researcher, you will lose control [of it],’ Professor Lewandowsky said,” what Professor Lewandowsky actually said was:
    “’If you make your data openly available as a researcher, you will lose control.”

    It does all seem so unlikely. What were you doing last week in Amsterdam Brad?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I posted this at Times Higher:

    There’s a splendid irony in Stephan Lewandowsky calling for rigour in data handling, in view of his own incompetence in this area. In one of his papers, the ages of the participants ranged from 5 to 32757. When this was pointed out to him, at his own blog, he took no action. It was almost two years before a correction was published. Remarkably, if you download the data set now from Bristol University, these obvious errors are still there in the archived data, uncorrected. Since these numbers are obviously wrong, what confidence can a reader have that any of his other numbers are correct?
    It is hardly surprising that an individual of the calibre of Stephan Lewandowsky is opposed to open data.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. BEYOND BEYOND GOOD & EVIL
    (A Tragedy In Two Lines)

    DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
    • Antiscience, a 56-year-old turdburglar, played by STEPHAN LEWANDOWSKY
    • Science, a topless, bathykolpian geekess in the prime of her pulchritude, played by ATHENA

    Act 1, Scene 1

    ANTISC.:
    Why should I make my data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?
    SC.:
    Because my aim is to try and find something wrong with it, dickhead.

    THE END….?

    Liked by 3 people

  12. We’ll know the Science Wars are finally at a [felicitous] conclusion when one of these inimici humani generis linked to the UK chapter of Data Haram grows the ovaries to do what Phil Jones was too craven to do.

    Alas, scientists say it could be five to ten years before we have bullets small enough for Stephan Lewandowsky to blow his brains out. So, as usual, society’s ethical values are forced to wait for our military technology to catch up.

    Advice for a pseudoscientist

    Like

  13. The philistines at TES didn’t seem to appreciate my dramaturgical stylings.

    The above hit play was deleted after a triumphant one-night, two-line run at the Globe Theatre that is their comments section.

    And to think I actually bothered bowdlerizing the swears for them.

    Swine!

    Enjoy the empty stalls, TES. I give your pretentions to cultural relevance 3 weeks, a month tops, before you’re down at the wharves again, supplementing that negative box-office revenue on your knees. You thought the hecklers last night were riff-raff? Perhaps you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be the guest of honor at a six-sailor Soggy SAO session. (Hint: bukkake isn’t something they sell at your corner patisserie.) Don’t worry, it’ll come back to you.

    Like

  14. Geoff,

    Sorry if the formatting of my Pro Tip confused, rather than improved, you. (The problem isn’t the slugs; it’s the Amazonian urethra-leeches who invite our invertebrate inimicus to their conference, apparently non-ironically, in your otherwise-realistic narrative.)

    “What were you doing last week in Amsterdam Brad?”

    It’s a bit of a blur, but I do remember being at this fully sick warehouse party, losing control [of it] and making my data openly available to everyone in a five-reveller radius. What can I say? If you’d ingested half the choreography-enhancing molecules I was on, you’d also agree it wasn’t underpants weather. Warm locally, act globally—that’s my motto.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Paul,

    I thought your use of the word “calibre” might have triggered their terror-terrified PC moderation policy, like just about every second word in my comment did:

    Given Stephan Lewandowsky’s vocal and unapologetic support for the UK cell of the anti-West, anti-civilization, anti-science group Data Haram, let’s just pray Operation Hercules’ C-men kick his door down gently. Pre-dawn raids are all fun and games until someone in Climate Psychology gets hurt by a carelessly-aimed request for information—and Professor Lewandowsky (as indicated on the mental alert bracelet he wears at all times) is truly a petal among petals. He has a long and refractory history of trauma brought on by the politest of inquiries.

    I’m glad it didn’t, as your comment is a corker.

    So was Geoff’s, but somehow I suspect professional courtesy may have been lacking in their reception thereof.

    You’re lucky (and we’re lucky) you’re a Legitimate Opinion-holder, with the documents to prove your parents were married and come from quality stock.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Brad, why would the great Lew speak the words of CRUman Phil? I would imagine Lew would be hacked off at such a small role , even though the exchange “merely reflects an honest exchange of ideas”.
    Athena will need all her attributes to play her role well, especially atrytonism and promachosm (unwearying vanguard of scientific truth).

    Like

  17. “Brad, why would the great Lew speak the words of CRUman Phil?”

    Histrionic licence, Alan.

    But I know what you mean. And you’re right. Lew may be a drongolid but he’s not a member of the bucolic, laconic subspecies we call the Northern Blurter.

    The idea Phil managed to get off his chest in the form of the world’s stupidest question takes Steve a whole keynote lecture to barf up. But the substance is identical, say pathologists who specialize in chunder.

    PS Wouldn’t the noun be Promachismo? And what does trytonism (or its absence) entail? I was playing truant the day we did Classical Civ.

    Like

  18. I had to look up ‘bathykolpian’ but I was deeply moved by your playlet Brad. I think you are too affable towards Dr Lew however. He damages your art because your creations struggle to be more weird than the real thing. Your characterisation is too rational and there’s nowhere near enough dribbling lunacy.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Wow it is amazing just how sharp your satire can be! No one who was concerned about improving integrity ethics and transparency would ever invite the Lew to give positive advice on those issues. And the blatant corruption in the excerpts! What sublime satire and sarcasm. Not even Lew could be that banally corrupt. Great work.The Daily Onion could do no better!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I don’t know why I am bothering to type this because I will probably express it badly and I don’t really understand what you think you believe you might be saying but I was inspired by the comments to look for clips of big S being felched by ATTP and the mighty not-captain Cook. Footage found I none

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Oh man in a barrel, you’ve made my morning begin with sickness. I wish I still didn’t know what to felch means nor have the BigS-ATTP image now in my mind.
    I have led a very sheltered life.

    Like

  22. “Credibility is an expanding field. ..;.’ Archbishop Clegthorpe? Of course! The inevitable capstone to a career in veterinary medicine!'”

    Like

  23. If somebody wants my data, sure they can have my data; but why shouldn’t they preregister their analysis plan for my data in the same way I preregistered mine?

    In that way Lew can object to any analysis that he disagrees with. Until I examined the data on the Hoax paper, I would not have discovered (as did Anthony Watts) that only 10 believed in the Moon Hoax, nor that the correlation with “climate denial” was based upon just there respondents, two of strongly agreeing. And these were the two faked/scam/rogue respondents 860 & 889 whose support of every conspiracy theory underpinned many of the correlations. It was only by looking at pivot tables that I was able to find these. I did not know in advance these findings. Nor could I have submitted an analysis plan. When having a mass of data I analyze it in many different ways to see what it tells me. But Lew would have rejected by plan as he believes using pivot tables is just drilling into noise. As I was the only person to have published analysis at the time using pivot tables, his comment was just a deflection from my findings. He would also block any application I made as (a) I am not an academic (b) my previous analysis shows him to be a charlatan.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. That academics can ‘lose control’ of their data is exactly the difference between data and mere propaganda.

    Like

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