Commentary timeline

Timeline of events relevant to our Commentary in Psychological Science

3rd May 2010 Stefan Lewandowsky published a news blog: “Evidence is overrated when you’re a conspiracy theorist.” In it he wrote “This attribute of conspiracy theorising applies in full force to the actions of climate ‘sceptics’ who operate outside the peer reviewed literature.” The data for the Moon Hoax survey were collected later the same year. (h/t Paul Matthews). Lewandowsky presented preliminary results in Sept 2010, before all the data was in (h/t Barry Woods).

22nd May 2012 Lewandowsky, Oberauer and Gignac submitted the Moon Hoax paper “NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science” to Psychological Science.

7th July 2012 Moon Hoax paper was accepted by Psychological Science and soon afterwards published online by Lewandowsky in manuscript form.

19th July 2012 An article entitled “A Climate for Conspiracy” by Wray Herbert appeared on the Psychological Science website. (h/t Barry Woods)

27th July 2012 Adam Corner published a Guardian news blog on the Moon Hoax paper: “Are climate sceptics more likely to be conspiracy theorists?”.

28th August 2012 Jonathan Pearlman published a Telegraph article: “Climate change deniers ‘are either extreme free marketeers or conspiracy theorists’”.

August 2012 Lewandowsky made the Moon Hoax data available to Katabasis (from whom we obtained a copy). First analysis by ManicBeancounter (Kevin Marshall). Additional analyses and comment on numerous blogs appeared over the following months.

21st February 2013 Justin Gillis published a NY Times blog on the paper: “Unlocking the Conspiracy Mind-Set”.

26th March 2013 The Moon Hoax paper was published online in Psychological Science including the first publication of the Supplementary Materials. Data were made available on Lewandowsky’s website (publications page of http://www.cogsciwa.com/ ) at an unknown date.

10th April 2013 Gary Marcus published a commentary on Moon Hoax paper in a New Yorker news blog: “What a Conspiracy Theorist Believes”.

30th April 2013 Sander van der Linden published a Scientific American news blog: “Moon Landing Faked!!!—Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories”  (a commentary on the Moon Hoax and other papers).

10th May 2013 Version of record of Moon hoax paper published in Psychological Science. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/5/622

2nd October 2013 The panel dataset paper by Lewandowsky, Gignac and Oberauer “The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science” was published in PLOS ONE.  A FAQ page was published on Shaping Tomorrow’s World, with earliest comments on 4th October, and the data were made available on Lewandowsky’s website (publications page of http://www.cogsciwa.com/).

2nd October 2013 Graham Readfearn published a commentary on the PLOS paper in the Guardian: “Climate sceptics more likely to be conspiracy theorists and free market advocates, study claims”.

13th November 2013 Scott Sleek published a news article mentioning both papers in Observer (magazine of the Association for Psychological Science): “Inconvenient Truth-Tellers: What Happens When Research Yields Unpopular Findings”.

January to March 2014 We (Dixon and Jones) analysed the datasets from the Psychological Science and PLOS papers using polynomial fitting and found a clear curvilinear relationship between belief in anthropogenic climate change and belief in conspiracy theories in both datasets. We drafted a paper.

February 2014 Stephan Lewandowsky wrote on the Values page of Shaping Tomorrow’s World: “In no way do my values suggest that debate should be curtailed: I merely insist that a scientific debate should take place in the scientific literature.”

21st March 2014 We noticed that Lewandowsky was due to present Moon Hoax results in Bristol in June, confirming that he stood by his original result despite all the previous criticisms.

2 April 2014 We submitted a 6000-word article “On Mischaracterising the Views of the Minority: The Fewer You Survey the More Extreme Their Views Appear” to the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology (JSSAM) discussing curvilinear relationships and criticising data analysis in both papers.

19 May 2014 JSSAM rejected our paper as being of insufficient interest to readers of that journal. The two generally positive reviews (and the editor) suggested submitting as a commentary to Psychological Science or PLOS. Reviewer 1 described the paper as “a thorough critique”, while Reviewer 2 noted that the paper did not address the main weaknesses of the Lewandowsky papers which related to data collection.

3 June 2014 We submitted a 1000-word commentary “On Mischaracterising the Views of the Minority: The Fewer You Survey the More Extreme Their Views Appear” to Psychological Science; this manuscript was essentially a cut down version of the JSSAM manuscript.

18 June 2014 Lewandowsky presented “NASA Faked the Moon Landing – Therefore, (Climate) Science Is a Hoax” at the Big Green Week Festival (Bristol Festival of Ideas)

31 August 2014 Our commentary was rejected by Psychological Science, and the editor (Eric Eich) suggested submitting it to a specialist journal. Two reviewers did not identify any errors, but suggested clarification and additional analysis.

Reviewer 1 wrote that the scatterplots showed that all the effects in question were small, but that they supported the argument of the comment that a curve was a better description of the direct relation between the two key variables than a straight line fit. However that reviewer also suggested that the published SEM results might still be significant.

Reviewer 2 also agreed that there was evidence for a nonlinear relationship, and that the quadratic trend was significant, but suggested that more sophisticated exploratory data analysis would be a more appropriate way to capture the nonlinear relationship. Specifically he recommended loess curves with standard error bars as a simple way to proceed.

We immediately implemented one of Reviewer 2’s suggestions, plotting loess curves. These confirmed the reviewer’s suggestion that the curvilinear relationship was readily apparent by this method.

6 September 2014 Dixon asked Eich to reconsider, on the basis that (i) the JSSAM reviewers had earlier suggested that we should publish a comment rather than a stand-alone paper, (ii) neither JSSAM nor PsychSci reviewers identified any errors in our analysis, and (iii) the additional analysis suggested by Reviewer 2 strengthened our results. Eric Eich replied the same day, offering to consider one new version of the commentary.

10 September 2014 We submitted a revised 1000-word commentary “Conspiracist Ideation as a Predictor of Climate Science Rejection: An Alternative Analysis” to Psychological Science (this is the submission date recorded in Psychological Science).

9 November 2014 We received two reviews from Psychological Science. One was from the previous Reviewer 2, who suggested publication after a few minor changes to improve clarity. The other was by Lewandowsky et al. (this review was not anonymous), who advised rejection. Eric Eich invited us to submit a revised commentary addressing only the points made by the original Reviewer 2, noting that if this version was accepted then Lewandowsky et al. would be invited to submit a reply.

11 November 2014 We submitted a revised manuscript to Psychological Science.

9 December 2014 Our Commentary was accepted by Psychological Science. A complete embargo was imposed barring any pre-publication discussion or publicity.

19 December 2014 A reply by Lewandowsky et al. was sent to us, with a repeat of the embargo conditions on all authors. The content of this reply was similar to the review comments by Lewandowsky and colleagues that we received in November.

3 to 10 February 2015 Two rounds of copyediting occurred. Psychological Science undertook very thorough copy-editing, making many minor modifications, terminology changes and requests for clarification. We approved the final version on 10 February. We also paid an Open Access fee of $375. This was considerably less than the advertised rate, thanks to Psychological Science applying an Oxford University institutional discount. We don’t have research funds that can be used for this purpose, so paid the fee ourselves.

25-26 February 2015 We received and corrected the page proofs.

26 March 2015 Our Commentary was published online, alongside a Reply from Lewandowsky, Gignac and Oberauer.

8 May 2015 Our Commentary (open-access ‘version of record’) was published alongside Lewandowsky’s (paywalled) reply.

Citation: Ruth M. Dixon and Jonathan A. Jones, 2015. ‘Conspiracist Ideation as a Predictor of Climate-Science Rejection: An Alternative Analysis.’ Psychological Science (May 2015) vol. 26 no. 5 664-666.

5 thoughts on “Commentary timeline

  1. Pingback: Commentary in Psychological Science | My Garden Pond

  2. Pingback: Lewandowsky: a conspiracy theorist or just evil? | Scottish Sceptic

  3. Pingback: Jones and Dixon Refute Conspiracy Theorist Lewandowsky « Climate Audit

  4. Pingback: Fianlly: peer reviewed pushback against the Lew paper | Watts Up With That?

  5. Pingback: “The Need for Vigorous Debate” | Climate Scepticism

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