Lewandowsky et al stated that “links were posted on 8 blogs (with a pro-science science stance but with a diverse audience”. Lewandowsky identified the eight blogs (in an email to Barry Woods) as: Skeptical Science, Tamino, Bickmore, the UU-UNO Clmate Change Task Force (trunity), Ill Considered, Mandia, Deltoid and Hot Topic.
The relevant posts at six of the blogs have been located, but the relevant post at SkS, either no longer exists or never existed. Today’s question: did John Cook destroy all evidence at the SkS site of the existence of his posting the Lewandowsky thread? if so, why? Or are the claims by Cook and Lewandowsky to have posted the link untrue?
This issue was originally raised by Barry Woods and Geoff Chambers, but have not been resolved by either Cook or Lewandowsky.
At the end of July, when Lewandowsky’s article was covered at the Guardian, Barry Woods sought further details on the SkS post from Lewandowsky, who replied as follows:
Hi Barry, the survey was done about 2 years ago, and I don’t have the link to SkS: I worked with John Cook directly at the time and he posted it (and I made a note of it), but I don’t have the actual URL to the survey dating back to the time when he posted it. I suspect he removed it when the survey was closed because then the link would have been dead.
Lewandowsky was indeed working directly with Cook at the time. Indeed, Lewandowsky even participated from time to time in the private SkS forum at the relevant time (Aug-Sep 2010). However, there is no reference in the SkS documents to the Lewandowsky survey (though there is a contemporary discussion of the Bray-von Storch survey.) See comment at BH here where Geoff Chambers observes:
there’s no mention of it at the site, and John Cook (who had developed quite a crush on Lew) can be seen in a private email ten months after the fieldwork mentioning to a colleague the research that his mate Lewandowsky had done, as if it was nothing to do with him.
Chambers unsuccessfully sought further clarification from Cook, who supported Lewandowky’s story about a link at SkS but was unable to locate any documents supporting or proving the existence of the link:
Cook: Hi Geoff, sorry for the delay in replying, very behind in my email correspondence at the moment plus for this email, had to fire up the old machine that I was using back in 2010 to find any email correspondence back then. All I can find is an email from Steve [Lewandowsky] on 28 August 2010 asking for me to link to his survey.
Chambers: Hi John Thanks for the reply. So did you in fact link to his survey? It looks to me that you just forgot and didn’t post the link. So Stephan just assumed you had posted, and put in his paper the reference to eight blogs he’d contacted, including yours and the dormant NZ one. A silly mistake easily corrected. All he has to do is correct the “eight blogs” in his paper to six. Can you confirm that his survey was not in fact linked from Skeptical Science?
Cook: I did provide a link to the survey.
Chambers: Hi John, Any chance of telling us when you put up the link? Sorry to keep pestering you but you are being a bit coy.
Cook: I’ve given you everything I’ve got – I have no records in the blog archives (I searched the database for kwiksurvey, came up empty) so I must’ve either deleted the text link or deleted the blog post once the survey had closed. The only forensic evidence I could find was the email from Stephan asking for me to post a link and my reply that I posted it on the same day.
The claim by Cook and Lewandowsky that SkS had destroyed the record of the survey being posted at SkS (and the related comments) is odd on a number of counts, not least of which is the ability to locate the relevant thread on the blogs less closely connected to Lewandowsky, but not from Lewandowky’s protege and close associate, John Cook (also the maintainer of the University of Western Australia blog.) Further, University of Western Australia research policies require that “data must be held for sufficient time to allow reference.” In the case of an online survey, the records of the survey actually being posted on the 8 blogs are essential data.
Lewandowsky postulated that Cook “removed it when the survey was closed because then the link would have been dead.” But why would Cook do this? It’s highly unusual for blogs to delete old threads. Nor was there any particular reason for Cook to delete this particular thread – none of the other blogs bothered to do so. Deletion would be especially odd given Cook’s association with the University of Western Australia, the policies of which required preservation of documents necessary to verify claims in a research article.
It is, of course, possible and, in my opinion, probable that the survey was never posted at SkS in the first place. As Geoff Chambers has already observed, there is substantial indirect evidence to this effect from the lack of mention in the private SkS forum in which Lewandowsky participated and the lack of mention in Wayback archives of the survey identification in connection with SkS.
In my opinion, the Wayback machine record is overwhelmingly against the Lewandowsky and Cook claims that a link was posted and later destroyed.
Lewandowsky said that he sent an email to Cook on August 28, 2010 (the date of emails to other anti-skeptic blogs) and Cook says that he posted up the same day, confirming this in an email to Lewandowsky. Wayback machine took a screenshot of the SkS home page on August 30, a screenshot which shows all posts for a period bracketing August 28 (from August 24 to August 30), but does not show a posting of the Lewandowsky survey. (Nor does it appear in the screenshot for the following week which shows posts starting on August 31.)
Further, the Wayback machine took at least snapshots of the two documented August 28 SkS posts on the following three days as shown here and here. If there was an SkS post on August 28 linking to the Lewandowsky survey, there is no plausible way that the Wayback machine would not have recorded it as well. Unless, of course, Lewandowsky and Cook believe that the “well-funded” and “well-organized” “denial machine” penetrated the Wayback machine archive to remove evidence of the SkS post. The SkS conspiracy theorists have fertile imaginations e.g. their postulated conspiracy between Mosher and the Heartland Institute to frame Gleick, but surely even the SkS conspiracy theorists don’t believe that the “denial machine” has penetrated the Wayback archive. We’ll see.)
In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming that SkS never published a link to the Lewandowsky survey. In my opinion, both Cook’s claim to have published a link and Lewandowsky’s claim to have seen it are untrue. But even if Cook did post a link and then destroyed all documentary evidence of its existence, the situation is equally unpalatable.
Update 2: Commenters at Lucia’s have observed that it is possible that the blocking was caused by internet problems en route to Australia (both for her and for me), with Hide My Ass access occurring because it used a different route, not because of IP. Seems not only possible, but likely.
Both Lewandowsky’s University of Western Australia blog shapingtomorrow and John Cook’s skepticalscience blog appear to have blocked me. Other readers report that they can access these sites, but here’s what I get.
Steve: Barry Woods located a tweet by Cook on August 27 (Note: August 27 Eastern – August 28 Australian) here