In today’s post, I want to discuss Lewandowsky’s backdating of the blogpost in which he purported to “out” four skeptics, a claim that he re-iterated and embellished in a subsequent academic article, Lewandowsky et al (Fury). In response to a recent FOI request by Simon Turnill, the University of Western Australia stated that, based on their examination of records at Lewandowsky’s blog, it had been published on Sep 10 11:50:00 Australian Western Time (CLICK):
However, in my opinion, there is overwhelming evidence that the blogpost was not published until September 11, 2012 between 4:00 and 4:30 am Australian Western Time (6 – 6:30 Australian Eastern), about 15 hours later. Between these times, the three then unidentified skeptics had been identified at both Climate Audit (here) and updates at Jo Nova (here), with these identifications even being reported by Barry Woods on a thread at Lewandowsky’s STW blog.
However, because of the date shown on Lewandowsky’s Australian blog, Lewandowsky appears to have the priority that he claimed both in the blogpost and the academic article. In today’s post, I’ll summarize the evidence for backdating, new information on which has arisen both through recent FOI and analysis by Simon Turnill.
The Hanich Deception
The most obvious puzzle arising from Hoax was its attempt to survey skeptics by only polling the most stridently anti-skeptic blogs. On August 30, Lucia emailed Lewandowsky as follows:
I am writing to ask you which 5 skeptic blogs you invited to provide links to your survey. I believe the names are required to permit objective parties to gauge your level of objectivity in collecting data. Could you please provide a list?
Sorry, no, they likely replied to my requests [my bold] under the presumption of privacy and I am therefore not releasing their names.
From this, I had inferred both that Lewandowsky himself had been party to the correspondence (“my requests”) and that the blogs had overtly declined (“had declined”) – as opposed to merely not responding to email from an unknown sender, a point that I mentioned in a comment in one of Lucia’s threads.
Lucia’s interest had been prompted by an email from Jo Nova, a longtime local adversary of Lewandowsky in Perth, Australia, who had sent an email to various bloggers, including myself, asking whether we had received a survey invitation from Lewandowsky. I searched my 2010 emails for “Lewandowsky” and had no returns, replying to Jo on August 30 as follows:
I have no record of being contacted. Nor do I recollect any inquiry. Have you asked him directly?
It subsequently turned out that I had been contacted by a Charles Hanich in connection with the survey, but that Lewandowsky had intentionally concealed his association with the survey; thus my search for “Lewandowsky” was unsuccessful, as were similar searches by other bloggers. Jo kept a running update of responses to her email, including me in her list as follows:
Update #5. Steve McIntyre (Climate Audit)… was not asked either…
This characterization is obviously more categorical than my actual email. My response was narrower for obvious reasons: I obviously could not exclude the possibility that the email had ended up in junk mail or that I had deleted an email from someone unknown to me. However, I wasn’t following Jo’s coverage and didn’t notice this at the time.
while Lewandowsky had refused to send the list to Lucia (and previously to Barry Woods), Lewandowsky had no qualms about releasing the list to a Planet 3.0 blogger (whose identity was redacted in FOI but perhaps John Cook), who chuckled at the idea of “deniers all over the world poring over 2 year old emails! ”
…slight error in your STW piece (which will no doubt become part of the conspiracy theory). You say that you contacted 5 denier blogs but [redacted] emailed 6:
Podblack; Steve McIntyre; Roger Pielke Jr; Marc Morano; Roy Spencer; Bob Ferguson
Note – all but Podblack have been reported to say they never received an email. On that note, I did smile at your coy “check your inbox (and outbox) advice. Now you’ll have deniers all over the world poring over 2 year old emails!
Lewandowsky smugly replied that he hoped that the deniers would “spend hours looking :)”:
OK yes if necessary I’ll update. [Hanich] is digging out emails. At least I made the point that had to be made, hinting strongly that the deniers haven’t found emails… I hope they spend hours looking
On September 3, Lewandowsky blogged about the inability of the bloggers to locate an email from him as follows:
In the meantime, I understand that there is a list on the internet of individuals who have declared that they were never contacted. As we are awaiting the decision about release of the names, just a matter of general principle, there can be no harm if those folks were to again check their inboxes (and outboxes) very carefully for correspondence from my assistant at UWA [my bold] in August and September 2010. I know how difficult it is to locate individual emails among thousands received in a year, and a double check may therefore be quite prudent. (Who knows, it might even prevent some overly trigger-happy and creative people from floating a conspiracy theory about how I just made up the fact of having contacted those blogs, similar to the way NASA faked the moon landing.)
Being used to watching the pea with the Team, I noticed that Lewandowsky had slyly moved the pea relative to his correspondence with Lucia. Whereas his email to Lucia had used the personal possessive – “my requests”, his blog post instead used the term “correspondence from my assistant at UWA”.
I therefore re-did the search, this time looking for “uwa.edu” and within minutes of Lewandowsky’s blog post, had located a survey invitation from a Charles Hanich – a person nowhere mentioned in the article itself. Hanich’s invitation contained no reference to Lewandowsky, a deception that Lewandowsky had specifically requested from the UWA Ethics Committee (though a deception applied only to skeptic blogs.)
Lewandowsky had lots of fun with this, accusing me of having initially “denied” that I had received a survey invitation – a gross distortion of what I had actually said:
It has come to my attention that one of the individuals who initially denied—yes, folks, that’s the correct word, look it up in a dictionary—having received an invitation to post a link to my survey on the rejection of science on his blog, has now found that email.
I posted a detailed response at Lew’s blog explaining that I had not “denied” receiving such an email, only that I had been unable to locate an email containing the search term “Lewandowsky”:
In a post at Lucia’s blog, Lucia had said that she did not recollect receiving such an email from you, but did not preclude the possibility that one was in the tide of emails. …
My situation was identical to hers. I did not recollect receiving such an email from you (and hadn’t received such an email from “you”). However, I could not preclude receiving one in the tide of emails….Since Tim Lambert’s invitation to the survey at his blog referred to a survey being carried out by “Stephan Lewandowsky”, I had presumed that your name would appear in or be connected to the invitation and I had therefore searched my 2010 emails for correspondence referring to “Lewandowsky” and did not locate any.
It did not occur to me that the invitation would not be from you, but would not include any reference to you as a participant. When you provided the additional information that it had been sent by a research associate, I carried out a search for “uwa.edu.au” and located an email from a Charles Harnich – an email which made no mention of “Lewandowsky”.
Thus, if your post refers to me, it would be accurate to say that I did not recollect receiving the email, but it is not accurate to say that I “denied” receiving the invitation email, since, like Lucia, I did not preclude the possibility of overlooking something in the tide of email.
Lewandowsky ignored my explanation. He was then at a conference in Germany and nearly all of his blog posts were written in the German evenings, presumably after he had finished socializing with his conference associates. His blog posts over the next week got wilder and wilder. In his September 6 blogpost, Lewandowsky once again attacked me for not locating the Hanich email, this time by name
If I am not mistaken, I can indeed confirm that there were 4—not 3—versions of the survey (unless that was the number of my birth certificates, I am never quite sure, so many numbers to keep track of… Mr. McIntyre’s dog misplaced an email under a pastrami sandwich a mere 8.9253077595543363 days ago, and I have grown at least one tail and several new horns over the last few days, all of which are frightfully independent and hard to keep track of)…
Astute readers will have noted that if the Survey ID’s from above are vertically concatenated and then viewed backwards at 33 rpm, they read “Mitt Romney was born in North Korea.” To understand the relevance of Mr Romney’s place of birth requires a secret code word. This code word, provided below, ought to be committed to memory before burning this post.
It is very hard to reconcile Lewandowsky’s escalating rhetoric with his undertaking in his ethics application that his follow-up would merely be public observation. Responding to Lewandowsky’s attacks on me personally, I posted a lengthy article at CA on September 8, that mostly focused on the problem of fraudulent responses, but which also included a section describing the underlying survey, observing that I had been contacted by Hanich.
Pielke Jr read my post and noticed my reference to Hanich as the originator of the survey. On Sunday Sep 9 (10:11 Eastern), he emailed me, saying that a fresh search using “Hanich” had located emails. I posted this up at Climate Audit the next day (Sep 10 10:20 Eastern). Pielke also notified Jo Nova on Sunday; Jo promptly updated her post.
The next Australian day (Sep 10 13:36 AWT), Jo sent out an email blast to her list (mostly asleep in North America), asking them to search on “Hanich”. At 8:34 Eastern (20:34 AWT), Roy Spencer reported that he had located an email from Hanich; Jo recorded this at 21:46 AWT (9:46 Eastern). At 11:27 Eastern, commenter Barry Woods reported on my recent Third Skeptic post that Spencer had been identified at Jo Nova’s.
At 11:22 Eastern, Marc Morano, also in response to Jo’s email, reported to Jo that he had located the Hanich email. Morano forwarded this email to me a few minutes later and at 11:42 Eastern, I posted a comment in the Third Skeptic post, identifying Morano as the fifth skeptic. This time, I was slightly ahead of Jo, who posted an update on Morano at 12:10 Eastern (Sep 11 2:10 am AET). Jo also wrote a short summary reporting the identification of the five skeptics.
Thus by noon Eastern (6 p.m. Germany; Sep 11 2:00 AET), all five bloggers had been identified at both CA and Jo Nova. At 14:11 Eastern (Sep 11 4:11 AET), Barry Woods reported the identity of the five bloggers at Lewandowsky’s blog on the most recent thread (Sister Souljah).
There was a small loose end: we had counted Steve Milloy of Junk Science as one of the five skeptics. Though he posted a link, Lewandowsky did not claim him as an email recipient, instead claiming Bob Ferguson, not a prominent blogger, as the fifth skeptic.
Back to Lewandowsky
In Lewandowsky’s first post (Sept 3) on the matter, Lewandowsky stated that he had already sought guidance from the Australian Psychological Society and the UWA Human Ethics Research Committee on disclosure of the blog names. However, the first document in the FOI response was not until September 7, when Lewandowsky sent an inquiry to Kathryn Kirk of the UWA Ethics Committee. In his blog post of September 9, Lewandowsky reported that he had “several phone conversations” scheduled for the next day with the ethics committee.
In the Australian morning of Sep 10 (9:04 AWT), Kathryn Kirk wrote to Kim Heitman, general counsel to UWA, asking about the release of names:
Stephan lewandowsky is enquiring about the matter he raises in his email below and is phoning me from Germany at lunchtime. It seems to me that he could only release the names if he were given consent (probably via email) to do so. Any advice that you could give would be appreciated.
Heitman’s response (9:50 AWT) shows that he completely misunderstood the inquiry, presuming that the blog links were already searchable (true of the linking blogs, but not of the blogs in question). It is unclear whether his misunderstanding was corrected or not:
Yes by all means Stephan should seek consent to list the blog URLS or name them. However, since an astute enquirer could search them out via Google search, I don’t feel that this is a mattr of consent to research participation or significant confidentiality. To otherwise close the point, anonymised responses to enquiries as to the bona fides of the blog links would also be OK.
Kirk forwarded (9:55 AWT; 3:55 Germany) this botched response to Lewandowsky in Germany:
I hope the following correspondence from Kim Heitman clarifies the position for you. By all means ring me if you want but I’m not sure that I could provide further advice than that given below.
In the Australian afternoon (German morning), Lewandowsky was in touch with Australia. At 15:42 AWT (9:42 German), Lewandowsky sent an email to Robyn Owens, Deputy Vice Chancellor (the UWA equivalent to UEA’s Trevor Davies, I think), the contents of which were completely redacted. At 16:35 AWT (10:35 German), Owens replied to Lewandowsky (cc Heitman, Kirk) that she had talked to Heitman. At 16:52 AWT (10:52 German; 4:52 Eastern), Lewandowsky acknowledged to Owens that Heitman had advised Lewandowsky to release the names of the bloggers. (At this point, Pielke had been identified at Jo Nova’s, but not at CA.)
Hi, robyn, thanks, much appreciated. I am glad that Kim [Heitman] has advised me to release those names of the bloggers I contacted. This will hopefully create some embarrassment and will make this first conspiracy theory collapse into crumbles.
In subsequent correspondence (Sep 14) with Owens, Lewandowsky stated that he had “talked to Kim at length by phone” – presumably on the 10th – and that he had “written advice from him that release of names was ok”. One wonders whether this “written advice” was more substantial than Heitman’s misunderstanding of the situation in the morning.
It was now late morning in Germany and Lewandowsky appears to have returned to his conference and subsequent socializing for about 10 hours. At about 9 pm German time (3 pm Eastern), Lewandowsky sent emails to Spencer (15:01 Eastern) and Morano (15:02 Eastern), notifying them, presumably in accordance with the legal instructions received earlier that day, that Lewandowsky intended to “post the relevant information on [his] blog shortly”:
Please find enclosed correspondence from my research assistant dating back to 2010. He contacted you at the time to ask whether you would post a link to one of my research projects on your blog.
There appears to be considerable public interest in the identity of the bloggers whom I contacted for my project in 2010, and I am therefore pleased that my university has today affirmed that there are no ethical issues involved in releasing their identity.
I will post the relevant information on my blog shortly [my bold].
Given that both Spencer and Morano had already disclosed this information 4-6 hours earlier, Lewandowsky’s notice must have caused some mild surprise.
The precise publication time of Lewandowsky’s “outing” post, Hall of Amnesia, can be closely timed to between 6 and 6:28 Sep 11 AET (16:00-16:28 Sep 10 Eastern) through a number of factors.
First, various active commenters, including myself, had visited STW in the preceding hours and left comments on other threads. Had the Amnesia post been online, we would have noticed it. At 4:11 AET, as noted above, Woods left a comment on the Sister Souljah thread identifying the five bloggers. At 4:56 AET, I left a comment on the VersionGate thread. At 5:58 AET, Geoff Chambers left a comment on the Sister Souljah thread and at 6:00 AET (16:00 Eastern), Woods left a comment at the original CCC1 thread. Each of us would have noticed the publication of a new thread outing the five bloggers, supporting Lewandowsky’s statement to Morano and Spencer at 15:01 Eastern that the announcement had not yet been made.
Second, at 16:28 Eastern (15:28 Central; Sep 11 6:28 AET), Lewandowsky sent out a tweet announcing ”Amnesiagate: the four bloggers who didn’t post the survey outed”, linking to the new Hall of Amnesia post. Lewandowsky’s new post was quickly noticed by Anthony Watts at 16:35. [Update – Lewandowsky posted a link at Facebook at 16:26 Eastern (1:26 Pacific see link). The first comment on the new thread was at 7:15 AET (17:15 Eastern). I placed the second comment a minute later, also taking a screenshot which I saved at 17:16 Eastern. It was recorded by Google Reader/GRUML at 7:21 AET (17:21 Eastern). Michael Marriott, a coauthor of Fury, wrote a cover post at 17:13 AET. Lucia did a new post on the five blogs at 17:30 Eastern.
Third, Lewandowsky’s presence online is documented at 16:46 Eastern (22:46 German; Sep 11 06:46) through an email to Ethics Officer Kirk notifying her of his plan to write a follow-up paper (the subsequent Fury), setting out his view that he did not require ethics approval for it.
The web archive RSS feed here does not show a native time, but converts the time into local time zones, as pointed out by commenters below. For me, it presently shows a time of 12:50 pm Eastern, approximately four hours earlier than (what appears to be the actual publication time). This has the same exact minute (…:50) as the time reported by the UWA from blog records, but is 13 hours later. (Note: I’m seeking further details on webarchive timestamps.)
Here is a summary of the timeline for Sep 10, with each of the relevant timezones color coded on the left. Attempts to impute an earlier time to Lewandowsky’s post are particularly constrained by the multiple documented visits to STW without encountering the post, his notice letter to Morano and Spencer, plus the timing of the tweet, the GRUML feed, the first comment and other responses once the post had been published. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Hall of Amnesia Gof4
Lewandowsky’s outing post contained the same sort of juvenile self-indulgence as his earlier posts written in the previous evenings. Lewandowsky identified the four bloggers as Pielke Jr, Morano, Spencer and Ferguson, alleging that all four had “publically stated” that they had not been contacted.
It will be noted that all 4 have publically stated during the last few days/weeks that they were not contacted.
As noted above, this was a misrepresentation. Neither Pielke nor Morano, for example, had stated that they had not been “contacted” nor had either issued “public” statements. They had indeed sent emails responding to Jo Nova, but their statements in those emails did not say what Lewandowsky alleged. Lewandowsky then asked rhetorically:
1. When will an apology be forthcoming for the accusations launched against me? And how many individuals should now be issuing a public apology?
Lucia’s answer to this was appropriate derision:
Exactly one individual should be issuing public apologies. That is Stephan Lewandowsky for wasting everyone’s time with his trumped up claim that he could not release these names owing to privacy considerations. For myself I think I am owed an apology because Stephan Lewandowsky’s self indulgent refusal to reveal the blogs meant that I and other bloggers were forced to waste our time to discover information that was in his power to release and which was always in his power to release. I think he also owes apologies to the blogs he contacted by indulging himself with with holding this information and suggesting they waste their time hunting for information he should have released all along.
Lewandowsky continued with a second rhetorical question:
2. Why would the people who were contacted publically fail to acknowledge this fact?
Several hypotheses could be entertained but I prefer to settle for the simplest explanation. It’s called “human error.” It simply means the 4 bloggers couldn’t find the email, didn’t know what to search for, or their inboxes were corrupted by a move into another building, to name but a few possibilities. The only fly in the ointment in that hypothesis is that I provided search keys and exact dates and times of some correspondence.
Again Lucia was curt in her response to Lewandowsky:
Lewandowsky’s theory that they could somehow easily know and search is ridiculous. To perform an effective search one needs to identify a search term. It turns out that the correct search term to discover that Stephan Lewandowsky had contacted people inviting them to participate in a survey that ultimately lead to the publication of a paper authored by Lewandowsky, Oberauer and Gignac was “Hanich”. Lewandowsky suggestion that he was somehow helpful because he mentioned providing search keys in in a post at DeSmogblog on September 5 after people announced they has searched and not found emails and after McIntyre did miraculous manage to guess a search term and find one of the email shows us only that Lewandowsky is delusional. And a whiner.
In Fury, his academic article on these events, Lewandowsky further embellished his story, now claiming that his Sep 10 blogpost was the first disclosure of the skeptic authors, now additionally concealing the fact that I had discovered the Hanich email on September 3 and that the Milloy blog linking had been located on September 5.
The names of the “skeptic” bloggers became publicly available on 10 September 2012, on a blog post by the first author of LOG12; http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/lewandowskyGof4.html.
Undiscussed at the time was the date of Lewandowsky’s post. Though Hall of Amnesia was published at approximately 6:00 and 6:28 AET on September 11, the post itself shows a date of September 10. Blog comments are timestamped in Australian Eastern Time and the blog is operated by the University of Western Australia. The implication is that the date and time of the article was Sep 10 in Australia, rather than (say) in California.
To clarify this point, earlier this year, Simon Turnill asked the UWA under Freedom of Information for the time and timezone of several Lewandowsky posts including the Amnesia post:
The UWA response stated that they extracted information from the STW blog database in providing their answer:
They then provided a summary table stating that the blogpost had been on Sep 10 11:50:00 Australian Western Time as follows:
On May 9, Turnill asked again for “a printout of the web server log or blog database” “or other evidence that shows the ACTUAL time at which the publish button was clicked on each of the posts previously requested”.
On May 22, the UWA responded on May 22 that the STW system had been “custom designed” and that the system did not “automatically generate timestamps”, which were instead manually entered by the authors:
As requested, please see below for the screengrabs of our author administration system (which in WordPress is called the “dashboard”). For your reference, The Shaping Tomorrow’s World system is a custom designed, hand coded system; it’s not a pre-existing system like WordPress. The system doesn’t automatically generate publish timestamps, the author has to manually enter the publish date and time.
They provided the following screengrab for Lewandowsky’s entry for the Amnesia post:
You state: “the author has to manually enter the publish date and time”. Does this mean that the author can put any date and time on a post, irrespective of when the post actually went live on the server? This does not answer the question. The information I am seeking is the precise time the posts went live on the site. There will be a server log which shows the time at which the individual files were uploaded to the http server, and were therefore available to view on the site. That is the information which I require.
The UWA replied:
The Shaping Tomorrow’s World website is hosted by ilisys.com.au in a shared-host environment. Following your latest email, enquiries were conducted with the Ilisys’s Technical Support department and they confirmed that the database server does not log individual entries. There is no further information available apart from what has already been provided to you.
Simon reverted by pointing out the major discrepancies between the times provided and contemporary evidence and unsuccessfully requested an explanation of the discrepancy.
My curiosity in the precise time of Lewandowsky’s post arose in part from a similar dispute with Gergis and Karoly, who had claimed to have “independently” discovered an error pointed out at CA, but their claim to independence eroded when the times of their correspondence was examined.
In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming for the following:
(1) that Hall of Amnesia was published at approximately Sep 11 6-6:30 AET (Sep 10 – 16:00-16:30 Eastern; 22:00-22:30 German);
(2) the evidence supporting a publication time of Sep 11 8-6:30 AET precludes the time reported by the University of Western Australia (Sep 10 11:50:00 AWT);
(3) what if Lewandowsky intended only the lesser deception of entering German time on a blog otherwise denominated in Australian time? A posting time of 12:50 pm German time is also precluded by the evidence of a posting time of 22-22:30 German time.
For the record, I do not believe that Lewandowsky “conspired” with anyone to backdate his post; it is my belief that he backdated his post all by himself.
It is very hard to imagine a “good reason” for Lewandowsky entering an incorrectly early date and time for his blog post. I asked Lucia and she couldn’t think of one either.
Had Lewandowsky not claimed priority for “outing” the four bloggers quite so ostentatiously and/or repeated the false claim to priority in an academic article, the backdating would have been curious but not worth analyzing. However, Lewandowsky’s claim to priority (relative to CA and Jo Nova) rests on what seems to be a false date and time of his Amnesia post. Using the date and time which can be substantiated, priority of identification rests with CA and Jo Nova and Lewandowsky’s entire speculation on the failure of the bloggers to self-identify is shown as fabrication.