Accompanying the news, Graham Redfearn at desmog has released FOI documents from the University of Western Australia that include correspondence between the university and the Frontiers editorial office up to May 2013. (Lewandowsky did not take exception to an FOI request from desmog.)
One of the last emails in the dossier is a request from the Frontiers editorial to the University of Western Australia in early May 2013, acknowledging receipt of the University’s statement that Lewandowsky had been investigated and cleared of various misconduct allegations.
The University’s investigation had been swift, to say the least, given that some of the complaints had been made as recently as April 5, 2013, and that, at a minimum, the falseness of Lewandowsky’s SKS claim had been unequivocally confirmed by SKS editor Tom Curtis.
The Frontiers editorial office sought particulars of the procedures of the UWA investigation (see list below), telling UWA that they had appointed a team of senior academics to examine the incident and hoped that “the team’s report could state that they have seen UWA’s decision and the background documents and are happy to be able to rely on that as a solid and well-founded decision (assuming that to be the case)”. They also stated that they not only wanted the evaluation to be “robust, even-handed and objective” but for the process to be perceived as such:
I am therefore writing to ask if it would be possible for the team evaluating the complaints to have a little more information in the process adopted by UWA in assessing these issues. The sole purpose of any such access would be to assist the evaluation team in its work. We are striving to ensure that the evaluation is robust, even-handed and objective and this information would be helpful not only to facilitate this but also to allow it to seem to be so. The idea would be that the team’s report could state that they have seen UWA’s decision and the background documents and are happy to be able to rely on that as a solid and well-founded decision (assuming that to be the case.)
We are well aware of the sensitivity of whole question…
If UWA felt able to share any of the following types of information it would be helpful:
1. The specific complaints made
2. The articles of the code of conduct which were considered relevant for the assessment
3. Whether any codes of conduct relating specifically to psychology were considered relevant and if so, which ones
4. The aspects of factors considered by UWA in its investigation
5. The reasoning adopted to support the findings of the preliminary investigation
6. Whether the recommendations referred to in UWA’s letter concerning dealing with conflicts of interest means that UWA considers that conflicts of interest were present in this case
7. Confirmation by UWA that those who assessed these allegations were independent of each of the authors and had no conflicts of interest or similar challenges in carrying out this task (note that we are not asking for details or evidence, just UWA’s confirmation
8. Finally, from UWA’s letter we understand that the conclusion is that there was neither any breach nor any research misconduct as defined by the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research. Is this correct?
A few days later, the UWA appears to have sent a “more detailed report” (according to an acknowledgement by Frontiers on May 6, 2013.)
Lewandowsky’s blog article contains the following short statement which has now been issued by Frontiers
will issue later today:
In the light of a small number of complaints received following publication of the original research article cited above, Frontiers carried out a detailed investigation of the academic, ethical and legal aspects of the work. This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article. The authors understand this decision, while they stand by their article and regret the limitations on academic freedom which can be caused by legal factors.
The statement conspicuously does not contain the planned statement that they had “seen UWA’s decision and the background documents and are happy to be able to rely on that as a solid and well-founded decision”, from which one can surmise that they were unable to to make such a statement.