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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chief specialty editor resigns from Frontiers in wake of controversial retraction of Recursive Fury paper about climate science denial psychology

by Igor Oransky, Retraction Watch, April 8, 2014

frontiersAn editor at a Frontiers journal has resigned to protest the publisher’s decision to retract the controversial “Recursive Fury” paper that linked climate skepticism to conspiratorial ideation.
Ugo Bardi was chief specialty editor of Frontiers in Energy Research: Energy Systems and Policy. He writes on his blog:

"…my opinion is that, with their latest statement and their decision to retract the paper, Frontiers has shown no respect for authors nor for their own appointed referees and editors. But the main problem is that we have here another example of the climate of intimidation that is developing around the climate issue."
Later, he notes his decision:

"The climate of intimidation which is developing nowadays risks to do great damage to climate science and to science in general. I believe that the situation risks to deteriorate further if we all don’t take a strong stance on this issue. Hence, I am taking the strongest action I can take, that is I am resigning from “Chief Specialty Editor” of Frontiers in protest against the behavior of the journal in the “Recursive Fury” case. I sent to the editors a letter today, stating my intention to resign.

"I am not happy about having had to take this decision, because I had been working hard and seriously at the Frontiers’ specialty journal titled 'Energy Systems and Policy.' But I think it was the right thing to do. I also note that this blunder by “Frontiers” is also a blow to the concept of 'open access' publishing, which was one of the main characteristic of their series of journals. But I still think that open access publishing it is the way of the future. This is just a temporary setback for a good idea which is moving onward."
This is not the first resignation of an editor linked to the publication of a controversial study about climate change. In 2003, half the editorial board of Climate Research, including the editor in chief, left their posts after the journal published a paper concluding that “the 20th century is probably not the warmest or a uniquely extreme climatic period of the last millennium.” In 2011, the editor of Remote Sensing did the same after his journal ran a paper he found deeply questionable. And the resignation of Chris Brierley from the editorial board of Climate last year was for similar reasons.
Meanwhile, Frontiers editorial director Costanza Zucca responded to a request for comment we placed last week about the apparent contradiction between the retraction notice and a later statement by the journal. The former said that the journal “did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study,” while the latter said the paper “did not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects.” Zucca said:

"There is no contradiction between the two statements. The reference to ethical considerations in the original retraction statement is a reference to the ethical clearance for conducting the study given by UWA.

"The issue was not with the study as such, but with how the paper was written. The paper made it possible to explicitly identify subjects." [Note that the resubmitted paper did not, but the journal decided not to publish it anyway.]
Zucca added:

"Frontiers stands by its decision to retract the article, which it considers to have been the right and responsible course of action."
We’ve asked Zucca if the journal has any comment on Bardi’s resignation, and will update with anything we learn.
Update, 10 a.m. Eastern, 4/9/14: Zucca writes:

"We regret Ugo Bardi’s resignation."

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