Saturday, 29 October 2016

Lawrence, Sovacool, and Stirling paper controversy : timeline

I blogged this twice already. Once here and once at the sister blog.

Here is an exciting timeline for a paper published in July but, hopefully, withdrawn by October. So far, there is no official retraction or withdrawal. Someone should write to the journal's editor to confirm it.

Summary: The paper was published, got fair publicity in the anti-nuclear / 100%-renewables press (they are the same thing). It claimed that Pro-nuclear [European] countries [are] making slower progress on climate targets. It drew its data from open sources, but copied just about every value wrongly. So any conclusions it came to based on data would have to be revised. Several people took issue with it. Within 2 months the authors admitted their data had been transcribed wrongly. Despite the journal editor saying all that was needed were corrections to data and bits of the text. The day after I was told that, a blog by Nicholas Thompson demolished the paper with another refutation showing the conclusions could not be derived from the corrected data either. Finally, one of the authors admitted they may need to withdraw it. Better that than have it retracted lads. I'd withdraw it ASAP if I were them.


The timeline is for the Lawrence, Sovacool, and Stirling (LSS), paper controversy claiming nuclear power supporting countries do worse at reducing GHG emissions.

  1. July: The article is published in Climate Policy - a "peer reviewed journal".
  2. 22-Aug: James Hakner at Sussex Univ. finishes a press release and posts it to media outlets.
  3. On the same day, media reports begin rewriting the press release as a story dissing nuclear power.
  4. 23-Aug: I complain to the editor of Climate Policy by email (who is on leave anyway!)
  5. 24-Aug: One report in The Ecologist is by the press release's author!
  6. 25-Aug: I send out 10 emails to nuclear power supporting academics complaining about the paper. At least 3 of them reply to me: Jessica L, Ben H, and Nicholas T
  7. 26-Aug: Stephen Tindale and Suzanna Hinson at the Weinberg Foundation refute LSS paper.
  8. More media reports reprinting/rewriting their press release.
  9. 2-Sep: My blog outlining the article's faults. I notify the journal editor too by email.
  10. LSS notice my blog. Climate Policy editor discusses issues with authors and peer reviewers.
  11. LSS authors admit errors in their data, but refute my other 17 complaints about their paper.
  12. 11-Oct: I get an email from the journal editor saying the paper has been cleared as OK apart from the data which will be corrected and a few bits of the text. I tweet my annoyances.
  13. 12-Oct: Nicholas Thompson's blog refuting the conclusions they draw from their corrected data. Refuting the journal editor, the peer reviewers and the 3 authors.
  14. 27-Oct: Malcolm Grimston reports that Andy Stirling admitted the paper was rubbish and LSS have withdrawn it.
  15. 25-Nov: I hear the authors have retracted their article.


Press Release:

Green Media reports:

In most cases these were edited, sometimes whole republications of the Univ. of Sussex press release written by James Hakner.

Blogs & such:

Appendix - Corrected Data

In their original data (Table 2), emission reductions were shown as negative numbers. Emission increases as positive numbers. When presenting their corrected data LSS, reversed the number sign. They also made two arithmetic errors. I wanted to present LSS's corrected figure with the table the numbers were derived from: page 30 of Eurostat handbook (pdf). I calculated what the figures should be from the Eurostat data (heading: 2005-2012). My figures have same sign as the journal article, but opposite to LSS corrected numbers.

LSS correction
Group averages in parentheses
Emissions reductions
Index 100=199019901995200020052010201120122005-2012countryOLD DATACORRECT-ION
Group I-11.8GI(-6)-11.9
Latvia10047.738.242.546.744.742.90.4LV170.4LSS should be negative
Group II-13.8GII-11-12.9
Sweden100102.395.693.491.38680.7-12.7SE-177.3Should be 12.7
Group III-10.2GIII-3-10.2
Czech Republic1007774.574.470.468.467.3-7.1CZ97.1
United Kingdom10093.189.988.679.974.877.5-11.1UK-1611.1
Group IV-1.5GIV-15-1.5


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dear Mark, after both reproducing the analysis and reading Nick Thompson's blog, we have decided to formally retract the article. We approached the journal about this many weeks ago, but it took them time to process it. You can see our retraction statement here, and a modified press release here We have a third reply submitted to Nick at his blog so refer there for more.