More Fringe Science from Borderline Publisher Frontiers

He's back !

He’s back !

The scandal-plagued, Switzerland-based publisher Frontiers has just published a chemtrails conspiracy theory paper by the same author whose earlier article was published and then retracted in an MDPI journal.

In August, 2015, I reported that J. Marvin Herndon had published a conspiracy theory paper in the MDPI journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. After my blog post was published, MDPI quickly retracted the article.

Now a very similar paper has just appeared in Frontiers in Public Health. The paper is entitled “Human and environmental dangers posed by ongoing global tropospheric aerosolized particulates for weather modification.”

Frontiers states that the paper was “edited by Judi Krzyzanowski, Krzyzanowski Consulting, Canada” and “Reviewed by Otto Andersen Stiftinga Vestlandsforsking, Norway [and] Yue-Wern Huang, Missouri University of Science and Technology, USA.”

The sky is falling, again. Photo credit: J. Marvin Herndon.

The sky is falling, again. Photo credit: J. Marvin Herndon.

In the new paper, Herndon again theorizes that the government is spraying coal fly-ash into the atmosphere:

In contrast to the presumption of academic geoengineers, covert government/military geoengineering activity has occurred over the past 70 years and has intensified since the end of the Cold War and the discovery of global warming as a national security issue (20).

Later in the article he writes,

The government/military solution to inhibit the fall of rain is to deliberately add an aerosolized pollutant to the region where clouds form to interfere with raindrop nucleation. The intentional addition of particulate pollution not only inhibits the fall of rain but also warms the atmosphere (by absorbing solar energy) and limits loss of heat radiated by Earth. Consequently, the particulate pollution creates an artificial increase in air pressure, which can block the movement of an oncoming weather front thus further keeping the sprayed area from experiencing rainfall (22, 23).

Comments left at the end of the article are beginning to detail the article’s flaws. One says,

This article has a fundamental methodological flaw in that it only compares the composition of rainwater and air particulates to coal fly ash and nothing else. Soil samples should have been used as controls. Also, a statistical analysis is completely missing. The total lack of controls and the lack of statistical analysis renders the article unsound and its conclusions invalid.

The publication of this article is further evidence that Frontiers is little more than a vanity press. The fringe science published in Frontiers journals stigmatizes the honest research submitted and published there.

I suspect that no honest publisher would have accepted this article. That’s why conspiracy theorists such as Herndon go to MDPI and Frontiers when they want to publish something — the acceptance and publication are all but guaranteed, as long as the author fee is paid.

Frontiers’ peer review process is flawed. It is stacked in favor of accepting as many papers as possible in order to generate more revenue for the company. Frontiers is included on my list, and I recommend against publishing in its journals, which are rather expensive to publish in anyway.


Appendix:  Additional criticism of Herndon’s article is posted in the blog Metabunk (scroll down to the 2016 comments).

100 Responses to More Fringe Science from Borderline Publisher Frontiers

  1. Bonbon says:

    “Frontiers: Worse than MDPI”

  2. Jay Reynolds says:

    The lack of controls as mentioned in the comment quoted above was one of the reasons mentioned by the Journal Editor Paul Tchounwou for the previous retraction. In the present instance it seems as if editor Judi Krzyzanowski may have not been aware of the retraction or the reason.

    Did the author avoid mentioning to his editor and reviewers that his current paper has the same flaw as his last one? If so, that implies some deception by omission. If not there was a lack of due diligence on the Editor’s part.

    Those questions need to be answered to clear the air and provide context to what is going on over at Frontiers.

    • Bonbon says:

      By all accounts, reviewers have very little control over whether an article is accepted or rejected at Frontiers. I’ve heard that this is changing (or has recently changed) somewhat, but this is one reason I would never review for them—I don’t want my name to be associated with something that I might think is rubbish. Since the content of the reviews is not open, you have no way of knowing what any individual editor thought of the article.

      Frontiers’ review system seems to be the worst of all worlds when it comes to openness and quality control. At a minimum, if they are going to continue to list reviewer names, then they should make review content open as well.

      Full disclosure: I was formerly what I think Frontiers calls an “editor” (i.e. a registered potential reviewer), but I never reviewed anything because they kept sending me completely irrelevant review requests. I eventually closed down my account when they published that HIV denialism article and then reclassified it as an opinion piece rather than retracting it.

  3. ThatsJustLikeYourOpinionMan says:

    This has not been my experience with the plant science division of this journal, and I think labeling the entire operation as “predatory” is just as irresponsible as Frontiers publishing this “article”. Like all journals it depends on the editor and reviewers that they select. My guess is that the editor was lazy and just used the suggested reviewers of the author, who were either their friends or them themselves. Please don’t taint everyone who publishes in this journal because something got through that was bad science. It happens in almost every journal, not just Frontiers.

    • I have the the same experience for the microbiology section, but the further they continue to publish garbage in the other journals, the further they will damage the whole brand and the effort of the academic communities that work hard to keep their specific journals in good stand. Everytime I read about these cases I am closer to start rejecting review requests from frontiers.

      • ThatsJustLikeYourOpinionMan says:

        Yeah, its bummer too because I know they were trying to make things more modern and transparent. I also like the layout of their articles, I find them easier to read. But the online system they have for peer review is NOT easy to follow and I much prefer the old system of passing a document to the authors. But that is just my view, which could be in the minority.

  4. MC says:

    “happens in every journal”? are you also a “climate change skeptic”? The weather is always changing!!!11

  5. herr doktor bimler says:

    The erudite list of footnotes there — citing conspiracy websites and Youtubes — is simply glorious.

  6. wkdawson says:

    Putting aside other matters, one encouraging thing that does seem to be happening is post production peer review; at least at some level or in some cases or some of the time. At least this means that the idea might be debated and everything will be there in print.

    Like everything else, I can think of ways that such a mechanism can be manipulated either way with the “right” politicians defending or trying to trash a work, but a forum is an important start. Sound arguments stand firm under scrutiny, and even waging an army of “defenders” (or “detractors” for that matter) does not make things true.

    Nevertheless, I’m not sure why they decided to publish this. It seems like so much work to have to sneak large amounts of coal ash to an airport and surreptitiously plant it inside some secret compartment in all the planes. Why wouldn’t some low tier employee squeal for a little publicity? paid $7.50/hr? People who want to believe that the government is seeking to undermine the population will believe anything, but I think they give the government too much credit.

  7. Editorial integrity of a Frontiers journal depends on how much of anything its Chief Editor gives about what is published and who is invited to play handling editors and reviewers at his journal (yes, his, 85% of Frontiers EiC are men).
    That this paper was part of an invited collection editorially managed by a non-academic, who calls herself “principal scientist” at her own consulting agency, shows that the entire editorial process, including peer review, was a silly farce. And the EiC Joav Merrick couldn’t care less, probably because Frontiers pay their EiCs €12,000 per year to publish as many papers as possible.

    • wkdawson says:

      According to a quote from one of the comments in the link you provide, the editors can only reject the paper if “there are significant objective errors in the collection, application, or interpretation of the data; the quality of the manuscript is below the common standard for the journal; the Authors are unwilling and/or unable to correct these serious shortcomings.”

      Perhaps Frontiers really does need to tighten the rules and get rid of quotas — even if that means not paying the EiCs. A quota system almost guarantees trouble.

      The paper in question here is quite readable,and it is certainly true to its _cherry picked_ “collection”, “application” and “interpretation” of the data. Maybe you could pin the authors is on “objective errors”, but every scientific work that has ever been published has some level of “objective errors”. I once stumbled on a flat earth paper (very politely written) that might actually have passed through this filter if the “mesh size” on interpretation of the rules was particularly large.

      I think the rather rough guidelines above were intended to for works submitted on good faith to be published on good faith. Both the paper in question and of course the flat earth paper I mentioned fall short of good faith because they are not thorough. An investigator turns up _every_ possible stone, not just the few that happen to fit the agenda.

      Frankly, on the topic of your link, I’m not so sure I cut as much slack for Hindawi. One paper I carefully reviewed and finally rejected in a different journal ended up there. My reasons for rejection came down to lack of good faith, but it required due diligence, which, their editor apparently was hard pressed to give the work. Admittedly, the editor would not have known the work I had done to dig this out or that it was rejected elsewhere. According to the slack rules above and other issues you raise, Frontiers would also surely have published the work. So, don’t get me wrong, I am not defending Frontiers in any way — just saying that I didn’t see so much in Hindawi either.

      To varying degrees, regardless of the journal, this system has become deeply corrupt, with politics and rules overriding good faith on both sides. Metrics and money have become a god to the administrators, so don’t expect a lot of really outstanding seminal works like Darwin in this generation.

      • Hi, you probably noticed that I am the author of that article, as well as of several others on topic of Frontiers (use search function of my site for these).
        Now, the key difference between Hindawi and Frontiers is, is that with the former it is the scientists themselves who allow crap papers through as academic editors. These editors have full control at Hindawi.
        With Frontiers, academic editors are often helpless or don’t care. The editorial system absolutely favours authors regardless of what they submit. Authors appoint their own friendly editors (unlike at Hindawi, I was told), afterwards a paper becomes virtually unrejectable.

      • wkdawson says:

        Fair enough…

        I think the imprimatur of an editor’s name should mean that responsibility was actually taken for the decision and that the matter was given due diligence.

        Surely an editor can err, but the process should be transparent enough that we can understand what went wrong. If this process is circumvented by the higher ups — at least without any formal review as to why (such as signs of prejudice, conflict of interest, etc.) — I cannot understand why anyone would agree to be an editor in a process like that.

  8. herr doktor bimler says:

    part of an invited collection editorially managed by a non-academic, who calls herself “principal scientist” at her own consulting agency

    SO far the only paper in the Research Topic “The effects of multiple contaminants and their mixtures in natural and human environments”, but a title like that is an open invitation to antivax crankery and pesticide paranoia.

  9. herr doktor bimler says:

    What’s the story with the Google Scholar links inserted after each of the references? Like this —

    9. Ex-Researcher Says US. Seeded Clouds Over Cuba. Palm Beach Post-Times. June 27 (1976).
    Google Scholar

    10. Rainmaking Used as Weapon of War in SE Asia. Daytona Beach Morning Journal. May 19 (1974).
    Google Scholar

    11. United States Senate. Weather Modification: Programs, Problems, Policy, and Potential. Washington, DC (1978).
    Google Scholar

    As you can imagine, when the Authoritative Reference is a 1970s newspaper cutting, the GoogScholar link goes nowhere.

    I can only suppose that some genius thought it would be a nice idea for the Frontiers platform to parse each Reference and insert a link automagically, whether or not it worked.

    • Narad says:

      I can only suppose that some genius thought it would be a nice idea for the Frontiers platform to parse each Reference and insert a link automagically, whether or not it worked.

      Oh, I’ve seen PLOS papers chock-full of broken Crossref auto-links, completely irrespective of the disaster that is the latter’s title list. Technical incompetence should be a default assumption where publishers are concerned. (Their close partners in “discovery” aren’t far ahead.)

  10. AP says:

    Crying without testing and replicating the method won’t make you more right than the author.
    You have the materials and methods described in the paper. If you would like invalidate or confirm the author’s conclusion, simply replicate his methods.
    Statistical analyses are often worthless, so no need to cry much on the author:

    • There is no need to replicate a method if you have shown it to be flawed. The point here is that comparing rain water to coal fly ash tells us nothing – there is no experimental control.

      I *could* go out and compare some water to some coal fly ash but it would tell me nothing. And it wouldn’t even tell us that the method was flawed, since we already knew that.

      • AP says:

        How have you shown it “flawed”?
        If you compare two things and you find some similarities or differences, what would be the problem to highlight the findings you found?
        If you look for ‘controls’, where are the ‘controls’ for space research and paleontology findings, for example?
        You seem to be ‘all-skeptic’, but not only ‘neuroskeptic’.

      • Oswald H says:

        If you compare two things and find ‘similiarities’ that are actually orders of magnitude apart, it’s not scientifically sound to ignore other explanations and compare to a likely third thing like soil dust. None of that in the paper.

    • Marco says:

      I can replicate Figure 2 (taking pictures of contrails), but I cannot find anywhere how I can show these were “deliberately produced particulate pollution trails”, because the method that shows how this conclusion was reached is not provided.

      Even if we can confirm *all* the measurements, the conclusion – that coal fly ash is deliberately put into the atmosphere – still does not follow.

      • AP says:

        Again, crying on the author without testing his methods won’t make you more right or credible than him.
        If someone finds a piece of money while walking in the desert, will you cry on him how he found it if he already tells you how? He tells you how he proceeded and what he found, so if you do not believe him, try to do what he did and then compare your findings. It is as simple as that.
        Why ranting?
        Criticizing the author’s conclusion while you are in your office is not a scientific approach to validate or invalidate any claim.

      • Marco says:

        Actually, it is perfectly scientifically valid to criticize a conclusion *that does not follow from the data*.

        No amount of reproduction of the data will change that.

    • MC says:

      This is a such a bizarre science-from-a-non-scientist comment.

  11. Muca says:

    This rogue scientist has also published in PNAS, Proc. R. Soc. A, Current Science, and Journal of Geomagnetism and Geoelectricity. I would advice all authors not to publish in those journals.

    • On the contrary, this is proof that publishing some sensible papers is no guarantee that your future papers will be sensible.

      • MC says:

        I guarantee you the chemtrails got to him. Now, if I only I can prove it using a loosely interpreted scientific method and if only there were some type of vehicle by which I could disseminate the truth to many people, like some sort of published record of findings that people would just believe because it looked real…

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      I strongly advise against trying to publish in the Journal of Geomagnetism and Geoelectricity because its last issue was in 1997.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      PNAS, Proc. R. Soc. A, Current Science

      I have no issues with “Current Science” — the fortnightly newsletter of the Current Science Association of Bangalore, and Herndon’s outlet of choice — but it is odd to see it listed as equal to PNAS and Proc.R.Soc.A. It’s like listing Oxford, Cambridge, and Hull as the great universities of England.

  12. […] Maybe reading his own Frontiers will cheer Markram up. There are some fun papers inside, about paranormal activities, madness-causing bread and, most recently, poisonous “chem-trail” conspiracies. […]

  13. Janos Toth says:

    And they keep republishing other publishers’ articles under their own Scribd account.

  14. Oswald H says:

    There is movement on the side of Frontiers.

  15. […] But many people disagree with the findings — Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, criticized the paper on his blog. […]

  16. AP says:

    Have you the least doubt about what the author says here: “… a multiplicity of toxic substances is being sprayed into the air breathed by people in many parts of the world and that it will adversely affect virtually all life on Earth.”

    If so, you are most likely still living in the prehistory era where no chemical industry, no polluting cars, no polluting machines, no oil industry existed, … but only plants and animals living in perfect harmony and pure air!

  17. AP says:

    No, it is not a “scientifically valid” approach to criticize findings that you are not sure about.
    The author described what he found and he makes his own conclusion. If you wish to contradict him, demonstrate it methodologically and experimentally but not by crying!
    Use the method he described or another method that demonstrates he is wrong before you claim and cry on scandal! Sorry, this is all but not scientifically valid.
    Ranting in ‘social media’ is not a scientific method to nullify the author’s claims.
    Polluting in the air is more than obvious, we see it, we experience it daily with the increasing number of cars, machines, oil industry, factories rejecting their CO2 and other gases in the atmosphere.
    Nobody can deny these facts, can you?

    • Oswald H says:

      O.K., I’ll try to explain to you what is likely obvious to others:
      Herndon starts with a theory that fly ash is deliberately dispersed by planes, for the purpose of weather manipulation.
      Now, all he tries to do is to cherry-pick from ground/water analysis data which in most parts he took from conspiracy web sites all over the place, with inadequate or non-existent sampling process documentation.
      He ASSUMES that the data shows similarities to typical fly ash, but he never tests for similarities to very common sources like soil dust. Also, the ‘similarities’ he claims to have found range between factors of 0.0001 to 10000 …
      That’s very bad methodology on several levels.
      See? No crying required.

    • Marco says:

      Well, AP, help me then. What method described in Herndon’s paper can I use to test his conclusion that “coal fly ash is likely the aerosolized particulate emplaced in the troposphere for geoengineering, weather modification and/or climate alteration purposes”. I am asking specifically for the method that allows me to test his conclusion that this material is put in the troposphere with the specific purpose he claims.

      Similarly, provide me with a description of the methodology in Herndon’s paper that allows me to test his claim that Figure 2 shows “Images of deliberately produced particulate pollution trails”.

      After that, we can take up his lack of controls (see Oswald’s comment) in identifying the material as “coal fly ash”. Somebody else could do this, and thus falsify Herndon’s claim about the material he identified, but to be quite honest, Herndon should have done that himself already. If I had been a reviewer, I would have pointed out that controls are lacking, and therefore even the identification is highly ambiguous (and thus “likely” it is not).

      And as Oswald also notes, the fact that there is pollution does not allow the conclusion that it is put in the atmosphere “for geoengineering, weather modification and/or climate alteration purposes”.

  18. herr doktor bimler says:

    Looking at the Frontiers EoC, I am entertained to discover that their platform handles Editorial statements (retractions, EoCs) in the same way as authored articles — that is, it automagically turns the author’s name into a personalised Corresponding Address as the final line.

    Resulting in deformities like this:
    * Correspondence: Dr. Frontiers Editorial Office, Frontiers, Lausanne, Switzerland,
    * Correspondence: Dr. Human Neuroscience Editorial Office, Frontiers, Lausanne, Switzerland,

    I am used to that malfunction from spamming software, scraping e-mails from publications and tacking on a “Dr” in front to generate personalised junkmail, but where are the “Greetings for the Day”?

    • Narad says:

      What, the entity doesn’t have an ORCID “iD”?

    • I wonder if Herndon will be getting an email soon…

      Dear Dr Herndon, Greetings for the Day! We regret to inform you that your groundbreaking paper on “Human and environmental dangers posed by ongoing global tropospheric aerosolized particulates for weather modification.” has been retracted from Frontiers in Public Health. But have you considered submitting it to one of our other scholarly Frontiers journals?

  19. herr doktor bimler says:

    From the Frontiers office:

    Article came to our attention within hours of publication. Statement of concern will be issued. Followed by full investigation.

    If they were concerned within hours of the June 30 publication, why did it take two weeks, until Jeffrey’s blogpost, to announce that concern?

    [Self-plagiarism alert: I left the same comment @RW]

  20. herr doktor bimler says:

    If anyone is keeping a list of “Frontier Papers Most in Need of Retraction”, I’d like to nominate
    A new methodology of viewing extra-axial fluid and cortical abnormalities in children with autism via transcranial ultrasonography
    by Bradstreet, Pacini & Ruggiero

    also its later Commentary,
    The searching for autism biomarkers: a commentary on: a new methodology of viewing extra-axial fluid and cortical abnormalities in children with autism via transcranial ultrasonography
    by Tuggiero’s colleague Siniscalco (reviewer of the former paper) for having too many colons in the title.

  21. Marco says:

    An interesting development – at Frontiers John Boyd Reynolds has put up the following comment:

    “On 4-9-2015, after the retraction of Herndon’s paper in IJPREH, I sent him and the IJPREH editor citations of previous research showing that the elements he was finding in rainwater were historically found in comparable amounts by numerous studies (ie. Warneck, 1999), some dating back to Antarctic ice cores 183 years old. Herndon was made aware of the ordinary components of tropospheric aerosols yet again ignored them in this paper. Anyone wishing to see that correspondence may ask me for a copy. So, my esteemed alumnus Dr. Herndon did not neglect this out of ignorance but rather by will.”

    I wonder what AP has to say now about Herndon’s claims…

  22. tekija says:

    These are the two professors who acted as reviewers:

    I wonder whether Frontiers was courteous enough to inform them about the fate of the paper “hours after publication”.

  23. The Introduction of this paper starts with the sentence: “In a civilized, humanitarian society, public health responsibilities include revealing threats that arise from both biological and anthropogenic causes.” The quote “both biological and anthropogenic causes” seems to indicate that the author holds predarwinian views and/or that the author has no clue that all activities of the species Homo sapiens (Humans) are included in the term ‘biological causes’.

    The 3th sentence of the Introduction states: “Far-reaching human-caused threats to public health, on the other hand, have mainly occurred since World War II and are typically the result of deliberate military activities conducted secretly.” The author does not provide a definition for ‘far-reaching’, ‘mainly’ and ‘typically’, and there are no direct references to support the statement ‘secretly’. There are also no direct references attached to this sentence. I am wondering why the author does not refer to effects of for example Yersinia pestis on Humans. Source:

    I am hereby asking all referees of the manuscript of this paper to release all their comments on all versions of this manuscript.

  24. The paper has been retracted:

    Herndon JM (2016) Human and Environmental Dangers Posed by Ongoing Global Tropospheric Aerosolized Particulates for Weather Modification. Front. Public Health 4:139. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00139
    The journal retracts the 30 June 2016 article cited above. Based on information discovered after publication and reported to Frontiers in July 2016, the article was examined, revealing that the complaints were valid and that the article does not meet the standards of editorial and scientific soundness for Frontiers in Public Health. The retraction of the article was approved by the Field Chief Editor of Frontiers in Public Health and the Specialty Chief Editor of Environmental Health. The author considers the retraction to be unwarranted and therefore does not agree to the statement.

  25. John Mashey says:

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”[.

    Coal ash disposal is a serious problem, but the idea that it secretly gets spread by planes … is pretty extraordinary, an not much different from the numerous papers one finds in Journal of Scientific Exploration, of which my favorite is An Empirical Study of Some Astrological Factors in Relation to Dog Behaviour Differences by Statistical Analysis and Compared with Human Characteristics.

    “Abstract-A survey of 500 pedigree dogs was carried out in the Paris region. For each dog, six behavioural traits were determined and ten of their astrological traits were retained. A statistical interpretation of the possible relationships between the two sets of traits was performed based on permutation tests. Two strong associations were detected between the angular positions of Jupiter and the Sun, and the extraversion dominant trait. There were indications of other associations. These associations have a remarkable resemblance to the standard associations usually proposed in “human” astrology.”

    Clearly, this result stands unless somebody replicates it and finds evidence otherwise.

  26. Mike says:

    It is rather shameful that a so-called scientific journal concedes to retraction as easily as some rants and cries expressed by some people who might have conflicts of interest with the author. This suggests that this publisher might be indeed corrupted.
    The story also demonstrates that any author who publishes in Frontiers may see his or her paper retracted easily if some malcontented or malicious people cry on it.

    Will Frontiers refund the article processing charge to the author?

    It seems that Jeffery Beall is right to add Frontiers to his list because if a journal is not able to defend its authors in the absence of strong evidence on any claim, it does not deserve the name of “scientific journal” or “publisher”.

    Shame on Frontiers in (it should be “Frontiers OUT”).

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      rants and cries expressed by some people who might have conflicts of interest with the author.

      Might have conflicts of interest”? And I might be Marie of Romania. If you can flesh out the alleged COIs between Herndon and his critics, this would be a good place to do so; if not, then this is conspiratorial innuendo.

      The story also demonstrates that any author who publishes in Frontiers may see his or her paper retracted easily if some malcontented or malicious people cry on it.

      Perhaps we disagree on the meaning of “demonstrates”. You can always test this claim by choosing some innocuous Frontiers paper and “crying on it” to see if this leads to immediate retraction.

    • wkdawson says:

      You probably didn’t read the paper. I cannot feel much remorse over this one.

      First I cannot understand how civic authorities have managed to hide gondolas full of fly ash in various airports and secretly load them onto planes. This would be expensive, surely not what airlines would easily agree to, and it would be much easier to dump it in the ocean or just open the vents of the power plant and put it in the air.

      Perhaps the argument of cloud seeding to reduce rainfall for Cuba’s sugar cane harvest is plausible — though a very feeble reference — but Herndon’s argument is that you don’t get any rain, except that you do because Herndon supposedly measured rainfall.

      The elements that are picked up are basically what you find large abundance in alumino-silicates that cover the earth’s surface. The only one that I don’t immediately understand is the source of S. That might have an origin from electric power plants. As for the toxic elements, they can come from all sorts of sources in trace amounts that accumulate. LA and San Diego are semiarid. At any rate, if it is from fly ash, why isn’t the fly ash in the rainwater?

      This leads me to my second doubt. I am hardly persuaded from this article that the particle size of fly ash would not produce raindrops like typical cloud seeding.

      Even if I am wrong about the particle size, why would anyone propose such a wild conspiracy of the government? To explain the drought in California? Ah, I see, global warming is not just a hoax, the evidence is all a contrived plot implemented by our nefarious government. I think human stupidity is a more parsimonious explanation.

      I’m not even convinced that the referencing that is there is particularly serious.

      This is hardly any prime example of some noxious, ill-mannered internet weenies prevailing over the honest, well-grounded, sincere research of a genuine and humble scientist.

    • Marco says:

      Well, consider the comment from John Boyd Reynolds on the paper, I would rather say that Herndon has done something that skirts dangerously close to scientific misconduct. Reynolds offers proof that he informed Herndon of information in the scientific literature that contradicts Herndon’s claims about the identification of the material. Herndon then decided to resubmit his paper (to Frontiers) deliberately ignoring that information.

    • MC says:

      Am I the only one still waiting for “Mike” to look up “cry on” and figure out that’s not an expression we use…

  27. Eli Rabett says:

    Frontiers is a multilevel marketing scheme like Amway with a devious twist, because the “chief editors” (maybe, where the money stops is not clear) the “chief specialty editors” the “associate editors” and the “reviewers” are working for the titles and glory and the contribution that they are making to Frontiers, not the money that the Frontiers journals charge for open publication, which means for all the services, whatever they are, of publication.

  28. Oswald H says:

    Mike, I must assume from your commentary that you did not look closely at the issues that were brought up against Herndon’s paper.
    There isn’t really anything to defend from a scientific point of view.

    • Mike says:

      Yes, indeed, I did not look at the issue closely except what is written here because I’m simply arguing on the principle of retraction of a paper and the interpretation of results in general.
      I argue on the fact that we cannot retract a paper or cry on its results if we do not replicate it. That’s all my point here.
      I do not advocate the author’s conclusion or his personal interpretations, which are of course debatable, but on the retraction motives only which are also debatable.

      • Oswald H says:

        Mike, the central point here is that the obvious issues with the paper should have been spotted by the reviewers and editors.
        The fact that this did not happen makes the whole scientific review process of this publication platform highly questionable.
        The retraction is just an attempt of damage control. Defending that paper would have had a disastrous effect on the already tainted trustworthiness of Frontiers.

  29. Mike says:

    My comments are not to advocate the author’s conclusions or interpretations but to stick to the rigor of the scientific methodology in general in reporting and interpreting findings: we can completely disagree with the author’s conclusion, as the interpretation of results is always a personal matter, hence subjective, but nobody can reject findings of any study unless the study in question is replicated independently to confirm the claimed findings or in contrary to invalidate them.
    The introduction, discussion and conclusion in any scientific paper are always personal, but the findings are normally independent of any personal interpretations, otherwise why a “discussion” is called discussion if the authors cannot discuss their findings from all the viewpoints?
    By contrast, although the findings could also be biased and influenced by experimental conditions, however only a replication can show it.
    In sum, retracting a paper before replicating its methods is not a scientific approach. Some points need to emphasized and clearly distinguished before retracting a paper:

    (1) – Discussion, interpretation and conclusion: mostly personal and subjective.
    (2) – Findings: usually independent from any personal factor if the study is well-designed
    (3) – Methods: same as in (2).

    Anyone can object, question and disagree with all the claims in (1) but whatever the interpretations made, they do not constitute valid reasons to retract a paper because they are simply personal interpretations.
    In other word, the discussion and conclusions in all papers are always objectionable, debatable, and questionable because they are mostly personal and self-guided interpretations. But, it is much harder to come out against findings if the methods themselves are not repeated. Only the replication of a study in same conditions will allow confirming or invalidating its findings.
    It is hard to deny pollution in the environment when you see smog, CO2, industrial wastes, and so on are continuously rejected in the air, sea, soil, rivers… etc.
    Can anybody deny these facts?

    • Mike,

      Suppose that I climbed to the top of a mountain and reported that a fairy on the summit had told me certain scientific truths. Suppose I wrote a paper on the basis of the fairy’s words.

      Would you say that no-one who hadn’t climbed to the top of the same mountain could criticize my paper?

    • MC says:

      How can “personal interpretation” be accepted into any scientific journal? You completely miss the point of the scientific process and peer review. The data and conclusions that appear in papers that are accepted into the scientific record are open for debate, yes, but the conclusions must be meaningful and accepted by the broader scientific community. This is all part of the point.

      Yes, “anyone can object, question and disagree” with the claims made by any random person, but let’s let the trained scientists question and vet the claims made by other trained scientists.

      Just because you have falsified data to support some ridiculous opinion you hold doesn’t mean you get to publish it.

      If you really want to advocate for the scientific method as you interpret it, then go replicate the findings in this paper and find out for yourself that the government isn’t spraying chemicals into the air from the back of a Boeing 747.

      • Mike says:

        “… the government isn’t spraying chemicals into the air from the back of a Boeing 747.”
        The author may exaggerated this claim, but most if not all the machines, engines, factories, farms, cars, trains, and industrial operations etc., spray huge amounts of pollutants and gases into the air, don’t they?
        It is not for intentional reasons, of course, but this is the way these engines work. So, adopting alternative and green solutions in all fields (transportation, farming, oil-based industry, etc) to reduce pollution should be of the highest priorities ever for all stakeholders and scientists. Otherwise, the air in some places and cities in the world will be irrespirable or hardly respirable. Doing nothing to reduce pollutants and decrease gas emissions is a proof of negligence regarding environment and human life conditions.
        Would you like to respire polluted air and eat polluted food?

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        “… the government isn’t spraying chemicals into the air from the back of a Boeing 747.”
        The author may exaggerated this claim,

        In fact the gubblement are only spraying chemicals into the air from an old 707.

      • Eli Rabett says:

        If you combust biofuels you tend to get even nastier pollutants, because, amongst other things there are more aromatics and more impurities. Use biodiesel from cooking oil and the whole town smells like french fries

      • MC says:

        Given that this discussion has taken, and will continue to take, sharp left turns, I guess I will just have to exercise my right to “object, question and disagree” with Mike’s interpretation of how the whole proper science things works.

  30. Jay Reynolds says:

    There is no need to replicate Herndon’s rain water samples. Rain water samples have been taken for many decades and have been showing the same elemental consituents he found.
    The paper was retracted, at least in part, because Herndon negelected to take into account what has always been known to be the normal load of atmospheric aerosols which, despite pollution, is mainly mineral dust of crustal origin. One of the best references for information of that sort would be “The Atmospheric Chemists Companion” by Warneck. I referred that book to him last year pre-publication. Herndon even denies that coal fly ash could make it across the Pacific Ocean while repeated incidents of Chinese loess regularly does exactly that, or that barium might be found in the San Diego or Phoenix urban areas when barium is almost always found in greater abundance in cities as ordinary pollution from fossil fuels and automotive brake dust.. Then there is the previously mentioned claim that the airplanes he photographs are military tanker type planes. Herndon shows no basis for that identity of those planes, while many of his confederates regularly identify them as ordinary commercial passenger flights. If he wants to make these extraordinary claims he should have provided evidence of them.

    • JustPassing says:

      You know, until these comments I’ve never seen the word ‘cry’ used in such an odd manner – ‘cry on the author’ , ‘cry on it’. Here it is twice, by (apparently) different posters, both of which seem to be (at least half-heartedly) acting as apologists for Herndon’s latest piece of pseudo-science.

      • C King says:

        JustPassing: Now there *is* a conspiracy theory worth investigating!

      • MC says:

        That struck me too. An obvious give away that it’s the same person and there is probably not only a language difference but also some cultural difference leading to a disagreement over this (fake) science.

  31. […] the paper was scrutinized on librarian Jeffrey Beall’s blog and social media last week, Frontiers in Public Health issued an expression of […]

  32. The Philosopher says:

    hi Jeffrey Beall,

    have a look at this paper – “Investigating the Ethernet and Boolean Logic” Vol 3, No 1 Indonesian Journal of Electrical Engineering. This journal ranked No. 1 with h-index 17 under electrical and computer engineering of google scholar metrics 2016. God save the research community.

  33. The Philosopher says:

    if you search for “electrical and computer engineering” under google scholar metrics list ” ” this journal comes first.

  34. The PDF of the retracted paper (downloaded half an hour ago from ) does not contain any details that the paper has been retracted.
    This url states: “This article is part of the research topic ‘The effects of multiple contaminants and their mixtures in natural and human environments’ “. This text implies towards my opinion that the paper has not yet been retracted. The link to this research topic ( ) lists only one paper. That’s this paper which has been retracted (or not). So what’s going on over here?
    The author has published on his own website (parts of) the recent correspondence about this retraction. There is also an email from the editor. Copy/pasted from

    “From: Judi Krzyzanowski; Sent: Friday, July 15, 2016 12:50 PM; To: J. Marvin Herndon; Cc: Frontiers Editorial Office; Subject: Re: Recent issues with your article “Human and Environmental Dangers Posed by Ongoing Global Tropospheric Aerosolized Particulates for Weather Modification”

    Dear Dr. Soulière and Dr. Herndon,

    Apologies for my tardy reply in this matter, I have been busy all day with other things.

    I just received and replied to an email from Dr. Faraz Alam of the editorial office regarding this issue; however, Dr. Alam failed to mention that the article would be retracted or provide the final statement. My reply to Dr. Alam, having not read this yet, requested that Dr. Herndon be provided with the complaints and given an opportunity to reply. Further, I suggested that complainants should have the right to publish an open rebuttal letter or article of their own displaying why/how the results or premise of the article are flawed.

    I believe this is the only way to have open and transparent science or editorial process, and it is a technique used by many of the best journals (including Science, Nature, etc.). I believe that this format would fit well within your mandate of transparency and openness—for instance your unique “open” peer-review process. I find it strange that you allow an author to see the reviewers’ names with their comments, but not allow an author (or guest editor) to see the names or comments of those who wish to have an article redacted.

    The article was accepted with minor changes by two peer-reviewers. One reviewer did remove themselves from the process; however, the two other reviewers that I chose were neither known to me (or I believe) Dr Herndon previously.

    I am not saying either way whether the criticisms you received have any basis, I haven’t seen them. However, considering the openness and transparency that your journal purports, I find this somewhat impetuous reaction rather surprising.

    I realize that my job here is done, but having been part of the process (and this correspondence) I thought that I should add my opinion on the matter.

    Thanks and kindest regards, Dr. Judi Krzyzanowski BSc, MSc, PhD”

  35. herr doktor bimler says:

    Frontiers management’s treatment of everyone here — the peer reviewers, editorial independence, as well as Herndon — was shabby. They sent out a tweet on July 15, announcing that the “full investigation” would begin shortly —

    Statement of concern will be issued. Followed by full investigation.

    — and had wrapped it up within 48 hours. That hardly gives much time to contact editor and reviewers and author to hear out their reasons for accepting the paper.

    It is almost as if the managers had already determined at the beginning of July that the paper warranted retraction, but they did nothing at the time in the hope that no-one would notice.

  36. […] questa volta Beall ha costretto l’editore alla ritrattazione e forse la direttrice di quel numero della […]

  37. Mike says:

    Stop ranting. Go ahead and replicate his study instead of complaining behind a screen because ranting won’t show any thing constructive.
    I do not advocate the author and I do not warrant his conclusion. I merely disagree with the retraction motives and the way it is done without further investigations on the findings. Only the replication of the study or performing further studies allows confirming or invalidating his claims. That’s all the matter. Complaints alone won’t solve the issue.
    Second, it is up to you, complainers, to demonstrate that the study is bogus by experimental and counterarguments built on data, but not by complaining on a forum.
    Third, the interpretations and discussions of all findings are at the first place a personal matter, YES. Of course, they could be confirmed or explained rationally and logically.
    If you have a new phenomenon or a new data trend, and you try to explain it, what do you do? Won’t you hypothesize, analyze, argue, contrast, and formulate an explanation or theory behind the phenomenon, which may prove true or wrong later?
    Fourth, the conclusion or explanation may be wrong, of course, but this is not a valid reason to retract a paper. Otherwise, most published papers would be retracted. The right response in such situations is to publish counterarguments or carry out new studies that would confirm or abolish the previous results. Have you ever heard about contradictory or irreproducible results published in (top-tier) journals?
    Fifth, if you consider yourself as a ‘vet’, then go ahead and publish a long response to the author’s claims point-by-point, but not complaining here. He should be able to answer you. This is the only way to forge a good insight on the issue.

    Finally, it is most likely that this paper, and many others, raises complaints because of “political” reasons much more than for “scientific” ones. Different kinds of lobbyists exist (pharmaceutical, political, financial lobbyist, conflicts of interests, commercialization of new drugs, etc). So, it is all about money and interests, nothing else. Scientific knowledge, however, should remain neutral and objective, independently from any political or financial interests.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Fifth, if you consider yourself as a ‘vet’,

      It is not obvious why veterinary experience is relevant here.

    • wkdawson says:

      Several people (including me) already brought up issues with the paper in several places. If you have a problem with our doubts, address them. It’s a start.

      However, I think you are wasting your time and energy defending this work. Life is short; try to spend your time defending people who are worth it.

      OK, the journal seemed a bit too eager to retract the paper; only after it became an embarrassment. Why didn’t they see that before? I can imagine occasions when an editor feels compelled to publish something that is rather questionable. Yet no preemptive explanation was offered at the time of publication by the editor to help assuage an almost guaranteed kerfuffle. Afterwords, no details on the decision process were offered when things got out of hand.

    • Oswald H says:

      Hmm, who is actually “ranting” here?
      The grave issues with the article have been explained repeatedly. Nothing political there.

    • Marco says:

      Interesting to see you also raise the point of replication. This simply is not the main issue, as pointed out by many. Perhaps the measurements are right, but even if they are, *the conclusion Herndon draws does not follow*! In fact, Herndon was informed of data in the literature that raises further doubts on his identification of the particulate matter (see also Jay Reynolds’ comments). Herndon ignored that information, which comes pretty close to scientific misconduct.

      A second problem I raised earlier was that his data does not allow the conclusion that this particulate matter is *deliberately* sprayed for various geoengineering purposes. Note in this respect that Herndon does not *speculate* about this, but essentially just assumes this is the truth. This is not science, and this is why scientists react and why retraction is just fine.

      Also of relevance to your ‘politics’ complaint: The current paper sets up for circular argumentation: particulate matter is sprayed on purpose => it is coal fly ash => coal fly ash is very unlikely to be in the San Diego area by accident => it is sprayed on purpose!
      I have already heard a chemtrail believer use this circular argument. Politics indeed, just not by those you accuse…

  38. Jay Reynolds says:

    I agree with you:
    ” it is most likely that this paper, and many others, raises complaints because of “political” reasons much more than for “scientific” ones. Different kinds of lobbyists exist (pharmaceutical, political, financial lobbyist, conflicts of interests, commercialization of new drugs, etc). So, it is all about money and interests, nothing else.”

    There exists a murky world of publishers, supplement sellers a, DVD creators, and various products makers who earn their living by making sure some people believe, as Dr, Herndon does, that when they see contrails they become ill. Some of those interests have been pushing their misinformation around for almost two decades now and I clearly see that within the article which has been retracted.
    But I am not complaining about the publisher, except for their lack of discretion by publishing such an article in the first place. If you’d like to replicate it eternally, go ahead.

  39. Dear Prof…
    Journal name ” IJESC” is not on your list,,, what your opinion..??

    • Well, thank you, I had not heard of this journal before. I have analyzed it and added it to my list. My opinion is that it’s a dangerous journal for any honest researcher. Avoid it like the plague. It’s a complete scam.

      Thanks again.

  40. The PDF of the retracted paper is now marked with a big orange stamp with RETRACTED. The url still states: ‘This article is part of the Research Topic “The effects of multiple contaminants and their mixtures in natural and human environments” ‘. The entire contents of this Research Topic (which was until a few days ago only the now retracted paper) has been removed. Clicking on the url to this Research Topic ( ) yields currently a 404 error.

  41. […] afterlife and clairvoyance and autism-causing bread, Frontiers in Public Health waved through a paper promoting chemtrail conspiracies. Even Segev’s own beautiful Frontiers in Neuroscience showed worrisome peer review deficiencies […]

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