Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

27 February, 2006

Hey, that's not GOP approved science!

Demonstrating yet again the Republican Party and its lackeys' contempt for science:
An Oregon State University study has raised an extraordinary ruckus in the Pacific Northwest this winter by saying that logging burned forests does not make much sense.

Logging after the Biscuit fire, the study found, has harmed forest recovery and increased fire risk. What the short study did not say -- but what many critics of the Bush administration are reading into it -- is that the White House has ignored science to please the timber industry. The study is consistent with research findings from around the world that have documented how salvage logging can strip burned forests of the biological diversity that fire and natural recovery help protect.
Now, no one who has been paying attention for the last five years is shocked to see the GOP pooh-poohing the results of scientific studies that conflict with its corporatist agenda. However, the lengths they went through to keep this study under wraps is shocking. Consider:
The Oregon State study was published in Science, the prestigious peer-reviewed journal. It appeared after a group of professors from the university's College of Forestry, which gets 10 percent of its funding from the timber industry, tried to halt its publication.

Professors behind the failed attempt to keep the article out of Science had earlier written their own non-peer-reviewed study of the Biscuit fire -- a study embraced by the Bush administration and the timber industry.
It's one thing for political hacks to try to halt publication, but quite another for academics - whose sole obligation should be to scientific truth - to try to squelch a research publication for fear that it might upset their precious, precious grant providers. This behavior is grotesque and has seriously undermined the credibility of Oregon State's College of Forestry as a legitimate research institution.

Then, the political flacks at the BLM step in:
A couple of weeks after the Science article appeared and infuriated the forest industry, the federal Bureau of Land Management, which footed the bill for the study of the Biscuit fire, cut off the final year of the three-year, $300,000 grant. BLM officials said the authors violated their funding contract by attempting to influence legislation pending in Congress.
Pot, meet kettle. So now publishing the results of empirical research is attempting to influence legislation? Isn't the point of these scientific studies to provide a sound basis upon which to base forest policy? Fortunately, the grant money was restored after the BLM flacks were exposed as the water-carrying loons they are.

Sadly, though, this kind of "produce-the-results-we-want-or-no-soup- for-you" attitude is becoming increasingly common as ideological hacks seek the legitimacy of statistical science for their extremist positions. In fact, a friend of mine who runs a survey research business was told that he'd receive payment for his services on one particular survey after he "returned the results they wanted." These people then tried to keep the completed surveys and analyze them themselves. A threatened lawsuit saw the surveys returned to their rightful owners for an impartial analysis.

But I digress.

When all else fails, of course, you attack the messenger:
[Rep. Greg] Walden [R-Ore.] accused [OSU graduate student and principal author of the Science article Daniel] Donato, 29, of having failed to tell his federal research supervisor about the findings of his study, as is required by the terms of his research contract with the federal government. Donato conceded that he had not known about the requirement for consultation and that he knows more about it now.

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), another member of the subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the forest recovery bill, was even more disgruntled. He charged Donato with a long list of professional failings and character flaws, including "deliberate bias," lack of humility and ignorance of statistical theory.
Let's see, we have one Congressional shill for Big Timber scolding Donato about a minor bureaucratic detail, and another Congressional shill for Big Timber lecturing someone who's been published in arguably the most prestigious peer-reviewed science journal about scientific integrity. Walden and Baird are, to be charitable, wearing their asses as hats.

And what is the conclusion of the preponderance of research into salvage logging?
After Donato was excused, one of the nation's best-known forest ecologists attempted to summarize the world's collective scientific knowledge on logging after fires...


Salvage logging and replanting can often succeed, Franklin said, if the intent is to turn a scorched landscape into a stand of trees for commercial harvest.
Now that's a scientific finding that Big Timber can get behind!


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