Surprisingly, real researchers have objected – good to see
Researchers clash over roo harvesting – A GROUP of high-profile conservation biologists has taken aim at a privately funded university-based think tank for misrepresenting its research and abusing science in an attempt to end kangaroo harvesting for sustainable use or conservation.
In an upcoming publication the group also claims the self-reviewed papers by the Think Tank for Kangaroos, THINKK, raise ethical questions about how increasingly cash-strapped universities manage funding provided by organisations with an interest in research outcomes.
University of Technology, Sydney, hosts THINKK in the Institute for Sustainable Futures.
THINKK is supported primarily by the Sherman Foundation and animal Welfare group Voiceless, founded by Brian Sherman.
Voiceless prioritised ending kangaroo harvesting, calling it “the largest massacre of land-based wildlife on the planet”.
Rosie Cooney is a biodiversity policy specialist and lawyer with the University of NSW and the Australian National University.
“We need to think about what the guidelines are,” she said. “How should external groups be involved in ways that don’t contort the integrity of the research.”
The University of Sydney’s Simon Chapman agreed. “It’s a textbook example of why full transparency of competing interests is rudimentary to research governance,” he said.
Professor Chapman was lead author of a recent report into how universities managed competing interests of academic staff. “UTS was one of nine Australian universities which did not even respond to our questionnaire . . . despite three reminders.”
But Attila Brungs, UTS deputy vice-chancellor (research), said the university had policies “to ensure ethical and financial rigour around the management of (funded) research”. He denied claims that THINKK gained unwarranted scientific credibility from its UTS affiliation.
With seven colleagues at the UNSW, the ANU, Sydney University, the ACT’s Australian Wildlife Services, Charles Darwin University and Wildlife Management International in Berrimah in the Northern Territory, Dr Cooney detailed concerns in an upcoming journal of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW.
They argued a THINKK report — Advocating Kangaroo Meat: Towards Ecological Benefit or Plunder? — lacked academic objectivity and rigour, contained factual errors and misrepresented published research: “This report makes an inaccurate and potentially misleading contribution to the scientific, legal and social debate on kangaroo management.”
Queensland University conservation biologist Gordon Grigg went further. “It’s an opinion piece masquerading as science,” he claimed, saying THINKK misrepresented his work.
According to Dr Cooney, UNSW co-author Mike Archer commended THINKK’s concern for animal welfare but said it did not justify using “outrageously incorrect facts and cherry-picked references” to bolster its case against sustainable harvest.
Ecologist Dror Ben-Ami, lead author on the THINKK report, claimed the criticisms were incorrect. “Our position is that they’ve misrepresented our position entirely,” he said. (The Australian)