An interesting article on the place of science in society

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Jimi
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An interesting article on the place of science in society

Post by Jimi » August 31st, 2016, 2:26 pm

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publicati ... ng-science

datageddon...

trans-science...

making research accountable to end-users rather than to peers...

the closing paragraph:
Advancing according to its own logic, much of science has lost sight of the better world it is supposed to help create. Shielded from accountability to anything outside of itself, the “free play of free intellects” begins to seem like little more than a cover for indifference and irresponsibility. The tragic irony here is that the stunted imagination of mainstream science is a consequence of the very autonomy that scientists insist is the key to their success. Only through direct engagement with the real world can science free itself to rediscover the path toward truth.
interesting stuff

cheers

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » August 31st, 2016, 9:39 pm

Jimi,
It late and I just read the first few paragraphs of the article and indeed, it seem to be very interesting.

Richard F. Hoyer

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » August 31st, 2016, 11:25 pm

The article isn't wrong, and all scientists know these problems (the self-respecting ones actually recognize and acknowledge the problems), but the article is not without its own issues. For example, it quotes someone working to measure the effects of a military base on an endangered species, trying to predict the impacts before the species went into decline, which is a very worthwhile conservation project:

And yet ... “The scientist was looking at some very innovative biomarkers. And there might have been some unanticipated spin-off which might have been useful — which is always the justification for all basic research, right? NSF would have never killed the project.”

The overseers killed the project before it could yield comprehensive results. It doesn't matter that the investigator hadn't found "the right" result yet- they weren't given the chance. In any scientific endeavor, you have to lay some groundwork of baseline data collection because of the uniqueness of each system. It usually does take some time before you can step back and say yes, or no, there is an effect, or there isn't. You have to learn what the proper question is before you can answer it.

I'm obviously biased, but to me, the article misses the point of basic science in favor of supporting only applied science. The examples of supposedly "useless" information that basic science produces, sits around for decades unused, and then is re-discovered by someone who has an idea of how to apply it are rife through history. The only way those discoveries occur is if you do allow those scientists some academic freedom to pursue hypotheses of interest that may not always have direct uses.

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 1st, 2016, 8:43 am

Thanks for posting this article. I read it with interest. As someone trying to finish a dissertation, I felt a lot of pressure to emphasize the novelty of my research and show that my research was pushing the boundaries of knowledge. This is what good science should do, and this applies to basic and applied research.

One thing I've noticed, is that more and more students and professors want to work on applied problems in conservation and ecology. The public really appreciates the applied side too.

Ultimately, the boundaries between applied and basic research are artificial. Both research applications draw from one another, and depend on each other.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 1st, 2016, 11:57 am

Well, here's the kind of snippet that resonates with me:
The scientific knowledge necessary to solve these sorts of problems would never be spontaneously generated by “the free play of free intellects.” Marqusee came to realize that if he funded scientists and left them alone to do their work, he’d end up with a lot of useless knowledge and a lot of unsolved problems. It’s not as though he didn’t fund rigorous, fundamental research: “Sure we wanted to have high-quality publications, we wanted to advance the scientific field, but why? Because we had a problem we wanted to solve.” The beautiful lie insists that scientists ought to be accountable only to themselves. Marqusee’s advice to his staff was precisely the contrary: “Have no constituency in the research community, have it only in the end-user community.”
...
But if your constituency, to use Marqusee’s term, is society, not scientists, then the choice of what data and knowledge you need has to be informed by the real-world context of the problem to be solved. The questions you ask are likely to be very different if your end goal is to solve a concrete problem, rather than only to advance understanding. That’s why the symbiosis between science and technology is so powerful: the technology provides focus and discipline for the science. But Vannevar Bush’s beautiful lie has led to institutional cultures organized and incentivized around pursuing more knowledge, not solving problems. Marqusee quips that the best way to reorient scientists would be to “pay them to care about the problem.”
I'm curious that there was an issue with this:
The overseers killed the project before it could yield comprehensive results. It doesn't matter that the investigator hadn't found "the right" result yet- they weren't given the chance. In any scientific endeavor, you have to lay some groundwork of baseline data collection because of the uniqueness of each system. It usually does take some time before you can step back and say yes, or no, there is an effect, or there isn't. You have to learn what the proper question is before you can answer it.
My reading was that the investigator had departed from the funder's agenda - when you're dealing with a military installation you ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have to keep their mission in mind. If they were talking about say Camp LeJeune in North Carolina (a place where ESA-"Threatened" red-cockaded woodpeckers live), the mission of that installation is - and this is a quote from the Marine Corps website - "to maintain combat-ready units for expeditionary deployment". Serious, focused stuff. Military installations absolutely have to comply with the Endangered Species Act. And they also have to achieve their mission. If the investigator wandered off into la-la land, and forgot whose money he was spending and what the money was for, well...shame on him. He got spanked like he should have.

So anyway...I guess I'd have to admit I'm a strong proponent of managing research. Not just feeding mouths.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 1st, 2016, 1:23 pm

For me, the real win, win in conservation and ecology is to do both. Answer the applied question and try to get at some bigger questions too. Its not always possible but often times there is considerable overlap.
Jimi wrote:So anyway...I guess I'd have to admit I'm a strong proponent of managing research.
I agree with you here. But I often have a core set of questions that have to be addressed with funding. What the researcher wants to do above and beyond that in terms of research goals is their businesses.

I'm also noticing a lot more willingness from researchers to work on applied management questions. Funding is tight and researchers are more often willing to work on management issues.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 1st, 2016, 3:49 pm

My reading was that the investigator had departed from the funder's agenda - when you're dealing with a military installation you ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have to keep their mission in mind. If they were talking about say Camp LeJeune in North Carolina (a place where ESA-"Threatened" red-cockaded woodpeckers live), the mission of that installation is - and this is a quote from the Marine Corps website - "to maintain combat-ready units for expeditionary deployment". Serious, focused stuff. Military installations absolutely have to comply with the Endangered Species Act. And they also have to achieve their mission. If the investigator wandered off into la-la land, and forgot whose money he was spending and what the money was for, well...shame on him. He got spanked like he should have.
That is how the author of the article writes it, and how the Marines justified their decision, to be sure, but it demonstrates the fundamental problem with directed science: an unbiased, objective scientist doesn't know what the ultimate end result of the project will be. I'll grant you that if they went off into "lala land", then sure, killing the project probably was justified, but I'd be surprised if that were the case. More likely, they started with some baseline population and demographic studies, didn't find anything, and then began working to lower scales of organization to test for less obvious impacts. The article itself supports this, though from a viewpoint of a person who knows nothing about conservation physiology. Testing "steroidal stress levels, dozens of them" absolutely fits the question of "develop indicators that could show when activities on a military facility were having adverse effects on a protected animal species before it suffered severe population decline" because stress steroid concentrations are clear indicators of animals being STRESSED, which is a potential precursor to a decline due to changes in their metabolic rates, feeding success, mating success, nesting success, etc.

The researcher probably couldn't articulate that goal clearly enough for the military to understand. It's one of the biggest problems in conservation biology, in my opinion- too many people are trained in (or can only understand) BIG changes in populations to understand when a species is in danger. These physiological indicators are major useful tools for understanding how in danger a species is BEFORE a decline happens.

I totally understand what the point of Camp LeJuene is. My point is that this is a very poor example of "science gone awry" that is heavily biased. I'd like to see the researcher's point of view. Perhaps if a military installation is meant to be such an important place for training, where such a study can be swept away so easily, then maybe they shouldn't fund the research in the first place? They do so because it looks good politically. What happens when the needs for conservation on the base are in conflict with the base's role? Obviously conservation loses (and probably should!). But in those cases, let's not keep up the charade. Let's be honest about what the goals are here. Otherwise, it's a waste of taxpayer money and only works to deepen the divide between the scientists and the end users.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by stlouisdude » September 1st, 2016, 4:47 pm

Not enough information to say but my first concern would be they were worried he was going to say something unfavorable for what they were interested in hearing so they decided to shut him up before he had a chance. It certainly wouldn't be the first time someone ran into opposition for beginning to come to the wrong conclusions... sometimes it's best just to hire someone with a proven record of saying what you want to hear.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » September 2nd, 2016, 7:07 am

Science, pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble. Stoked by fifty years of growing public investments, scientists are more productive than ever, pouring out millions of articles in thousands of journals covering an ever-expanding array of fields and phenomena. But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong.
No truer words have ever been written. Sticking with reptiles what has taken place during my lifetime has been a direct correlation between the rise in popularity and interest in reptiles and the flood of well publicized, well funded junk science. The great lie scientist use is that Science is self-correcting, peer reviewed publication equals credibility. No it is not and no it does not. Not when your talking about the science that is not very scientific. In fact its anything but self-correcting . Plugging biological number's that are derived from (politely put) guesswork into formula's to achieve a desired result is not science. In the vernacular of the common man, its complete bullshit.

What is being clearly seen is that more and more scientist are capitalizing on the gray area of acceptable scientific practices. Then exploiting flexibility in data collection, playing with analysis and so on, in an effort to obtain a desired outcome. Then knowingly reporting the falsehoods of their findings as truthful for reasons that are anything but scientific. In the world of biology there is so much leeway, room to play with the numbers without any possibility of being proven definably wrong, its the ideal setting for such individual's to play their game of data dredging and misleading vividness. Its become a game of who guess gets the most funding and publicity is the good scientist no matter what the real truth is.

There are and have been many scientist willing to come forward and tell it like is. Unfortunately they are far outnumbered by the scientist who might not be dubious themselves but are willing to defend, justify, downplay and make excuses for their contemporaries that engage in less then honest scientific practices. In my opinion, That's the core of the problem.

Ernie Eison

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 2nd, 2016, 1:56 pm

On the other hand, the folks at fivethrityeight make a strong case that science is doing just fine. Maybe we have solved the easy problems, and the problems at hand are just more complex.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/sci ... nt-broken/

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 2nd, 2016, 3:35 pm

Perhaps if a military installation is meant to be such an important place for training, where such a study can be swept away so easily, then maybe they shouldn't fund the research in the first place? They do so because it looks good politically. What happens when the needs for conservation on the base are in conflict with the base's role? Obviously conservation loses (and probably should!). But in those cases, let's not keep up the charade. Let's be honest about what the goals are here. Otherwise, it's a waste of taxpayer money and only works to deepen the divide between the scientists and the end users.
No, something called the Sikes Act mandates that military installations with "significant biological resources" develop an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan or INRMP ("in-rimp"), in conjunction with FWS and also the relevant state wildlife agency. So it's not that something "looks good politically", it's simply that the military is controlled by the civilian government and thus has to follow the law too.

INRMPs are 5-year, and I repeat jointly-developed plans that are flexible but quite specific, and tend to have quite a nice amount of implementation funding. But that funding is subject to the usual federal procurement & contracting rules etc., and if some funded outside party isn't delivering on their end, well, end of deal. That actually keeps the waste to a minimum, as opposed to not holding people accountable, and continuing to write checks for...nothing. Anyway, I am dead certain that the research in question was being done as part of implementing LeJeune's INRMP. The money might very well have been routed to FWS or the state, who then contracted to the researcher in question. But the threat of getting the money shut off, and of screwing up the conservation partnership, is usually enough to keep the state or FWS very diligent in their contract admin, when spending military money.

I'm here to tell ya, if "the US military" gets it in their head that they plan to do something, it tends to get done. Also, they really do their best to comply with environmental law (surprisingly or not, many public organizations are pretty blase about this...). Consequently, they are fantastic partners in conservation. That's what I have personally experienced with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and also the Army National Guard.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 2nd, 2016, 4:04 pm

All of that is fine, Jimi, but the article still doesn't make a good argument that the researcher wasn't delivering. In fact, the quotes it provides suggest the opposite.

One comment:
No, something called the Sikes Act mandates that military installations with "significant biological resources" develop an Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan or INRMP ("in-rimp"), in conjunction with FWS and also the relevant state wildlife agency. So it's not that something "looks good politically", it's simply that the military is controlled by the civilian government and thus has to follow the law too.
Maybe I'm cynical, but its both. The act was developed and passed exactly because it looks good politically, and what you present here demonstrates how our government works. That said, if we get into a high-intensity major conflict in the near future, those INRMPs are likely going to be one of the first sacrifices to mobilization. Let's certainly use them as much as we can and hope for the best.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 2nd, 2016, 4:05 pm

Maybe we have solved the easy problems, and the problems at hand are just more complex.
Oh, I don't think it's that. Indeed, in my life (well, my work life) I'm often frustrated that it's more like the opposite. All the conservation research problems I need worked on are (I think) pretty simple. So nobody in academia wants to work on those - they are driven by "the academic-industrial complex" (and basic self-interest) towards working on the complex stuff. Or the cutting-edge theoretical stuff. Or to use the newest tools. Whereas my research problems aren't very sexy, and they certainly aren't very novel, and they are hopelessly practical. It's mere craft, not high art, I'm afraid.

The usual workaround here is something called a non-thesis Master's. I don't think it gives a great liberal-arts education, but it does offer state wildlife managers a mechanism to get some of our un-sexy questions answered - we just pay our employees to do it, and get a master's degree at the same time. They work part-time for a couple of years, and going to school makes up the rest of their work week (great work, if you can get it! ha ha). Then when they come back to full-time work, it's back to shoveling coal. No more research for you, dusty!

I ought to explore more partnerships with junior colleges. They seem more workaday, more practical.

Anyway, I don't think there's anything amiss in the methodology or the philosophy of science, just in some of the human institutions utilizing - or failing to manage - it. That's why I gave this topic the title that I did - "on the place of science in society".

cheers

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 2nd, 2016, 4:19 pm

Bryan Hamilton wrote:On the other hand, the folks at fivethrityeight make a strong case that science is doing just fine. Maybe we have solved the easy problems, and the problems at hand are just more complex.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/sci ... nt-broken/
I think there's more to this than people realize.

The other issue I have with the original article is that I would argue that science isn't meant to solve the world's problems, it's meant to figure out what the problems ARE. Solving the problems is the role of engineers, teachers, politicians, and in the case of conservation, land managers and agencies. For example, if you look at all of the examples the author quotes coming out of the DOD during WW2 and after, almost all of the groundwork in theoretical discovery was made by researchers working from the late 1800s to the 1930s. You couldn't have had a Manhattan Project start from scratch and succeed in the time it did without the work of at least 10 Nobel prize-winning physicists prior to the 1920s, and that even discounts the innumerable other physicists whose own contributions laid the groundwork for them. Once all of that knowledge exists, then the DOD can turn to applied scientists and engineers and say "make an atomic bomb" and have it be done in a relatively swift timeframe. The same is true of computers, the space race, the internet, etc. All of the major engineering advances pushed by the DOD started with basic science discoveries made decades earlier. They were "easy", in large part because the knowledge was already there.

The reverse is true of the breast cancer example the author spends paragraphs discussing. He praises the DOD's efficiency and commitment to the project, but in the end, the actual advances in treatment have been relatively limited. The problem isn't that people aren't working hard to cure cancer- the problem is that nobody has yet found a single, simple, inexpensive way to do so. That basic discovery hasn't happened yet, and you can't force it to happen without giving lots of people lots of time and money to figure it out. Even then, it may not if such a discovery simply can not exist. You can't engineer yourself out of a problem that you don't know how to solve.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 2nd, 2016, 4:28 pm

the article still doesn't make a good argument that the researcher wasn't delivering
Fair enough - but perhaps whichever party dished up to the author (I could see a case for either side doing so...) didn't want to go so far as to throw the other party under the bus. In order to preserve the likelihood of working together again. If the money had been routed through the state, in all likelihood the state's contract admin would find it much easier to work with in-state universities than out-of-state ones. Even an academic powerhouse state like North Carolina has a limited stable of talent in any one field.

I once found myself in a sticky situation in military contracting. I had inherited a very poorly-written contract, and had to administer it. Sometimes you have to pull the plug on something, that someone else started but which has little chance of succeeding because "what success actually looks like" hasn't been adequately spelled out. That's just bad deal-making, bad contracting, not bad science.

Anyway, to me the fundamental point is that researchers need to be more cognizant and solicitous of practical needs. In my experience steering military money to natural-resources academics, the academics who are most successful (and there is a WIDE disparity in success...) are those who are eminently customer-oriented, who really and truly understand the mission of their funder. They focus on the questions the funder needs answered - usually helping the funder succinctly clarify the questions, to parse them down to their bare essence. It could well be, that in the article's example, the researcher was inexperienced and the funder wasn't exactly sure what his questions were. That's a recipe for disappointment and embarrassment. It's not fatal, just not fun at the time. One does learn, though.
You couldn't have had a Manhattan Project start from scratch and succeed in the time it did without the work of at least 10 Nobel prize-winning physicists prior to the 1920s, and that even discounts the innumerable other physicists whose own contributions laid the groundwork for them.
Also true enough. A book you would enjoy, if you have not already found it, is by Richard Rhodes: https://www.amazon.com/Making-Atomic-Bo ... 1451677618. One he wrote after that (Dark Sun) detailed the making of the hydrogen bomb - also very interesting.

cheers

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » September 3rd, 2016, 6:00 am

Its impossible to compare the Manhattan project and the real science that took place to the Cargo cult science found in so many of todays environmental biology projects that display the ethical failures (and lack of intelligence) of todays scientific community. Richard Feynman one of the projects major contributors, and considered one of history's greatest scientist coined the term Cargo cult science. He used the term to describe what he was seeing in the work of other scientist. Cargo cult science is the use of science involving practices that have the semblance of being scientific, but do not in fact follow the scientific method. The exact thing I've pointed out and confirmed many times but is defended by those with a pathological desperation to believe anything that serves their cause, and to distort what does not until it meets their own agendas. Noble prize winner (he did not except the award) Feynman had the most important quality that is the foundation for advancement and understanding, common sense.

Ernie Eison

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 4th, 2016, 10:22 am

We hold the Manhattan project in such high regard. They figured out how to blow it up. We still haven't figured out how to harness the energy safely. Or make the case to society that we can do it safely....

I think there are two categories of conservation problems. The easy ones tend to be more people problems. Like if we could separate bighorn and domestic sheep we could solve most, but not all, of the bighorn disease issue. Even that one is very complex when you start drilling in. The stakeholders want absolutes and we can only offer probabilities. That's not going to change no matter how much more information we accumulate. Anyway that's what I consider a people problem.

The other ecological problems I feel like are more complex. We can't predict with much certainty how non-target species will respond to a reduction in canopy cover. We can't predict with much certainty how an ecosystem will respond to an invasive species. I once heard that ecologists suffer from "physics" envy. Kind of like the statement that there is physics and everything else is stamp collecting. I am envious of how predictable some systems are. Embracing the complexity helps but it makes it difficult to make solid management recommendations that have strong causal relationships.

At first I thought Van's answer was the usual scientific rationalization, "Hey its not my job, let's leave it to the engineers". But reading it carefully I appreciate the need for new knowledge that is pushed so hard by the journals and advisory committees.

Disagreeing somewhat with Jimi's view that conservation problems are not complex, but agreeing that junior colleges and non-thesis master's degrees can have a lot of value for agencies. I used to feel that the ivory tower of academia did not wish to descend to deal with practical conservation issues. Now with funding limited, professors are a lot more hungry and the students want to work on practical problems and see the results of their work instituted. I've seen a shift toward more willingness to work on the questions managers want answered. If they can spin that into basic research questions more power to them.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 4th, 2016, 5:16 pm

At first I thought Van's answer was the usual scientific rationalization, "Hey its not my job, let's leave it to the engineers". But reading it carefully I appreciate the need for new knowledge that is pushed so hard by the journals and advisory committees.
Thanks Bryan- I should clarify that I think scientists do have a role to play in developing solutions for known problems and providing adequate tests of them. Still, we can only do that if there are good routes of communication with the people who can actually implement those methods. That's where the transition occurs (with direct hand-offs and interaction) between the scientist and the end user. IMO, the author of the article conflates those two roles too much.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by stlouisdude » September 4th, 2016, 7:04 pm

Speaking of determining canopy effects on species, I accidentally stumbled across a study site doing just that one day. They were taking out sections of forest after sampling for a time to see how many salamanders still migrated to and egg masses laid at a given site. They also had some little enclosures where they kept the salamanders to see how canopy vs less canopy changed their development. I think it was the University of Missouri, the person I ran into seemed like an undergrad but I'm bad at judging age so hard to be sure. Anyway, I thought I saw quite a bit of practical research going on in MO, plenty more examples like that one.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » September 5th, 2016, 3:34 pm


Speaking of determining canopy effects on species, I accidentally stumbled across a study site doing just that one day. They were taking out sections of forest after sampling for a time to see how many salamanders still migrated to and egg masses laid at a given site. They also had some little enclosures where they kept the salamanders to see how canopy vs less canopy changed their development. I think it was the University of Missouri, the person I ran into seemed like an undergrad but I'm bad at judging age so hard to be sure. Anyway, I thought I saw quite a bit of practical research going on in MO, plenty more examples like that one.
I'm not an expert on salamander's but first did these researcher's do a survey of the surrounding area, to determine if and how the salamanders were using places that did not provide "canopy cover "? Canopy cover to a salamander could be a tomato plant. It stands to reason that after clearing a small area of cover, the salamander's would use the available natural surrounding area's and not move into the open spaces. They don't have to. They have a choice. Preferred does not mean essential. The salamanders would chose the preferred habitat when available but that does not mean they could not adapt to other living arrangement's. That generally goes hand and hand with cover of some kind and that could mean just about anything. But, temperature and moisture are the keys.I don't know what it means to take out sections of forest in this case. But there isn't much in the way of good science to be found in a project like the one described. The processes are highly flawed.

In another thread about habitat restoration, it was mentioned habitat restoration for Timber Rattlesnakes on a hillside, mostly falling trees so that a rock outcropping is exposed to the sun again. And the point of this? The only way that works is if there are enough snakes in the area to make use of the new den site . If the area is already supporting a viable population of rattlesnakes then this hill side is not important. Lots of entry points to dens (most people don't know what a snake den actually is) become overgrown. Its generally believed that when this happens the snakes no longer use them, but they don't die. They go elsewhere. And if their new favorite spot is a snake secret. Good for the snakes. Why lure into a place where people know where they are at. Again its poorly designed and thought out project.

Ernie Eison

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 5th, 2016, 4:37 pm

There's not nearly enough presented on the forest canopy study to say if its flawed or not. Ideally they would have used control sites and compared those to their treated sites. Besides abundance, there are other demographic parameters that could be measured that are more relevant than abundance. Egg masses, survival, recruitment, occupancy, and size come to mind. Its also possible that these salamanders are short lived species with small home ranges. They may not have the option to move to other habitat. It is important to define habitat relevant to your target species. Canopy can mean different things to different people, so using standardized, explicit definitions is very important to make studies comparable. Measuring temperature and moisture does seem critical to salamanders. Its easy to do now with real time data loggers.

Many timber rattlesnake populations will not switch den sites or even den crevices. Whether opening up den sites through canopy reduction enhances timber rattlesnake populations or simply makes them more detectable, is still an open question in my mind. Radio telemetry is a good tool to demonstrate (or not) site fidelity.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » September 5th, 2016, 6:04 pm

There's not nearly enough presented on the forest canopy study to say if its flawed or not.
The bottom quote is enough to determine that the study is lacking scientific protocol beyond what would be acceptable for an extra credit project in high school. Unfortunately this is what you get from college grad students. Not surprising since you only need a 4th grade education to graduate high school.
They also had some little enclosures where they kept the salamanders to see how canopy vs less canopy changed their development.
.....................................................................................................................................................
Many timber rattlesnake populations will not switch den sites or even den crevices. Whether opening up den sites through canopy reduction enhances timber rattlesnake populations or simply makes them more detectable, is still an open question in my mind. Radio telemetry is a good tool to demonstrate (or not) site fidelity.

Many timber rattlesnake populations don't use den sites at all. There are no rock ledges in 75 percent of their range. A den site is not just an opening on a hillside. Using the rational "many timber rattlesnake populations" will not switch den sites or even den crevices. No matter how you slice it, clearing this hillside because its become a very trendy thing to "save" timber rattlesnakes , a species that numbers in the millions. Is poorly thought out and useless. One way or another in order for this clearing project to have any noticeable effect as insignificant as it might be the rattlesnakes must already be abundant in the area.

One of the great myths about the timber rattlesnake is that it is always found in large numbers in communal dens . The truth is, during den emergence, there is no mass exodus of snakes. They crawl out a few at a time over days and days from narrow crevices that you can't even find. Somebody comes across a few individuals basking on rock-ledges. And they think they found the "den". Say "snake den" and everyone thinks its some kind of cave filled with piles of snakes. The truth is you might not even know your by a "snake den", except maybe the presence of large numbers of rocks and the occasional snake or shed snake skin. The crevices run every which way, and often occupy the whole southern face of a mountain.

What a snake den really is,

A snake den is nothing more than an immense pile of rocks or ledges between which narrow passage ways (literally cracks) reach into the ground to a level beneath the frost line. There may be thousands of such ledges and these may involve an entire cliff face, or a whole mountainside. "Wintering area" might be a better word than "den", for just where one "den" leaves off and another begins seems to be indeterminable. And some "wintering areas" may be more than a mile long, and several hundred feet wide. A "wintering area" is simply any kind of opening beneath rocks allowing snakes to retreat beneath the frost line. In the north, at least, these areas usually face in a southerly direction so as to have continual exposure to sunshine (overgrowth is said to make them unsuitable).


Implanting a transmitter in a snake is not a very kind thing—at least from the snake's viewpoint, it would be hard to think so. Scientists say its harmless—at least the scientists who do telemetry will tell you that. To gauge, by way of comparison to yourself, the size of a radio-transmitter implanted into the body cavity of a little hognose snake, you must picture a king size Coca-Cola bottle imbedded in your own peritoneum. Please, if you do not feel quite comfortable or "normal" afterwards, don’t let on; if you feel sluggish and want only to hide or run away, don't let the scientists know. They'll want to be recording only "normal" behavior. Snakes must be monitored for "their protection," as we well know; and "protected" species need it especially.

Even granting that the snake recovers from its operation, motoring about in the woods like a mechanical toy for our scientific entertainment, once the transmitter goes dead the snake will be impossible to find and have to live with its implanted battery forever—which may not be long. There's not much good you can say about radiotelemetry from the snake's viewpoint.
Ernie Eison

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 5th, 2016, 6:18 pm

Using enclosures and exclosures can be a great tools to understand mechanism. The part about why changes are happening. Sometimes using the enclosures impacts the study organisms and the project results. Sometimes not. A lot of time and effort goes into the experimental design to minimize the effects of the enclosure. Again, there isn't enough information presented to assess the validity of the study.

I'm not sure where the quote about radio telemetry is from?

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » September 5th, 2016, 11:36 pm

I really shouldn't...

Ernie, there's a place on Route 66 in California you may want to move in to.
Image
WSTREPS wrote:
Speaking of determining canopy effects on species, I accidentally stumbled across a study site doing just that one day. They were taking out sections of forest after sampling for a time to see how many salamanders still migrated to and egg masses laid at a given site. They also had some little enclosures where they kept the salamanders to see how canopy vs less canopy changed their development. I think it was the University of Missouri, the person I ran into seemed like an undergrad but I'm bad at judging age so hard to be sure. Anyway, I thought I saw quite a bit of practical research going on in MO, plenty more examples like that one.
I'm not an expert on salamander's but first did these researcher's do a survey of the surrounding area, to determine if and how the salamanders were using places that did not provide "canopy cover "? Canopy cover to a salamander could be a tomato plant. It stands to reason that after clearing a small area of cover, the salamander's would use the available natural surrounding area's and not move into the open spaces. They don't have to. They have a choice. Preferred does not mean essential. The salamanders would chose the preferred habitat when available but that does not mean they could not adapt to other living arrangement's. That generally goes hand and hand with cover of some kind and that could mean just about anything. But, temperature and moisture are the keys.I don't know what it means to take out sections of forest in this case. But there isn't much in the way of good science to be found in a project like the one described. The processes are highly flawed.
I bet that if they would have included cover-free habitat, you would have been shouting that they are idiots for sampling in places that are unsuitable habitat. Remarkable ''don't know what it means' but it is 'highly flawed'' reasoning. Ignorance is not something to be proud of. Making a constructive point in any of the discussions around here seems as agreeable to you as drinking sulfuric acid? It's not because a study doesn't answer all (your) questions that it is worthless.

Harper CA DC Guynn 1999 Factors affecting salamander density and distribution within four forest types in the southern Appalachian Mountains For Ecol Manag 114 245 252
Harpole DN, Haas CA (1999) Effects of seven silvicultural treatments on terrestrial salamanders. For Ecol Manage 114:349–356.
Pough, F.H., Smith, E.M., Rhodes, D.H. and Collazo, A., 1987. The abundance of salamanders in forest stands with different histories of disturbance. For. Ecol. Manage., 20: 1-9.

And how can any herper be against creating more habitat for timbers, eventhough you make valid points about the misconceptions about dens? Keep up your reasoning in combination with the pressures of a growing population, economy, ... and you'll end up in a herp-free wasteland like many parts of NW Europe. You don't know what you've got until it's gone. Surely, that's a lesson no herper needs to be taught? Take any habitat creation/restoration you can get, I say. Obviously, that doesn't mean you shouldn't make smart choices by aiming effort and funds at the appropriate ecosystem, habitat, species, population, ... but I'd rather use that money for clearing a timber den than for many other purposes.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 6th, 2016, 9:30 am

I think there are two categories of conservation problems. The easy ones tend to be more people problems. Like if we could separate bighorn and domestic sheep we could solve most, but not all, of the bighorn disease issue. Even that one is very complex when you start drilling in. The stakeholders want absolutes and we can only offer probabilities. That's not going to change no matter how much more information we accumulate. Anyway that's what I consider a people problem.

The other ecological problems I feel like are more complex. We can't predict with much certainty how non-target species will respond to a reduction in canopy cover. We can't predict with much certainty how an ecosystem will respond to an invasive species. I once heard that ecologists suffer from "physics" envy. Kind of like the statement that there is physics and everything else is stamp collecting. I am envious of how predictable some systems are. Embracing the complexity helps but it makes it difficult to make solid management recommendations that have strong causal relationships.
Hmm, interesting perspective. I think I understand it - certainly the stuff about physics envy, etc. I think the tension lies in the limits of reductionism in ecology - there are more pathways and endpoints in the higher-order (beyond the cellular & molecular level, I mean) life sciences, than in the hard sciences. Life has a way of surviving. Many ways, really.

My view on "habitat stuff" like canopy cover is, what was the pre-Columbian landscape like? All native taxa were able to exist in that landscape, albeit in abundances & densities surely different from today (due to differences in resource availability, and competition & predation from humans). My understanding of that landscape is, there were a lot of people here, living (especially in "the humid east") on the land in such a way that created a very heterogeneous vegetation cover, with a diversity of stand ages. Many of the older upland stands had quite open mid- and understories. Indeed, I suspect that many of our rural eastern & midwestern counties had higher human populations in 1500 than they do in 2016. Anyway, today, despite development, we have a lot of very dense forest cover, mainly of middling ages, mainly stocked with shade-tolerant, fire-intolerant species. So what "habitat restoration" often looks like in that context, is removing many of the mesic plants, retaining as many of the more-xeric ones as possible, and creating a landscape with a diversity of even- and uneven-aged stands through silvicultural prescriptions and prescribed fire. The stuff about cutting "a few trees" around a den site is to me, potentially useful and important (crucial, even) from a single-species perspective, but pretty trivial from a programmatic, landscape-habitat perspective. It's the kind of thing a species manager needs to consult on, with a habitat manager. A District biologist working with a District silviculturalist, for example, on individual projects that contribute to an overall program of land management.

Back to "people problems are the simple problems". I disagree entirely. Or perhaps, they are simple, but HARD. That's often how I describe conservation work where I work. Anyway, without solving the people problems, everything else is, shall we say, academic. I think wildlife management (I include research in this) suffers from an under-investment in serious, methodical engagement on the people problems.
We hold the Manhattan project in such high regard.
I certainly do. The technical aspects are amazing, but what I find most appealing is the marshalling of collective will to rapidly solve a problem of incredible complexity. People can get their shit together, with good leadership and an existential threat. I truly believe we need a Manhattan Project for climate change. The threat is there; now we need the leadership. I wonder if that is even possible nowadays with the decay in trust of public institutions. I think what we really need is politicians who aren't afraid of being fired.
Disagreeing somewhat with Jimi's view that conservation problems are not complex, but agreeing that junior colleges and non-thesis master's degrees can have a lot of value for agencies. I used to feel that the ivory tower of academia did not wish to descend to deal with practical conservation issues. Now with funding limited, professors are a lot more hungry and the students want to work on practical problems and see the results of their work instituted. I've seen a shift toward more willingness to work on the questions managers want answered. If they can spin that into basic research questions more power to them.
This conforms to what I have seen since about 2010 - when the Great Recession really started to bite. Nothing motivates like hunger. Being wealthy really enables some bad behavior in our institutions. Being poor isn't great either, and it can lead to some nasty, corrosive zero-sum internal competition. But if well-managed and temporary, it can be a good thing, when it forces introspection and positive change.

cheers

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 6th, 2016, 10:03 am

Yeah, the people problems I consider scientifically "easy" but technically very hard. That's why we've been passed the baton and will probably pass the baton to our successors on many of these issues. I keep coming back to bighorn sheep but that was my conservation wake up call. I thought it was a sprint, then realized it was a marathon. I do appreciate your relay race analogy. Many stakeholders want absolute certainty. Certainty that their sacrifices will result in a desirable outcome and won't come back to bite them in the backside. We're never going to be able to offer that certainty.

I don't mean to belittle the Manhattan project. Just note that it had its limits. It certainly succeeded in meeting its goals. I need to read that book you recommended. I'm all for the climate change project too. I think it would succeed beyond expectations. Most of the parts are in place. The climate change issue is mostly a people problem too. The science and technology are in place. Implementation would require large scale public support. We just don't have that now.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 6th, 2016, 4:16 pm

I think I understand it - certainly the stuff about physics envy, etc. I think the tension lies in the limits of reductionism in ecology - there are more pathways and endpoints in the higher-order (beyond the cellular & molecular level, I mean) life sciences, than in the hard sciences.
Given my druthers, I'd really like to point out to armchair physicists et al. that biology and the so-called "soft sciences" are in reality MUCH harder than physics, chemistry, and math. A different kind of hard, perhaps, because you can't simply use mathematics to develop proofs of the theories you are setting out to test. We currently don't have a branch of mathematics that can describe the "behavior" of individual entities to the degree necessary to be able to do that in biology. Physics itself wrestles with the same fundamental limitation once it gets to the subatomic level.

I tell my students all the time- biology ain't rocket science... it's WAY WAY harder to predict how a given organism will react to a stimulus, given its individual genetics and individual environmental constraints, let alone it's own experience and learned knowledge/behavior (which isn't always adaptive or "optimal") than it ever was to develop a simple rocket to shoot out into space or predict where it was going to land. That stuff is just basic parabolic calculus plus a little bit of engineering elbowgrease.

Hard sciences, PSSSSSHHHH.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Carl Brune » September 6th, 2016, 7:35 pm

The article didn't really resonate with me. In my view, it understates the checks and balances that are in place. For example, a university faculty member must answer to funding sources, students, and peers. Maybe not instantly, but if you go too far off the rails you will pay a price. Some other thoughts:

Few people employed as "scientists" spend a majority of their time "doing science." Education, programmatic or contract work, and administration are important and expected parts of most science jobs. Sometimes these other missions have a science component to them, but often not.

There is a real tendency these days for research results to be over hyped. Part of the reason is that universities and government labs/agencies have PR departments. And maybe part of the reason is that the public tends to be lazy/apathetic and only becomes engaged when the story is exaggerated. There is a fine line between making science interesting and aggrandizing it.

While the Manhattan Project is a great story, it is a special case. I would argue that it is foolish to expect similar breakthroughs in nearly all other situations. The approach and investment that are appropriate depend on the particulars of the problem at hand.

One problem that physics has is a distortion caused by the Nobel Prize. Some departments will only hire faculty working in areas that have some chance of being awarded the prize. Many important research areas don't fit this bill because the are applied, interdisciplinary, involve large collaborations, etc... Biology doesn't seem to have this issue nearly so bad, probably because the Physiology/Medicine prize only partly overlaps biology.

Ernie, I'm not sure why you are saying Feynman did not accept the Nobel Prize, because he most certainly did.

Disclaimer: I'm a physics professor.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 7th, 2016, 1:48 pm

Interesting insights, thanks Carl. Many of them kind of invert my topic title into something akin to "on the place of society in science"...equally relevant and interesting. Anyway, I'm curious what you think of "managing research".

From the discipline of wildlife management here's a very recent opinion piece on a contemporary, related topic by "a highly respected old-timer":
ABSTRACT

The last decade has seen an enormous increase in the number of peer-reviewed open access research journals in which authors whose articles are accepted for publication pay a fee to have them made freely available on the Internet. Could this popularity of open access publishing be a bad thing? Is it actually imperiling the future of science? In this commentary, I argue that it is. Drawing upon research literature, I explain why it is almost always best to publish in society journals (i.e., those sponsored by research societies such as Journal of Wildlife Management) and not nearly as good to publish in commercial academic journals, and worst—to the point it should normally be opposed—to publish in open access journals (e.g., PLOS ONE). I compare the operating plans of society journals and open access journals based on 2 features: the quality of peer review they provide and the quality of debate the articles they publish receive. On both features, the quality is generally high for society journals but unacceptably low for open access journals, to such an extent that open access publishing threatens to pollute science with false findings. Moreover, its popularity threatens to attract researchers’ allegiance to it and away from society journals, making it difficult for them to achieve their traditionally high standards of peer reviewing and of furthering debate. I prove that the commonly claimed benefits to science of open access publishing are nonexistent or much overestimated. I challenge the notion that journal impact factors should be a key consideration in selecting journals in which to publish. I suggest ways to strengthen the Journal and keep it strong. © 2016 The Wildlife Society.
cheers

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 7th, 2016, 3:30 pm

Do you have a citation for that abstract? I'd like to read it.

Like it or not, the open source journals are here to stay. Whether they completely replace the society journals, complement them, or something different I don't know.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 7th, 2016, 4:06 pm

Oh yeah, sure, sorry. It's @ JWM 80(7):1145-1151, Sept 2016, author is Romesburg

here's the TOC for the issue:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1 ... 7/issuetoc

note the boreal toad and gopher tortoise articles this issue - most issues nowadays have a herp paper or two in them, and are about 50/50 game/nongame

cheers

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 7th, 2016, 6:52 pm

Jimi, along the same lines, check out:

https://scholarlyoa.com/2015/01/02/beal ... hers-2015/

Not all open access are predatory, but it's good to keep abreast of the situation. PLoS One's recent "creator" debacle certainly didn't help their cause.

FWIW, in Australia, the Australian Research Council is now requiring that all publications made with their funding be made available to the public, somehow. Not sure how that is going to conflict with copyrights of non-open access publishing, but they have a point that taxpayer-funded research should be freely available to taxpayers. It's a sticky situation.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Carl Brune » September 8th, 2016, 5:28 am

The same thing is happening in the U.S. Most if not all of the federal agencies are moving in this direction. See, e.g., what the DOE Office of Science says:

http://energy.gov/articles/us-departmen ... c-research

Also, many of the traditional journals have an option to pay up front to make the article open access. We may well wind up with a system where the federal agencies mandate that research they fund be published in the way, with the grant footing the bill.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » September 8th, 2016, 6:08 am

VanAR wrote:the Australian Research Council is now requiring that all publications made with their funding be made available to the public, somehow.
Same here.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 8th, 2016, 10:02 am

Thanks Van, Carl, Jeroen. Interesting, illuminating turn in the conversation. I like to think & hear about perspective - "different views of the same object or phenomenon, depending on the observer's location". Salience is a related factor, influencing differences in perspective. You are all (I assume) "publishers" so are much more attuned to these emerging developments than a "consuming non-publisher" like me. Thanks again.
...requiring that all publications made with their funding be made available to the public, somehow. Not sure how that is going to conflict with copyrights of non-open access publishing, but they have a point that taxpayer-funded research should be freely available to taxpayers. It's a sticky situation.
It seems a fine principle. The conflict & the stickiness is something to navigate. But the fundamental desire to get the information out there, "faster, wider, cheaper" is compelling. To me anyway. Business and revenue models are always, always changing. Nobody is entitled to not having to deal with that, speaking empirically & "constitutionally" or "temperamentally".

I also liked the brief turn in the conversation, to "on the place of society in science" too. I guess my last paragraph stuck to that theme a little bit. Go figure, ha ha. "He does what he likes." Ha ha. Naturally...

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 8th, 2016, 3:41 pm

It seems a fine principle. The conflict & the stickiness is something to navigate. But the fundamental desire to get the information out there, "faster, wider, cheaper" is compelling.
I agree. I love the principle of open access, but as Carl intimated, the publishing money has to come from somewhere, and is the limiting factor. Many of the "old" journals publish for free, but when you go open access the minimum costs is ~$1000, and the average around $3000. Some might approach $5K. That's a lot of money for people already on a shoestring budget for research. It's worth it if you're getting a paper in Nature or Science, but many open access journals are so piddly in reputation still that there's no "career" incentive to support the financial cost of publishing there, and having your work freely available is just as easy to achieve by bending the rules slightly and offering PDFs on a website or via email.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Carl Brune » September 8th, 2016, 6:49 pm

Scientific publishing is definitely in a state of flux. The "who pays who" part is huge. In the past university and other institutional libraries have footed a large share of the bill through expensive journal subscriptions. It still works this way, but there is getting to be more push back (canceled subscriptions) as the number of journals is always increasing and budgets not so much. Also the reviewers don't get paid and this is a big part of the "value added" by the journal.

There are some interesting twists. The American Physical Society journals are now freely accessible from U.S. public and high school libraries. But it is still very expensive for a university to subscribe to these journals.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by semasko » September 9th, 2016, 6:15 pm

I think a main issue from a natural history / ecology science perspective that wasn't addressed in this article is public perception. I think as science and technology become more complex, and more exaggerated to achieve public demands (i.e. "clickbait"), the general non-scientist public perceives science as being even more proportionally scary and confusing. I see this as a major issue in education, where younger people can become overwhelmed, scared, and avoid science where they might otherwise pursue their own curiosity. I'm speaking from personal experience here, and I'm glad I overcame such unrealistic fears, but others may not.

I agreed with the section illustrating the elitism and "publish or perish" side of academia, and the decline of accurate results. The danger of this situation is that it can damage public perception to the point of resentment and distrust of science, which creates a even more of a slippery slope.

How do we fix this? I hope a step in the right direction could be so simple as to incorporate more natural history based science into early education, where kids' curiosity is already aimed. Why do birds call? Why do frogs hop? Why is the sky blue?... etc.. Maybe my school was different but it seems we were thrown into harder, more theoretical science topics before the basics were fully understood.

On a side note:
In another thread about habitat restoration, it was mentioned habitat restoration for Timber Rattlesnakes on a hillside, mostly falling trees so that a rock outcropping is exposed to the sun again. And the point of this? The only way that works is if there are enough snakes in the area to make use of the new den site . If the area is already supporting a viable population of rattlesnakes then this hill side is not important. Lots of entry points to dens (most people don't know what a snake den actually is) become overgrown. Its generally believed that when this happens the snakes no longer use them, but they don't die. They go elsewhere. And if their new favorite spot is a snake secret. Good for the snakes. Why lure into a place where people know where they are at. Again its poorly designed and thought out project.
I may be wrong but I think you're confusing an overwintering site with a gestation site in the northeast. Opening canopy would do little to improve a hibernaculum since the trees have already lost their leaves when TRs are underground. Daylighting improves gestation sites so that gravid females don't have to travel long distances from dens and risk predation or road mortality. Site fidelity for overwintering areas is locally variable and depends on the geology and landscape. There actually are single dens that support huge numbers in the northeast, and some areas where you can basically throw a rock and hit suitable habitat. Gestation sites do not show as strong fidelity, so snakes can be coerced to use desired areas over time.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » September 10th, 2016, 10:19 am

Daylighting improves gestation sites so that gravid females don't have to travel long distances from dens and risk predation or road mortality. Site fidelity for overwintering areas is locally variable and depends on the geology and landscape. There actually are single dens that support huge numbers in the northeast, and some areas where you can basically throw a rock and hit suitable habitat. Gestation sites do not show as strong fidelity, so snakes can be coerced to use desired areas over time.
A gravid timber never has to travel far to find a suitable gestation site. There is nothing specific about gestation sites. They don't need a cleared area to bask and brood their young. If they were kept in the dark at 75 degrees they would still successfully gestate their brood. There are no restrictions on where snakes will go, or where they will hide. No matter how you slice it. Clearing a hillside to create suitable timber habitat is a useless endeavor, with only one benefit. The people involved get to do a trendy "save an endangered species project".

"Dens" that support huge numbers are as I described. No one can calculate the number of snakes at a den site or the number of den sites. There are huge numbers of Timber rattlesnakes for sure. Yet they have become one of the reptile darlings of the conservation world and subsequently a popular band wagon species. But the only way it works is if the buzztails are imperiled, make that gravely imperiled.

In another thread I clearly demonstrated why the timber rattlesnakes have risen to such conservation importance and how the reasons fall very much in line with what was said in the article that instigated this thread. Up until the explosion of junk science (Dorcus ,Reed,Rodda, Dove, Gibbons etc.) surrounding introduced species. The US stronghold for maladaptive scientific practices (Brown, Stechert, Martin to name a few) and reptile's was what was being said about timber rattlesnakes and their demise.

Timbers have physiological advantages, low biological requirements, cryptic habits, a resilience to climatic changes. Timber rattlesnakes are as durable as snakes get and their numbers are strong. The Timbers range, huge across nearly half of the country. Certainly there are less Timbers now then when Lewis and Clark went out snake hunting in 1804 but that decline does not equal what we read about the dramatically decreasing numbers and that the timber rattlesnake is now on the brink of, OMG, total extinction. What's even a bigger slice of crap pie is that this extinction is occurring not only from the loss of habitat, but within the habitat itself.

Harry Greene about the timber rattlesnake's "decline"

...these . . . velvety creatures are endangered or already extinct throughout their former range.... Their shockingly rapid decline...[resulted from] the widespread persecution of those snakes in late 19th and 20th centuries that removed tens of thousands of them from a significant chunk of the continent.... In New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts about four thousand timber rattlers were sold over a thirty-year period.... One bounty hunter alone took thousands from New York in the 1960s, and overall populations in that state have been reduced by 60 percent during this century.... Pennsylvania still permits sport hunting of the species, with full knowledge that 75 percent of the dens in the state are in jeopardy of total extinction.
In this passage Greene is completely talking out his backside. A thought, really a statement that comes to mind is "lending maximum effect to causative agents of barely detectable intensity". Not very scientific. When a herpetologist like Greene spits this crap out. He believes it, why shouldn't we? And that is why you cant call the things these types of scientist do "science". Its not. The word science gets attached to many things that are not scientific. The place of science in society ? Its political in many ways. No one is going pump big environmental funding dollars into something that's not going to give them a guaranteed result, a return on their funding investment. The loop holes found in biology makes it very easy for the hired scientist to provide the right numbers, the right answers with no accountability.
Ernie, I'm not sure why you are saying Feynman did not accept the Nobel Prize, because he most certainly did.
He picked the thing up but this is what he really thought in his own words from his own mouth, at 1:17 of the video.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkv0KCR3Yiw



Ernie, there's a place on Route 66 in California you may want to move in to.
Thanks for the suggestion, Jeroen . That's Sweets old place.

Ernie Eison

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » September 10th, 2016, 4:34 pm

:crazyeyes:

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by semasko » September 12th, 2016, 7:14 am

I'm curious what part of the TR's range you're speaking of where a gestation site is not needed, because in Pennsylvania and many parts of WV, these areas are critical. Several counties in the NW part of the state no longer support the snakes due to the shading out of these sites. I've followed snakes that moved nearly a mile from their den to a gestation site. Of course in most parts of their range they don't require this habitat. In Pennsylvania, this habitat is a requirement.
https://thelizardlog.wordpress.com/2016 ... ng-part-i/

I agree with what you're saying about the lack of science in some aspects of biology. But in the case of a lot of species, aren't baseline data lacking? For example, how do we determine pre-colonial abundance and habitat use? Here again is where politics get in the way. Agencies want answers on how to manage, so science has to work with less than desirable data. Timing may also be an issue when a species is on the brink (not the timber), or when developers push the issue. Relating to the article, from what I've seen personally, having non experts push these issues and attempt to direct them can lead to bad science just as well. Like most issue, a "happy medium" is needed to eliminate biases, which for the scientists can be just as harmful.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » September 12th, 2016, 12:05 pm

The posted blog link. Filled with possibly, maybe , could be, probably must be etc. With plenty of drama thrown in. Typifies many snake study's. Essentiality a patchwork of uncertainty. The blanks filled in with a narration that leads readers on to support the writers wants. That is the writer wants us to believe that this is meaningful work. Certainly nothing beyond common knowledge was addressed or discovered and it has little value as a conservation tool when logically viewed. Timbers have not been exterminated from a single county that once supported more then a relict population (if its ever actually happened) because of the shading out of gestation sites. That is total nonsense. No timber rattlesnake extinction event has yet happened in any state during this century.

Obviously the snakes already can find plenty of suitable basking sites and whatever else they need and they do. How else could they be so abundant. Because a gravid snake travels almost a mile (over what period of time?) does not mean it was because the poor snake was desperate to find a suitable basking spot as stated. Snakes including gravid females crawl around for lots of reasons.

Contradicting all previous experience. Ultimately the entire argument becomes self-refuting, we're suppose to believe that the rattlesnakes have declined so much that cutting a few trees will make a difference in the species future? This while somehow discounting that the timber rattlesnakes are plentiful enough that any first year herpetology student has little trouble going out and finding one for whatever experiment he chooses.

The point is, all the save the Timber hoopla comes down to one thing. There is grant money in timbers for herpetologist. The reason for that is the potential political leverage that's comes along making these snakes an environmental gem stone.

The climate for fear is ripe with bandwagon jumpers eager to join in. There becomes a snowball effect that's bleeds over into the general public. I know some very knowledgeable snake guys that will swear the timbers are in trouble because of what they read combined with their occasional (rarely if ever) journeys into timber country. Creating a misconception to just about anyone with an interest in timber rattlesnake's that these animal's are disappearing. And that the research projects (one after another) are somehow important conservation efforts needed to save the specie's. No and no.
For example, how do we determine pre-colonial abundance and habitat use?
Its the same now as it was then. It stands to all possible logic. In places where the habitat was not developed you have the same chance of finding a timber today as you did 1604. The snakes use of natural habitat hasn't changed at all. Timber rattlesnakes do (in my opinion) require large wilderness tracts and these tracts still exist in abundance. Within these tracks there will be fluctuation in both habitat and the species that use that habitat.

The modern biologist loves to let everyone know that, the species is in decline. Via the use of Fast Food Science. Assuming first, on almost no evidence, that there is an unnatural decline or any kind of decline, then ignoring all the possible causes for that "decline" except for what they pick and choose. Forget about the artifacts of sampling, dispersal to different refugia, periods of excessive cold weather resulting in greater mortality, developmental pressure , roadway mortality, hydrologic alterations, natural or unnatural alterations in phototaxis causing snakes to seek out new basking sites and new hibernacula, behavioral variances within the species, competition in the food chain, natural cycles of decline which do periodically occur. Its only a mind-set fixated on a particular pet peeve to blame it on , and naturally its a problem they can research and maybe one day fix.



In an effort to aid rattlesnake conservation. I pulled this guy off a busy road and thanked the Mexican guy in front of me for hitting his brakes and backing up traffic for 37 miles while I made the rescue.

Image



Ernie Eison

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 12th, 2016, 12:45 pm

Filled with possibly, maybe , could be, probably must be etc.
To me, that is the definition of science's place in society. Pushing the bounds of possibility, maybe and could be. That's what its all about. Great folks doing great science.

Watch out for the sharp end Ernie. I hear those things can make you see yellow.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Kelly Mc » September 12th, 2016, 5:05 pm

science runs through the molecules and the mire and all the iridescence to keep up with the abundance of reality.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by semasko » September 12th, 2016, 5:57 pm

Contradicting all previous experience. Ultimately the entire argument becomes self-refuting, we're suppose to believe that the rattlesnakes have declined so much that cutting a few trees will make a difference in the species future? This while somehow discounting that the timber rattlesnakes are plentiful enough that any first year herpetology student has little trouble going out and finding one for whatever experiment he chooses.
Its this reason that their predictability leaves the snakes open to vulnerability. Its also this reason that makes them easy to study, which may be part of the reason why they are studied so often. I do agree that TRs can be over-studied to the point of negative effects, but here again practicality can take precedence when academic jobs are a stake, which is a shame. The Mountain Earth Snake is probably the least studied snake in the Northeast (literally two studies), and also one of the most cryptic.
Timbers have not been exterminated from a single county that once supported more then a relict population (if its ever actually happened) because of the shading out of gestation sites. That is total nonsense. No timber rattlesnake extinction event has yet happened in any state during this century.
How can you say if a population was relict without historical data? I can't say one way or the other, but I know of no science supporting this argument. The forests were totally different in 1604. Wolves, Mountain Lions, Elk, Passenger Pigeons, American Chestnuts, climax White Pine forests.. if you argue that competition in the food chain could be a factor, then you're looking at a very different ecosystem. Now I'm not saying that distribution and abundance would have been completely flipped around, as I'm sure they were more or less in similar areas. The issue here is, most of these "large tracts of wilderness" are severely fragmented, so genetic bottle-necking can become more severe. If all the factors you speak of become a greater issue in the future, wouldn't it be nice to have years of life history data (that isn't necessarily hard science) from guys like Martin?

I think context is important when interpreting the views of certain biologists. Of course people in states like Vermont and New Hampshire are going to express bleak outlooks when speaking of TRs, because they've been extirpated from those heavily populated areas. Those from the south where Canebrakes still thrive in back yards might speak differently. The public perception here reflects these views as well. Fast food science (I like that description) and short attention spans are another battle.

If I had a pile of money devoted to snake conservation, a convoy of road cruisers would be out every day/night in ideal weather and seasons. This alone would be the most effective management plan.. screw science!

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Bryan Hamilton » September 26th, 2016, 7:22 am

Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentives and Hypercompetition

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ees.2016.0223

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Jimi » September 26th, 2016, 8:30 am

Another interesting read.

It would be good to have that material more-broadly contextualized. I mean, it's all good and well to get the perspectives of those living in the unpleasant bubble, but I don't think they did it all to themselves, and I don't think they can undo it all alone either. I think about half the recommendations dump a lot of responsibility on the already-squashed ("just behave ethically dammit!!!"). Well, uh, sure. But...that doesn't seem realistic or fair, given the perverse incentives etc etc described in the article.

I see parallels in teaching and also in government - good people leaving in droves, because of perverse incentives, crappy working conditions, compliance:complicity conflicts, etc. It's a sad and very unhealthy corrosion of institutions, and it's really hard on individuals too.

For my part, among the drivers of this, I see an excessive reliance on "higher" ed as the destination for high school grads. The parallel vocational-ed program of e.g. Germany seems far preferable to our apparent denigration of "the trades". Many of our employers describe a skills gap, and we still have a lot of long-term unemployed. What a knot we've tied ourselves up in.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » September 27th, 2016, 8:07 pm

Having an open mind is a valuable asset. The willingness to examine all sides of issues is important when one tries to arrive at an informed position.

So I applaud Jimi for first posting the link that started this thread. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publicati ... ng-science. I also applaud Bryan who posted another link that provides added insight. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ees.2016.0223

Now I have been busy with other matters so have not read all entries in this thread. And I only read the abstracts of the above two publications. I urge everyone to do the same. In addition, I reviewed the citations listed a the end of the paper cited by Bryan and entitled, “Academic Research in the 21st Century: Maintaining Scientific Integrity in a Climate of Perverse Incentive and Hypercompetition”

Besides the authors that published the above two papers, there are a large number of professionals that have called attention to problems with the integrity, ethics, honesty, and the validity of scientific research. Below I have copied a few of those citations.

There is the tendency of many, if not most lay individuals to glom on to published research as if such were always legitimate. I you review the above to papers plus others listed below, I hope you will become aware of reality.

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon

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Ashforth, B.E., and Anand, V. (2003). The normalization of
corruption in organizations. Res. Organ. Behav. 25, 1.
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Belluz, J., and Hoffman, S. (2015, May 13). Science is often
flawed. Its time we embraced that. Vox. Available at: www
.vox.com/2015/5/13/8591837/how-science-is-broken (accessed
September 16, 2016).
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Fanelli, D. (2009). How many scientists fabricate and falsify
research? A systematic review and meta-analysis of survey
data. PLoS One. 4, e5738.
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Hinkes-Jones,L. (2014). Bad science. Jacobin. Available at:www.
jacobinmag.com/2014/06/bad-science (accessed September 16,
2016).
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Laduke, R.D. (2013). Academic dishonesty today, unethical
practices tomorrow? J. Prof. Nurs. 29, 402.
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Smaldino,P.E.,andMcElreath,R.(2016).The natural selection of bad
science. arXiv.Available at: https://arxiv.org/abs/1605.09511 (accessed
September 16, 2016).
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Stephan, P. (2012b). Research efficiency: Perverse incentives.
Nature. 484, 29.
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Stroebe, W., Postmes, T., and Spears, R. (2012). Scientific
misconduct and the myth of self-correction in science. Perspect.
Psychol. Sci. 7, 670.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » September 27th, 2016, 8:15 pm

In my recent reply, I included a number of citations. I call everyone’s attention to the following citation: Ashforth, B.E., and Anand, V. (2003). The normalization of corruption in organizations. Res. Organ. Behav. 25, 1. Below I have copied the abstract of that paper.
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“Organizational corruption imposes a steep cost on society, easily dwarfing that of street crime. We examine how corruption becomes normalized, that is, embedded in the organization such that it is more or less taken for granted and perpetuated. We argue that three mutually reinforcing processes underlie normalization: (1) institutionalization, where an initial corrupt decision or act becomes embedded in structures and processes and thereby routinized; (2) rationalization, where self-serving ideologies develop to justify and perhaps even valorize corruption; and (3) socialization, where naı̈ve newcomers are induced to view corruption as permissible if not desirable. The model helps explain how otherwise morally upright individuals can routinely engage in corruption without experiencing conflict, how corruption can persist despite the turnover of its initial practitioners, how seemingly rational organizations can engage in suicidal corruption and how an emphasis on the individual as evildoer misses the point that systems and individuals are mutually reinforcing.”
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In this forum on 7/1/16, I started a thread entitled “Dishonesty in Government” I described the wide-spread practice of wildlife agencies listing non-game species in some category of conservation concern without having any valid supporting evidence for doing so. From my vantage point, such a policy by wildlife agencies constitutes a prime example of what the authors in the above paper characterize as “Organizational Corruption’.

Richard F. Hoyer

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by jonathan » September 28th, 2016, 8:08 am

At the same time, protected from both the logic of the marketplace and the capriciousness of politics by the imperative of national defense
This is a good point from the article. A problem is that in order to really "solve problems", science needs to be protected from the marketplace AND from bureaucracy/politics, yet still be directed by someone to point it towards what's most important.

I just read the well known "The Soil and Health" by Sir Albert Howard. He was a British agricultural scientist who identified massive systemic issues in agricultural research and practice in the first half of the 20th century, but found quite a lot of difficulty addressing it, with obstacles thrown at him from multiple sides. To summarize briefly:


1. The natural direction of the official research institutions where he worked often delved into "pure science" that had little to nothing to do with real world problems. He was supposed to be studying agricultural science, but had no opportunity to actually practice agriculture, and therefore wasn't doing anything that actually improved real-world agriculture in any real way.
In Barbados I was a laboratory hermit, a specialist of specialists, intent on learning more and more about less and less....I began to detect a fundamental weakness in the organization of that research which constituted officially the more important part of my work. I was an investigator of plant diseases, but I had myself no crops on which I could try out the remedies I advocated: I could not take my own advice before offering it to other people. It was borne in on me that there was a wide chasm between science in the laboratory and practice in the field, and I began to suspect that unless this gap could be bridged no real progress could be made in the control of plant diseases: research and practice would remain apart: mycological work threatened to degenerate into little more than a convenient agency by which - provided I issued a sufficient supply of learned reports fortified by a judicious mixture of scientific jargon - practical difficulties could be side-tracked.
Even when "sample plots" were used, the falseness to their real-world truths was enormous. A half-acre plot test plot is not farmed in at all the same way as a 30-acre real-world, and issues like edge effects are massively increased so as to possibly affect the entire plot and thus invalidate the entire test. Continuous tests of the same kind of crop on the same plot do not reflect the best practices of real-world farming, which rotate various crops through the seasons and years, which may result in complete different ideal methodology than one-crop studies. And finally, for every test completely new material (most importantly new seeds that were selected from the best produce in the country!) were imported in from outside sources for each year's crop, which in no way shows the real-world effects of the process that acts on the seeds of the strain as they go through generation after generation, as they would in a real farm. Of course, most scientists looking for publishable results are understandably reluctant to test 30-acre plots in 5-year cycles with all the additional variables of multiple crops and seeds and soils that need to be put through decades of cycles before their long-term health and viability can be truly evaluated!

In short, the best process for a half-acre edge-effect monoculture farmed with different small-plot techniques and continuously produced without rotation with a constant influx of new seeds from an unrelated source, even if you repeat your experiments for 50 years, will never tell you what will work best in all the complexity of the real world.

But all the size, timescale, and complexity of the real world is really difficult to publish with any frequency.



2. However, the "marketplace" profit motive fails even worse in his estimation:
The phrase mining the land is now recognized as a very accurate description of what takes place when the human race flings itself on an area of stored fertility and uses it up without thought of the future. In the mid-nineteenth century this began to take place on an unprecedented scale. For if agriculture was, so to say, the nurse of industry, she was persuaded to learn one salient lesson from her nursling. This was the lesson of the profit motive....

The result of the exploitation of the soil has been the destruction of soil fertility on a colossal scale...if the profit and loss account is made to look brilliant merely because capital has been transferred and then regarded as dividend, what business is sound?
He goes on a lot more about this, and Wendell Berry later picked up on him wonderfully. Basically, the marketplace values short-term gain over long-term gain, values speed over sustainability, values commodities that must be resold new over recyclable or sustainable ones, values things that can be patented over things that exist naturally, and values machines over human workers. In short, the natural direction of the marketplace will be to employ fewer and fewer people so that the work gets less and less attention in the course of destroying more and more resources to produce more and more product of lower and lower true quality that is further and further from nature as quickly as possible until the available capital stored in the land runs out and the whole thing collapses. And nothing in the marketplace is geared to stop such "progress" until the moment of collapse appears within the short-term horizon of the CEO who has to prove his bottom line within the next 3-4 years or the investment manager who has to prove year-to-year interest profits or risk his investors pulling out.



To get away from short-term publishing AND short-term profit as the primary motive for scientific exploration is not easy. And I don't really have a plan to make it happen.



Jimi wrote:I'm here to tell ya, if "the US military" gets it in their head that they plan to do something, it tends to get done. Also, they really do their best to comply with environmental law (surprisingly or not, many public organizations are pretty blase about this...). Consequently, they are fantastic partners in conservation. That's what I have personally experienced with the Navy, Air Force, Army, and also the Army National Guard.
That's pretty cool to hear. With all the real problems I have with the military, it's not too hard to see why most other large landowners (private or public) would have a lot more ulterior motives and/or simple incompetence in the way than a large military base.




Bryan Hamilton wrote:For me, the real win, win in conservation and ecology is to do both. Answer the applied question and try to get at some bigger questions too. Its not always possible but often times there is considerable overlap.
Jimi wrote:So anyway...I guess I'd have to admit I'm a strong proponent of managing research.
I agree with you here. But I often have a core set of questions that have to be addressed with funding. What the researcher wants to do above and beyond that in terms of research goals is their businesses.

I'm also noticing a lot more willingness from researchers to work on applied management questions. Funding is tight and researchers are more often willing to work on management issues.

That's really good to hear too.

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