Science under siege

Science under siege

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On Saturday 29 November 2008, the Royal Zoological Society of NSW held a forum with the theme of Science under siege. As the RZS is a zoological society, zoology under threat became the secondary theme and the basis for selecting speakers. This book records that forum with the papers developed for this book as the written word from the spoken presentations. Papers that were presented as posters are included, as are the edited plenary sessions which featured questions from the floor, with answers and comments encouraged from anyone in the forum. We were delighted that Mark Horstman, from ABC Catalyst, was willing to replace his peripatetic colleague Paul Willis, who was nonetheless very happy to write the foreword. There is a place for such skilled science communicators, we need more of them, and scientists at the lab bench, or in the field, or exploring computer models, or those that have now taken a job in the policy world, need to stay in touch with them. Some might say that the title a€œScience under siegea€ seems a bit extreme, but we invite you to examine the evidence as presented in this book. What follows is an edited version of the introductory material that advertised the forum: The title looks dramatic, but if you ask yourself, a€œis anything killing the science in your area of interest?a€ you might be surprised that you come up with a point or two. Then ask a wider set of questions, such as: are there any pressures that preclude people from doing good zoology; do either political/budgetary constraints impact on your field; is science in the media a subject that influences the outcome of your work; are there economic impediments to careers in zoology; is the education mix in Australia right for this new century; are the best researchers becoming full-time administrators, or the converse, the poor researchers becoming the administrators; can you place the Australian situation in an international context; are there reduced opportunities for human interactions with the natural world; is the virtual world killing reality; and what are your predictions of the future? To deal with such issues, the Royal Zoological Society of NSW has structured the day to emphasize a range of themes, beginning with identifying the issues, including those that are persistent and those that are emerging, and encompassing palpable hits to science. Direct and indirect hits to science include such matters as the withdrawal of funding, subversion of science, death by 1000 cuts, redirection of funding to fashion issues and using the name of science to justify things that are really not justifiable. The name of science is being dragged down. We need to confront the ever-present problem of ignoring the scientifically accurate for the politically correct. This raises such questions as to whether basic skills in biology are not being acquired because of public concern based on extreme animal rights propaganda. Good science is not optional, but what can be done if you are under siege? The answers include understanding the philosophy of science, the legal perspective and asking what scientists are (or should be) doing. Audience participation will be a central part of this forum. The plenary sessions will address questions raised by the speakers, and the posters, and debate issues and consider options for future directions. It is widely known that it is hard to pull a major paper together on this theme, but so many scientists know of at least one matter that they would like to draw to public attention. So, short contributions are included. Listen to the speakers present some overarching themes or compelling case studies, contribute to the debate on the day, then examine your stance on a variety of these subjects to see whether the day changes your view of this often cryptic aspect of zoology. As editors, we wish to acknowledge the skills of the referees (all papers were refereed by two peers), and the patience of the authors for what has been a long gap between the date of the forum and this publication. By the end of 2008, the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, along with everyone else, was caught by the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) and we simply had to extend the length of the queue for publication. We also reassessed our mode of publication. The Council of the Society voted to publish this production as an ebook, as well as a short print run for formal library deposit, and other essential matters. The ebook is open access to enhance the reach of the papers and the ideas. At the same time, the Royal Zoological Society of NSW signed a contract for a more international mode of access of the publications of the Society, and papers are now available via Metapress. http:// Science remains under siege, in our view, and now we have been alerted to the range of issues it becomes easier to spot the small, irritating closing of options that collectively amount to a denial of science and its relegation to an optional way of looking at the world. During production of this book, this matter became obvious on a number of fronts, which led us to invite the paper by Rosie Cooney and colleagues to defend their science of kangaroo conservation and commercial harvesting from an attack on the science. We also saw that this issue of science under siege needs more airing, and the Royal Zoological Society of NSW is planning its forum for the end of 2012 to take up another strand of this theme by capitalizing on the lifelong insights of scientists under the rubric of a€œgrumpy scientists: an ecological conscience of a nationa€. This idea in fact derives directly from the suggestions in the plenary sessions by Nick Holmes and Charley Krebs. We are also concerned for young scientists, with science under siege manifesting often in a failure to create permanent careers for science graduates that advance science itself, and zoology in particular, from flourishing and identifying problems and finding solutions. If we want to conserve the native fauna of Australia, then Australian zoologists will have to be key team members. We contend that to put science under siege, and zoology under threat, we not only further imperil our native wildlife, but also the careers of the small band of specialists that can see the issues, find the problems, implement solutions and evaluate the outcomes. In short, science under siege is not a light matter and no one in this forum thought so. Read on, form an opinion, and speak up and publish your thoughts, your examples and your solutions.As we go there, something that Charles Krebs mentioned, he talked about public good, long term, large scale, high risk ecological research; ita#39;s missing - where has ... So how do you go about getting scientists to learn how to communicate effectively? Ia#39;ve been in this country for 40 years, starting at the University of Sydney.

Title:Science under siege
Author:Peter Banks, Daniel Lunney, Chris Dickman
Publisher:Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales - 2012-11-01


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