6 Jul 2009, 2:05pm
Forestry education Politics and politicians
by admin

An Open Letter to the Editorial Board of Ecological Applications


J. David Baldwin, Managing Editor of ESA (Ecological Society of America) journals
David Schimel, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Editor-in-Chief
Jayne Belnap, USGS, Assigning Editor
Timothy E. Essington, University of Washington, Assigning Editor
Mark Friedl, Boston University, Assigning Editor
Nancy B. Grimm, Arizona State University, Assigning Editor


Mike Dubrasich, Executive Director, Western Institute for Study of the Environment (W.I.S.E.)

July 6, 2009

Dear Sirs and Madams,

Recently I posted at one of the W.I.S.E. websites a critical analysis [here] of a research paper published in Ecological Applications.

I also included a link to the paper itself, which had been provided to me by the lead author.

My analysis was critical, so I felt it was only fair, as well as educational, to supply W.I.S.E. website readers with the document being critiqued.

However, your Managing Editor, J. David Baldwin, took umbrage and demanded that I remove said document from the Web, citing copyright violation and protection of your “subscription revenue.”

I have complied by removing the link (not the critique) under veiled threat of lawsuit, but wish to explain to you some cogent facts that pertain to Ecological Applications and other ESA publications.

1. EA is an expensive item. Annual subscription is $115 per year. Purchase of a single article is $20 for 30 days. Redistribution of the purchased journal and/or article is forbidden.

The price hurdles serve to inhibit “technology transfer” to the interested public. Only a select few have access to your journals, which impedes your stated mission to:

… raise the public’s level of awareness of the importance of ecological science… through educational and outreach activities… [and] by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy-makers at all levels of government and the private sector.

2. The article in question was researched and written by scientists in the public employ. Taxpayer dollars paid for their salaries, the research, the research overhead, the write-up, and the printing in your journal, which is also taxpayer funded. Yet most taxpayers do not have access because of your price hurdles and limited distribution.

All of the above calls into question the legal merits of your copyright infringement complaint against me. If I chose to do so, we could explore that issue in a court of law. In this particular case I choose not to do so, but that should not be interpreted as any form of legal forfeiture of my rights as a taxpayer and citizen.

I exercised my legal rights by posting a link to the article. That was for your benefit (fulfilling your mission) as well as for the benefit of the taxpaying public.

3. The article in question has serious scientific flaws, as my critical analysis points out. I am surprised that it passed your peer review process –- well, not surprised but disappointed once again.

Your (cloaked) peer review process is defective. I suggest that you print my analysis [here] in Ecological Applications as a rebuttal in order to mitigate the defects in the article and, frankly, the embarrassment you have brought upon yourselves. (By the way, I give you legal permission to print my analysis, which was created without the use of taxpayer funding).

You diminish your stature in the scientific community and reduce public trust in your scientific expertise when you publish scientifically flawed articles. Further, hiding your failures behind (alleged and questionable) copyrights does not restore the stature and trust you have obviated.

4. Publication of the article in question was accompanied by a media campaign. Rather than releasing the article itself, you chose to send disingenuous “summaries” to media outlets in the form of press releases. The nature and timing of the media campaign are prima facie evidence of political slant and bias. Politics, not science, was emphasized.

That sort of thing, especially accompanied by your attempt to suppress distribution of the article itself, raises serious doubts about your scientific integrity. The public who funds you wishes to know whether you are a scientific institution or a political front group promoting partisan political (and a-scientific) opinions.

Is your actual mission, unstated but de facto, to advance political causes by abrogating good science entirely?

The foregoing cogent facts constitute serious complaints against your journal and the manner in which you produce it.

I expect, and indeed demand, your serious consideration of the foregoing complaints. You owe that much to the taxpayers who financially support your endeavors.

Further, I expect a serious written response to the complaints I have levied, following and in reference to your documented investigation and consideration of the issues I have raised.

I intend to post your written response at the W.I.S.E. websites so that the affected public might judge your defense against my criticisms or your contrite acknowledgment of the serious problems currently plaguing Ecological Applications.

Thank you for your cooperation in these matters.


Mike Dubrasich, Executive Director
Western Institute for Study of the Environment
Lebanon, OR

cc: the entire world, posted on the Internet

6 Jul 2009, 2:34pm
by Mark V.P.

The public who funds you wishes to know whether you are a scientific institution or a political front group promoting partisan political (and a-scientific) opinions.

Was that even a question?

I expect a serious written response to the complaints I have levied.

LOL, that’s so far into bite-your-tongue-in-cheek that you are liable to need stitches, but I doubt your insurer covers self-inflicted wounds.

6 Jul 2009, 2:41pm
by Mike

Mark, your cup of cynicism runneth over. But I am glad you are amused. Laughter is the best medicine.

6 Jul 2009, 3:04pm
by Bob Zybach


I agree with each and every one of the points you make.

As a taxpayer, I am sick and tired of the so-called “peer reviewed science” that is being produced at my expense — and then kept hidden from my own review. The fact that this “green science” is often shamelessly distorted and promoted via public media only makes the process more suspect. More like product sales and politics than actual science.

As a forest scientist, I applaud the content of your own review, and the fact that you make the object of your criticisms openly and freely available to your readers. That is truly “peer review” — and by those of us paying for it in the first place and politically subjected to its “findings” thereafter.

What are these people (truly) afraid of? “Lost revenue?” I think we can all get a good laugh out of that claim! Or to an open revelation that the emperor is parading naked down Main Street again? I’m guessing it’s more the latter than the former.

The original piece was little more than poor, readily available data tarted up with statistics to justify widespread distribution of some provocative politically correct claims regarding Global Warming speculation. And — likely — to help justify the public monies paid for the “study.”

The WISE criticism was pointed and insightful. It will be interesting to see if the Journal has enough integrity to print it, and to make a response. That would be good manners, good politics, and good science — but maybe too much to expect. It will be interesting to find out.

6 Jul 2009, 4:06pm
by Larry H.

The eco’s would like nothing more than to solidify their claim that our forests are dying because of “climate change”. There is never any mention of other factors and causes, such as overstocking and neglect, for the massive dieoffs we are now seeing. My forays into eco-la-la-land have shown me that they have absolutely no plausible answer why we currently have all those millions of acres of dead trees. They will drag in all those old 90’s and 80’s issues, instead of the reality of 4000 trees per acre. They will blame fire suppression and grazing. They will blame plantations and tree farms.

They also offer no other solution that will make a difference other than the dreaded Let Die, Let Rot and Let-Burn idealistic dogma drama.

However, I also see a very large silent majority on some of those sites, where formerly preservationist types DO see the forest logic and science but, are afraid to go against the party line of no-compromise and “NOT ONE STICK”. It used to be that people would have a big logger-hater dog pile to escort the intruder out of their lair.

Today, you get greeted by a few possibly very young kids who spout the early 90’s rhetoric. You might get a former “ologist”, who knows some things but is ignorant of good forestry and harvesting skills (including modern equipment!)

6 Jul 2009, 5:02pm
by Mark V.P.

When we have devolved control of multi-billion dollar assets to the economic worth of the mere threat of exercising the distracted whim of an urban majority, I seriously doubt that a printed retraction even in a front-page above-the-fold article in the New York Times would make a bit of difference in public cognizance. It took decades to build that mass psychosis. It will either take a similar effort or catastrophic consequences to undo.

My bet is on the latter. You can call it cynicism, but I call it an observation. Even so, as you know, that doesn’t mean I’m sitting here waiting for it to just happen.

BTW, I’ve made similar observations of private businesses claiming copyright on the work of public employees for quite some time. Worse yet is when public employees copyright photographs they take on company time with government equipment. Drives me nuts.

7 Jul 2009, 2:32pm
by Forrest Grump

This is a critical issue. As a cretinous member of the undereducated lay public, I am sick to death of having “peer reviewed” articles amped up in the general press as being policy critical, yet the meat of the article is only available to an academic audience.

If the journal wants the FREE publicity, and the authors want the FREE publicity, and they want their conclusions to be entered into the public discussion, then they should be happy to distribute their stuff to the public that is being amped with this important “science” for FREE.

7 Jul 2009, 4:20pm
by Mike

Especially since the public PAID for it in the first place.

9 Jul 2009, 5:06pm
by Mike

The lead author of the article in question, Dr. Jeremy Littell of the Univ of Washington, has supplied us (today) with a “legal” link to his paper [here] courtesy UW. He has no qualms about disseminating his work to the public; indeed, he favors it.

So screw Ecological Applications. They are worse than worthless. Their funding should be cut off; we really don’t need them.

9 Jul 2009, 5:29pm
by Bob Zybach

Dr. Jeremy Littell needs to be congratulated.

Whether we agree with his methodology and findings, or not, it is refreshing to deal with scientists open and willing to have their work reviewed.

And maybe “we” really don’t need Ecological Applications, but maybe Dr. Littell and his cohorts at UW do. It is a publish or perish world throughout much of academia, and EA helps serve that purpose.

More to the point, EA could likely benefit more from the actions of contributors such as Dr. Littell than Dr. Littell might benefit from publication in EA.

Now — is Dr. Littell sufficiently confident in his work to answer to Mike’s criticisms? Or to engage in a pointed discussion of his findings with WISE contributors?

9 Jul 2009, 6:30pm
by Mike

If UW rates or evaluates its faculty on the basis of their publications in EA, then they are doing a disservice to the faculty, the students, the university, and the citizens of Washington.

EA is a political, not scientific, journal. Suppose the researchers had done the exact same study but derived the opposite conclusions — that “climate change” has played no significant role in forest fire acreage — that is, the same conclusions I drew. Would EA have published their findings? Of course not. That would have clashed with EA’s political agenda.

All that publication in EA proves is that a scientist knows how to toe some political line. It says nothing about the quality or caliber of their science. And in turn, if UW bases judgments about science faculty on their political correctness, then they degrade the university.

That’s bad university management. Instead UW should find other criteria with which to judge faculty. And if they can’t, then the department heads should be canned, tenure or not. We’d be better off paying them to stay home.

9 Jul 2009, 7:02pm
by Mike

I don’t mean to single out UW. Other affiliations of the researchers who co-authored the article are the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

Those institutions also need to evaluate their faculty/professional employees by criteria other than publication in EA.



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