Whose science counts? Don’t droop your ‘h’s!

Einstein by Ferdinand Schmutzer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I remember attending a Game Fair, in fact it was the last one in 2011 (rained off this year) when in the space of two days I heard people say that we British have the ‘best farmers in the world’, the ‘best foresters in the world’ and the’ best shooters in the world’ – and maybe we do, but it was noticeable that these views came from a farmer, a forester and a shooter respectively.  So it wasn’t as though these professions and pastimes were praising each other – they were quite happy to praise themselves and put themselves at the top of the tree.

I’ve never heard nature conservationists say that we British have the best nature conservationists in the world, and come to that I’ve never heard nature conservationists say that we have the best farmers, foresters and shooters in the world either.

I do fear it’s a little bit like that nonsense about the Premiership being the best football league in the world – it might be , with all those South Americans, Europeans and Africans playing in it, but it doesn’t lead to any UK national team doing well in World Cups or European football competitions.

It’s very difficult to decide who has the best science in the world (for that is broadly where we are going with this – although more domestic than the whole world).  What makes good science?  Well, it all depends.

I think good science is science that leads to the world being better understood or better managed for our own ends in a sustainable way – pure and applied science.  But those things are very tricky to measure for every bit of science.  It’s easy to spot the stars, probably as it is to spot the star farmers, foresters and shooters (is it?), but to rank every piece of science is very difficult.

So what follows is incomplete and imperfect, but if you have a better way to approach it then let me know or write a Guest Blog to show us all how it can be done.

Scientists tend to judge their work, partly (and partly wrongly I think) by its quantity and by the frequency with which other scientists refer to (cite) it.  So when I was a proper scientist, and believe me, I was, all those years ago, I was pleased whenever I published a paper and whenever someone else cited it.

For an organisation, or the science function of any organisation, keeping track of how many scientific papers they publish and how often they are cited is part of the assessment process.

I started thinking about this, I must be honest about this, because at that Game Fair I heard quite a few GWCT high-ups saying how good their scientists were/are.  And although I have a lot of professional respect for some of them I thought at the time they were over-egging things rather a lot.  And my impression was that the GWCT were resting on their laurels a bit, and still bathing in past scientific glories – which were indeed glorious.

You can see this wasn’t the most important thing in the world to me as it has taken over a year for me to do anything about it – but now (with a little help from a friend, and I’d like to thank her now (although she has ticked the box marked ‘anonymity’)) I can show you the analysis, such as it is , for GWCT, BTO,WWT and RSPB scientific output.

Some of this is easily understood, some needs explanation and my attempt at that comes below;

 

Publication metrics: RSPB, BTO, GWCT and WWT, 1981-2012

Data extracted from Web of Science, 4 November 2012

Organisation Years Publications Citations Cites/paper h-index Recent annual publication rate
RSPB 1981-2012 1025 21238 20.72 60 50-70
1991-2012 888 19761 22.25 59
2001-2012 693 12679 21.08 52
BTO 1981-2012 603 16197 26.86 57 20-45
1991-2012 527 15340 29.11 57
2001-2012 340 6704 19.72 37
GWCT 1981-2012 490 11791 24.06 51 10-20
1991-2012 418 9401 22.49 43
2001-2012 232 2670 11.51 26
WWT 1981-2012 257 3290 12.80 30 6-15
1991-2012 207 2438 11.78 26
2001-2012 108 804 7.44 14

Notes:

  1.  Search terms: RSPB, ROYAL SOC PROTECT BIRDS, ROY SOC PROTECT BIRDS, BRITISH TRUST ORNITHOL, BTO, GAME CONSERVANCY, GAME CONSERVANCY TRUST, GAME WILDLIFE CONSERVAT TRUST, GCT, GWCT, WILDFOWL TRUST, WILDFOWL WETLANDS TRUST, WWT.  Papers from other organisations with, coincidentally, the same acronym have been removed from analysis.
  2. Search included all WoS-listed journals and conference proceedings.  This excludes some ‘lower-ranked’ journals in which these organisations publish (e.g. Ringing & Migration, Scottish Birds) as well as books and book chapters.
  3. H-index derived by ranking all publications in order of number of times cited and identifying where rank = number of times cited.  In other words, an institution or individual who has published 10 papers each cited at least 10 times has an h-index of 10 (irrespective of how many publications they have in total).

 

OK – what did you make of it?  The first thing to note is that the three time categories overlap; 1981-2012, 1991-2012 and 2001-2012.  So all the publications in the last category are also in the former and the first category too.

The second thing of note is that different organisations produce more scientific papers than others – this isn’t surprising as they undoubtedly have different budgets and different priorities for their spends.  Size isn’t everything, but if it were, the RSPB would come out top.  That isn’t an insignificant finding but it might be better if we could measure output/pound or output/person and that simply isn’t do-able for me (and again, probably wouldn’t be a lot closer to reality anyway).  So let’s not totally dismiss, but let’s not make too much of, the gross differences between organisations in output.

Third, there is this thing called ‘h’.  Scientists are keen on ‘h’. Now ‘h’ is quite tricky to explain in few words so I’ll give you this link and this one and this one so you can work it out for yourselves. But, the higher the ‘h’ the better – and ‘h’ is bound to decline in the shorter and shorter time periods used in the table above.

So, I suggest that the most interesting thing to do is to look at how the four individual organisations have fared in each of the three periods.  Are their numbers of publications, citations and ‘h’s holding up – or are they heading down?

RSPB science looks very vibrant in the last decade – a high proportion of its papers were published, their citation levels were high and although ‘h’ drooped (as it must) it didn’t droop very much.

BTO science looks very strong too.  Lots of papers, lots of citations and strong ‘h’s – bit more of an ‘h’ droop here though.

GWCT has a fine past but a far less glorious present according to these figures.  Maybe the 1990s were their heyday and they just haven’t been able to keep it up in the last decade.  Lots of droop to be seen.

WWT are interesting as they have gone through some quite tough times in the last 15 years and that rather shows in the figures.  My guess would be that their output will pick up as time goes on though.  We’ll see.

These measures aren’t perfect.  They don’t tell the whole story, and the part of the story they do tell is not told perfectly.  However, they do back up what I was thinking at the Game Fair before last.  I think that the GWCT’s greatest science was led by, and quite a bit of it was done by, Dick Potts and that things have not been the same since he left as far as GWCT science is concerned.  However much ‘our farmers are the best in the world’ type of talk comes out of GWCT there is real reason to think that their science is less well regarded in recent years by the rest of the scientific community.

GWCT would be wise not to get into a bragging match about who has the biggest with the RSPB – if you are drooping then nobody is that impressed.

 

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43 Replies to “Whose science counts? Don’t droop your ‘h’s!”

  1. I think the pressure to be published & cited in the 'right' publications affects which research is done, especially by post-grad students, and then some good research goes unpublished because the 'right' journal won't publish it (&, yes, I'm speaking from bitter experience here!).

    I'm not suggesting that this happens within the NGOs, but universities where the next generation of scientists can be inspired, or switched off.

    Just a thought.

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  2. A nice paper for you Emma - the effect of corvids on success rate of hunting birds of prey. I am privileged to be able to watch the crows keep off several species of bops from an area of fell used to shoot Red legged Partridge. Last year there were no crows and we had 11 Buzzards, 4 Hen Harriers, 2 female Sparrowhawks and a Goshawk. This year there are 22 crows dominating the fell. Of course some would like to kill the lot!

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    1. John,
      Re your idea for a paper. Here it is Kestrels and Crows I wonder about. By coincidence I have just send a question to Andy Musgrove BTO and had a reply. (Since this is a birdy blog I make no apologies for getting a bit off topic and coffee is over so apologies for cut and paste. )
      Dear Andy Musgrove
      Reading the staff specialities, I thought you were the most appropriate person to approach, if not could you pass it on to an appropriate colleague.
      On the basis that little disadvantages cannot help where a bird is already in trouble. I thought I would contact you with an idea I had, based on observations while hanging washing out in the field, which I do often as we have self-catering holiday lodges. Even at this time of year, I often see Crows harassing, Buzzards, Kestrels, Sparrow Hawks and Marsh Harriers (I live near Minsmere). Of those I wondered if Kestrels were more vulnerable due to their foraging habits?
      I must admit I have not done a count on how often I see a Kestrel foraging/ in passage unmolested , as opposed to being harassed by an acrobatic Crow. I just wondered if you should ask your members to note this when they see a Kestrel. Kestrels often hunt (here at least) from trees but even here they can have an escort that harasses them when they move.
      Round here we have sandy soil which permits the keeping of free range pigs, so courtesy of these the crows probably do rather well.
      My observations may be biased as I admit that the jubilant cawing of an exuberant crow showing off(?) often attracts me to look up and they do both often cover a lot of ground during a pursuit. Trouble with making my own observations, there are fewer Kestrels to watch in the last few years. We had a regular individual (or more than one?) that roosted in specific places round the buildings but that has disappeared. I guess the adults can live a few years. The last few years it nested in trees which were popular with the jackdaws as a sort of nursery area where there was much congregating and activity. I never knew if the Kestrel finished nesting before the Jackdaws adopted the area. (Jackdaws also do well out of the pigs).
      Therefore I wondered:
      Can you tell from your data if crow numbers have an effect on kestrels?
      Are there more crows (& jackdaws) in areas with free range pigs? The recent agricultural restrictions mean there are only a few soil types that this management can be practiced so it would be easy(?) to plot the areas.
      Would it be interesting to see what crow/kestrel interaction people notice when out birdwatching?

      He kindly replied:
      Dear Andrew.

      Thanks for your interesting thoughts. I'm sure in most cases, Kestrels cope perfectly well with a bit of mobbing from crows. But of course, you may be right that crows could theoretically reach high densities where the amount of mobbing became a real issue.

      As it happens, Kestrels aren't doing all that badly in Eastern England, as the following plot of our Breeding Bird Survey results shows: {graph }

      Yes, a bit of a decline over the last 18 years or so, but not huge. It seems the problem is greater in Scotland however.
      You're right that Carrion Crows have increased though in the east:

      I suspect pig farms might have helped crows locally, although another factor that might be important could be the sheer quantity of carrion on roads, particularly pheasant but also rabbit. And perhaps traditional gamekeeping control of potential predators has declined too; we know that Buzzards have been able to recolonise the east due to a relaxation of persecution; the same issue is likely to affect crow numbers too.

      All very complex, and interesting! Thanks again for your email and I'll continue to discuss with colleagues.

      Best wishes
      Andy Musgrove

      I guess crows will also probably benefit for the supplementary pheasant feeders and maize (I would love to have a trail cam aimed at my neighbours feeders.) So they is probably no serious advantage with free range pigs.
      There is a copse nearby where Jackdaws, crows and rooks gathering for a bit of socialising and fun.( Especially on windy fine days they enjoyed doing aerobatics from it sweeping up in the updraft back down wind and down and round up again.) They often number more than a 100 and seemed to be there most of the day. At the bottom of the copse is maize as pheasant cover and they were dropping in to feed. I have not seen that level of feeding on other pheasant covers I can see but then if they congregate and do it at one favoured place I would not. Then a couple of days ago I heard a few shots from that direction and activity over that wood has dropped to zero. I was out today and Jackdwas are still having noisy get togethers but not over in the copse.

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    2. John - I take it this was a case of the crows moving in and driving out the bops, rather than the bops disappearing and the crows filling the gap? (I declare an interest as a fan of crows *and* bops in equal measure).

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  3. It must be difficult to feed the 'Blog Monster' but sometimes even you must be ashamed when you re-read your efforts. Science should not be a competion, it is at best about reaching new heights by standing on the shoulders of giants. Of course GWCT is proud of its scientists and their work, so presumably are BTO, WWT, RSPB, etc, etc. The comparison you seek to make is of course both odious and potentially devisive, but worse it is fairly obviously pointless.
    You carry on working to increase division and discord and we will carry on trying to work in partnership with anyone who wants to make the world a better place by seeking concensus on practical solutions to real conservation problems.

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    1. Ian - 'even' I? Thank you for your comment.

      I'm reasonably proud of this little analysis actually - where else have you seen it? I never have. Where else would you find a public comparison of the science output of these or other organisations?

      I'd say this is a reasonably useful analysis of a reasonably interesting subject. The four organisations make reasonably frequent statements about the quality of their science and so it's reasonably fair actually to subject them to some sort of evaluation (with caveats that I included in the blog). The analysis would have appeared, written differently, whatever it had shown as it was the comparison that interested me. I wrote the blog in a reasonably mischievous and reasonably entertaining way. I am eminently reasonable.

      You may wish to ignore (unreasonably?) what the analysis suggests but I think you should be reasonably concerned about how things are going for GWCT's science.

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  4. I declare an interest being a keen supporter of GWCT. I am not sure the aim of this blog other than to promote one organisation as superior to another? The research carried out by any organisation is a result of the organisation's aims charitable or not? That research will vary in difficulty and scope. Usually the aim is to answer difficult questions where the answer will enhance the countryside ecosystems. Any answers will hopefully provide management prescriptions which can be put to immediate use by land managers, ie applied research. Any organisation conducting applied research is to be congratulated and it matters not who it is. I suggest no land manager deliberately tries to damage his land? Any help to avoid damage is important? Perhaps another column should be added to the table above - 'practical use to land managers'?

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    1. Hugh - thank you. The aim of the analysis was to have a look at how these four conservation organisations would be rated according to common methods of assessing scientific impact. And then the aim of the blog was to explain the results in n interesting way. I'm glad it grabbed your attention. Thank you for your comment.

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  5. Ian, you may well be right but the tragedy is it isn't only Mark making judgements like this - most importantly, it's Government who can make even the crudest appraisal look sophisticated.

    What perhaps is more important is the whole 'best' thing - as far as I'm concerned anyone who thinks they are best has lost their edge - it came as a complete surprise in FC when we realised that actually there weren't that many comparable organisations left who could teach us anything about countryside recreation - but we kept looking and trying. A lot of the best (which despite the concerted attempts of the conservation lobby is very, very good) of FC's conservation was learnt from RSPB. I hope my ex-colleagues are still learning - I sometimes wonder whether some of our conservation bodies are still learning or are they patting themselves on the back saying 'we're the best' ?

    If they are the worse than dismal performance of the present Government should be a wake up call for even the most self satisfied.

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  6. As you eluded to, in considering which science counts in conservation, citation doesn't tell the whole story if you want to know which science is useful to people making decisions about conservation. Sutherland et al 2011 have began asking how the impact of research, on conservation action, can be assessed (Quantifying the Impact and Relevance of Scientific Research, http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0027537). I think that conservation research must be pragmatic and applied research must be prioritised.

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    1. Iain - thank you. I always think that asking the people who are paying for the research, and not the people spending the money, is an interesting exercise too.

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  7. My ears would prick up with your first line! Your blog as always very interesting and no doubt faultlessly researched by your anonymous friend. The science is very interesting and vitally important. As a forester and shooter I have to admit to a tendency to admire German and Austrian shooting and forestry values, however in the UK both shooters and foresters have reason to be proud but there are areas they should improve on. I do think that many conservationists in the UK crow about their achievements (and quite rightly). I seem to remember 'the largest conservation organisation in Europe' and 'at the time the largest land purchase by a European conservation organisation' in a book I recently read (and enjoyed!)

    On the issue of science I would suggest that the RSPB should produce more relevant material than others.....they are huge. GWCT undertake research that adds to that undertaken by others, it has different income streams and objectives in many cases (not all) and therefore can challenge RSPB research at times and vindicate it at others.

    I believe that diversity and passion is the thread that unites those interested in the natural world. Research and science undertaken by GWCT and others should be applauded, apathy is the real enemy.

    When you attend the next Game Fair try and engage with the humble majority (talk about lead), covert people from within rather than listening to the less humble minority who probably don't listen. More people at the Game Fair would be able to identify (and appreciate) a dotterel than in many gatherings!

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    1. Mark - great comment . Thank you. If you are at the next Game Fair then I'll happily have a chat to you - I'll even buy you a drink!

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  8. Yup - wrong questions this time Mark. I don't think citations aren't always positive, and they are also acted upon in different ways. A bad paper may be cited many times, but a good paper can change the way work is carried out. I also think that 'low brow' science is more important to areas than publishable work.

    How much of a scientific approach is taken by workers to fine tune activities for example. Maybe looking at the level of education (or educated approach) at the ground level would be more telling. Dare I suggest comparing gamekeepers monitoring and knowledge/approach to their work compared to an wildlife org wardeny person

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    1. Wez - I agree that citations etc doesn't give a full picture (and the blog did say that too). But it also doesn't give an irrelevant picture either. Thanks for your comment.

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  9. Publication is seen as measure of success - for careers and flow of funding. But - the safeguard of peer-review has been damaged, particularly by the revelations of Climategate, where collusion within cliques excluded research papers challenging the concensus view, denying authors the oxygen of citation. Allegedly.

    Whatever the accuracy of contemporary analyses (e.g. "Hiding the Decline", A.W. Montford - or try searching "corruption of peer review"), what has been exposed is the process by which scientific research and publication can be be driven by a closed loop of peer-reviewers, anonymous to outsiders, with the consequential inflation of performance indicators such as the drooped [sic] 'h'.

    Much of this stems from the "publish-or-perish culture" engendered by research funders and universities, and the setting of targets for annual research paper output. If peer review cannot be relied on honestly to filter the chaff from the grain then we are rather stuffed, as it's probably the best quality control available.

    So - who could get excited about league tables which rely on counts of citation until the process of peer-review is reformed?

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    1. Filbert - some good points there, thank you. I think you go further than I would on the corruption of peer-review. everything has its snags and the danger is always babies and bath water. A non-perfect review system is not necessarily worthless. And your suggestion for a better one is...?

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  10. "I think you go further than I would on the corruption of peer-review"
    That may be. It's difficult to know how far the corrosion has spread. There is a welter of stuff "out there" - this article sums it up rather well imho: http://deevybee.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/how-our-current-reward-structures-have.html

    On the basis of a version of Murphy's Law - If it's possible, then someone will do it - I am perfectly willing to believe that in many fields of endeavour there is suppression of contrary evidence which challenges the concensus. Remember Helicobacter pylori?

    We have an expectation that "scientists" are above such behaviour, but I frequently recall the words of Harry Crews*, slightly misquoting Goethe, "There is no crime of which I cannot conceive myself guilty". (The video clip is worth a view, for hearing HC telling stories, the influence of the Sears Roebuck catalogue, treatment of "them Birds", how to safely bury a possum, views on life, southern banjo soundtrack. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtTlCywIuoE )

    "A non-perfect review system is not necessarily worthless ..."
    Agreed, but what about a good review system rendered worthless unnecessarily? My suggestion, for starters, for a better one is that neither peer-reviewers nor their affiliations should be anonymous. This does not seem like rocket-science. See also transparency, secrecy, FoI 🙂

    *RIP 7.6.1935 - 28.3.2012.

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  11. I am sorry you avoid the question I asked, which was should we add an additional criteria 'use to the practitioner'. I am not judging who is better or worse - nor do I subscribe to volume being any indicator of value. I suggest some organisations choose to carry our work in popular areas, which is rarely the case with much of GWCT's work. GWCT scientists do work that is vital to help land managers do better, where there are serious competing interests and where the results have often been unpalatable to many.

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    1. Hugh - your 'question' was answered in my blog. There are many criteria which we could apply to this question, but the data don't exist.

      You, like Ian, choose not to address the apparent demise, or at least droop, of GWCT science. Maybe it's because you have ignored it that it has happened. Just a thought.

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  12. Who funds, who does and who publishes/cites research is an interesting subject. But ...and its a big 'but' for me, the problem with research these days is who uses it, which bits they use and why.
    Non scientific and patently unqualified persons from various walks of life seem to think that quoting 'scientific research' gives them carte blanche and some cache [how come the French is more expressive than English!] [think how many 'experts' there are in the Commons e.g.]. There is a deadly trend for bits and bobs, cherries and irrelevancies to be spoken, quoted, printed and blogged - and most of it is inaccurate, sometimes deceitful and always there is an ulterior motives.
    Why am I such a cynic I wonder.

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    1. Stella, 'twas ever thus, and not only with science:

      "The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole."

      (Nietzsche, and no doubt it went on long before that)

      But as to ulterior motives, it's when science is funded by commercial interests that I start to get suspicious. Let not Nipper bite the hand that cranks the phonograph.

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  13. If you have the data collected in the right way it might be worth trying to calculate a series of two year Impact Factors for each of the organisations. This is the measure that scientific journals use to measure their apparent 'worth'. It is flawed, but it is a metric that evens out variations between organisations that have significantly different outputs to give a comparable index.

    http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/free/essays/impact_factor/

    If done over a series of 2 year periods going back over a number of years you could get a more robust view of how the citation patterns have changed for the different organisations over time.

    This might involve significantly more number crunching from your anonymous collaborator!

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  14. The issue might be refined to what use is a piece of science when completed - your table sheds no light on that question. More is not better. If you, representing some scientists feel that in some way GWCT is lacking punch, then so be it - the organisation will continue to do work to try and answer questions that land managers needed yesterday - much of that work funded by the private sector. Something around might chime -'And why behold you the mote that is in your brother's eye, but perceive not the beam that is in your own eye..'

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  15. Possibly the most interesting aspect of this blog is not the analysis itself, but the nature of some of the responses. Yes it's fine to point out the methodology may be flawed and the reasons why, but would it not be better to also say 'you may have a point, and it should be looked into' rather than just defend?

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  16. It would be invidious to expect the GWCT scientists to defend themselves, but I am proud to do so on their behalf. I have been involved with the trust since 1989 and have chaired its Upland Research Steering Committee for several years. I can confirm that the range and quality of its research is as strong and influential as it has ever been. Just look at the way that the results of the Otterburn project have contributed to a marked shift in the RSPB's policy on predator control in relation to waders.

    As others have said, it is not a competition, and I suggest it is rather fruitless to present it as such.

    I am more intrigued by your choice of image to illustrate your original post - Evelyn Waugh's brilliant social satire, Decline and Fall. Are you making some not very subtle comment about class, rather as you did in your gratuitously personal attack on Magnus Linklater some months ago?

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    1. Lazywell - no I wasn't. That's the trouble with your class - too touchy by half (that's a joke by the way). And I regard your last sentence as a gratuitously personal attack on me (that's another joke by the way).

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  17. What we don't ever see is the work that isn't published because the results don't fit the policy/agenda.

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  18. I'm sorry but I have been away for a few days and missed your response to my origional note. For the record I would make the following points.
    Your analysis tells us nothing about the quality of the various organisations research, and I am happy to say that I am not concerned that the quality of GWCT research has or willdecline. What it does undoubtedly show is that GWCT and other small conservation organisations conduct a disproportionate of research when compared with the big boys. While you were part of the management of the RSPB your data shows that this immense, rich and powerful organisation produced no more research than two relatively tiny organisations, BTO and GWCT combined, and significantly less than those plus WWT. This can only be the result of a strategic management decisions in which you were involved. It is to be hoped that the new management invests more importance in research than was the case in your day.
    I did not, as you suggest, ignore your 'research', I read it carefully and found it wanting, but I promise to read it with even greater attention when it is peer reviewed and published.
    One final point, claiming licence on the basis that you wrote the piece to be 'mischevious' and 'entertaining' cuts no more ice than an aging DJ claiming his sexist remarks were 'harmless banter'. There is nothing entertaining in attacking hardworking, dedicated scientists who continue to find solutions for serious conservation problems.

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    1. Ian - there is no need to apologise, at least not for the delay in your response.

      You aren't completely correct to say that the analysis says little about the quality of the various organisations' research - it clearly does. Having a paper published in a scientific journal tells us something about the quality right from the start. And the number of citations tells us something more. And then that slightly complicates 'h' tells us something more again. So rather than the analysis telling us nothing as you suggest it tells us something of the quality of the science but not, as is clearly stated and explained in my blog, everything.

      You then move on to the quantity of scientific output and have a go at the RSPB (and me - but I don't mind that at all). It really doesn't take very much thought to realise that the four organisations which I (with help from a mysterious and anonymous co-worker) looked at are very different in terms of the spread of their work. That's why I said that it would be interesting to compare the measures in terms of pounds spent or person employed (but I also pointed out that would be very difficult to do and might not actually be much closer to a full appreciation of the value of science).

      If the GWCT were buying and managing land, running the largest youth wildlife club in the UK, saving tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Sierra Leone and publishing a members' magazine read by 2 million people then that would make the comparison much easier.

      You can check what I wrote and I didn't say that I wrote the blog to be mischievous and entertaining. I wrote the blog to shine a bit of a light on the scientific output of the relevant organisations. I then wrote it up in an entertaining and mischievous way but the facts still stand however unpalatable they are to you. No scientist was attacked in what I wrote - only one was named, and he was praised, and he worked for the GCT before it got a W.

      As for my own role in what you seem to think is the RSPB's dismal performance then I can only hold up my hands and take a share of responsibility. I was a practising scientist for the RSPB in the late 1980s and early 1990s and produced some of the cited papers encompassed by this analysis, and then I was the head of the RSPB's science department for 7 years, and then the Conservation Director with responsibility for the RSPB's science as well as many other things for over 12 years. I'm quite happy with the RSPB record over that period though I'm sure I and we could have done better. It was also though a period in which the RSPB turned great science into national population increases of bitterns, stone curlews, corncrakes and cirl buntings too. And bought some land, saved some rainforests and enthused millions of young people and tens of millions of the not so young. Thanks for reminding me.

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  19. Don't think I'm not grateful. I love all the car parks and retail outlets you built and use them whenever I can. I'm also a fan of the excellent marketing operations which move vast quantities of foodstuffs from the third world into bird feeders around the UK. I just don't see why you want to be so nasty all the time.
    Unless I have missed something GWCT scientist have never done anything nasty to you, so why pick on them?
    'No scientist was attacked in what I wrote', we are all grown up, please don't try that silly ploy. It is of course fatuous to suggest that when you seek to rubbish GWCT science you do not criticise the scientists. Let's try 'The English Test Team are rubbish but all the players are all brilliant'. It doesn't really work does it.
    I have not had chance to ask them yet but when I do I would be quite suprised if they see it your way. Just for the record, I, the trustees and the membership are very proud of them.
    Finally, your modest, as ever, rehearsal of a mere handful of your manifest achievements makes me wonder once again why you have never thought of taking up jazz, anyone who can blow their own trumpet so enthusiastically is a genuine loss to the club circuit.
    Sorry, I was just being 'mischievious'.

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    1. Ian - that's quite OK, Ian. I can see you need to deflect attention from the subject of the blog and the data analysis it contains. An analysis whose message you hardly touch upon in your comments.

      With the English Test team you do often have to wonder about the selectors and the management, don't you?

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  20. As far as I am aware GWCT hasn't lost a Test. We are a small organisation working within our limited means to answer important conservation questions. You have chosen to launch a gratuitous attack on the quality of our science apparently as a result of some anecdotal remarks at a Game Fair over 2 years ago. This attack is based on 'research' carried out by someone who wants, perhaps not suprisingly, to remain anonymous. The piece is couched in terms which you have subsequently described as 'entertaining' and ends in a rather crude 'warning'. To quote you, 'GWCT would be wise not to get into a bragging match about who has got the biggest with the RSPB - if you are drooping then nobody is that impressed'. In the circumstances it is frankly bizarre that you expect a measured response from people towards whom you have been so gratuitously offensive.
    My own view, which you will of course ignore, is that if you want serious reponses from serious people you should avoid anecdote, anonymity and especially schoolboy smut.

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  21. What an embarrassing to-and-fro between these two spokespersons of British Conservation. What hope does our wildlife have with petty attacks like these the norm between defenders of what are two very important organisations.

    Why is the focus so often on polarisation and 'us versus them' arguments, rather than on working together with common goals.

    Unfortunately this is a petty, unimportant, useless and irrelevant attack on the GWCT by you Mark. The GWCT are an organisation which shares much common ground with the RSPB, and this should always be the focus of moving British Conservation forward. The GWCT are far from a perfect voice for the British Countryside (as are the BTO, WWT, RSPB etc etc), but they are an important part of conservation and research nevertheless (as are the BTO, WWT, RSPB etc etc). We need far less division and more cooperation and collaboration.

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