Grouse shooters’ secret report with secret funding set up by PR company

Curiouser and curiouser!

The story so far; Ian Botham claims that there is work done by Newcastle and Durham Universities which shows that there are birds on grouse moors, but Newcastle University researchers won’t release the report as the analysis isn’t completed and the report was just for the funders of the study. Who were the funders? Newcastle University researchers won’t say who are the funders.

It now emerges that various universities were approached by a PR company (although see below) called Dawn Driscoll PR late in 2016 with a view to carrying out this work.

The work is funded by grouse moor owners.

So we have a number of universities tapped up by a PR company acting on behalf of a bunch of grouse moor owners. Not exactly normal practice is it?

GWCT scientists must be thrilled that their community now gets its research via a PR company approaching academics and dangling money under their noses.


The strange thing is that Dawn Driscoll PR Ltd was dissolved in August 2016 and yet someone called Dawn, using an email of, was soliciting research proposals into December 2016.


16 Replies to “Grouse shooters’ secret report with secret funding set up by PR company”

  1. Perhaps they (shooting industry) should fund the BTO to do the research for them, seeing how they like to insist that non-existant BTO surveys support their claims.

    If they did that then I’m sure the BTO would make the results available to anyone who asked. That probably explain why they don’t, public research would surely counter their claims.

    On the subject of surveys they could save themselves some time :

    Densities of breeding golden plover and lapwing were five times higher and those of red grouse and curlew twice as high on grouse moors as on other moors, while meadow pipit, skylark, whinchat and carrion/hooded crow were 1·5, 2·3, 3·9 and 3·1 times less abundant, respectively, on grouse moors.

    1. Sorry forgot to referance that quote for anyone intrested.
      Tharme, A.P., Green, R.E., Baines, D., Bainbridge, I.P. and O’Brien, M. (2001), The effect of management for red grouse shooting on the population density of breeding birds on heather-dominated moorland. Journal of Applied Ecology, 38: 439–457. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2664.2001.00597.x

    2. Anthony – Yes it’s good to know that there are Red Grouse on grouse moors – that’s a relief!

      Those results look like the Tharme et al results to me – from memory – carried out by RSPB and GWCT together (yes it was, published in 2001 – I’ve checked). 122 estates were surveyed over two years – I wonder whether the current study approaches that level? that survey showed that Black Grouse densities were the same on grouse moors and non-grouse moors – a finding that the grouse shooters find difficult to accept.

  2. You’d have thought Beefy and his chums could have got a high profile, heavyweight outfit on the case – Bell Pottinger for example?

    1. No you would not. “Beefy and his chums” as you refer to him/them in a typically derogatory fashion, do not have a fraction of the financial wherewithal available to the RSPB.

    1. From her Twitter account she seems a decent sort. Perhaps she is hard up and didn’t realise the implications of what the clients were involved in.

      She says in an advert:- “My job is to help leaders and organisations improve & manage their reputation.”

      Well she has plenty to get her teeth into there!

  3. I would be interested to see their survey methods and the credentials of the people actually taking part in the survey

    1. As I commented in a previous blog post, it would be reasonable to assume various things about methodology etc. when a scientific (even social) study is being undertaken.

      However, sadly it seems that the ‘grouse moor owners’ do not follow normal scientific convention. Nor it seems do some follow the required law, which is why in my opinion, we need Vicarious Liability in England – but that’s another discussion?

      If and when it appears it will receive the appropriate critique I’m sure. But the #giftofgrouse continues giving and we can enjoy the experience and expose the ongoing spin being bowled as just what it is?

  4. That the work was initiated by a PR company tells you the whole point of the exercise from the point of view of the funders. Lets hope the academics have got some principles and some balls.

  5. Pharmaceutical companies often involve PR consultants in the design of clinical studies and in the publication (or not) of the results. Often the papers are actually ghost-written by paid consultants, whose names do not appear on the author list. Lots of academics and clinicians go along with this practice.
    I’m sure it happens in other commercially-driven fields of research as well.
    Even the BTO has taken money from Songbird Survival for a study on predation, and some readers might (allegedly) argue that one might (hypothetically) be able to detect their influence in the way some of the results were presented.

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