NEWS: bad news for grouse shooting

It seems we have another five weeks or so to wait until the long, long, long awaited analysis of NE’s Hen Harrier tagging data is published.

But the title of the paper ‘Patterns of satellite tagged hen harrier disappearances suggest widespread illegal killing on British grouse moors’ is somewhat revealing.

No doubt Michael Gove and Therese Coffey have been taken through the findings already and have reassessed their inaction on grouse shooting and will be launching their new plan to coincide with publication of this science.


17 Replies to “NEWS: bad news for grouse shooting”

  1. Not being a scientist or an academic, that journal seems rather obscure to me, even if it is open to public access online. Not a case of trying to “bury” it, is it?
    Even if it is, I sure you will make sure it gets a wide readership, Mark. What ordinary person would have known if you hadn’t asked a FOI question and they didn’t read this blog?

    1. My understanding is that Nature Communications (alongside all Nature-published journals) is one of the most prestigious science journals globally, with a high impact factor. A key here (I think) is that publication in such a journal adds substantial weight to its findings, which will be important when the shooting community takes aim at its findings.

    2. Nature Communications is definitely not obscure – it’s one of more influential and higher-ranked journals. That this paper has been accepted into this journal is a good sign and even without Mark’s coverage, this should get plenty of publicity.

    3. Since it will be published towards the end of March, when the news cycle will be dominated by Brexitpocalypse and Brexiteers threatening bloody insurrection if they don’t get their Brexitpocalypse, they are absolutely burying it (burying it in the same grave as Britain’s future).

      1. …but the timing of publication is down to the journal (which is a global journal, publishing papers from all over the world on a broad range of natural sciences), not the authors. It’s got nothing to do with Brexit. Let’s not downplay this huge step forward for hen harrier conservation with conspiracy theories. In any case, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s published at the same time as Brexit or not – the science will be there and easily accessible for all for the forseeable future.

  2. Messi is correct: Nature Communications is really a pretty high profile journal – to the extent that these things are meaningful it is in the tier just below Nature/Science, which would themselves probably be unlikely to publish this work as I think they would judge it to be not quite of ‘global’ significance. As it is open access it does also ensure maximal readership, and because Nature has a policy on this, it should also mean that the data are open access:

  3. Apparently, the journal has an impact rating of “12.353”.
    Is that like a Blue Tit hitting your kitchen window, or a Sparrowhawk ?.

  4. Available in five weeks? Is there not something big happening politically around then? I seem to recall towards the end of March being somewhat crowded in terms of news. I wonder what else they will be burying then?

    1. The information will be out there in the public domain in a prestigious scientific journal. The apologists for grouse shooting will not be able to deny its existence and if, as the title suggests, it presents strong evidence of persecution on grouse moors, it knocks a huge chunk out of their (rather feeble) ‘plausible deniability’ strategy. As pointed out by others, the government is not really in a position to dictate when an independent journal is published so it seems to me unlikely that there is anything sinister about the date of publication beyond the foot-dragging that has resulted in it taking so long for this data to see the light of day.

      I guess that these days the news agenda is always crowded and, sadly, outside the conservation community, other news stories (world events, politics, celebrity tittle-tattle, sport…) are always likely to get more press attention than the conservation status of a bird that most people have never heard of let alone seen. It is up to all of us though to make sure that our political representatives are not allowed to overlook or forget this publication and its significance. Coffey’s pretence that the government is doing enough is seriously challenged by this and we must ensure that she is forced to confront that fact.

  5. Random22 – knowing the submission, peer review, revision, resubmission, head scratching, re-submit the original version which is then accepted…..process…..well, I doubt that any government could line this one up to go ‘live’ during the Brexit finale……
    It’s quite interesting that the government hasn’t blocked publication – they could easily have made sure these results were confined to an unpublished report.

  6. Being somewhat skeptical around politicians, I wonder if MG and TC will have much of a new plan! They don’t seem to have taken much notice of science as far as badgers are concerned.

  7. i polled a few friends in the USA to get a feel for their level of respect for the journal,
    they all feel that it has a high level of respect and is a very prestigious place to have something published, they had all heard of it before being asked the question too.

  8. ICYMI:

    Angela Smith Labour, Penistone and Stocksbridge
    To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many fledged hen harriers there were in 2018; how many of these birds were successfully fitted with tracking devices; and what estimate he has made of the number of birds still being tracked by satellite.

    Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    During 2018 an estimated 34 hen harriers fledged in England. Natural England fixed satellite tags to five of these birds, of which two were still transmitting at the end of January 2019. Including birds tagged in previous years, Natural England is currently tracking four birds.

    The RSPB fitted tags to approximately 30 hen harriers across the UK during 2018. As of November 2018, over two thirds of these tags were transmitting

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