Why is Natural England so reluctant to disclose a piece of science?

I’ve been asking Natural England and the BTO to send me a copy of a 2018 BTO research report. The BTO say they can’t because NE won’t let them (see my email to BTO, their reply to me and my response to them) and Natural England just say I can’t have it (see here). I think they must send it to me – but we’ll see.

This is what I have just sent NE:

Dear Natural England

Thank you for your speedy response to my EIR.

Please treat this email as a reaffirmation of my request for the report in question and a rejection of your arguments.

Please either send me the report on Monday 27 July or treat this email as a formal complaint about your unresponsive response.

Please note that there are some further EIR requests embedded in this email.

Your response:
You say ‘The 2018 review reflected interim findings which were refined during the course of 2019. That interim analysis is no longer relied on in internal Natural England guidance.‘.  Fine, but by saying ‘…is no longer relied on…’ you are saying that it was once relied on, and that’s why I want to see it, and it is part of the reason I am entitled to see it. 

Moreover, since your NE document “Guidance on evaluating the ecological consequences of badger culling on European Sites (For Internal Use Only; Working Draft; August 2018 (10.09)” was published some time in August 2018 it was the guidance used by NE staff in some part of August 2018, all of September 2018, all of October 2018, all of November 2018 and all of December 2018 as well as an unknown ( unknown to me, that is) period of 2019.

That NE document describes itself as ‘a live internal guidance document designed for use by Natural England staff‘ not a document that should never be used or one which is dead, dormant or fast asleep. Further it exhorts NE staff to ‘make sure you are using the latest document‘ thus again expressing how it should be used not ignored.

You then say that there is further analysis being done to the data. Fine. And that will be published in the future. Fine! But I want to see the original report, please. A research report and a peer-reviewed publication are different things and I want to see the former and will obviously look forward with great interest to the latter as well.  The report is two years old – it might even be terribly dull – I’d like to see it please.

Your internal guiidance to staff was an expression of NE’s policy and position – the fact that it might change in the future does not mean that it didn’t exist in the past. And the BTO report was a completed analysis on which NE’s policy and position were partly based. I reject your arguments and ask again for a copy of the BTO report.

The response I got from the BTO a few days ago nowhere says that the BTO is unwilling for the report to be released, only that it is up to you, NE, to decide and the BTO puts the blame (or credit) for your peculiarly secretive behaviour firmly on you and not them.

Further EIR requests:
Please reveal the publication dates of all subsequent versions of “Guidance on evaluating the ecological consequences of badger culling on European Sites (For Internal Use Only; Working Draft; August 2018 (10.09)” and whether they reference the BTO research report in question.

Please reveal the date on which the BTO invoiced NE for their research report (the 2018 review) and the date on which they were paid.

Please send me all communications between the BTO and NE on the subject of the BTO research report from 1 June 2018 to the present day.

Natural England, your secretive behaviour over what is simply a research report is very strange. It makes me highly suspicious and curious about what you are trying to hide. It may be foolish of me to think that way, but that’s what your unwarranted secrecy and unconvincing justification make me think.

Do have a lovely weekend.

Dr Mark Avery

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5 Replies to “Why is Natural England so reluctant to disclose a piece of science?”

      1. Something in the water perhaps?
        That comet is doing some funny things. Probably.

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  1. I'm sure I'm not alone in cheering from the sidelines. Given their recent behaviour on many issues NE thoroughly deserve to be called out both by yourself and Raptor Persecution. It's the nation's wildlife they are meant to be protecting not vested interests.

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  2. Well done again Mark. The double talk of NE and DEFRA is astonishing and defies all logic. We have Eustice complaining there are too many lawyers involved in nature, wildlife and the environment and yet NE operates in a veil of secrecy almost all the time. When DEFRA and NE starts to act for the benefit of our wildlife and not, as they are doing at present, presiding over its slow but steady degradation because all the time DEFRA is supporting Tory Party vested interests, then the legal challenges can PERHAPS be reduced. However I think this is a long time off, judging from DEFRAs and NEs current lamentable performances

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