[Taxacom] Is this science?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Jun 17 16:55:51 CDT 2021

 Hi Peter,Your remarks show just how effective a strategy it is to blind the reader with details as a distraction from the fact there is actually no substance in a scientific report. Let's just focus for now on the conclusion in the report: 
'In our study, functional traits did not produce results that are generalisable to other contexts. This is disappointing  because we believe that the use of functional traits provides a  more mechanistic  way  to understand the impacts of global change than the taxon-based metrics, provided micro-gradients are also measured. Trait-based measures may comprise a more  sensitive  method for detecting generalisable  change because they can be pooled over sets of species that appear rarely in the data.  However,  the use  of functional  traits  is  still a  relatively  novel approach  for  invertebrate community  studies  (Fountain-Jones  et al., 2015), and so  careful selection of  traits is key  to using this  approach (Fountain-Jones et al. 2015), as is considerable replication both within and between sites. These effects will be challenging to tease out experimentally  because  of  the large numbers of sites required to obtain a generalisable result. It may be that observational data, using landforms and elevation to create microclimatic and fertility gradients, will be the most successful approach to generate predictions of the effects of climate change on alpine invertebrates.'
Given that the paragraph is effectively the sum result of 4 years of charity funded research into "climate change", involving numerous trips from one of the country to the other, helicopter rides to the study site, etc., is it not fair enough to seek some clarification of what was actually concluded and whether the results justify further funding in the hope that something useful may be concluded eventually, or was it in fact a lost cause from the get go? These are big questions, hard to answer, which is why I'm seeking other opinions. If you can paraphrase the conclusion in a way that makes it clear, then I'd be very grateful (and impressed!) To me, it is little more than a nebulous statement to the effect that, after 4 years of trying, there were no meaningful conclusions to be extracted from the data, further work will be "challenging" (a euphemism for impossible), but there is nevertheless certainly a will to continue the project for as long as the funding keeps coming (don't forget how the funding was obtained). The methodology of the project, although phrased in overly jargonistic terms, seems to me to be nothing more than putting open wire mesh cages over dug in pitfall traps, hoping that the sun shining on material fabric around the top of the cage will simulate climate change, and leaving the cages out day and night for 4 months. Somehow, I suspect that this was never going to tell us anything about the responses of alpine beetles to climate change! But, if you disagree, my mind is open. I'd prefer to be wrong, as I really don't like the picture of science that this case illustrates, if it is indeed as I suspect.
Cheers, Stephen
    On Friday, 18 June 2021, 09:31:40 am NZST, Peter A Rauch via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:  
You stated, "... [the research project / publication] is a deliberate
attempt at obfuscation to try to make something of nothing ...."

John begged for some more details about what specifically concerned you.

I found the "obfuscation" too obfuscated to find it in the report, so can
you elaborate on this point, please.

I also couldn't locate "nothing" in the report, so I was unable to assess
whether "something" was written about "nothing". Something I did find in
the report was a lot of information on what was done, why it was done, how
it was done, and what was concluded from all of that effort.  Was all of
that sufficient to call it "valid science", or alternatively, sufficient
information to label it "invalid science"? Perhaps you can suggest what
about the report invalidates the work as not-science (surely it wasn't the
helicopter rides, nor the source(s) of funding, per se).

Reviewing a research report is a lot of work, esp. when asked to do so on a
vague suggestion that it smells like "garbage". Please contribute more
substance if you're going to ask folks to invest their own dear time to
assess your (detailed) concerns.

Peter R

On Thu, Jun 17, 2021 at 1:08 PM Stephen Thorpe via Taxacom <
taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:

>  So John, your response is effectively the same as the response that I
> initially received on the matter from a then associate professor, now
> promoted to full professor, which was quote public money gets wasted all
> the time, so why are you making such a big deal of this case? UnquoteYou
> seem to think that if a problem is sufficiently common, then it is ok. I'll
> tell that to the next person who is dying of cancer, i.e. people are dying
> of cancer all the time, so why are you making such a big deal of it? Who
> knows, 4 years worth of funding from a charity, in which the University has
> an insider installed as chair, could have better contributed something to
> cancer research. Instead it resulted in a publication which I would
> challenge anyone to paraphrase even just the conclusion paragraph into
> something which makes any sense. At least with your garbage, John, your
> methodology and conclusions are clear. There are no suggestions of funding
> fueled deception of any kind on your part. It is more a case of a healthy
> debate on biogeography itself, so not a good analogy here.Stephen
>    On Friday, 18 June 2021, 01:09:26 am NZST, John Grehan <
> calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:
>  Stephen - it might have been more informative for you to state what you
> think is garbage about the paper which leaves the option for others to
> weigh in if they want to. Science is full of garbage, including my own
> (according to others), so that in of itself is nothing new. Research
> Associate positions usually imply (implicitly or explicitly) concordance
> between the Associate and the institution. If one becomes uncomfortable
> with activities of that institution one can either withdraw, or be
> withdrawn - as in your case.
> Cheers, John Grehan
> On Thu, Jun 17, 2021 at 3:22 AM Stephen Thorpe via Taxacom <
> taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:
>  It seems that the link to ResearchGate isn't coming through on the
> Taxacom post. It can be found by Googling
> "Determining_species_diversity_and_functional_traits_of_beetles_for_monitoring_the_effects_of_environmental_change_in_the_New_Zealand_alpine_zone"
>    On Thursday, 17 June 2021, 07:12:31 pm NZST, Stephen Thorpe <
> stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> wrote:
>  Dear Taxacomers,A few years ago, I posted regarding a project being run
> as an MSc, by a major university around here, in the name of climate
> change. The project seemed to me to be garbage designed to suck external
> funding and load it with expenses (travel and accommodation between the two
> ends of the country, including helicopter rides to the study site). My
> attempts to bring my concerns about the project to light resulted in my
> expulsion as a research associate from the university. I have just now seen
> the publication resulting from the 4 year project: (PDF) Determining
> species diversity and functional traits of beetles for monitoring the
> effects of environmental change in the New Zealand alpine zoneMy opinion on
> the publication is that it is a deliberate attempt at obfuscation to try to
> make something of nothing. I would be very interested in any comments. Is
> this valid science? I have my opinion, but I could be wrong.Cheers,Stephen
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