Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bad science, bad fishing, bad spawning--The March of Science News 6.9.05

Almost a third of scientists said they diddle the facts a little, a lot of fishermen cause collateral damage, and whatever happened to the shad.
June 9, 2005


Do as I say, not as I do, or not doAs many as one third of American scientists have done something questionable in their work. A confidential survey funded by the National Institutes of Health says that science is becoming so competitive, that the pressures to move the ethical lines are overwhelming many. That doesn’t mean—as some reporters wrote—they have all done something unethical; many of their actions are subject to interpretation. Nonetheless, 27.5 percent admitted to inadequate record-keeping; 15.5 percent admitted to changing the design, methodology or results under pressure from the funding source; 15.3 percent said they dropped observations or data points because they had the gut feeling the numbers were wrong; 13.5 admitted using inadequate or inappropriate research designs; 12.5 percent said they overlooked bad results from other people; 10.8 percent said they withheld details of methodology or results in papers or proposals, and 10 percent assigned authorship inappropriately. Interestingly, the author had trouble getting the study published. Science and the Journal of the American Medical Association rejected it and Nature accepted it only as a commentary. [Story is premium content and Nature won't let you see it unless you have a paid subscription] Anyone what to guess whose picture I used?

Goodbye, and thanks for the fish—Almost 1,000 marine mammals are killed in fishing nets every day and unless changes in trawling methods are changed, the slaughter will continue, according to the World Wildlife Federation. It poses one of the greatest threats to Cetacea and some species are being pushed to the brink of extinction. The fishing industry calls the collateral damage “bycatch”—as in oops, we didn’t really mean to kill you. The WWF report says that 10 species in total—including harbor porpoises in the Black Sea, the Atlantic humpback dolphin and the Franciscana dolphins of South America—are at the gravest risk, as is the Irrawaddy dolphin, among the rarest. The main culprit are gill nets, WWF said, because the dolphins and whales can’t spot them.


Waiter, get me shad roe—Waiters following Cole Porter’s request will have a harder time than usual: the number of shad in the Chesapeake Bay area is mysteriously down. The fish are counted at a huge fish elevator—the largest in North America—at the Conowingo Dam, on the Susquehanna River, just north of the bay. The dam is one of four blocking the route of the shad as they swim to their spawning area. To help the fish get up river, a $15 million fish elevator was built into the dam and it seemed to work, saving the herring-like fish from extinction. But this year the numbers are down mysteriously. The lift transported about 70,000 fish during the spawning season, down from 130,000-140,000 they usual count. Reasons are pure speculation at this point, mostly centered on temperature changes in the bay. Shad were the fish that saved George Washington’s Valley Forge encampment, suddenly showing up when the army ran out of food, called “savior shad.” See John McFee’s The Founding Fish.

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