Announcement: the Slippery Secret Salmon Science Society (S5) is hosting Seance Saturday (S2)…
It’s called S5 + S2 = ??
If you can answer the question you win a new neutron microscope…
(remember your secret spawning salmon handshake…)
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As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been reviewing various kernels of information on the Cohen Commission. One can surf through the Executive Summaries of some of the technical reports — only one of the reports is available to download (Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon).
Some others are hidden in transcripts as “evidence”. Others are not available yet. And one — Project 11 – Fraser River sockeye salmon: status of DFO science and management — is apparently not going to be done. At least according to the most recently posted status report:
Commission counsel have decided not to present project 11, Fraser River Sockeye Salmon – Status of DFO Science and Management, into evidence. The financial information requested by the commission’s researcher for project 11 could not be obtained in the time frame needed to complete the intended analyses.
Further, the Commissioner has heard or will hear direct evidence on the issues covered in the technical report. In particular, the Commissioner will hear evidence directly from DFO witnesses on these issues during the final hearing topic, “DFO Priorities & Summary.”
Hmmm… the report that would most likely shine the light on the biggest culprit in Fraser sockeye declines slinks off into oblivion.
Might some surmise this is because the small world of salmon scientists didn’t want to open the can of worms and potentially affect their chances of securing contracts with the only show going out there — the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?
(I wouldn’t want to be so cynical… however, some may not find it a huge stretch…)
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A couple of curious things I’ve noticed in reading the Technical Reports:
1. Each report has two reviewers — comments and responses from reviewers and report authors are recorded at the end of the documents.
Now, one should probably conclude that this is meant as a quasi-peer review process — the great leveler of scientific literature. Oddly, though, many of the reviewers are some of the authors of other Commission technical reports. And more oddly, some of the reviewers are co-authors of other papers with the authors of the technical reports that they are reviewing.
Is this really a transparent, open method of reviewing and providing critical feedback?
Or, is this the ‘secret’ society of salmon scientists…?
Is the world of salmon experts really so small that something as important as the science review for the Cohen Commission resembles a tight-knit Conservative Party climate change fundraiser in Calgary (the heart of oil and gas co. headquarters)?
Even reading through one of the better technical reports — Project 9 – Effects of climate change on Fraser River sockeye salmon — one reads about the past in-depth research done by these two researchers paid for by… the Pacific Salmon Commission and DFO…
Did you read in yesterday’s post how a “seance” is sometimes known simply as a: “sitting of a society”?
Is this “scientific” work simply a seance of a salmon society?
2. The bulk of the reports appear to simply be literature reviews. Some go so far as to hypothesize qualitative matrices (“the matrix”) and so on that organize literature reviews into some sort of quasi-scientific view of the salmon world.
And, there is a whole lot of: “due to limited data…” and “lack of data…” and “lack of data limited testing for cause and effect…” and “Due to our inability to rigorously test for cause effect relationships…”
And so on, and so on…
And take a guess at what the bulk of the recommendations are…?
“We need more research…”
“We highly recommend research priorities focus on…”
“more research…” “More Research…” and (you got it) “MORE RESEARCH…”
Is this not akin to police doing investigations on themselves and concluding no wrong-doing…or… more investigations required?
Or, politicians recommending their own raises and increases to expense accounts…or increased terms?
Ok… maybe a bit of a stretch… and not necessarily similar — simply intended to make a point… there is some irony in scientific researchers saying they need to do more research — when that’s what brings home the bacon.
Some of this should potentially be taken with a big truckload of salt… we can research EVERYTHING further… or summarize research further, or review research, or identify gaps, or… or…
The other danger of this approach is that it makes implementing real change — rather difficult.
Why implement change when “we just don’t know… we’re not sure… the apparent evidence is not conclusive.”?
It’s not all that different… than say… cancelling elections and simply basing governments on poll results. Or, waiting until Inuvik, NWT experiences green Christmases before implementing real climate change policy…
Watching election coverage last night, Elizabeth May the Green Party leader and first elected North American Green Party candidate quipped: “the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals…”
Granted, that apparently god was directing Noah’s building plans… however, the Titanic was most definitely deemed unsinkable by the pros…
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Now, I recognize these technical reports for the Cohen Commission are meant for the privilege of Justice Cohen himself.
The commission established a scientific research program to enhance the Commissioner’s understanding of the science behind the decline of Fraser River sockeye. The commission contracted with qualified and experienced external scientific researchers to study a wide range of technical and scientific issues designed to address potential causes for the decline. (from Apr. 27 Status Report)
My quick look-up of the definition of “enhancement” suggests: “To make greater, as in value, beauty, or effectiveness; augment.” So I’m guessing the Commissioner might have augmented knowledge, or more effective knowledge, or even beautiful knowledge of salmon science… or… errrr… ummm… the apparent incredible “lack of data”… “limited data” … and the mass of opinions in the slippery salmon science society suggesting “more research required” .
Let’s hope that this augmented knowledge sees past the slippery secret society to suggest real meaningful change — because if real change is to be dictated by scientists… then we’re going to be waiting a lot longer than the great bovine herd return… (errr… homecoming of the cows…)
Plus isn’t science supposed to be “objective”… e.g. “presented factually”… and how do we do that if we don’t have ALL the data? all the “facts”? the “truth”?
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I recognize this is a little tough on the scientific institution… there is a valuable place for science, and I’m prone as the next wild salmon guy to quote my gumboot biology textbook… however, healthy wild salmon runs aren’t really about SCIENCE… They’re about politics and political will.
There are a heck of a lot more scientists involved in stating that climate change is here, here to stay, and one of the greatest threats to humankind… there are scientist declarations… scientists warnings… scientists sit-ins… scientist hunger strikes — stating that climate change is here, and it could be devastating.
But show me the life altering policy changes at the political level… show me a current sitting politician (not a previous politician flying hundreds of thousands of kms a year touting the dangers of climate change…) that is making the hard decisions to stem the tide…
Even this Cohen Commission report #11 states:
Overall, the weight of the evidence on the adverse effects of recent warming on survival of some individual life stages, as well as its possible cumulative effects across life stages, suggest that climate change has been a possible contributor to the observed declining trend in abundance and productivity of Fraser River sockeye salmon over the past 20 years.
And so if climate change is having a negative effect… what difference do any other changes make, if most world governments refuse to make changes to the things causing climate change?
So where is the research reports for the Cohen Commission on political decision-making? — a literature review of all the political decisions that have endangered salmon runs (or cod… or sturgeon… or whales… etc.)?
Science plays a part… yes… but politics rule the game…
And how are you salmon folks feeling about the new majority rule here in Canada (put in with about 40% of the popular vote)? Think it’s going to get better for wild salmon out there?