Below is a letter I sent yesterday to Drs. Ernest and Hull of the UC Davis wildlife genetics lab at the veterinary school. These two have collaborated with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory to publish some of the weakest science I have ever read. The worst science is not false science, but science with small remnants of intriguing elements of value intermingled with a lot of chaff. That is how I would characterize three recent publications from this lab, two on redtail hawks and one on redshoulders. I will be commenting in more detail soon...
To Drs. Ernest and Hull --
Hello -- I have been reading recent publications from your lab, all of them with Joshua Hull as lead author. I have been more than disappointed with several that I have read, but I have not read all of them. I find at least three of them to be appalling in the sense that they grossly exaggerate their own scientific and conservation value and generally rely on poor field methodologies with a profound lack of appropriate rigor in sampling. The conclusions and the assertions in the text are usually hollow and sometimes unrelated to any level of demonstrated data gathering or analysis. I had to literally laugh out loud at the profound revelation that California red-shouldered hawks are genetically different than eastern red-shouldered hawks and that "management as separate conservation units may be warranted". Really! Is someone going to start managing these birds anywhere? Some of the papers present interesting data that could be shared as brief research notes, but the papers I am reading are full of meaningless prose and exceedingly self-serving to the authors and not to science or to conservation of the raptors that I love and which I personally study intensely in northern California, not just in migration, but in the totality of their local lives. I see a waste of public funding in a time of economic crisis. I see misleading characterizations of real-world conservation relevance of your published work. I would not necessarily call it scientific fraud, but it approaches a nexxus between incompetence and fraud and the fact that this work is being published is a horrible indictment of peer review in today's scientific world. I understand why several prominent ecologists have stated publicly and privately that peer review is broken in a profound way. It is especially sad to see labs like yours cranking out bad work and training new scientists to replicate the bad work using poorly reviewed and edited publications to demonstrate precedents. I will be commenting on this publicly and privately within the raptor and conservation communities. Stan Moore San Geronimo, CA