Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Crack whoring the OSU forestry dispute

I suppose if I were willing to whore myself out to anonymous blog underwriters, I too would be willing to abandon all pretense of ethics and be a shill.

But I'm not and I won't.

Would that Mike Dubrasich could say the same thing. Dubrasich claims to be forester, working in the private sector since 1982. He's also got himself a very nasty "kill the messenger" post on his bought and paid for blog:

There is a hidden issue in the latest salvage-logging-after-catastrophic-forest-fires hoo-rah that strikes me as important. Dan Donato is just a kid, to me. He is a twenty-something Masters student. He has no significant background, training, or experience in anything. Did you when you were twenty-something? Me neither.

Dan was set up. He applied and was admitted to grad school at OSU CoF. He was assigned a major professor, Bev Law.

Dr. Beverly E. Law is Associate Professor of Global Change Forest Science in the College of Forestry, and she has an adjunct appointment with the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University.

Bev had already wangled the funding for the Biscuit Burn Study as part of an OSU/BLM joint research effort. Bev assigned the field work to Dan, as is the practice. That’s what grad students are for.

Jeez. That's not just whoring, that's CRACK whoring. And its not even entertaining, well-informed crack whoring.

I've not interviewed Donato so I have no idea how his grad study assignment went down. I'm willing to bet the bill for my son's orthodonture that Dubrasich hasn't talked to Donato either. He's pulling this out of his ass.

The accusation that Law "wangled the funding" for the Biscuit Burn Study is laughable on its face.

Had Dubrasich taken a few minutes to read the OSU College of Forestry website, he might not have made such a monumental ass out of himself.

Linked to the OSU CoF site is a Bureau of Land Management Overview (warning: PDF) The BLM Overview unequivocally states that the Biscuit Fire project was funded through the Joint Fire Science Program(JFSP).

According to its website, the JSFP is "a partnership of six Federal wildland and fire and research organizations". Its unlikely that this group is interested in any leftwing librul fringe stuff. In addition, the JFSP website FAQ notes that part of their mission is to solicit proposals for science projects that answer questions or solve problems having to do with wildland fuels issues. The scientists within those six agencies would have to be the ones that decide who gets the money. I have a call in to the communications director of JSFP to confirm their process.

Its a straightforward competitive grants process. Law didn't "wangle" anything.

Dubrasich continues his pixel diarreah:

Dan did two summers of field work. His study design was funky, but it was the design he had been assigned. Dan did not use standard forestry sampling methods, perfected over a hundred years of practice, critique, and improvement. He used some goofy method, dumped on him by his major professor, who herself is not a forester, or a forest mensurationist, or a forest biometrician, and has zero experience at measuring anything.

His design was so funky that the most presigious scientific journal in the country, after reviewing the work, decided it was worthy of publishing. The staff at Science conduct a peer review before publication. They specifically noted that Donato's project had a "robust design".

So much for that.

And then there's another obligatory swipe at Law:

Bev is not a forester, but she is as political as all get out, and hugely biased. She is the one who suggested and oversaw the crappy methodology. She is the one who helped Dan directly with the faulty analysis and the cheap, political wording. She is the one who decided that the pseudo-ersatz Science Mag was the proper outlet. She is the one who set all that up. She is the one who jumped the BLM and violated the contract. She is the one who skirted all true peer review. Her name appears last on the paper, but the paper, its content, its review, and its publication are entirely a result of Bev’s exercise of her professorial responsibilities.

Many well respected, knowledgable scientists who work on forest research aren't foresters. That's a serious red herring. In fact, I couldn't find a single self identifying forester in the OSU Department of Forest Science. As far as "true peer review" goes, that's what getting published in a major journal IS--peer review. Dubrasich is either outright lying or he's completely ignorant of how peer reviewed scientific research is published. Neither makes him especially qualified to offer comment on this issue.

I have no idea if logging and reforestation in burned regions is best or if allowing the forest to regenerate on its own is best. No honest scientist can say that they know for sure. Smearing the scientists who do work in which you don't like the outcome is cowardly, unethical and smarmy.

If Dubrasich is really that torqued about the methodology, he should be a man and submit his "review" of Donato's paper to Science. When real scientists disagree with research methods or outcomes..they submit letters to the journal that published it. That gives those who conducted the disputed research the opportunity for rebuttal and clarification.

Instead Dubrasich hides behind his paid for blog--spouting smears and misinformation.