[Coral-List] Science and advocacy

Dean Jacobson atolldino at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 21 01:57:04 EDT 2012

Seeking solutions is indeed critically important.  My research on coral disease among Majuro massive corals (published in the ICRS Proceedings) uncovered a geographic pattern that strongly suggests that the septic leachate of a relatively small number of houses is causing the problem, and the only solution I can imagine is building composting toilets (ct) and training the locals how to use them.  A small ct pilot project has started to protect our water lens further to the west (in Laura) but much more funding is needed.  Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Dean Jacobson
College of the Marshall Islands

 From: Shortfin Mako Shark <shortfin_mako_shark at yahoo.com>
To: Brittney Honisch <brittney.honisch at gmail.com>; Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> 
Cc: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> 
Sent: Friday, July 20, 2012 10:04 PM
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Science and advocacy
Science and advocay has been a great interest of mine having worked in all sectors (non-profit, state and federal government, and small and large corporatations). I have published a couple of articles in the past where I hinted that research is only conducted on species having the most economic value, which has sometimes bias the way researchers approach the problem. In fact, you won't get funded unless you meet the criteria of the funding agency.. For instance, I have seen some funding agencies focus on fishery impacts, while others only want to receive proposals on water quality. I learned a long time ago that if you work in the science world than policy is a very important aspect of how your work. Having worked for the primary state and federal agencies, you will not find to many agency folks voicing their own personal opinions. As agency staff they are required to wear many hats and are directed to be very careful with their own opinions; they
represent the agency. Even if you work in the private sector, folks represent their clients, so sometimes their are confidential agreements in which the scientist cannot discuss the project or the potential results. I think many would be surprised what we actually know about our natural resources; some of that information is owned by the private sector through proprietary rights. 
In the U.S., policy directs regulations, which is a balance between politics, stakeholder needs, general public, and science. Depending on the issue, the order can be alot different. In regards to advocacy, I have seen a huge transition in the universities since the 1980s when I started my academics. I will not name the universities, but some are graduating students that seem to be somewhat closed minded in terms of managing our natural resources. For instance, although I agree that MPAs are an appropriate appproach in some areas under pre-determined objectives, I have seen many young folks only advocating this as a management measure. Most biologists in my era grew up being recreational fishermen, divers, and hunters. The latest surveys indicate that recreational activities are decreasing, especially for some age groups (< 40 yrs old). Given these issues, I have personally seen advococy a problem in the working environment because some have
pushed advocacy while in the work place. If you work for the agencies then you follow the regulations plain and simple. If you work for the private sector than you follow your clients needs. I started seeing these issues in the work place around 2000, so I started looking in where folks had gone to school and what that school was pushing. Although intelectual ideas and phylosphy is important, the universities have to teach the next generation that the real world often works on a different standard. I recently attended a large regional fishery management council meeting here in the U.S., which honored a past member for serving some 20 years. He received a reward and stayed for the meeting. Interestingly, as a member of the public, he made public comments about various management issues. I believe many were somewhat shocked on his comments given he could not do so while he was a member of the council. Science and advocacy is a great subject. If you
guys are into sharks, take a look at the certain international universites.. They have graduated alot of students whose research focus is only at showing the decline of various populations; they rarely publish any work that showcases any potential solutions. Fishery managers already know the problems, they are looking for answers. I would encourage folks to re-direct your research at finding solutions; most of our natural resources (air, water, land) are facing many threats. If you can come up with solutions then you can direct policy and subsquently regulations.

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From: Brittney Honisch <brittney.honisch at gmail.com>
>To: Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> 
>Cc: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov" <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> 
>Sent: Thursday, July 19, 2012 6:09 PM
>Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Science and advocacy
>I totally concur. Scientists are trained to do objective work; however,
>that does not remove the ability of a scientist to disseminate that
>information and try to educate the public in an era of increasing
>misinformation. The public deserves a current account, and an accurate one
>- something the media may rarely deliver.. If we want people to take a stand
>on important issues, to become educated, and to actively participate in the
>decisions regarding imperiled systems, we can help bridge the information
>gap. This is not a conflict as long as we continue to hold ourselves to a
>high standard, and fully disclose all we can - what our research suggests,
>who funds us, and the potential implications of our observations. Not
>everyone has to choose to wear multiple hats, but I think the scientists
>that do can approach it in a way that is mutually beneficial for themselves
>and others.
>The scientific community is not completely insulated from policy or the
>public. The discussion of advocacy and education on this list serve is not
>evidence of interest groups overtaking Coral List, but merely the result of
>talking about pertinent issues and the environment in which we all work..
>Brittney Honisch
>Masters Candidate
>University of the Virgin Islands
>On Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 4:25 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net> wrote:
>> Doug Fenner revealed significant insight in his recent
>> post on science and advocacy. There were two points I
>> would like to reiterate for emphasis.
>> We need to work as hard as possible to keep the
>> science itself undistorted by external biases.
>>            And
>> Scientists as citizens, have as much right as any other
>> citizen to speak out on important issues, and they may
>> have more knowledge of the problems than the average person
>> on the street.  Society needs them to speak out..
>> I would only add that you as scientists undoubtedly have
>> more knowledge than the average person on the street and
>> society needs you to speak out in order to counter the
>> shameless misinformation being disseminated without similar
>> restraint by unprincipled ideologues.
>>    Regards,
>>      Steve
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