Washington, DC– Government research of forestry issues is dominated by politics at the expense of scientific needs, according to the results of the first survey of staff scientists working for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Pacific Northwest Research Station released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Agency scientists say that long-term, basic research is sacrificed for short-term bureaucratic priorities, quantity of publication is stressed over scientific quality, and many fear professional retaliation for expressing concerns.
The Pacific Northwest Research Station is one of nine research units within USFS. The PEER survey consisted of questions composed by station scientists. Approximately one-third of the Lab’s nearly 300 scientists returned completed surveys. The principal concern of respondents centered around setting research priorities:
· Nearly three out of five scientists report that “research priorities are unduly influenced by politics;”
· More than half contend the agency does not actively support “long-term research”. Less than one in three feels the Research Station places a priority on “original research” although nearly nine out of ten feel that the Station should be prioritizing original research; and
· Three of four respondents say the Research Station “stresses the quantity over the quality of scientific publications.”
As one scientist wrote in the essay portion of the survey, Forest Service management “has shifted the emphasis of the Station from that of doing high-quality research to that of doing politically relevant pseudo-science.” Staff scientists also expressed deep concerns over the management of the Research Station:
· Less than one in three believe that the Research Station has adequate resources to “perform its environmental mission” and even fewer think “allocation of research matches research priorities”;
· More than half of respondents do not think the station “efficiently uses the resources available to it” while more than two out of three say morale is not good; and
· More than one in three fear retaliation for expressing concerns about management decisions.
Another scientist wrote, “Large portions of funds are arbitrarily allocated to support resource extraction industries at the expense of the environment and environmental research.” A third noted the preoccupation with Aappearance” over Asubstance and scientific productivity.”
The Research Stations within the Forest Service were established to conduct independent science unburdened by the need to generate revenue from timber sales. “his survey strongly suggests that the Pacific Northwest Station is failing its mission,” said Washington PEER Director Lea Mitchell. Political science appears to be more important than the biological sciences within this Forest Service laboratory.”