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Peery, M.Z., G.M. Jones, R.J. Gutiérrez, S.M. Redpath, A.B. Franklin, D. Simberloff, M.G. Turner, V.C. Radeloff, and G.C. White. 2019. The conundrum of agenda-driven science in conservation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17(2):80-82. doi: 10.1002/fee.2006


Conservation biology is a value-laden discipline predicated on conserving biodiversity (Soulé 1985), a mission that does not always sit easily with objective science (Lackey 2007; Pielke 2007; Scott et al. 2007). While some encourage scientists to be responsible advocates for conservation (Garrard et al. 2016), others worry that objectivity in conservation research may suffer (Lackey 2007). At this time, we believe advocacy by scientists is essential for environmental conservation and, indeed, humanity. It is difficult to envision the state of our environment had scientists failed to encourage policy makers and the public to address emerging conservation problems. Nevertheless, conservation scientists must avoid misusing the scientific process to promote specific conservation outcomes (Wilholt 2009); doing so erodes the credibility of science and can produce undesirable consequences (Thomas 1992; Mills 2000; Rohr and McCoy 2010). We consider intentionally engaging in activities outside of professional norms to promote desired outcomes, as part of either the production or dissemination of science, to constitute “agenda-driven science”. The issue of advocacy-related bias in conservation science merits renewed discussion because conservation conflicts in an increasingly polarized world might tempt some to engage in agenda-driven science to “win” a conflict.

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