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An Interview With Dr. Susan Crockford Over The Attacks On Her Polar Bear Research

Watts Up With That

As many readers know, there was a erroneous and malicious paper recently published by The journal Bioscience titled Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy, (Harvey et al. 2017) covered here and here by WUWT, along with a request for retraction here.

The person who was the focus of the 14 authors of the Harvey et al. paper was Dr. Susan Crockford, and I decided to send her a series of interview questions so that she could tell her side of the story. She graciously responded within 48 hours of my request. This Q&A is unedited in content, with only two spelling and punctuation corrections plus font style changes to fit the format of this website. – Anthony Watts

Q. Why do you think this paper by Harvey et al, with 14 authors, specifically names you?

I suspect it’s because earlier this year I published a rather scathing scientific critique of the predictive model used to get polar bears placed on the endangered species list in the US (Crockford 2017), which is primarily the work of Steve Amstrup. Although my paper can be reviewed easily online, none of the scientists whose work I criticized have challenged my claims. I believe that instead, they enlisted the help of the other 13 authors of the Harvey et al. paper denigrate my reputation in the hope that this will reduce the amount of influence I am clearly having with the public. Previously, they tried enlisting the media for this purpose but it didn’t go too well. The most obvious example happened in February 2015, when they got the UK-based Carbon Brief to challenge my claims after I was given a bit of attention by the UK media.

But that was obviously not enough, since I doubt if it did any good at all. This Harvey et al. paper is their attempt at “trench warfare” (their words, not mine), to knock me off my Internet high-horse. I think they are particularly frustrated with the Internet as a source of information because they can’t control it.

Q. Has any of the 14 authors replied to you, queried you, or otherwise contacted you prior to this publication?

No. I heard about the paper from a journalist requesting a comment the day before the paper was published and she sent an advance copy of it a few hours before the embargo was lifted.

Q. What are your credentials in zoology?

I have a Ph.D. and more than 40 years of experience. I have written more than 30 papers for peer-reviewed journals or book chapters on a variety of topics, including evolution, paleoecology, genetics, and zoogeography (how and why the distribution of animals changes over time). I am a general interest zoologist and that has allowed me to build a successful career outside academia: I have a firm foundation in zoology and read widely across the discipline. Evolution and evolutionary theory are my primary interests and I take my cue from the point once made (Dobzhansky1973) that nothing in biology makes sense without evolution.

Full interview