Help From My Friends, Part 2: Conflicts of Interest

by Aaron Johnson, Manager of Communications on May 26, 2015 - 10:26am

Today’s “Help From My Friends” segment on scientific peer reviews comes focuses on Steve Knick, a U.S. Geological Survey employee. He’s very influential on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Fish & Wildlife (FWS) “science” teams that are determining the one-size-fits-all restrictions on federal lands across 11 states with sage grouse habitat. 

Knick is the lead author of a study that’s being heavily relied on by the agency teams, despite the obvious bias of the study with the title Teetering on the Edge or Too Late?... The study is being used by BLM and FWS as justification for onerous restrictions to prevent economic activity in sagebrush habitat.

Convincing Society

Knick et al. advocate for the “protect[ion] [of public lands] from economic use,” and portray their “primary challenge” as “to convince our society of the intrinsic value of sagebrush ecosystems and their unique biodiversity.” 

But there’s an obvious conflict of interest of having Knick sit on the agency science team that’s picking and choosing what science is going to be used. Of course he’s going to pick his and his friends’ studies and ignore those that conflict with his opinion.

These are the issues we are bringing to the agencies’ attention and why a western coalition filed Data Quality Act challenges with the agencies.

More to the Story

More details will come as we continue this series. In the meantime, information is available on our DQA webpage and our previous post at:

Part 1: Distorting the Peer Review Process