Help from My Friends, Part 4: Scientific Insularity

by Aaron Johnson, Manager of Communications on June 11, 2015 - 2:20pm

We return to the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Monograph, which we highlighted in Part 1 of our series on the breakdown of peer reviews in science. 

This report on the Greater Sage-Grouse is a highly influential document that serves as the “bible” of science, as far as the Interior Department is concerned. It was cited 174 times in the 2010 Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) warranted but precluded decision. 

However, the Monograph is rife with errors and selectively cites a small group of scientist-advocates to advance the narrative that oil and natural gas development is causing population declines while ignoring a large body of the scientific literature that shows otherwise.

Join the Clique

This small group of scientist-advocates was influential in authoring the Monograph as well as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) reports being using to put in place land use plan restrictions. This same group also co-authored many of the studies used in the agency reports as well as peer reviewed those same studies and reports.

Here’s an example we cite within our recent Data Quality Act challenge against the federal agencies: Naugle et al. 2009 is cited as the primary evidence that oil and natural gas development harms Greater Sage-Grouse. The study is a supposed review of 32 other papers which consisted of dismissing all but seven of the studies. Of those seven studies, four are authored by the same authors of Naugle et al. 2009.

So basically, it’s a “scientific” study about itself.  

More to the Story

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

Part 1: Distorting the Peer Review Process

Part 2: Conflicts of Interest

Part 3: Agencies Ignoring Predation