Leading Coral Researchers Respond To Attacks Against Their Research On Great Barrier Reef

Marine scientists are fighting back after an attack on the integrity of their research on the threats to the Great Barrier Reef were called flawed and based on “misinterpretation” and “selective use of data”.

The researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) have responded to the accusations made in November 2017 in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin. In the claims, at the accusations claimed that much of their work “should be viewed with some doubt”.

The article was written by Dr. Piers Larcombe, a marine consultant affiliated with the University of Western Australia, and Professor Peter Ridd, of James Cook University in Queensland. The duo claimed to have identified flaws in nine scientific papers published  from 2003 to 2013 and that there is a lack of quality control in marine science.

In response to the accusations, several of the criticized scientist, led by AIMS scientist Dr. Britta Schaffelke wrote: “Given their sincere call to improve quality control processes int science, it is interesting that nowhere in their Viewpoint article do Larcombe and Ride make it clear to readers that many of their criticisms of the nine Great Barrier Reef papers have been raised previously and have been thoroughly addressed by the original authors.”

The Great Barrier Reef has seen  threats increase in the last couple decades as agricultural runoff and climate change has led to ocean acidification and coral bleaching, which has killed large portions of the reef system.

Larcombe and Ridd had criticized research showing that water quality in the reef, linked to run-off from farms, was having a negative impact on corals and was causing a decline in reef health and increase coral fatality.

The duo claims that documented problems in reproducing scientific results in medical and biomedical sciences, and said this issue might exist in marine science. They also said that science backed by industry was more rigorous.

But responding to those claims, Schaffelke writes: “This, however, does not seem supported by the fact that two fields of science where major credibility problems have arisen are medicine and biomedical science, both with a considerable proportion of industry-funded research.”

The criticisms, Schaffelke wrote in the journal, were “based on misinterpretation, selective use of data and over-simplification”.

The article added: “A large body of research on the condition of the GBR by many scientists from various organizations consistently shows that the GBR is under pressure from past and ongoing human activities, that the pressure varies regionally, and that the GBR still retains some level of resilience.”

Ridd’s claims about marine science and his legal action have been pushed in right-wing media, including the far-right Breitbart and has written articles that have appeared on Fox News.

At the end of the day, majority of scientists and conservationist agree with the work and findings produced by researchers at Aims and very few in the marine industry, back Larcombe and Ridd.

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