Thursday, August 19, 2010

A lingering 'tone of advocacy'

A panel of university and government scientists has issued this report on the federal government's new "biological opinion" on commercial fishing and the endangered western stock of Steller sea lions.

The Scientific and Statistical Committee, or SSC, reports to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, which is meeting in Anchorage this week to review the BiOp.

The BiOp concluded that fisheries in the western Aleutian Islands are likely to jeopardize the sea lion. To avoid jeopardy, the National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing closures and other restrictions that could cost the fishing industry millions of dollars.

Here's a summary paragraph from the SSC report:

"Overall, this BiOp much improved from earlier ones. Previously, the SSC has commented on lack of balance and tone of advocacy. The current document has a more balanced, neutral presentation of the scientific information in the background chapters although the conclusion chapter has retained some tone of advocacy, stating as fact some conclusions that still have a great deal of uncertainty about them."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The SSC knocks a NMFS report for its “tone of advocacy”? After decades with NMFS, I recognize the “tone” slur as code for “Although the facts are true, we don’t like the way you’ve presented them, without wish-washy modifiers, weasel words and qualifiers such as, ‘possibly’, ‘potentially’, ‘maybe’, etc.”
Would it not be more constructive if a group that bills itself as “The Scientific and Statistical Committee” concerned itself with technical issues of science and statistics rather than the nuances of style? Of course, we’re assuming that all SSC members are familiar with science and statistics. Unfortunately, some SSC members (e.g., DW and GK) appear to struggle with basic scientific and statistical issues such as the rules of stratified sampling and methods for estimating precision that are not found in their college textbooks.