I will admit, I was relieved to see a piece from the broader scientific community (not just fisheries science) that defends Ray Hilborn against the attack Greenpeace launched against him last week.
Hilborn defended himself quite well almost immediately, which is no surprise, given his reputation for being even-keeled, plainspoken and precise.
But this bulleted defense from Southern Fried Science, “Six thoughts about Greenpeace’s attack on Ray Hilborn,” doesn’t just defend Hilborn, it’s a defense of the scientific community. As it should be, because the Greenpeace attack was in effect a declaration of war on all scientists who specialize in a field of study. If you get close enough to a subject, you’re bound to work with groups that have a vested interest in the same subject. That’s how research specialists do their work. What Greenpeace is claiming is that if a scientist does not list in full his or her entire CV of funding with every article, op-ed, interview, paper, panel discussion, etc., then they’re hiding something.
The bottom line is that not many people should take seriously any NGO’s attack on a scientist’s credibility. The scientist’s peers will do that well enough when they assess research methodology during a peer review. If Hilborn didn’t have credibility, he wouldn’t have papers published (many times over) in well-respected scientific journals, like Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
The attack shows primarily that Greenpeace is out of touch with the scientific community and possibly desperate to get some press to drive membership.
They may also have miscalculated the public interest in fishery science. I wish more people were interested in where their fish comes from, because the stringent standards of the American management system might give more consumers push to ask for wild American seafood. But unfortunately for Greenpeace, this attack resonated mostly within the fisheries and scientific communities where it fell flat, only to be out-thudded by the dull sound of no one’s actual disappointment in the NGO that has failed many times over to make itself relevant in American fisheries management.
Is this what we expect of Greenpeace now — just another Oceana-style publicity ploy? Maybe the powers that be at the NGO will consider what this attack says about them more than what it says about Hilborn.
If you’re interested, you can always access Hilborn’s CV on his website with major funding sources dating from 1978 to present.