Agribusiness Global

Evidence-based agriculture: who decides which evidence to trust?

We’re all biased – now we need to admit it

June 14, 2017

This week is Cereals – a huge arable farming event. Sadly I’m watching from the sidelines of Twitter, but at least things have quickly got interesting.

I couldn’t agree more, but the issue is that scientific evidence is complex and not clear cut. Most groups asking for decisions to be made on science have a clear idea about how the evidence should be interpreted. Everyone wants regulation to be based on ‘robust scientific evidence as interpreted by me’.

Take the neonic pesticide debate. The NFU has expressed concern over the ban, including some very sensible points about the need for more evidence. Yet Friends of the Earth point to many scientific studies in their call to uphold the ban.

The different starting points when interpreting scientific evidence are even clear at scientific institutions. Scientists at Rothamsted Research question the ban by arguing for ‘independent, unbiased research’. Even the language used reveals their position – by saying ‘alleged harmful impact on bees’ they are not defining the evidence of harm as being anything more than an allegation.

Their collaborators at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology take an approach which is far more focussed on bees rather than farmers (they did a really interesting study on this).

When the scientific evidence is sketchy (as it so often is) we bring our biases into how we interpret it. Just because someone is calling for people to use scientific evidence, it doesn’t mean that we should trust their assessment of it.

The Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust, an organisation which strongly advocates scientific evidence, this week welcomed the appointment of Michael Gove as environment secretary at Defra. Given that history of interpretation of evidence included supporting the badger cull, I was not alone in having the opposite opinion. read on……….

For those of you on LinkedIn you can read the comments in Sustainable agriculture group:

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/1691777/1691777-6281495634340118533?midToken=AQHsQEl3FINM1w&trk=eml-b2_anet_digest_of_digests-hero-11-discussion~subject&trkEmail=eml-b2_anet_digest_of_digests-hero-11-discussion~subject-null-9q8in~j47tfrse~da-null-communities~group~discussion&lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Aemail_b2_anet_digest_of_digests%3BuZHU6kjzRoihVeMOn2FU8A%3D%3D

Comment: Please look behind the science:

Well conducted research?

Done and funded by independent bodies?

Researchers have good reputations?

Previous work done?

Repeatable results?

Open mind essential!

Forget your bias for a moment!!!!

Better collaboration, communication the key to Australia’s agricultural science future

t posted Tuesday at 10:32

Australia’s agricultural science sector needs to get better at collaboration and communication, if it is going to help farmers meet the big challenges of the next decade and beyond.

That message is at the heart of the Australian Academy of Science’s strategic plan for the next decade of agricultural science, unveiled at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday.

Dr Jeremy Burdon, chairman of the academy’s agriculture, fisheries and food committee said Australian universities, governments and industry-specific research organisations had often worked in competition with each other, rather than together.

“Australian science is undoubtedly world class, we lead the world in many areas, but we tend to dilute our effort because we split it between many states and the Commonwealth, a very large number of universities,” he said.

Nature Index 2017 China

SUPPLEMENT

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Nature Index 2017 China

Vol. 545 No. 7655_supp ppS37-76

  • IN THIS SUPPLEMENT

  • China continues to increase its global share of research papers, but publication numbers are just one indicator that a country’s science is thriving. Nature Index 2017 China looks beyond the country’s impressive performance in key metrics and examines how it holds up in other factors that contribute to a functioning research ecosystem, such as collaboration, willingness to make data and research open, science communication and sound science policy.

    Free full access

    Cover Art: Mark Leong

http://www.nature.com/nature/supplements/nature-index-2017-china/index.html

Scientists stunned by Antarctic rainfall and a melt area bigger than Texas – The Washington Post

Scientists have documented a recent, massive melt event on the surface of highly vulnerable West Antarctica that, they fear, could be a harbinger of future events as the planet continues to warm.

In the Antarctic summer of 2016, the surface of the Ross Ice Shelf, the largest floating ice platform on Earth, developed a sheet of meltwater that lasted for as long as 15 days in some places. The total area affected by melt was 300,000 square miles, or larger than the state of Texas, the scientists report.

That’s bad news because surface melting could work hand in hand with an already documented trend of ocean-driven melting to compromise West Antarctica, which contains over 10 feet of potential sea level rise.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/06/15/scientists-just-documented-a-massive-melt-event-on-the-surface-of-antarctica/?utm_term=.f1abd8082531

Mercedes Benz Unveils Hybrid Car Powered by Solar Paint

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We’ve seen vehicles with solar roofs that provide an extra boost of power, but the gorgeous Mercedes Benz Vision G-Code takes energy generation to a whole new level. The secret is the car’s paint, which is designed to generate power for the vehicle as an alternative fuel source. The Sports Utility Coupe is just a concept right now, but even if the vehicle doesn’t make it into production, the clever technology could be used to power cars in the future.

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The paint generates power in two ways: the first is by acting like a sort of solar panel to turn solar light into energy. The second is by generating power through electrostatic charging as the wind moves against the surface of the car. When added to the hybrid engine system, which includes an electric motor for the rear wheels and a combustion engine for the front wheels, the car combines power and clever sustainability.

 

http://inhabitat.com/new-mercedes-benz-concept-car-is-powered-by-its-paint/

Resistance to last-ditch antibiotic has spread farther than anticipated

Eighteen months ago, a gene that confers resistance to colistin — known as an ‘antibiotic of last resort’ — emerged in bacteria from pigs in China. Since then, the resistance gene, called mcr-1, has been found around the world at an alarming rate, according to several presentations at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, last week.

In some places, nearly 100% of farm animals carry mcr-1, and an increasing number of people do as well. The gene’s spread is one of the clearest examples of how antibiotic use on farms can lead to resistance in human infections, says Lance Price, an antibiotic researcher at George Washington University in Washington

 

 

https://www.nature.com/news/resistance-to-last-ditch-antibiotic-has-spread-farther-than-anticipated-1.22140

When politicians cherry-pick data and disregard facts, what should we academics do?

June 13, 2017 12.55pm AEST

Advocating for facts and evidence at the March for Science in California earlier this year. Matthew Roth/flickr, CC BY-NC

When politicians distort science, academics and scientists tend to watch in shock from the sidelines rather than speak out. But in an age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” we need to step into the breach and inject scientific literacy into the political discourse.

Nowhere is this obligation more vivid than the debate over climate change. Contrary to the consensus of scientific agencies worldwide, the president has called climate change a “hoax” (though his position may be shifting), while his EPA administrator has denied even the most basic link to carbon dioxide as a cause.

 

https://theconversation.com/when-politicians-cherry-pick-data-and-disregard-facts-what-should-we-academics-do-79101