[Market-farming] ccd research

Richard Moyer ramoyer at gmail.com
Tue Oct 12 00:21:30 EDT 2010

Agreed that we need to 'recognize and take into account our own
biases'.  Here are mine:  From twenty five years of research and
teaching, both at public and private institutions, and with research
grants over that time from public and private entities, I beg to
differ with the assumption that gov't is not a stakeholder, or that
gov't funded research is categorically less tainted than private
research.  There are priorities in gov't research, hence those funded
have pressure to overstate their successes and minimize inconclusive
or tentative results.  Multiple coworkers have noted that the best
writers and speakers are all too often the best funded, as they can
take most any set of lab results and come out smelling like a rose.
The size of the grant often has more influence than the source of the
funds, that is a huge federal research grant may push the researcher
more than the 5% of their current funding from a private concern.
Won't go into details, but gov't funding is no guarantee of wisely
spent monies.

As for the veracity and applicability of ag research, here's what I do:
---Face time with a researcher, either at field days or conferences is
invaluable.  A scientist's character and motivations speak volumes
about the trustworthiness of their work, especially when they are
trying to convince growers to plant what they've developed, or
apologize to a group of growers after convincing them to plant
something that was not widely adapted and hence a dud, wasting growers
time and money.
---Go to state and regional ag conferences.  Attend sessions of
interest, coming early or staying late to ask questions of the
presenter.  Get their handouts and contact info.  (Just got in from a
regional diary grazing conference, and met a NY state dairy researcher
who I'd only Emailed previously.)
Read (at least) the conclusions of their research, not merely the
press release.  Find out who actually did the research, esp. if
different from the one presenting it.  Email the researcher with
followup questions.  Researchers often welcome Emails or phones calls
(at a convenient time) to discuss the applicability of their work to
your situation.  Once away from their handlers, many researchers are
surprisingly frank about recommendations for my farm, including advice
not to plant their current interest.

In summary, the local, immediate and personal can counter the
temptation toward biased science and sensationalized reporting.  Easy,
impersonal money can corrupt, regardless of the source.
Richard Moyer
Moyer Family
Adjunct Professor of Biology
King College,  Bristol, TN

>    4. ccd research (Samish Heirlooms Farm)

> Message: 4
> Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2010 11:17:25 -0700
> From: Samish Heirlooms Farm <info at samishheirloomsfarm.com>
> To: market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org
> Subject: [Market-farming] ccd research
> Message-ID:
> 	<94D1FB1D-B9AF-4652-9C1B-28B2033EBA9F at samishheirloomsfarm.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> The fallout over the NYT article illustrates a problem endemic in scientific
> research in general and specifically in agricultural research-----who pays
> for the research and how much that affects the research results.  Whether a
> scientist receives money which affects their conclusions is really
> immaterial because observers will always assume that is the case.  The
> solution is for the government to pay for the research instead of the
> stakeholders.
> Our federal and state governments started abdicating the responsibility to
> provide untainted research long before the budget crunches of recent years.
> Now research is heavily funded by stakeholders and the stakeholders are not
> all big multinational corporations.  The environmental/organic community has
> a stake as well.  They will look askance at results that point away from
> chemicals used as pesticides or fertilizers as a problem source.  The
> researchers themselves are stakeholders in some instances because if you
> have been working for years on a particular hypothesis, it is hard to admit
> that you have been spent your career going in the wrong direction.
> What we need to do is increase government support of research, not jump to
> conclusions based on incomplete information as the headline writer did and
> recognize and take into account our own biases.
> Bradley Smith	
> Samish Heirlooms Farm
> Sedro Woolley, WA

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