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Credible science? evaluating the Regional Forest Agreement process in Western Australia.

Horwitz, P. and Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902 (1998) Credible science? evaluating the Regional Forest Agreement process in Western Australia. Australian Journal of Environmental Management, 5 (4). pp. 213-225.

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Government proponents of the Regional Forest Agreement process in Western Australia have highlighted the use of scientific information in order to set criteria by which forests can be both reserved and managed in the future. Given the long-term significance of the process, and the central role played by science, we asked what would constitute a 'scientifically-credible process' for assessing a natural resource management issue? When could scientists in general, or conservation biologists in particular be satisfied that such a process has been achieved? To address these questions we first examined the notion of sound science, based on norms for scientific processes, and the standards required by a range of journals to assess contributions prior to publication. From these, we developed criteria/or assessing whether or not a process was scientific, asking:

• has the process involved scientists?
• has the process provided a framework. or facilitated in another way. scientific debate?
• has the process used scientific norms of peer review, publication and conferences?
• has the process involved explicit methodology from which conclusions can be justifiably drawn?

These questions were examined for the phases of the process during which scientific information was compiled, assessed and integrated, predominantly the Comprehensive Regional Assessment. Aspects dealing with the issues of biodiversity, endangered species, old-growth and wilderness were examined since they invoked the science of ecology. It was clear that the Regional Forest Agreement process had involved scientists, albeit selectively, but that it had not facilitated scientific debate, failed to adhere strictly to norms of peer review, and failed to be explicit regarding many methodologies employed. We concluded that the process could not be checked, and therefore failed to achieve what would notionally be regarded as credible science.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Environment Institute of Australia and new Zealand
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