In science, one of the most important aspects is a good understanding of ethics. Sure, it would be beautiful if we could all fudge results a little or make some minor signficance seem really important, but that would ultimately defeat the goal of strong, scientific study resulting in solid, reliable results.
This is why I'm greatly troubled by the latest news I've heard from Oregon State's Forestry Department. At first, the cartoon just gave me a little chuckle (I found it at Brenna's website). But as I delved further into the article, I became more upset.
The gist of the conflict is that a graduate student at OSU -- Daniel Donato -- published a research report in Science (a highly prestigious journal) that contradicts the Bush administration. In his study, Donato found that forest fires recover best when left alone and not logged (ie "mother nature knows best"). This research is troubling to the timber industry for obvious reasons. Even more tragic is the fact that this information is troubling to OSU because they receive revenues from the timber industry (hence the cartoon).
I'm glad to know things ultimately worked out, but the implications are troubling. I don't plan on forging an easy road in the research world; in fact, one professor I want to work with is currently engaged in a debate with Monsanto over his research. I plan on unearthing information that can guide our decisions, rather than make information support decisions that have already been made. It is important to do science for its own sake and not to make things easier or cheaper in the short term.
Update: I was listening to NPR the other day in Oregon, and there was a big hearing to review the forestry policy for salvage areas, spearheaded by Brian Baird, a WA State senator. Donato testified, and I've heard some mixed things. The Corvallis Gazette article indicates that he defended his research, but a quote I heard on NPR implied that Donato thinks his research has limited application and should not guide the writing of this bill. Obviously, yes, more research is needed, but the implications of Donato's research has the ability to be wide-reaching, and it seems like Baird is afraid of the potential consequences.