Censoring science (updated already!)

Normally I like to use the lab “News” posts for fun or good-news stories, but it is also important to highlight bad news or cautionary tales.

Here is a very serious story that is just breaking at the moment. Dr Jennifer Bowen from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, has been asked by the US Department of Energy to remove words such as “climate change” from a proposal abstract – Dr Bowen bravely posted a screen-shot of the email (below, and see also here).

Unsurprisingly this story has been picked up by Nature, Science, and other media outlets – I read the story first on the Observer website. The Nature article reports that at least one other applicant to the same granting call has also been asked to change the wording of their project proposal.

**UPDATE** David Walsh at Concordia has posted a very similar email, again asking for removal of the words “global warming”. That makes three so far…

This is the US, not North Korea or China. And what could happen there, could happen here in the UK. We need to be strong but even more so we need to be awake to threats such as this. Think about what is being asked here. I agree wholeheartedly with Michael Mann (famous Pennsylvania State University climate scientist) who tweeted.”Hey American Scientists. This should send a chill down your spine.” It should also send a chill down all our spines.

Because of this, I find I have to strongly disagree with the statement that Jennifer Bowen’s co-applicant Jonathan Sanderman is reported by Nature to have made in response:

Sanderman also lamented the fact that scientists are being forced to change the way they talk about their work. “But if that’s what it takes to keep science going for a couple of years, we will I guess play along,” he adds.

In fact, I’m afraid that statement disgusts me.

We should not play along. I will not play along.

New reproductive interference review

David and Emily’s review of Reproductive Interference is about to come out in a special issue of Ecological Entomology, linked to this year’s Royal Entomological Society‘s ENTO ’17 International Symposium on Entomological Networks (see below for more details of the meeting).

Our paper is Shuker, D.M. & Burdfield-Steel, E.R. (2017) Reproductive interference in insects. Ecological Entomology, 42 (Suppl. 1): 65-75.

We hope you enjoy it!

Ento ’17

Entomological Networks: Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 – 09:30 to Thursday, September 14, 2017 – 16:00Venue: Herschel Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle, NE1 7RU

ASAB Winter Meeting: Sexual Selection

David is co-organising this year’s ASAB Winter Meeting, to be held at the Zoological Society of London, London Zoo, on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th December 2017.

Sexual selection: do we still need to test the alternatives?

Abstract submission for the meeting is now open and we welcome spoken and poster presentations encompassing the widest range of current work on sexual selection. All the details on the meeting, including how to submit an abstract, can be found on our website:


Nina Wedell and I look forward to seeing you in London in December!



g-swizz: Dave and friends on general intelligence

Dave and friends have just made a reasonably robust statement on the value of “general intelligence” and the data construct that is “g” in a Commentary just published in Behavioral Brain Sciences. (Hint: correlations, no matter how many times repeated, do not equal causation, nor are they necessarily representative of a mechanistically coherent trait).

Shuker, D.M., Barrett, L., Dickins, T.E., Scott-Phillips, T.C. & Barton, R.A. (2017) General intelligence does not help us to understand cognitive evolution. Behavioural Brain Sciences, 40: e218.

The target paper can be found here.

I enjoyed writing this piece – and Rob Barton and I are currently working to extend the critique – but it is also interesting to see just how invested so many people are in the notion of “general intelligence” as a thing. I mean, is it just me, or does it seem an incredibly old-fashioned construct?