Inspiring Science: Co-design and Co-producion

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman

We’ve been having a discussion about how to design a study to understand owl/fire relationships with the results being accepted by the people on both sides. A while back I write about “what science related to policy should have” in my Eight Steps to Vet Scientific Information for Policy Fitness post here.

Let me tell a story.. one day back in the 80’s a researcher told me that management should listen to her findings. I ran a lab for the National Forests that did the same kind of lab work with QA/QC protocols. I asked about her QA/QC protocols. She said “researchers can’t afford to do that on our grants.” I said National Forests can’t afford to change management on research without QA/QC.

But I’m not an outlier on this.. here’s the text of a speech delivered by Sir Peter Gluckman, the Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand on January 18, 2018, titled “Science to Inspire Humanity”.

Second, science must be embedded in society at every stage. This means the science community must be open to discussion on what science is undertaken (before it is undertaking it), how it is done, and what practical implications might be drawn from it. Concepts like co-design and co-production and extended peer review need to be more than slogans. These concepts need to be implemented in ways that enhances scientific rigor while ensuring valid public values about the research agenda and the application of science and technology.

Some science policy literature suggests you should give up on science once it becomes a weapon in policy science-slinging. But there is another way. Co-design and co-production and extended peer review (including of proposals) would be a great deal of work, but this might be the size of topic to try it out. Maybe USGS, NSF, the FS could all fund it jointly and the state universities would participate?

I also think his “science roadmaps” to facilitate prioritization and coordination are interesting ideas. See his blog post here.

15 thoughts on “Inspiring Science: Co-design and Co-producion”

  1. Designing a study (about owls and wildfires) that excludes human impacts (and the certainty of human-caused wildfires) should be questioned by all of us. Otherwise, what use is a study that seeks to prove that today’s wildfires are “natural and beneficial”, for rare species (like owls)?

    • And don’t forget, that 84% of human caused wildfires has been upgraded to 90%. So one wonders about how much natural really occured in the past

        • It also includes the Pacific Northwest which also takes in BC. This according to Jennifer Balch, a wildfire ecologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Here’s the link from September 2017, just a few months back.

          Here’s a quote of a question she answered about main causes:

          “So the breakdown: Of the approximately 1.5 million wildfires in the government record, 25% were burning of trash and debris; about a quarter (22%) were unknown human causes. The next biggest category is arson, [then] heavy equipment, campfires, children, and smokers. Those are the seven biggest categories.

          Fireworks didn’t rank in the very top for the whole year, but it does pop on July 4th. It’s the day with the most fires. Over 7000 events started on July 4th alone. They were predominantly started by fireworks. It’s unfortunate that our Independence Day didn’t fall in January or December when it’s cooler and wetter.”

          This goes a long way in defining what natural is and does wildfire like we now experience it natural or does the system really benefit from far more far than in the past. What would a landscape look like with ONLY that 10% natural wildfire, minus human caused 90% ? Does anyone ever facotr in historical mega-fauna presence and effects on forest or chaparral ecosystem health and does anyone care to factor that in studies insisting fire is the cure-all ? Could more responsible grazing take place i the right settings and hands on holistic approach mimicking herd movement as opposed to just throwing animals into a system and collecting them months later. Most popular approach seems to be a month of disturbance and 11 months of rest and recovery. Does anyone ever factor any of this in studies or if fire just a cheap quick fix-all ?

  2. My framing would be “given what we know about wildfires and projecting current policies on fuel treatments, ignitions, suppression and so on into the future, what are the policies on prescribed fire, fuel treatment, suppression and post fire actions that would benefit the owl? What are the trade-offs with public safety, sedimentation and other creatures and plants, and carbon?”

    Once you get into the more broadly framed questions, you have to make some assumptions, and you need to draw in experts in fire science, suppression, other species and so on. It becomes interdisciplinary. The problem is that it would become big and unwieldy and not yield papers for a good long while.

    • When a scientist says that our forests need “larger and more intense wildfires”, I have to question the sanity of such a statement, supposedly based on science. How come other scientists aren’t responding to this statement?

        • Absolutely! Edit: Hanson says that intense wildfires are not catastrophic. In searching for quotes, I saw all sorts of his opinions, especially blaming logging for the higher intensities. Yet, he welcomes patches of intense fire. The problem with that is there is no way to limit how big those patches become. The Rim and King Fires show ample acreages of high intensity damage. Much of the high intensity burn was inside Yosemite, where no logging has occurred. Hanson also welcomes the trade of old growth for ‘snag habitat’, despite the existence of 100,000,000 dead trees from bark beetles.

          I’m just glad that the Ninth Circuit Court has changed their minds about the Forest Service salvage projects.

          • ” Hanson also welcomes the trade of old growth for ‘snag habitat’, despite the existence of 100,000,000 dead trees from bark beetles.”

            I haven’t thought about this previously, but like the Roger C. Bales hydro theory, “If you log trees water will come to streams and creeks,” although no water did during the intense drought because you actually need rainfall. With 100,000,000 million dead trees out there, has anyone suddenly observed a population explosion in Owls and Woodpeckers ??? I’ve never ever heard of any study where 100.000.000 snags and counting has created any population explosions of anything other than beetles. I mean seriously, there should be 1000s upon 1000s. Not trying to be sarcastic here, but am wondering if such a study has ever been done where snags appear to be the largest crop and natural resource these days.

            • Here’s my other point I kept asking as far back as 2013 . I’ve asked the Roger C. Bales supporters back then if anyone had ever noticed or if studies were done observing increased water levels in streams and rivers because of all the dead trees from drought. Semed reasonable, since with all these logged or dead, millions of non-functioning “greedy water gulping trees” (term used in articles back in 2013 & 2014) increased water levels in streams or creeks should have been observable everywhere. The main problem actually “NO RAIN.” So recently Bales appears on the radar PopSci journal screen once again touting his hydrological thoeries and dead trees, but only after we had last season’s record rainfall and snow. What good was that ? What was observed prior to the 2016/17 record precip ??? Crickets! So now once again here is the headline below:

              “Why millions of dead trees in the Sierra may have helped save water during the drought”

              Hello, there was no water to save, it was a four or five year mega-drought. How do you save something that didn’t ever exist in the first place ? Well that is until after the mega-rainfall, then claim victory insisting you were right all along.


              But again, same question with Spotted Owls and Woodpeckers, have they increased as a result of abundant food and snags for nesting ? Last year I saw a vague reference to this, but only really a passing thought from the article’s authoyr, Bettina Boxall of LA Times: “The bounty of bugs and ghostly trees is also a boon to cavity nesting birds and woodpeckers.”

              So if true than owl and woodpecker populations are not in any danger, because they should be on the increase. So it would seem a new tool will have to be found to fight the good fight. Still I’m curious if anyone has noticed or read where these 100 million dead snags have cause population explosions of both owls and Woodpeckerss. Other than a passing thought from a journalist, I cannot find anything.

              • Keven- Logically I get the linkage “if species do well in burned areas, and there are now more burned areas, then there should be more birds.”

                Are there any bird people on this blog? Maybe there would be data on annual bird surveys? I guess you would have to sample the snaggy areas.
                Seems like something some researchers or citizen researchers could do.

                • Again, the mere presence of owls means very little. Their foraging areas are really huge, and there is very little for them to eat within their nesting habitats (burned or un-burned). The pre-European forests probably had a lack of snags, compared to today. Fires didn’t burn as intensely, due to burning practices, resulting in fewer crown fires.

                  Due to current realities, us humans probably have to ‘craft’ new forests that both survive stupid humans, AND satisfy bird preferences. That takes site-specific science, and that goes against the preferences and beliefs of some litigious humans.

                  • My thoughts too, growing up most cavity nesting birds were in live trees, especially California Sycamores and oak trees. The owls have to be dependent on the woodpeckers creating the opportunity. I’ve seen more owls in Sycamores than any other trees because of larger cavities. I realize we are talking deep forest owls here, just relating my experience in the south.

                • I get the idea that snags are being used and are used by woodpeckers, etc, but when I was growing up in San Diego County in the late 60s early 60s, there were always large multiple families of woodpeckers which lived in holes made in live trees, mostly oaks. The were the odd snags you’d see once in a while, but nothing like the castatrophe we see today. Every time I read something that insists being etched in stone science whether it’s fire ecology and plant reproduction or this subject or anything else, it doesn’t jive with my experience from the past and the way things were decades ago. But to be honest today, when I go back to these areas I grew up in t6he woodpeckers are almost non-existant in many areas and if present not in huge familes numbers as before. Especially after the Cedar Fire in San Diego county in 2003.

  3. If he said “forests need” then it’s not a scientific statement. Mice need different things from owls from pine trees from ceanothus from mycorrhizae from fleas from prions, from fish. It’s more philosophical than scientific. But just going by definitions, I think the trees’ opinions need to count more, since you wouldn’t have a forest without trees.


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