Now isn’t this a surprise?

A professor who has been an expert witness in hunting prosecutions and provided key evidence for the foxhunting ban has been accused of “manipulating” evidence in an academic row.

Prof Stephen Harris, a retired Bristol University academic, has been accused of “cherry-picking” studies, allowing him to “ignore or misrepresent the science that had been contrary to the activist agenda”.

The Crown Prosecution Service is now facing calls to review the suitability of Prof Harris as an expert witness.

Even as an expert witness you are supposed to do this you know. There’s a hell of a lot of dross published as science out there after all.

Quite what he line to cross between being properly selective and biased is, well, hmm……..

35 comments on “Now isn’t this a surprise?

  1. From Dec 2015 (collapse of a previous court case):

    Prof Harris said: “I have a professional relationship with the League Against Cruel Sports, which is what you would expect.

  2. “Dr Friend has now written for the Journal of Elephant Managers Association…”

    I bet it has a greater circulation figure than the ‘Guardian’!

  3. Most of the dross is preconceptual science funded by the likes of Greenpeace, FoE and nannyista inclined health NGOs.

    As a scientist, even if you believe certain research to be utter bollocks, it is still necessary to dismiss the research in an appropriate, professional, scientific manner. Quoting endless research which supports your argument and none that is in opposition is suggestive of bias, unless someone is suing the government to get the sun to rise in the West every other day.

  4. What research do you need on fox hunting?

    It’s bad for foxes, some people enjoy it, and hunts are no easier to sue than the “travelling community” when they fuck up your property.

    What the fuck is there to “research” in the first place?

  5. A Scientist cherry-picking evidence to support a particular policy? On noes! Tell me it isn’t so!

  6. BiG isn’t the problem that, while hunting is bad for the foxes that get caught, it might actually lead to there being greater numbers of rural foxes. Without an incentive to keep foxes alive, farmers will just treat them as vermin and do their best to extitpate them.

    At least that was an argument used in the debates, which is probably what created the need for “expert” witnesses. And just as when fracking or climate change are involved there are any numbers of scientific charlatans prepared to hawk out their “science” to Big Charity

  7. “A spokesman for the University of Bristol said: “Professor Stephen Harris retired last year. However, we are unable to comment any further or discuss personal information about any current or former member of staff due to data protection requirements.”

    This would seem to be a very liberal interpretation of the data protection laws. Don’t suppose anyone’s asking for actual, personal information about the good Professor. His collar size or his cat’s birthday. The information would relate to his employment by the University. So the data’s as much their’s as it is his. How do you get to describe that as “personal”?

  8. “The information would relate to his employment by the University. So the data’s as much their’s as it is his. How do you get to describe that as “personal”?”

    It’s not ‘personal’ as in “data owned by the person”, it’s ‘personal’ as in “data about a person”. See the definition under GDPR.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re forbidden from sharing it, though.

  9. ” Without an incentive to keep foxes alive, farmers will just treat them as vermin and do their best to extitpate them.”

    Yup. Round here the shoots are out almost every night off the week at this time of the year, lamping foxes. Now the crops are off the land you can see them to shoot nice and easily. They could easily get half a dozen in a night. I doubt if hounds would have killed 6 foxes in a year when they were chasing them.

  10. ‘He said Prof Harris refused to consider studies with fewer than three authors, but in doing so he excluded some of the most authoritative documents on the topic.’

    The more authors, the more likely it is junk science. Bandwagoning as a substitute for considered thought. Harris’ selection process guarantees junk science.

  11. “Stephen Harris is professor of environmental sciences at the
    University of Bristol, and a lifelong vulpophile. He has studied urban foxes for nearly half a century, first in London and then in Bristol, where he has been monitoring the population for the last 35 years. He does claim to be an expert”

    Here’s the thing that gets my Paranoïdar up:
    – Within the field of biology, “environmental sciences” is the Fuzziest of Subjects. It’s on a par with social sciences in approach and methodology, and relies *heavily* on massaging numbers if you want to get any clear “results”.
    And that’s for the peeps in the field with actual integrity. There simply arent enough PFlops in the world (yet), nor enough detailed study of all relevant variables in even a small ecosystem to accurately model to do Science the way us molecular types do.

    – He’s a self-professed fox-lover. Even when he knows full well that the foxes that are usually hunted are grey foxes, not red foxes which are heavily protected. Grey foxes are imported vermin that do *not* belong in the UK, and out-agresses the native red fox. Oh, and kills a lot of the smaller wildlife that’s really needed to… etc..
    He knows this, as an *environmentalist* , yet staunchly defends the Poor Helpless invasive species.

    A + B indicates he’s one of the types with an Agenda, and that he’s telling porkers when it comes to being Unbiased.

  12. @Grikath

    I have never heard of grey foxes in Britain. Are you talking about Urocyon cinereoargenteus?

    Please provide a link … I’d be very interested to know if this animal has been introduced, and if so when and by whom.

  13. I have a very strong suspicion that there’s a certain confusion between foxes and squirrels here. Which is odd, because fox suits would excite none.

  14. “Within the field of biology, “environmental sciences” is the Fuzziest of Subjects. It’s on a par with social sciences in approach and methodology, and relies *heavily* on massaging numbers if you want to get any clear “results”.”

    Wut? Take a limnology class and get over yourself.

  15. We’re allowed to exterminate foreign invaders if they’re gray? Right. Good. A road map at last.

  16. @Gamecock,

    The more Authors there are, the more chances there are that each individual will cite that paper, thus increasing the citation index for it and the journal that it is in. However pleasing this is to journals, there is a move to get authors of multiple-author papers to state what their role was in preparing the paper. Some journals even print those author declarations.
    Journals also sometimes approve of heated debate in their pages, as that ups the citation index too.

  17. I have stood in UK courts as an expert witness 50 times or more on the economic substance of mobile handset sales/distribution.
    I can promise that you are *not* expected to cherry pick the data. The setup is that, while one side paid for my report (the customer in the sense of paying), the *consumer* of my report is the Judge/court. He is my client, and I create the report to serve his needs.
    He does not want, need or expect cherry picked sources. He wants ‘on the one hand/on the other/on balance’.

  18. Gary Taylor, correct. That is how it’s meant to work and, mostly, how it does work.

    I’ve dealt with experts about as many times as you’ve been one. I’ve encountered only one who was curiously obliging. And another who was both obliging and disobliging. A world authority, he was. Seemed to make it up as he went along.

    Most are, quite properly, as dull as dishwater.

  19. ““Which crops are off the land now””

    All the arable ones. Wheat, barley, oil seed rape etc. When they’re still uncombined you can’t see a fox hiding in the crop. Now the fields are all wide open, no hiding places, so far easier to see and shoot foxes. Also far easier to see and chase hares, so the illegal hare coursers will be active too sadly.

  20. Incidentally, just spoken to the guy who runs the shoot on my farm, they’ve shot 42 foxes so far this summer, since June basically when we started mowing grass. A lot of them were suffering from the mange too, so good job we’re thinning them out.

  21. @Jim,

    I didn’t know arable was harvested so early now. Maybe Church should move harvest sunday.

    Thanks

  22. @Pcar

    Warble gloaming, innit! Actually, I think modern arable crops are bred to be sown earlier, but I’m sure @Jim can put me right.

  23. Its the drought, everything was early this year. Normally we would still be combining wheat about now. Spring sown crops might still be waiting to be harvested, but we didn’t have any of those this year, luckily, given the dry summer.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.