CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University professor who unsuccessfully tried to get the journal Science to not publish logging research by an OSU graduate student said he still thinks the study is flawed and will not stop fighting against it.
Graduate student Daniel Donato concluded that leaving forests alone is the best way to help them recover from wildfires, a position opposed by John Sessions, a professor of forest engineering who supports logging and replanting.
Sessions said Tuesday he will raise his concerns before the board of the journal Science, which published Donato’s research in its Jan. 20 issue. Sessions said the journal’s peer review process failed to catch problems with the research.
His plans were revealed days after Hal Salwasser, the dean of Oregon State’s College of Forestry, apologized for the furor that resulted after Sessions and eight others made their unsuccessful plea to Science.
Salwasser said he should have told the professors to voice their criticism through open scientific debate, not by attempting to derail research from appearing in print.
Sessions said he regrets the fallout facing Salwasser, but feels strongly that there are problems with Donato’s research.
Sessions said Donato’s study went beyond its few years of research to draw broad conclusions about the drawbacks of logging, and said the report in Science carried political overtones.
Science editors said the journal’s reviews are rigorous, and Donato’s research was examined by two outside researchers.
Editor-in-chief Donald Kennedy said in an e-mail message to The Oregonian that he “would be foolish to argue that no consideration of the political extensions of this finding could have entered the decision” to publish Donato’s paper.
“On the other hand, we do careful review (and) the discipline of that process really demands careful consideration of the validity of the data and the coherence of the arguments made from it.”
Kennedy said he believes “this paper would have made it regardless of the political implications it may have carried.”
Moreover, Kennedy said Sessions may be affected by politics himself.
Reports authored by Sessions and others at OSU have been used to back a Bush administration plan to log areas burned by the 2002 Biscuit fire in southwest Oregon and a bill to quicken logging of burned forests.