It’s a debate that has long been drawn out upon both scientific and political tables across the world. The prioritization of research. What makes one piece of work more valuable than another? How should “value” be defined? One natural historian recently found himself in hot water after stating that the millions of pounds poured into Giant Panda conservation were questionable when you take into consideration the lack of impact it’s findings have elsewhere.
This debate was the topic of a paper I have spent some time working on in recent months, specifically questioning the role of Behavioural Ecology within Conservation. This is a long ranging debate, with passionate voices on either side of the proverbial fence. What became most clear is that a large proportion of these arguments are based upon money. The UK is rare in the sense that the majority of research here, is funded privately. This could easily lead to scenarios where prioritization is based upon our own emotive opinions rather than steadfast science. A fundraising campaign to save a cute, cuddly creature is far more likely to be successful than something promoting the preservation of a moss, dull to some but equally important. When funding has this very public of origins, concerns must be raised about very important realms being abadonded.
Public involvement is key to a successful global conservation effort. Premoting knowledge and awareness is surely one of the most influential strategies that can be adopted. Yet there is very big danger in a total loss of some crucial paths of research from our portfolio. Other major players in global conservation witness a predominately state funded research drive, and it can be argued that they are possibly more successful in their strategies than in cases where this balanced is reversed.
Removal of total public funding would be detrimental, the bill would be too great for many states to wholly manage. However, a state led initiative would hopefully help to ease the currently passion fuelled spending patterns observed. In times of global financial austerity, the need for strategic spending has never been greater. However, as with many such arguments, the conclusion seems to lie within a balance between both approaches, resulting in maximised spending, increased efficiency and an equal distribution of resources throughout the natural world.
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