Falsified data in lynx study leads to reform


Mar 11, 2001
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Flawed Lynx Study Leads to Reform

By KATHERINE PFLEGER, Associated Press Writer

March 6, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The Forest Service and Interior Department have clarified ethical requirements for scientific studies after biologists falsified data in a study of the reclusive Canada lynx.

The phony data has led some Western Republicans to question the validity of other scientific studies involving rare plants and animals.

The Agriculture Department official who oversees the Forest Service said that any misrepresentation of data is a serious offense. The lynx data "is not an example, as far as we can tell, of widespread agency behavior," Mark Rey told the House Resources Committee on Wednesday.

"If credibility is in fact a public official's only currency, these people are broke," said Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo.

The Interior Department and Forest Service have made clear the rules governing scientific research and the consequences if those rules are broken.

Rey said his agency's remedies will range from a letter of reprimand to dismissal. He said the Forest Service also expanded its scientific code of ethics to anyone involved in studies, rather than just the main researchers.

Chris Tollefson, spokesman for Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service, said the department made clear requirements that were in place and that violators can be dismissed.

The issue stems from a four-year survey to map the habitat of the wildcat, listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Data from the study will be used to determine how to protect the lynx.

Seven federal and Washington state biologists working on the study sent fur samples from a captive lynx and from a bobcat pelt to the lab doing DNA testing. The biologists claimed the samples came from the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot national forests in Washington state.

They say they were trying to verify the accuracy of the lab's work, but Western Republicans have questioned whether the biologists were trying to corrupt the study.

Congressional investigators and the Interior Department's inspector general found the study was not compromised but criticized the biologists.

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On the Net:

Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us

Interior Department: http://www.doi.gov/


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