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Institute of Foresters of Australia seeks public apology from UTas over retracted paper

Media Release, 31 August 2020

The professional association representing some 1,000 forest scientists, researchers and professional forest land managers will be seeking an apology from the University of Tasmania after a paper suggesting forestry harvesting activities make forests more bushfire prone was withdrawn by the journal Fire due to a number of errors.

The paper Propensities of Old Growth, Mature and Regrowth Wet Eucalypt Forest, and Eucalyptus nitens Plantation, to Burn during Wildfire and Suffer Fire – Induced Crown Death by UTas academics Suyanti Winto-Lewin, Jennifer Sanger and James Kirkpatrick was retracted on 27 August.

The paper was published in a special issue of the journal with two of the three special issue editors responsible for the scientific standard of its content also being UTas academics.

According to the retraction notice, the authors were informed of some errors in the categorisation of the forest types by a colleague.

“The major error was the incorrect inclusion of a category of plantation from a publicly available vegetation type layer. There were also other sites which were incorrectly categorized,” the retraction notice stated.

“The authors reclassified or removed the sites that were obviously incorrect, added new randomly located sites to compensate for excluded sites and added more site pairs.

The reanalysis of the data including the new sites revealed that “ … a close examination of the data indicated that the outcomes were highly sensitive to variation in fire intensity in a low number of sites, indicating a need for a larger data set and complementary analyses using GIS techniques.”

The Fire Editorial Office stated the paper is retracted to ensure the addition of only high-quality scientific works to the field of scholarly communication.”

IFA/AFG President Bob Gordon said his organisation will be immediately seeking an apology from the University of Tasmania over the standard of the university’s review process that has resulted in this publication.

“What I marvel at, is it took two volunteer independent scientists and academics to pick up these errors through publicly available data and then contact the editors of this journal to highlight the substantial issues in methodology,” Mr Gordon said.

Mr Gordon said the withdrawal of this paper highlights a significant issue and the IFA/AFG will be seeking an apology from UTas.

For further information:

Becher Townshend, Font PR

Phone: 0418 370 661