The University of Tasmania has dismissed a misconduct investigation into the work of two of its researchers in the retraction of a scientific paper which linked logging and bushfires. The university was forced to investigate after receiving a series of complaints from the forestry industry following the paper’s retraction in August last year.
The university has cleared both researchers of any breach of research misconduct.
“This is typical behaviour by the forestry industry who often lodge official complaints to universities when researchers publish scientific articles showing how detrimental forestry is to the environment," said Dr Jennifer Sanger, one of the researchers targeted by the forest lobbies’ complaints.
"This is an attempt to intimidate researchers who speak up against the forestry industry. However, I will not be silenced."
This news comes after an important study was published by the Academic Freedom Working Group last year showing that 42% of environmental scientists have felt intimidated or been harassed for speaking publicly about their research.
“I am disappointed that the University of Tasmania even decided to investigate the matter", said Dr Sanger.
"Some of the misconduct charges were ridiculous, like not declaring volunteer work or demanding that we remove an opinion piece that only briefly mentioned our retracted research."
“Obviously University of Tasmania have been feeling political pressure over the issue as they have received millions in funding from the forestry industry over the last decade," said Dr Sanger.
"The university should have marked the complaint 'Return to Sender', given the paper had been retracted, and given the industry mounted a public relations attack on us 2 months before the complaints came to light."
"This is a win for all researchers who are targeted by industry,” Dr Sanger said.