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Fauna & Flora International’s Dr Stephen Browne puts pen to paper to share why scientific writing is such a powerful tool in the conservationist’s box…
For a moment I thought I was trapped in an old joke – an Irishman, two Englishmen, a Chinese, a Burmese, a Cambodian, four Indonesians and two Filipinos walk into a room …
In reality it was a motley group of keen conservationists attending a workshop held in Singapore by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) on writing – scientific writing – to be precise.
The workshop was made possible due to funds generated through an exhibition by renowned artist Janet Laurence, based on camera trap photographs from an FFI project in Sumatra.
Dr Matt Linkie gathered together the group of FFI Asia-Pacific Programme conservationists at our FFI Singapore office. Under the training and guidance of Matt, Dr Neil Furey and me, the various project team members took information from their work to build, through the rather strict form of a scientific paper, a story about their work that will inform conservation practitioners worldwide.
With conservation needing so much action in the field to deal with the many challenges that biodiversity faces, it might be prudent to ask, why is it important to publish a scientific paper? The reasons for doing so are numerous, but for me – and many other conservationists – the key thing is that no matter how good your work is, if it isn’t published and made widely available, it doesn’t exist.
I also believe that unless those that actually do conservation work on the ground inform others about findings and recommendations, then much of the information out there will remain a purely academic exercise, and the broader benefits to conservation will be lost.
Unfortunately the very prescriptive and time consuming nature of publishing a scientific paper, means that those that have a wealth of knowledge to share, but don’t have English as a first language, the time, or writing experience are put off doing so. This was put into context by a paper published in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation, titled Do we need to develop a more relevant conservation literature? written by three staff from FFI and other leading conservationists, which states that:
We believe that the mismatch between science and practice is a serious constraint to effective conservation. We also feel that the continuing lack of capacity in developing countries to access the scientific literature, either as readers or as authors, is both inequitable and a lost opportunity for global science.
That’s why training – such as this workshop – is essential.
So, what will this workshop in Singapore tell us? If things work out as planned then we hope to see the results of FFI’s work across Asia being made available to all. Papers being prepared will tell us about:
So, what on the face of it may sound rather dull, a scientific writing workshop, is actually incredibly important in helping those that focus on some of FFI’s flagship species and initiatives (e.g. Global Trees Campaign), spread their knowledge to as wide an international audience as possible, hopefully in Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation.