Blog uses my polar bear info but no link to PBS means they are ‘science-based’

According to Harvey and colleagues (2017), any internet posting that discusses polar bears without a link to PolarBearScience or a mention of my name can be considered a ‘science-based’ blog. But they missed an obvious catch: bloggers who use my content without attribution.

Churchill Polar Bears dot org_header

For example, so-called ‘science-based’ blog Churchill Polar Bears, written by Churchill polar bear guide Steve Seldon, used text and two of the four figures provided in a 15 February 2017 post at PolarBearScience to create a Churchill Polar Bears post on 17 February but did not include a single link to PolarBearScience indicating that’s where he got his information (Wayback machine link here).

Churchill polar bears blog headline 17 Feb 2017

A few would not consider this plagiarism but most do. That is to say, failure to attribute a source when work or information is not your own is a big no-no in science, as it is in all of academia.

Consider this evidence:

Failure to attribute a source

1. PolarBearScience opening paragraph:

“The 2016 Scientific Working Group report on Baffin Bay and Kane Basin polar bears was released online without fanfare last week, confirming what local Inuit have been saying for years: contrary to the assertions of Polar Bear Specialist Group scientists, Baffin Bay and Kane Basin subpopulations have not been declining but are stable.”

Churchill Polar Bears carefully paraphrased1 opening paragraph, without attribution:

“A 2016 Scientific Working Group report on two Arctic sub – populations was released last week and appeared to confirm what local Inuit have been seeing over many years. Polar bear populations in Baffin Bay and Kane Basin are considered stable and not declining as Polar Bear Specialist Group scientists previously claimed.” 

2. PolarBearScience discussion of the impact that Baffin Bay and Kane Basin estimates will have on the global total:

 “This new information leaves only the Southern Beaufort subpopulation (SB) in a ‘likely declining’ condition, but since that decline was due to thick spring ice conditions in 2004-2006 (Crockford 2017), it does not reflect a response to recent loss of summer sea ice. The new population estimates for Baffin Bay and Kane Basin also suggests that a revision needs to be made to the 2015 IUCN Red List assessment with respect to the global population estimate because polar bears are clearly more abundant in Baffin Bay and Kane Basin than previously thought.

The new BB and KB subpopulation estimates should increase the 2015 global population size estimate issued in 2015 by the IUCN Red List from 22,000-31,000 to 22,633-32,257 which would likely be rounded off to 22,500-32,000. But wait! That estimate does not include a reported 42% increase in the Svalbard portion of the Barents Sea subpopulation in late 2015 (975 bears counted, up 290 over the 2004 count of 685) that was not included in the Red List assessment of 2644 (95% CI: 1,899 – 3,592) based on 2004 data. Therefore, when the Svalbard increase and the Baffin Bay/Kane Basin increases are all added to the 2015 Red List estimate, it might give a revised 2015 global estimate of something like 23,000-33,000 depending on how all the results are interpreted.”

Churchill Polar Bear’s summarized1 discussion of the impact of the new estimates on the global total, including the mention of the Southern Beaufort status, the 42% increase in Svalbard area bears, and the “22,633-32,257” total (based on my calculations but not attributed to me or to PolarBearScience):

“The new report suggests the global population estimate should be adjusted to the plus side and the 2015 IUCN Red List also be revised. Currently the only sub – population to hold the ‘likely declining’ label is the Southern Beaufort region. With the new data at hand the global population size should rise from 22,000-31,000 (as designated by 2015 IUCN Red List) to 22,633-32,257 polar bears worldwide. This estimate is not including the surprising 42% increase in the Svalbard area of the Barents Sea sub – population. In 2015 975 polar bears were counted in that region nearly 300 more than the 685 counted in 2004.”


My purpose here is not to chastise or embarrass Steve Seldon. He’s a Churchill polar bear guide writing a blog for former or potential customers — he’s not specifically writing a science blog and doesn’t appear to have an academic background. He probably thought that summarizing or paraphrasing someone else’s work meant he didn’t have to say it wasn’t his own. However, the fourteen co-authors who wrote the paper called “Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy” (Harvey et al. 2017) should have known better.

This example of plagiarism is yet more evidence of the lack of scientific rigor that went into the Harvey et al. Bioscience attack paper posing as a “science” article: because the method they chose for identifying and classifying what they considered to be “science-denying blogs” was only the presence or absence of links to PolarBearScience, they left themselves open to making egregious errors.

Not only did failure to examine website content cause them to miss the plagiarism of PolarBearScience, it caused them to mis-identify several news outlets as “blogs”2 in their supplementary information (e.g. ScienceDaily, Breitbart, The Daily Caller/Daily Caller, listed twice), include several defunct blogs (e.g. The View From HereWorld Climate Report), and list at least one very dubious entry as pertaining to polar bears and/or sea ice, York Blog.

Footnote 1. See this discussion on Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing from Purdue University (my bold):

“These three ways of incorporating other writers’ work into your own writing differ according to the closeness of your writing to the source writing.

Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.

Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.

Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.”

2.A blog is a website that contains regularly updated online personal ideas, comments, and/or hyperlinks provided by the writer (Nisbet and Kotcher 2013).” Harvey et al. (2017)


Harvey, J.A., van den Berg, D., Ellers, J., Kampen, R., Crowther, T.W., Roessingh, P., Verheggen, B., Nuijten, R. J. M., Post, E., Lewandowsky, S., Stirling, I., Balgopal, M., Amstrup, S.C., and Mann, M.E. 2017. Internet blogs, polar bears, and climate-change denial by proxy. Bioscience. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/bix133 pdf here. Supplementary info here.

Comments are closed.