Looking for conservation in all the wrong places

Embargoed until: Publicly released:

Conservation research is not being done in the countries where it is most needed, a situation which is likely to undermine efforts to preserve global biodiversity, Australian research has found. The authors looked at over 10,000 conservation science papers from over 1,000 journals published in 2014 and found that less conservation research was being undertaken in the world’s most biodiverse countries such as Indonesia and Ecuador, and the research that was done wasn't being led by scientists based in those countries of most need.

Journal/conference: PLOS Biology

Organisation/s: The University of Queensland

Funder: Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, Centre of Excellence programs , Arcus Foundation, Czech Science Foundation, Christensen Fund and Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Media Release

From: The University of Queensland

CONSERVATION RESEARCH IS NOT HAPPENING IN THE RIGHT PLACESConservation research is not being done in the countries where it is most needed – a situation which is likely to undermine efforts to preserve global biodiversity.

That’s the conclusion of a new international collaborative study published in PLOS Biology led by Associate Professor Kerrie Wilson from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED).

Associate Professor Wilson said the analysis revealed that less conservation research was undertaken in the world’s most biodiverse countries, such as Indonesia and Ecuador.

The study analysed more than 10,000 conservation science papers from more than 1000 journals
published in 2014.

The researchers compared the countries where these studies were done with the world’s most important countries for biodiversity conservation.

What they found suggested a mismatch between need and effort.

“If you dig a little deeper, it gets worse,” Associate Professor Wilson said.

The science conducted in these countries is often not led by scientists based in those countries and these scientists are also under‐represented in important international forums.

“This adds up to a widespread bias in the field of conservation science.

“If research is biased away from the most important areas for biodiversity conservation, then this will accentuate the impacts of the global biodiversity crisis and reduce our capacity to protect and manage the natural ecosystems that underpin human well‐being.

“Biases in conservation science will also undermine our ability to meet Target 19 of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD).

“Target 19 states that, by 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.

“Our comprehensive analysis of publishing trends in conservation science literature suggests we won’t meet this target if these biases aren’t addressed.”

The researchers believe that a range of solutions is needed, including reforming open access publishing policies, enhancing science communication strategies, changing author attribution practices, improving representation in international processes, and strengthening infrastructure and human capacity for research in countries where it is most needed.

“We won’t change the situation by simply ignoring it,” Associate Professor Wilson said.

“Researchers need to examine their own agendas and focus on areas with the greatest need.”


  • PLOS
    Conservatio-in-wrong-place-PLOS-biology-release.docx, 26.8 KB
  • PLOS
    Web page
    Link will go live after the embargo lifts
  • The University of Queensland
    2016-03-29-Wilson-PLOS-Conserv-Research-wrong-places.pdf, 131.9 KB

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