Science stands by
2009 fisheries study
THE EDITORS OF Science have become
aware of allegations of conflict of interest
that Greenpeace has lodged against Ray
Hilborn for failing to disclose previous
industry funding in connection with his
co-authorship of the 2009 Science paper
“Rebuilding global fisheries” by Worm et
al. (1). In fact, it is not possible to conclude
that Dr. Hilborn or other co-authors were
personally deficient in their disclosures. At
that time, journal policy allowed a single
lead author to declare conflicts of interest on behalf of all co-authors, a practice
that has since been discontinued. Current
journal practice requires each author individually to declare any and all relationships
(financial or otherwise) that could constitute a real or perceived conflict of interest.
Although the policies in place in 2009 may
not have resulted in the transparency we
have come to expect in 2016, the editors
of Science stand by the basic conclusions
reached in the Worm et al. paper. A group
of international fisheries researchers came
together from diferent perspectives to reach
consensus on the status of the best-studied
marine ecosystems worldwide and agree on
solutions and challenges to rebuilding fisheries stocks and achieving sustainable yields.
1. B. Worm etal.,Science 325,578(2009).
on land grabbing
OVER THE PAST decade, an unprecedented
boom in land transactions—commonly
referred to as land grabbing—has occurred
globally. At least 45 million hectares of
land have changed hands through conces-
sions, long-term leases, and ownership
transfers (1, 2). Driven by volatility in
agricultural commodity prices, interest
in biofuel production, and eagerness of
governments to pursue economic develop-
ment, transnational and domestic investors
have acquired land throughout the global
South (1). Resulting changes in control over
land threaten existing vegetation cover and
forests, especially where the new owners
successfully implement commercial agricul-
tural production. Changes in control over
land can support greater agricultural out-
put, but research on the subject has mostly
raised urgent concerns about transactions
leading to displacement of local livelihoods
and populations (3), and compromised
ecosystem services (4).
The efectiveness of research on land
transactions, however, is hobbled by three
problems. First, global data sets on land
transactions underestimate the total number of transactions. Ofcial statistics for
Ethiopia, Peru, and Cambodia show that the
numbers of transactions are consistently
underestimated in global data (5). Second,
it is difcult to calculate how much commercial agriculture is taking place because
not all of the transacted land is being
developed. Many investors, witnessing the
rise in large-scale land transactions, have
made speculative investments in land that
they hope later to sell for a profit. In many
other instances, local residents living in
and near transacted lands have resisted the
implementation of commercial agricultural
practices (6). Third, findings reported in
the literature rest largely on samples that
are not statistically representative of the
variation in factors such as geography,
socioeconomic diferences, and contractual
arrangements that influence outcomes.
Instead, they focus on social dimensions
of transaction outcomes such as fairness
and inequality (7). These are important to
consider, but the current dominant focus on
social outcomes needs to be supplemented
with a greater consideration of ecological
outcomes and efects on agricultural output.
A deeper understanding of land trans-
Chuan Liao, Suhyun Jung, Daniel G.
action outcomes requires studies that
are more representative of the range of
transactions. More systematic attention to
case selection and causal efects of tenure
changes is necessary to address research
limitations (8). Improved representation
will also enable more robust estimates of
social, economic, and ecological efects of
Brown, and Arun Agrawal*
School of Natural Resources and Environment,
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
*Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com
1. B.White, S.M.Borras,R.Hall, I.Scoones,W.Wolford, J.
Peasant Stud. 39, 619 (2012).
2. B. Zagema, Oxfam Policy Pract. Agric. Food Land 11, 114
3. M.A.Wendimu,A.Henningsen, P.Gibbon, World Dev. 83,84
4. K.F.Davis, K.Yu, M.C.Rulli,L.Pichdara,P.D’Odorico, Nat.
Geosci. 8, 772 (2015).
5. Large-Scale Land TransactionsasDeiversofLand- Cover
Change in Sub-Saharan Africa ( www.forestlivelihoods.org/
6. R. Hall et al. J. Peasant Stud. 42, 467 (2015).
7. K.Nolte,L.Voget Kleschin. World Dev. 64,654(2014).
8. S.M.Borras,C.Kay,S.Gómez,J.Wilkinson, Can.J.Dev.Stud.
Rev. Can. Détudes Dév. 33, 402 (2012).
9. A.Agrawal, Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci.U.S.A. 111,3909(2014).
Mexico struggles to
keep foreign grants
IN HER NEWS In Depth story “Mexico
struggles to woo expat genome jocks” (29
April, p. 507), L. Wade discusses the bureaucratic hurdles that are slowing research in
Mexico. We would like to highlight a hurdle
not mentioned in the story: Researchers at
the Mexican National Institutes of Health
(INSHAE) encounter obstacles when trying
to claim U.S. National Institutes of Health
Although not always successful, as Wade
points out, the Mexican government has
gone to great efort to make funds available
for local researchers. More worrisome are
Edited by Jennifer Sills
The company Saudi Star Agricultural Development transports water on the land it has bought in Ethiopia.