Monday, November 14, 2016

How do bat biologists perceive BATS? A new PLOS One article

Bats and Academics: How Do Scientists Perceive Their Object of Study?

This is the title of a new article that was just published in PLOS One (here) by Christophe Boëte and Serge Morand.  The article (based on results from an international survey of bat biologists) suggests that many bat biologists have reached certain conclusions about what the risks to bats worldwide due to environmental change are and that the key next step is communicating this information to the public.

I think this is the key point (see below) that is worth consideration. This conclusion is not surprising but is extremely important. However, what is the most effective way to communicate this information? Reaching out to school-aged children (k12) seems to be one of the focal groups as are students in classrooms of bat biologist but is this the ideal way forward? Twitter and other online forums are great but I think people usually communicate with like-minded people.

I highly suggest giving the article a look and I would be keen to know what people might suggest a proper response to the author's 'call to action' might be!
Educational poster on bats from Bat Conservation Trust in the UK (here).

Abstract (Boëte and Morand 2016)

Bats are associated with conflicting perceptions among humans, ranging from affection to disgust. If these attitudes can be associated with various factors among the general public (e.g. social norms, lack of knowledge), it is also important to understand the attitude of scientists who study bats. Such reflexive information on the researchers community itself could indeed help designing adequate mixed communication tools aimed at protecting bats and their ecosystems, as well as humans living in their vicinity that could be exposed to their pathogens. Thus, we conducted an online survey targeting researchers who spend a part of their research activity studying bats. Our aim was to determine (1) how they perceive their object of study, (2) how they perceive the representation of bats in the media and by the general population, (3) how they protect themselves against pathogen infections during their research practices, and (4) their perceptions of the causes underlying the decline in bat populations worldwide. From the 587 completed responses (response rate of 28%) having a worldwide distribution, the heterogeneity of the scientists’ perception of their own object of study was highlighted. In the majority of cases, this depended on the type of research they conducted (i.e. laboratory versus field studies) as well as their research speciality. Our study revealed a high level of personal protection equipment being utilised against pathogens during scientific practices, although the role bats play as reservoirs for a number of emerging pathogens remains poorly known. Our results also disclosed the unanimity among specialists in attributing a direct role for humans in the global decline of bat populations, mainly via environmental change, deforestation, and agriculture intensification. Overall, the present study suggests the need for better communication regarding bats and their biology, their role within the scientific community, as well as in the general public population. As a consequence, increased knowledge regarding scientists’ perceptions of bats should improve the role scientists play in influencing the perception of bats by the general public.

Boëte C, Morand S (2016) Bats and Academics: How Do Scientists Perceive Their Object of Study? PLoS ONE 11(11): e0165969. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0165969