Environment department tried to bury research that found huge underspend on Australian threatened species

Read the full story in Guardian Australia.

The federal government tried to stop the publication of an academic paper that found it needed to drastically increase its spending on threatened Australian wildlife.

Internal documents released to Guardian Australia under freedom of information laws show senior officials in the federal environment department spent months pressuring the scientists from the government-funded Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

The scientists had drafted a paper in 2019 that compared Australian threatened species funding with that in the US. They found Australia was spending just a tenth of what the US dedicated to trying to recover endangered wildlife.

The documents show that before a meeting with two of the hub’s scientists at the University of Melbourne the department drew up options, including “don’t publish the paper” or remove references to the government program.

Another option considered was publishing the paper under a different set of author names – something that could have qualified as academic misconduct.

The research, known as the Spending to Save paper, was ultimately published in the journal Conservation Letters in November 2019 after the researchers deleted references to the government program and agreed not to promote its findings in the media.

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