Imagine you are an aide working for a legislator. The legislator is concerned about the environmental ramifications of widely used neonicotinoid pesticides and would like more information before making a policy decision regarding whether the pesticides should be restricted. Because the legislator's decision affects a large number of people, it is essential that you provide relevant, recent, scientifically valid information that comes from experts in the field. You don't have a lot of time to generate your report so you must act fast in deciding if a source should be examined further or ignored. Evaluate the credibility of each of the following by answering these questions:

    Initial Research

  1. Is the publication where the article appears peer reviewed?
  2. Is the article itself peer reviewed?
  3. In what discipline is Andrea Tapparo be considered an expert? Lynn Dicks? Jon Entine?
  4. Does the author have a neutral perspective on the subject matter, or is he or she trying to promote a particular viewpoint?
  5. Is there an organization that is in charge of the source's content, or that funds the operation? Does this organization have an interest in the subject matter? Is it likely to want people to have a particular perspective on this topic? Might it encourage the author(s) and editor(s) to give a skewed presentation?
Lynn Dicks, "Bees, lies and evidence-based policy," Nature 494, no. 7437 (2013): 283-283.

Jon Entine, "Bee deaths reversal: As Evidence Points Away From Neonics As Driver, Pressure Builds To Rethink Ban," Forbes, February 5, 2014.

Tapparo, Andrea, Daniele Marton, Chiara Giorio, Alessandro Zanella, Lidia Solda, Matteo Marzaro, Linda Vivan, and Vincenzo Girolami. "Assessment of the environmental exposure of honeybees to particulate matter containing neonicotinoid insecticides coming from corn coated seeds." Environmental Science & Technology 46, no. 5 (2012): 2592-2599.

    Discussion Questions

  1. Which articles do you think should be used to inform the decision of the legislator? Which should be ignored? Why?
  2. Would a different scenario or research question would change how you view the credibility of these sources?

    Additional Research

  3. Can you find more current research on this topic?
  4. For each article, what is the first author's education level? Does he or she have a degree? From what school? In what subject? What is their current position?
  5. What is the author's previous writing experience on this topic? How much does the author probably know about the topic or topics on which he or she is writing? Does he or she deal intimately with this subject in daily life, or only research it for the purpose of writing about it? If relevant, has he or she performed experiments and independent research projects on this topic?