A recent paper Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy by a number of very well known climate campaigners/experts addresses some of the media controversy about the effect of climate change on Polar Bears

The paper argues:

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have become a “poster species” for AGW, making them a target of those denying AGW evidence. Here, focusing on Arctic sea ice and polar bears, we show that blogs that deny or downplay AGW disregard the overwhelming scientific evidence of Arctic sea-ice loss and polar bear vulnerability.

The paper concludes, among many other things, that most skeptical references can be traced to a single blog: Polar Bear Science, authored by Susan Crockford.

Approximately 80% of the denier blogs cited here referred to one particular denier blog, Polar Bear Science, by Susan Crockford, as their primary source of discussion and debate on the status of polar bears. Notably, as of this writing, Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears.

The claim highlighted above seems simple and unambiguous. Is it true?

  • 3
    I wonder if we can focus the question on just the claim? Do we need the first half?
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 27, 2017 at 13:02
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    @Oddthinking I thought the context helped explain why the question has been asked.
    – matt_black
    Dec 27, 2017 at 13:16
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    IMVHO, the title here is inaccurate vs the problem. There are two distinct questions here (one by OP, one in paper); OP's "Does Susan Crockford have no scientific qualifications related to polar bears?" and vs paper's "is is true that Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears.". I'd say that, arguably, she has scientific qualifications related to polar bears - just that they are insufficient to make statements as strong as she does, because she didn't do any real peer-reviewed research about them bears.
    – user26331
    Dec 27, 2017 at 17:03
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    Does not being an original polar bear author necessarily render me incapable of finding, reading and accurately understanding the polar bear research that has been done? Dec 27, 2017 at 17:14
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    @Amalgovinus: Please default to assuming good intentions of other users. There seems little value in conspiring to answer a question ahead of time when a single user can simply answer their own question, and cut out the need for a co-conspirator.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 28, 2017 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


I see no reason to doubt the statement.

Crockford herself says that she is

a different kind of polar bear expert than those that study bears in the field

indicating that she hasn't conducted original research.

In a further blog post, she justifies her relevance as a "polar bear expert" despite not having made scientific contributions in that area:

There’s no doubt that people who do virtually nothing but analyze the results of their field work (e.g. most polar bear biologists) do make a critical contribution to science. However, every field needs “unblindered” people as well – people who continually consider historical perspectives and seek out the distractions of related topics. Every field needs these big-picture thinkers who are capable of pulling together many aspects of scientific knowledge.

I bring just such an essential, big-picture perspective to the issue of polar bear conservation, life history studies, and Arctic ecology. My contributions to polar bear science are vital to the field, even if the data collectors think otherwise. So shame on those who suggest I am unqualified to comment on polar bear research — such lame attempts to silence and discredit me are a ploy to keep polar bear science insular.


The fact that polar bear biology is such a closed shop virtually guarantees that the only way any critical voices will be heard is via internet publishing, like this blog.

She follows this up with a list of her publications; none of which are both peer reviewed and about polar bears (it's either one or the other).

The publications she lists which are related to polar bears are:

  • a self-published map ("Annotated map of ancient polar bear remains of the world")
  • 2 online comments on a peer reviewed paper ("Directionality in polar bear hybridization. Comment")
  • a book ("Rhythms of Life: Thyroid Hormone and the Origin of Species")
  • her Ph.D. dissertation ("polar bear evolution discussed in detail" means it's covered in a 3-page example)
  • a contribution to a book ("polar bear evolution discussed" means it's covered in two short paragraphs)

The closest thing to a peer-reviewed publication related to polar bears that she herself lists is:

**Crockford, S.J. 2003. Thyroid rhythm phenotypes and hominid evolution: a new paradigm implicates pulsatile hormone secretion in speciation and adaptation changes. International Journal of Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A Vol. 35 (#1, May issue):105-129. http://www.elsevier.com/ [an invited submission; polar bear evolution discussed]

I only have access to the abstract, but the title and the abstract already show that polar bears were not the main object studied for this paper.

  • 29
    @tim Hmm... I'm not sure how similar it is in biology, but at least from my experiences in Computer Science, a Ph.D. dissertation really seems to push the limits of "not peer-reviewed literature" to me. It doesn't go through the normal process of, say, a journal paper, but it does go through a formal review process by expert peers (the advisory committee and anyone else who shows up for the defense.) Honestly, I'd argue that the peer review of a Ph.D. dissertation is significantly more rigorous than that of the average journal or conference paper.
    – reirab
    Dec 27, 2017 at 21:40
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    @reirab That may be true, but I would still say that it would be a stretch to call it "articles in the peer-reviewed literature" (or to say that it is "on polar bears", when it's on domestication and speciation and only using polar bears as one example).
    – tim
    Dec 27, 2017 at 22:03
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    @tim Honestly, at least in Computer Science, I wouldn't say it's a stretch at all to call a published Ph.D. dissertation "an article in the peer-reviewed literature" on a given topic.
    – reirab
    Dec 27, 2017 at 22:08
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    @reirab - I've only got a CS Masters', but it had the length and novelty requirements for a PhD dissertation (I tried to talk them up, but they weren't buying it :-) ). The review it got and the defense I made weren't nothing, but I wouldn't put in the same class as a peer-reviewed publication.
    – T.E.D.
    Dec 27, 2017 at 23:02
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    If she isn’t a polar bear expert, but is an expert in something else, it may be useful to indicate what she is an expert in, and how closely related it is to this topic. Is it analogous to an economist writing about the health effects of above-ground nuclear tests for example?
    – Golden Cuy
    Dec 29, 2017 at 23:05

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