Featured News Response to Clark et al research paper

Media Releases

Wed, 15 Jan 2020

Response to Clark et al research paper

James Cook University is committed to the highest standards of ethical research.

The University’s research is subject to the same quality assurance processes that govern the conduct and delivery of scientific research internationally.

The JCU research referred to by the Clark et al paper was subject to peer review by international experts and published in leading scientific journals.

The University stands by the quality of the original research that was done at the time, with some studies completed more than a decade ago.

Since that time, there have been many dozens of papers, by different researchers, and in different locations, showing clear behavioural effects of high CO2 on marine fishes, including papers from authors on the Clark et al paper.

Authors of that study have previously reported significant effects of elevated CO2 on fish behaviour, including traits they measure in the current study.


It is not correct to claim the Clark et al paper could not replicate the findings of the original studies as there are fundamental methodological differences between the studies conducted by Clark et al and the earlier studies with which they make direct comparison.

There are major differences in the species tested (the clownfish used in the original studies was not tested), fish life stages studied, and the size, design and operation of the equipment used to test the fish.

There are so many differences in what Clark et al have done compared with the earlier studies that it is not a replication of that earlier work and it is not directly comparable.

The JCU scientists involved in the original work are in the process of preparing a detailed rebuttal to the Clark et al paper and through this they will explain how the study did not adequately replicate the experiments.

Appointment of external panel

JCU takes seriously any allegation that a staff member or student has acted contrary to the highest standards of ethical research.

JCU has appointed an external panel to review research conducted by Oona Lönnstedt during her PhD at JCU, to determine whether there has been any research misconduct.

The panel’s members include eminent academics with expertise in field work, marine science and ethics, and a former Federal Court Judge and former President of the Fair Work Commission.

The formal appointment of the external review panel had been delayed by a number of factors including internal investigations into matters relating to the review.

JCU is aware of only one ocean acidification study led by Oona Lönnstedt and that is not compared by the Clark et al paper.