Catangui's predecessor at the Cooperative Extension Service, Professor Emeritus Ben Kantack, says SDSU gave Catangui the boot for refusing to advocate soybean-aphid-spraying guidelines from other states for South Dakota. Catangui's research indicates that following different spraying guidelines in South Dakota will increase South Dakota farmers' yields and income.
Kantack says Catangui's dismissal violates academic freedom. Readers may wish to review the statement on academic freedom in the collective bargaining agreement our profs sign:
The parties to this agreement recognize and accept the importance of academic freedom to teaching and learning. Academic freedom includes the right to study, discuss, investigate, teach and publish. Academic freedom applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of students to freedom in learning. It includes the freedom to perform one's professional duties and to present differing and sometimes controversial points of view, free from reprisal. The faculty unit member is entitled to freedom in research and in the publication of the results, subject to the performing of other assigned academic duties [2008-2011 South Dakota University Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreement, 14.1.1].
This academic freedom statement makes it pretty clear that SDSU can't fire a professor for publishing and discussing the results of his or her research. But I wonder: does work in the field for the Extension Service fall under "other assigned academic duties"? Is there some clause that excludes those public outreach activities from the academic freedom clause?
Worth noting: SDSU Extension entomologist Kelley Tilmon quite firmly advocates the 250-threshold and regional aphid guidelines in this July 27 Extension Service article. Tilmon and Catangui have disagreed on aphid recommendations previously and publicly. Catangui has recommended treatment at one to five aphids per plant, a threshold challenged by other researchers. Some questions about Cantangui's research center on caging soybeans, which prevents beneficial insects from helping control aphids. But cage studies are used regularly in entomology, and subsequent field research seems to show better yields under the lower aphid thresholds.
Scientists have honest disagreements. They deal with complicated questions like when to spray soybeans for aphids—at least it seems complicated to me, what with a range of variables like soybean growth stage, yield potential, spraying cost, soybean market value to consider. They come up with different answers. That's why we have academic freedom: to protect professors' right to challenge the prevailing wisdom when their research (not to mention their conscience) says a challenge is warranted.
(Hmm... Dr. Blanchard, care to offer a turn on this topic on climate change?)
Meanwhile, outside the halls of academia, what are you farmers up to? Are you spraying for aphids? Do you follow the Extension guidelines? Are they working in South Dakota?