Evol Ecol Res 20: 699–700 (2019)

Professor Jeffrey Hutchings (1958–2022)
FRSC; Professor in Biology at Dalhousie University

Freedom of Science, Ideas & Societies

At the end of January, 2022, ecologists and evolutionary biologists experienced a profound loss — Professor Jeffrey Hutchings, an editor of Evolutionary Ecology Research, passed away very, very suddenly. For me the loss was acutely personal; I lost my prime colleague and my life-partner of over eleven years.

As I write, Russia is hammering Ukraine. Ukrainians are fleeing their country. But also, everyday, trains bring Russians to Finland. They leave Russia because they find normal life under the current regime impossible. Just as with information about the corona virus pandemic, the role of noninformed opinions, fake news, and beliefs — spreading and being spread in social media — has become characteristic of what many people in Russia believe about the brutal invasion of Ukraine by the Russian military. This serves as yet another reminder of the importance of scientifically-founded, fact-based information, interpreted and communicated transparently. These ideals were the cornerstones of Jeff’s scientific work and his personality.

Many scientists remember Jeff’s fierce talk, The Death of Evidence, delivered in Ottawa, July 2012. The Canadian Government was attempting to diminish the role of science in decision making, to reduce science funding, and to increase the ability of government to shape the communication of research conducted in their own institutes such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Recently Jeff wrote about the collapse of Northern cod and how science advice about the situation was treated dismissively (Hutchings 2022). Many colleagues also remember Jeff from his strong opinions about the lack of transparency in science, be it in unjustified decisions to reject articles; be it about funding bodies who altered rankings provided by the peer review process; or be it about deeply rooted but weakly founded assumptions that still dominate fisheries management (Perälä et al. 2022).

In summer 2021, Jeff and I served on a panel to envision the future of Evolutionary Ecology Research. In Jeff’s view, one of the great strengths of EER is to serve as an arena to present novel ideas. He thought that all too many journals, editors and peer reviewers base their recommendations on ‘theses (already) established in our minds’ rather than solid evidence provided by data and novel, well-founded ways to compose alternative hypothesis (Hutchings & Kuparinen 2021). Jeff’s example reminds us that science can stay impactful not only by being transparent and critical but also by having the courage to reevaluate and challenge itself on an ongoing basis.

Rather than protecting old forts, scientists themselves should serve as the prime champions of their work, just as Jeff did.

7 March 2022

Anna Kuparinen 
University of Jyväskylä, Finland

Keywords: obituary, memorial, tribute, government influence on science messaging, value of novel, well‐founded, alternative hypotheses, fake news.


Hutchings JA (2022) Tensions in the communication of science advice on fish and fisheries: northern cod, species at risk, sustainable seafood. ICES Journal of Marine Science (in press; https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsab271)

Hutchings JA, Kuparinen A (2021) Throwing down a genomic gauntlet on fisheries-induced evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 118:e2105319118 (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2105319118)

Perälä T, Hutchings JA, Kuparinen A (2022) Allee effects and the Allee-effect zone in northwest Atlantic cod. Biology Letters 18: 20210439 (http://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2021.0439)

© 2022 Ana Kuparinen.
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