Some stories are just too alluring not to be true. On of these self perpetuating narratives suggests Harry Potter, the boy wizard that keeps a snowy owl as a pet, was leading to an increase in demand for pet owls in the UK. Even J.K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, released multiple statements asking her fans to give up on the idea of keeping owls as pets.
There was however, one important detail. There was little to no evidence to support the idea. Back in October 2017 I team of researchers I was part of a research team that published a peer-reviewed article, giving this issue a more scientific look. We found no evidence of Harry Potter driving demand for owls. This seemed like big news for us given how widely the link had previously been reported, yet we found little to no interest from journalists in reporting our findings. In an article for the latest newsletter of the Oxford Martin Programme for the Illegal Wildlife Trade, I talk about the experience of trying to attract attention for research that contradicts a widely held popular belief and why null results, those that find no relationship between the elements being studied, are a key part of research.
PS: A couple of weeks after I wrote this story, we finally got some press, with a great article in Forbes Magazine that covers the entire issue and uses many of our research results. Have a read here! I guess better late than never!