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Taking the long view: US scientists affirm value of long term research

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January 31 2018 Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies read full article here and link to corrected proof pdf here.

For many years, long-term research has played a key role in revealing the planet’s complex ecological and evolutionary dynamics. But some scientists argue that there’s a need to revise strategies for long-term research to fill gaps in research, better examine underrepresented fields, and address limits in design and data collection.

What’s more, many contend that the benefits and failings of long-term research are typically argued only by a limited number of scientists who have published reports in the field.

A Yale-led survey of 1,179 ecological and evolutionary scientists, published in the journal Ecological Monographs, provides a detailed glimpse into how the U.S. ecological community views the direction of long-term research, the important role it plays in the advancement of knowledge, and specific research areas scientists believe should be treated as priorities. (The researchers defined “long-term research” as projects lasting at least five years.)

According to the survey, which was done in collaboration with polling experts from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, nearly 80 percent of respondents believe that long-term experiments have contributed a “great deal” to improved ecological understanding.

In fact, multi-site, long-term research — in comparison with, for instance, short-term, single-site, modeling, or lab experiments — was by far the most highly ranked approach for developing new theory. Observational research methods (monitoring) and experimental approaches were considered equally important.

Respondents also called for a more supportive research environment and funding structure, including stronger institutional acknowledgement of the contributions of long-term research and greater support during the establishment and maintenance of research programs.

When asked which topics or questions should be targeted in future long-term research, respondents most commonly identified the impacts of global change — including climate change, invasion by non-native species, and anthropogenic disturbance.

“Long-term research has been a primary tool for being able to understand how global changes are happening on the ground, particularly as a result of climate change,” said Sara Kuebbing, a postdoctoral associate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) and lead author of the study. “Almost everyone agrees that it is critically important and needs to be continued.”

Correct proof pdf (not published yet?)

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