Collaboration Across Time and Space in the LTER Network
The year 2020 is the 40th anniversary of the U.S. National Science Foundation's LTER Program, which has grown from a loosely organized set of research projects to a dynamic network of 28 sustained research programs across 18 major biomes. Hypothesis-driven, place-based research has been the Network's bread and butter throughout its 40-year history. Approaches to cross-site synthesis have varied through time, yet collaborative synthesis is essential for understanding the generality of site-based insights, scaling the results, and making them useful for modeling.
A recent update of the LTER Network bibliography makes it possible to approach the question of "what works" to facilitate collaboration at both the site- and the network-level. Our analysis shows that between 1980 and 2019, the average number of LTER-based publications per site per year grew from 6 to more than 30. For the first 10-15 years of the Network's history, the number of authors and institutions per publication was similar to a comparable sample of non-LTER publications. But the pace of collaboration accelerated rapidly between 1995 and 2019. Today, LTER papers involve nearly twice as many authors and institutions as comparable non-LTER publications. Site tenure and ecosystem type are predictably strong drivers of collaboration in the LTER Network. Researcher mobility emerged as an unexpected source of collaboration that merits further investigation.
This webinar supports the publication Collaboration across Time and Space in the LTER Network published in BioScience, March 4 2020
Marty Downs manages the Network Office of the Long Term Ecological Research Network, coordinating scientific synthesis, education, and engagement activities for 28 research sites in every major U.S. biome.
Since 2005, she has managed collaboration, communications, and outreach in environmental and public health organizations, including Brown University’s Environmental Change Initiative, the New England Aquarium, and the Nature Conservancy, where she led the Science Impact Project, a professional development program for TNC scientists. As a science journalist, she has written for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Technology Review, the news section of Science, and produced news and commentary for public radio. Marty began her career as an ecologist, investigating plant-soil-atmosphere interactions in temperate forests, subarctic forests, and arctic tundra.
Marty earned her B.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University and her M.S. in Science Journalism from Boston University. Use ORCID to view her research publications.