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Differentiation of U.S. ecologists into professional guilds based on professional traits

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This paper demonstrates the ways and degrees to which contemporary, U.S.-based, employed or retired ecologists aggregate into guild-like groups on the basis of their valuations of 15 professional traits. Principle components analysis of survey data from 904 Ecological Society of America respondents led to five emergent factors from the 15 traits: ‘enjoying nature,’ ‘preserving nature,’ ‘questing for knowledge,’ ‘possessing epistemic expertise,’ and ‘accepting religious foundations for valuing nature.’ Subsequent cluster analysis on these factors yielded four groups of respondents we designated as ‘youthful relativists,’ ‘older naturalists,’ scientific objectivists,’ and ‘optimistic traditionalists.’ Surprisingly, the majority of respondents were negative about the ‘enjoying nature,’ or ‘preserving nature’ factors, a matter for further exploration. Also, differential levels of doubt existed as to the maintenance of objectivity during the practices of research, and especially in participation in environmental issues.

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We thank Katherine McCarter, Executive Director of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), for permitting use of ESA records, and Thet Khaing Oo, Associate Director, Information Systems of ESA for facilitating access to membership data. We gratefully acknowledge the ideas and analyses contributed by Prof. Anne Bowen, Department of Psychology, University of Arizona. We also thank the 2000 ESA members for their generous participation in providing data for this work. This paper was significantly improved through the advice of an anonymous reviewer. This work was funded by our home institutions through our salaries.

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Correspondence to William A. Reiners.


Appendix 1

See Table 3.

Table 3 Respondent properties (demographic variables) based on the six questions of the first question set

Appendix 2

See Table 4.

Table 4 Distribution of cluster groups with respect to demographic variables

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Reiners, W.A., Reiners, D.S. & Lockwood, J.A. Differentiation of U.S. ecologists into professional guilds based on professional traits. Scientometrics 106, 281–298 (2016).

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  • Enjoying nature
  • Preserving nature
  • Epistemic breadth
  • Questing for knowledge
  • Religious foundations
  • Scientific objectivity
  • Ecological guilds

Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 62H25

JEL Classification

  • Q57