Ecology Reconfigured: Organizational Innovation, Group Dynamics and Scientific Change

  • Edward J. Hackett
  • John N. Parker
Part of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook book series (SOSC, volume 29)


The ecosystem concept and related changes in ecological theory, combined with the emergence of large-scale, long-term data collection, catalyzed policy actions within the U.S. National Science Foundation and among ecological professional societies that, in turn, created the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), a place that further reconfigured the conduct and content of ecological science. NCEAS did so by pioneering a process called scientific synthesis, which combines data across sites and over time to answer broader and more fundamental scientific questions and to address environmental challenges. Small-group dynamics of trust, intimacy, emotional energy and intensive interaction (both constructive and critical) contributed to the local reconfiguration of the process and substance of ecological science, and then this local transformation, in turn, brought about broader changes within the field as a whole.


Synthesis Collaboration Ecology Group Dynamics Scientific Organization Transformative Research 



We are very grateful to Martina Merz, Philippe Sormani, and an anonymous reviewer for their extended, detailed, and insightful comments on our chapter.

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (SBE 98–96330 to Hackett, SBE 1242749 to Hackett and Parker, and by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, CA (DEB 94–21535).

This research would not have been possible without the cheerful and enduring support of Jim Reichman, Stephanie Hampton, Frank Davis, the NCEAS staff, and hundreds of scientists who took time from their research visits to answer our questions, complete our surveys, explain things to us, and simply allow us to spend time with them. We thank Nancy Grimm for suggesting NCEAS as a research site and Jonathon Bashford for helpful analyses and discussions. An earlier version of some of the ideas and evidence presented in this paper appeared in Hackett et al. (2008).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Human Evolution & Social Change, Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Barrett, The Honors College, Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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