Scientific synthesis Bill Dennison UMCES Faculty Convocation Appalachian
Scientific synthesis Bill Dennison UMCES Faculty Convocation Appalachian Laboratory 10 May 2013 Synthesis definition (Kemp & Boynton) The inferential process
whereby new models are developed from analysis of multiple data sets to explain observed patterns across a range of time and space scales Kemp & Boynton Synthesis definition (SESYNC)
A research method that draws from many sources, including researchers and/or multiple fields of inquiry, accelerating knowledge production by distilling data, ideas, theories, or methods. Synthesis may involve the development or application of models or the integration of methods from different disciplines to define new approaches or research directions. It
may also involve critical analysis to evaluate arguments or interpret Boyer defined scholarship as discovery, integration, application and teaching Boyer 1990 Boyer definition of integration
Boyer 1990 Boyer definition of integration Making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context, illuminating data in a revealing way, often educating nonspecialists, too. Serious, disciplined work that
seeks to interpret, draw together, and bring new Boyer 1990 insight to bear on original Integration and Application Network graphical concept of synthesis Different types of synthesis
Data aggregation Methological integration Conceptual synthesis Reuse of results (e.g., meta-data analysis)
Sidlauskas et al. 2009 Different types of synthesis Sidlauskas et al. 2009 NCEAS: 1995-present, NSF funded, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Managing synthesis working groups
Encourage diverse viewpoints Manage power relationships Provide incentives for individual group members Establish clear expectations (data sharing, intellectual property,
Hampton & Parker 2011 NCEAS working groups Hampton & Parker 201
Importance of face-to-face interactions Transmission of tacit knowledge Role and identify formation Communication Trust, cohesion, commitment
Sense of gravitas Expectations of quality Hampton & Parker 2011 IAN: 2002-present, Grants & contracts funded, UMCES
Two dozen Science Integrators & Science Communicators IAN Press (300+ publications) EcoCheck produces environmental report cards locally and globally Image & symbol libraries used widely (100+ million downloads) Teach short courses locally & globally
NESCent: 2004-present, NSF funded, Duke/UNC/NC State, Durham NIMBios: 2008-present, NSF funded, U Tennessee, Knoxville ACEAS: 2010-present, Australian government, U Queensland, Brisbane
SESYNC: 2011-present, NSF funded, U Maryland, Annapolis Five step synthesis process Peters 2010 Three phase synthesis process Thompson et al.,
Five step synthesis process Kemp & Boynton Steps in synthesis research Identify challenging science problem Assemble relevant data
Integrate data by identifying linkages among units Define alternative models that explain or test problem Select simpliest model that Kemp & Boynton 201 maximizes explanation Professional skills for conducting synthesis research
Tested native intelligence Expertise in specific research area Critical, logical thinker Pattern recognition and visualization Quantitative skills (statistics, models, data management)
Kemp & Boynton 201 Social skills needed for synthesis research Inquistive attitude Willingness to develop and try new ideas Tolerance and respect for unusual ideas
Interest in Big Picture issues Team orientation, interdisciplinary Good listener and open minded Willingness to share (ideas, data, and publications) Kemp & Boynton 201 Mental exercises to build synthesis skills
Search for unconventional but general explanation Use isomorphisms, homologies, analogies
Tackle hard problems, but avoid impossible ones Develop conceptual models with links and causality Use consistent time, space and complexity scales Broaden knowledge base Work in team oriented interdisciplinary groups
Kemp & Boynton Institutional support for synthesis Reward multi-disciplinary research Recognize and reward collaborative research Increase funding for synthesis research Emphasize team aspect of
synthesis research Facilitate but do not Kemp & Boynton References Boyer, EL. 1990. Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Carnegie Foundation. 147 pp. Hampton SE & JN Parker. Collaboration and productivity in scientific synthesis. Bioscience 61: 900-910
Kemp WM & WR Boynton. 2012. Synthesis in estuarine and coastal ecological research: What is it, why is it important, and how do we teach it? Estuaries and Coasts 35: 1-22 Peters, DPC. 2010. Accessible ecology: Synthesis of the long, deep, and broad. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 592-601 Sidlauskas B, G Ganapathy, E Hazkani-Covo, KP Jenkins, H Lapp, LW McCall, S Price, R Scherle, PA Spaeth, DW Kidd. Evolution 64: 871-880 Thompson SE, CJ Harman, R Schumer, JS Wilson, NB Basu, PD Brooks, SD Donner, MA Hassan, AI Packman, PSC Rao, PA Troch, M Sivapalan. 2011. Patterns, puzzles and people: Implementing hydrologic
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