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Scientific synthesis Bill Dennison UMCES Faculty Convocation Appalachian Laboratory 10 May 2013.

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Presentation on theme: "Scientific synthesis Bill Dennison UMCES Faculty Convocation Appalachian Laboratory 10 May 2013."— Presentation transcript:

1 Scientific synthesis Bill Dennison UMCES Faculty Convocation Appalachian Laboratory 10 May 2013

2 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 2012

3 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 evidence, from the highly quantitative (data sets) to the highly qualitative (oral histories).

4 Boyer defined scholarship as discovery, integration, application and teaching Boyer 1990

5 Boyer definition of integration Boyer 1990

6 Boyer definition of integration Boyer 1990 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 insight to bear on original research

7 Integration and Application Network graphical concept of synthesis

8 Different types of synthesis Data aggregation Methological integration Conceptual synthesis Reuse of results (e.g., meta-data analysis) Sidlauskas et al. 2009

9 Different types of synthesis Sidlauskas et al. 2009

10 NCEAS: 1995-present, NSF funded, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara

11 Managing synthesis working groups Encourage diverse viewpoints Manage power relationships Provide incentives for individual group members Establish clear expectations (data sharing, intellectual property, authorship, ethical considerations) Build group cohesion Order the discussion Hampton & Parker 2011

12 NCEAS working groups Hampton & Parker 2011

13 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

14 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

15 NESCent: 2004-present, NSF funded, Duke/UNC/NC State, Durham

16 NIMBios: 2008-present, NSF funded, U Tennessee, Knoxville

17 ACEAS: 2010-present, Australian government, U Queensland, Brisbane

18 SESYNC: 2011-present, NSF funded, U Maryland, Annapolis

19 Five step synthesis process Peters 2010

20 Three phase synthesis process Thompson et al., 2011

21 Five step synthesis process Kemp & Boynton 2012

22 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 maximizes explanation Kemp & Boynton 2012

23 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) Writing and speaking skills Kemp & Boynton 2012

24 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) Constructive criticism Kemp & Boynton 2012

25 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 Look for the Big Picture; find the “Macroscope” Develop diverse quantitative skills Study many synthesis examples Kemp & Boynton 2012

26 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 institutionalize synthesis Kemp & Boynton 2012

27 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 synthesis. Hydrological Processes 25: 3256-3266

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