Evolving Governance in the U.S. Long Term Ecological Research Network

TitleEvolving Governance in the U.S. Long Term Ecological Research Network
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsZimmerman, A, Groffman, PM
EditorWaide, RB, Kingsland, SE
Book TitleThe Challenges of Long Term Ecological Research: A Historical Analysis
Series TitleArchimedes
Pagination423 - 444
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISBN Number978-3-030-66933-1
KeywordsEcological governance, Ecological networks, Governance structures, groffman_p, long-term ecological research, LTER-HBR, LTER Program, National Science Foundation, Network science

Governance structures, essential to the function of any network endeavor, can take many forms. The independently funded U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites have posed unique governance challenges since the program’s founding, due to evolution in the group of sites involved, changing mandates from the funding agency and the constantly changing science, education and outreach activities of the network. We review the evolution of LTER network governance and examine how different structures have served (or not) the science goals of the network. Governance has clearly influenced the creation, sharing, and dissemination of knowledge in the LTER network and has adapted as the network has grown, while responding to changed priorities at NSF. Although systematic evaluation of the goals, drivers of change, and effectiveness of governance has been limited, governance has been a dynamic contributor to scientific success in the LTER network. Changes in governance were motivated by the desire to do more and better science in response to complex changes, such as the emergence of large-scale questions that required cross-site research, the need for synthesis of complex results, new developments in information management and the emergence of new environmental research networks. The network governance responses have been relatively nimble and effective. The clearest evidence for this success is the continued high productivity of the LTER network and the active engagement of large numbers of scientists in network activities such as Science Council and All Scientists meetings and both standing and ad hoc committees.