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Building Ecological Networks Where They're Needed Most
Jamais Cascio, 25 Jan 06

african_elephant.jpgScience is inherently collaborative. Fiction may be filled with researchers working in isolation to make some discovery, but the vast majority of real science happens because scientists can communicate and share ideas with each other. Such communication is all the more important when the research area is an intrinsically interdisciplinary field, such as ecology. But in an era when understanding the interrelated systems of the planet's environment is of growing importance, some parts of the world lack even basic organizations for ecological scientists to learn of each other's work. Fortunately, the British Ecological Society wants to change that.

The Society has just announced the opening of its Building Capacity for Ecology Fund, an effort to support the creation and expansion of ecological organizations in impoverished areas.

The Building Capacity for Ecology Fund will make £500,000 available over five years to support the establishment and development of ecological societies in Africa and Eastern Europe.
Learned societies are a vital part of the scientific infrastructure. By setting professional standards and facilitating the exchange of scientific information, scientific societies play a pivotal role in research and development. Where they do not exist, however, scientists and their local communities suffer.
According to Professor Sir John Lawton, president of the British Ecological Society: “Networks and professional societies are vital support mechanisms to promote best practice, exchange information, present the results of individual researchers to a wider audience, and generally make people feel they have colleagues to turn to when they need it.”

In an era of biodiversity loss, climate disruption of ecosystems and growing desertification, the ecological sciences are vital for understanding the extent of local and regional issues and working to establish and implement guidelines to fight these problems.

The BES funding will go to support the core services and basic supplies -- office equipment, Internet connections, and the like -- needed to make it possible for local ecological scientists to interact and start to build a support and collaboration network.

Collaboration and shared knowledge are absolutely critical to our ability to meet the challenge of a changing global environment. This is a terrific move by the British Ecological Society, and one that should be matched by similar organizations in the US and elsewhere.

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