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Becoming part of global, shoestring team requires researchers only to play fair, share
Date:11/10/2011

AMES, Iowa - Asking a scientist to take part in research that has little budget, less infrastructure and almost no central bureaucracy would appear a lost cause.

However, one group that was founded in part by an Iowa State University researcher operates with almost no budget, and has grown to a substantial worldwide research force in just six years. And potential collaborators are still banging on the door to get in.

Already involving collaborators at more than 70 sites, on six continents, and having results published in several top professional journals, the Nutrient Network is taking a revolutionary, fresh, cooperative approach to global research. And it's getting results - and recognition with a recent edition of the journal Science highlighting its new style approach to research.

NutNet, as members call it, was born from an idea hatched during a coffee break at a professional conference in California in 2005 among several young scientists frustrated at their inability to globally compare ecosystems.

The group hoped to compare systems from different parts of the world by looking at results from previous studies from other research - a common method called meta-analysis.

When they looked at data, it was difficult to compare information from different studies because each used different methods and looked at different data.

So they thought they'd try to collect the data themselves.

"We had originally thought that we would do a study comparing different (ecological) systems on the west coast of North America," said Stanley Harpole, assistant professor in the Department of Ecology Evolution and Organismal Biology at Iowa State, and one of the group's founders.

The research was to be completed by scientists who volunteered their time, energy and expenses, and all would use the same methods and take the same measurements at each site.

"Here we were -- a bunch of young scient
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Contact: Stanley Harpole
harpole@iastate.edu
515-294-7253
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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