Accumulating evidence in ecology: Once is not enough

Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Many published studies in ecological science are viewed as stand-alone investigations that purport to provide new insights into how ecological systems behave based on single analyses. But it is rare for results of single studies to provide definitive results, as evidenced in current discussions of the “reproducibility crisis” in science. The key step in science is the comparison of hypothesis-based predictions with observations, where the predictions are typically generated by hypothesis-specific models. Repeating this step allows us to gain confidence in the predictive ability of a model, and its corresponding hypothesis, and thus to accumulate evidence and eventually knowledge. This accumulation may occur via an ad hoc approach, via meta-analyses, or via a more systematic approach based on the anticipated evolution of an information state. We argue the merits of this latter approach, provide an example, and discuss implications for designing sequences of studies focused on a particular question. We conclude by discussing current data collection programs that are pre-adapted to use this approach and argue that expanded use would increase the rate of learning in ecology, as well as our confidence in what is learned.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Accumulating evidence in ecology: Once is not enough
Series title Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1002/ece3.5836
Volume 9
Issue 24
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 14 p.
First page 13991
Last page 14004
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