Fostering effective and sustainable scientific collaboration and knowledge exchange: a workshop-based approach to establish a national ecological observatory network (NEON) domain-specific user group

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The decision to establish a network of researchers centers on identifying shared research goals. Ecologically specific regions, such as the USA’s National Ecological Observatory Network’s (NEON’s) eco-climatic domains, are ideal locations by which to assemble researchers with a diverse range of expertise but focused on the same set of ecological challenges. The recently established Great Lakes User Group (GLUG) is NEON’s first domain specific ensemble of researchers, whose goal is to address scientific and technical issues specific to the Great Lakes Domain 5 (D05) by using NEON data to enable advancement of ecosystem science. Here, we report on GLUG’s kick off workshop, which comprised lightning talks, keynote presentations, breakout brainstorming sessions and field site visits. Together, these activities created an environment to foster and strengthen GLUG and NEON user engagement. The tangible outcomes of the workshop exceeded initial expectations and include plans for (i) two journal articles (in addition to this one), (ii) two potential funding proposals, (iii) an assignable assets request and (iv) development of classroom activities using NEON datasets. The success of this 2.5-day event was due to a combination of factors, including establishment of clear objectives, adopting engaging activities and providing opportunities for active participation and inclusive collaboration with diverse participants. Given the success of this approach we encourage others, wanting to organize similar groups of researchers, to adopt the workshop framework presented here which will strengthen existing collaborations and foster new ones, together with raising greater awareness and promotion of use of NEON datasets. Establishing domain specific user groups will help bridge the scale gap between site level data collection and addressing regional and larger ecological challenges.

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International Journal of Biometeorology