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Title: A pragmatic approach for producing theoretical syntheses in ecology
Authors: Travassos-Britto, Bruno
Pardini, Renata
El-Hani, Charbel N.
Prado, Paulo I.
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: PLoS
Project: 88882.315632/2019-01 
Serial title, monograph or event: PLoS ONE
Volume: 16
Issue: 12
Abstract: It has been proposed that ecological theory develops in a pragmatic way. This implies that ecologists are free to decide what, from the knowledge available to them, they will use to build models and learn about phenomena. Because in fields that develop pragmatically knowledge generation is based on the decisions of individuals and not on a set of predefined axioms, the best way to produce theoretical synthesis in such fields is to assess what individuals are using to support scientific studies. Here, we present an approach for producing theoretical syntheses based on the propositions most frequently used to learn about a defined phenomenon. The approach consists of (i) defining a phenomenon of interest; (ii) defining a collective of scientists studying the phenomenon; (iii) surveying the scientific studies about the phenomenon published by this collective; (iv) identifying the most referred publications used in these studies; (v) identifying how the studies use the most referred publications to give support to their studies and learn about the phenomena; (vi) and from this, identifying general propositions on how the phenomenon is approached, viewed and described by the collective. We implemented the approach in a case study on the phenomenon of ecological succession, defining the collective as the scientists currently studying succession. We identified three propositions that synthesize the views of the defined collective about succession. The theoretical synthesis revealed that there is no clear division between "classical'' and "contemporary'' succession models, and that neutral models are being used to explain successional patterns alongside models based on niche assumptions. By implementing the pragmatic approach in a case study, we show that it can be successfully used to produce syntheses based on the actual activity of the scientific community studying the phenomenon. The connection between the resulting synthesis and research activity can be traced back through the methodological steps of the approach. This result can be used to understand how knowledge is being used in a field of study and can guide better informed decisions for future studies.
ISSN: 1932-6203
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0261173
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D CES - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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