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Membership nominations in international scientific assessments


International scientific assessments are transnational knowledge-based expert networks with a mandate to advise policymakers. A well-known example is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), which synthesized research on ecosystem services between 2001 and 2005, utilizing the knowledge of 1,360 expert members. Little, however, is known about the membership composition and the driving forces behind membership nominations in the MA and similar organizations. Here we introduce a survey data set on recruitment in the MA and analyse nomination patterns among experts as a complex network. The results indicate that membership recruitment was governed by prior contacts in other transnational elite organizations and a range of other factors related to personal affinity. Network analysis demonstrates how some core individuals were particularly influential in shaping the overall membership composition of the group. These findings add to recently noted concerns about the lack of diversity of views represented in international scientific assessments.

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Figure 1: Full network.
Figure 2: Nomination network among the 361 respondents (including isolates).
Figure 3: Memberships of the 361 respondents as white nodes; 21 international organizations as grey nodes; membership ties shown as black lines.
Figure 4: Precision–recall curves for the full model, a model without (shared) memberships in international organizations, and a random graph with the same density.


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This project was funded, in part, by a grant from a 2004 Columbia University Faculty Development Grant and by the Swiss National Science Foundation (IZK0Z1_157912/1). Part of this work was carried out at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) and at the University of Bern, Institute of Political Science. The authors wish to thank W. V. Reid and the MA Board for granting them access and allowing them to collect the survey data. The authors would also like to thank P.-B. McInerney and E. Fazekas for their research assistance during the early stages of this project.

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D.R.F. directed research design and data collection. P.L. was responsible for data analysis. P.L. and D.R.F. contributed to project design, write-up of findings, and revisions.

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Correspondence to Philip Leifeld.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Leifeld, P., Fisher, D. Membership nominations in international scientific assessments. Nature Clim Change 7, 730–735 (2017).

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