IGN 12
Theory Vs. Empiricism in the Advancement of Science

Thursday, August 14, 2014: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
313, Sacramento Convention Center
A. Marm Kilpatrick, University of California, Santa Cruz
Katia Koelle, Duke University; Kevin Gross, North Carolina State University; and Karen C. Abbott, Case Western Reserve University
Karen C. Abbott, Case Western Reserve University
Point: Theory has little intrinsic value until it has been tested empirically. Counterpoint: Empirical studies have little value until they are placed into a theoretical framework. We bring together leaders in theoretical ecology and leaders in performing and synthesizing empirical studies to debate and describe why single theoretical or empirical studies are more important in the advancement of science. Although most ecologists would agree that most major scientific advances come from an integration of theory and empirical studies, deep integration is typically beyond the scope of a single piece of research, such as an individual paper or grant proposal. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of tension surrounding the relative value of individual theoretical and empirical studies, with strong opinions frequently arising through the peer review process where anonymity prevents effective dialog. How these individual pieces of work fare in peer review is not a trivial matter - it determines which types of research are funded and which journals publish the results. These things strongly affect the influence a study will have on the field, and thus feed forward to affect perceptions about the relative importance of a theoretical or empirical approach. We believe that the presentation-driven discussion will result in a partial bridging of the theory-empiricism gap with improved appreciation for both the strengths and what is missing from each approach when done without the other.
 Who needs theory?  Who needs empiricism?
Karen C. Abbott, Case Western Reserve University
 Go to the ant, thou theorist
Frederick R. Adler, University of Utah
 Team Theory:  When we can’t experiment and we need to tackle long and large scales
Mercedes Pascual, University of Michigan,Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Santa Fe Institute
 Empirical rules. A picture is worth a thousand words… or equations
John J. Stachowicz, University of California, Davis
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