I am an academic oddball, which means that I get to spend my time thinking about the types of issues that fall into the cracks between the traditional academic disciplines. In both teaching and research, I explore how society organizes and utilizes science to advance its interests. This work draws from the academic fields of Environmental Policy, Science Policy, and the Science and Technology Studies, but does not fit neatly within those boxes. In order to understand this science policy interface, I regularly collaborate with ecologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and others from across academia. I maintain an affiliation with the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes – an interdisciplinary intellectual network of people dedicated to enhancing the contribution of science to equity, justice, and human wellbeing.
My research interests are currently dominated by an NSF-funded comparative study of the ways that five countries (the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru) and their academic institutions incentivize ecological research and publication. Science policy scholarship suggests that research that responds to knowledge needs is critical to efforts to solve contemporary socio-environmental problems. Unfortunately, academic policies are most often not designed with the intent of encouraging production of information that is useful or usable, and in fact can serve as barriers to that purpose. My ongoing research project, motivated by a personal conviction that science should advance societal goals, is designed to identify best practices from and lessons learned in these differing research policy regimes.
In addition to the above science policy project, I find myself drawn to studying controversies that result from tensions between dynamic social-ecological systems and our comparatively static environmental policies and knowledge production systems. A recent project is illustrative of this research focus: Using Q method, a technique that blends aspects of quantitative and qualitative social science research, Brendon Larson and I examined the scientific controversy surrounding proposals to move species to new areas as a climate change adaptation strategy. Some conservation biologists see assisted colonization, as the proposal is called, as a necessary evil; to others it is akin to apostasy. Our research systematically evaluates the scientific, policy strategic, and value-based considerations that underlie ongoing disputes that have filled the pages of recent issues of conservation biology and forestry journals. Research such as this exposes where the protagonists in current debates are talking past one another based on different technical understandings, as well as elements of the dispute that are fundamentally about differing values. This is a first step to facilitating nuanced discussion of the value disputes, a pre-requisite for progress toward a resolution.
Access my works on Western's institutional repository.
Neff, Mark W. (2020). How Academic Science Gave Its Soul to the Publishing Industry. Issues in Science and Technology, 36(2), 35–43. https://issues.org/how-academic-science-gave-its-soul-to-the-publishing-industry/Neff, Mark W., & Albertson, Z. (2020). Does higher education prepare students to bridge divides in today’s democracy? Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Online first. Retrieved February 24, 2020, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13412-020-00588-8
Neff, Mark W. (2018). ‘Williams and Morrone misunderstand and inadvertently support my argument: Mexico’s SNI systematically steers ecological research’, Science and Public Policy, SCY031. DOI: 10.1093/scipol/scy031
Neff, Mark W. (2018) Quest for publication metrics undermines regional research. Nature 554, 169. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-01675-1
Neff, Mark W. (2017) “Publication incentives undermine the utility of science: Ecological research in Mexico.” Science and Public Policy. doi:10.1093/scipol/scx054.
Neff, Mark W., and Katherine Carroll. “A Productive Role for Science in Assisted Colonization Policy.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 7, no. 6 (November 2016): 852–68. doi:10.1002/wcc.420.
Neff, Mark W. & Larson, B. M. H. (2014). Scientists, managers, and assisted colonization: Four contrasting perspectives entangle science and policy. Biological Conservation, 172, 1–7. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2014.02.001
Neff, Mark W (2014). Research Prioritization and the Potential Pitfall of Path Dependencies in Coral Reef Science. Minerva, 1–23. doi:10.1007/s11024-014-9250-5
Miller, T. R., & Neff, Mark W. (2013). De-Facto Science Policy in the Making: How Scientists Shape Science Policy and Why it Matters (or, Why STS and STP Scholars Should Socialize). Minerva, 1–21. doi:10.1007/s11024-013-9234-x
Neff, Mark W. (2011). What research should be done and why? Four competing visions among ecologists. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9:462-469. doi: 10.1890/100035
Book review (2011) “Making your work count,” a review of Baron, Nancy (2010) A Guide to Making Your Science Matter: Escape from the Ivory Tower. Ecology 92(3)
Contributing author of Science Policy Assessment and Research On Climate (2010) “Usable Science: A Handbook for Science Policy Decision Makers.” A collaborative project between the University of Colorado and Arizona State University. http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/sparc/outreach/sparc_handbook/brochure.pdf
Neff, Mark (2010) “Salmon” and “Mad Cow Disease” Encyclopedia articles in: Robbins, P., Mulvaney, D., & Golson, J. G. (Eds.). Green Food: Sage.
Muñoz-Erickson, T. A., B. B. Cutts, E. K. Larson, K. J. Darby, M. Neff, A.Wutich and B. Bolin (2010) Spanning Boundaries in an Arizona Watershed Partnership: Information Networks as Tools for Entrenchment or Ties for Collaboration? Ecology and Society 15 (3): 22. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss3/art22/
Cutts, B. B., T. Muñoz-Erickson, K. J. Darby, M. Neff, E. K. Larson, B. Bolin, and A. Wutich (2010) Ego network properties as a way to reveal conflict in collaboration's clothing. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 4:93-101. DOI: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.07.486.
Neff, Mark, and Elizabeth Corley (2009). “35 Years and 160,000 Articles: A Bibliometric Exploration of the Evolution of Ecology, 1970-2005.” Scientometrics 81(3).
Neff, Mark (2007) “Scenario Planning for Wildlife Management: A Case Study of the National Elk Refuge, Jackson, Wyoming.” Human Dimensions of Wildlife 12(4), pp 219-226.Harding, Cary O., Mark Neff, Krzystof Wild, Kelly Jones, Lina Elzaouk, Beat Thony, and Sheldon Milstien. (2004) "The Fate of Intravenously Administered Tetrahydrobiopterin and Its Implications for Heterologous Gene Therapy of Phenylketonuria." Molecular Genetics and Metabolism 81 (2004): 52-57.
Neff, Mark, and Ryan Myer (2006). “The Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University: Advancing S&T Scholarship and Creating a Foundation for Cultural Change.” The STS Curriculum Newsletter 143:2-5.
Neff, Mark (2004). “Wildlife Diseases in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.” Jackson, WY: Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, 2004. 77 pp. http://www.jhalliance.org/reports/disease.pdf
Harding, Cary O., Mark Neff, Kelly Jones, Krzystof Wild, and Jon A. Wolff. (2003) "Expression of Phenylalanine Hydroxylase (PAH) in Erythrogenic Bone Marrow Does Not Correct Hyperphenylalaninemia in PAHEnu2 Mice." The Journal of Gene Medicine 5 (2003): 984-93.
Harding, Cary, Mark Neff, Krzystof Wild, Sheldon Milstien, (2002). "The Fate of Intravenously Administered Tetrahydrobiopterin and Its Implications for Heterologous Gene Therapy of Phenylketonuria." In: S. Milstien, G. Kapatos, R. Levine, B. Shane (Eds.), Chemistry and Biology of Pteridines and Folates. Proceedings of the 12th International Symposium on Pteridines and Folates, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, 2002, pp. 305-308.