We would have been naive had we thought that ours is the ultimate word on global inequities in ecological science. Our group certainly included those who saw other dimensions to the problem we addressed, but these were beyond the scope of our quantitative analyses (Livingston et al. 2016). Marín and Delgado do just what we called for: They initiate a discussion among ecologists. However, they focus their attention on two critiques that are not framed constructively: (1) reinforcement between local funding and global science and (2) how to work on complex systems.
We did not argue that the only path forward is for low human development index (HDI) countries to break from “global science” in favor of “local science.” Countries at any HDI level can co-opt a share of global science by implementing strong feedback structures around the evaluation of researchers’ publication records, precisely as Chile has done. These efforts could ultimately increase the representation of those countries in global science and catalyze the shifts we call for.
Ecology frequently confronts complex systems, and all approaches to understand nature follow a simplification process. A flawed and oversimplified interpretation of our results would be that ecological science only needs further economic growth to flourish in low HDI countries. Despite our simplified framework, a key result of our analysis is that low HDI countries have substantial leverage to prioritize funding for ecological research. As a related example, Brown and colleagues (2011) produced a simple explanation of how global development is driven by energetic constraints, but they also show the complexities of each country's energy and gross domestic product (GDP) trajectories. They do not try to convince the reader that their simple model captures and explains all variability for any single country, nor do we. In our case, it is obvious that any single country and academic group will have singular experiences dealing with ecological science. We urge Marín and Delgado to extend the type of global analysis we initiated. At the same time, we call for more focused analyses to be carried out separately within regions, countries, and academic groups.