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Long-term ecological studies' practices and goals for trainees

Cite this dataset

Czapanskiy, Max; Arcila Hernández, Lina; Beltran, Roxanne (2024). Long-term ecological studies' practices and goals for trainees [Dataset]. Dryad.


We created a survey for the other authors in the 2024 Ecology Letters special issue on very long-term ecological studies about their practices and goals for trainees. We received 27 responses from researchers around the world studying a broad range of organisms across ecosystems. In more than half of the responding programs, undergraduate students collect, curate, and analyze data, as well as develop research questions, present at conferences, and contribute to writing scientific papers. Unlike our program, which primarily recruits from one university, other long-term studies often target a variety of institutions (79% of respondents). About half reported targeted recruitment of students from marginalized identities and a similar proportion paid students for their work. Students were slightly more likely to collaborate with a cohort of other students (3.8 in 1-5 Likert scale) and have peer cohort building activities (3.6 in 1-5 Likert scale). When asked to rank the helpful characteristics of long-term studies to undergraduate students, top choices included “links between research, internship, classes”, “extensive professional networks”, “rich data”, and “robust logistics”. The rank of “paid salaries” was split, with about a third of the programs ranking it least helpful to students but the other third of programs ranking it either as the first or second most helpful attribute of long-term programs. Based on comments related to funding, the low salary ranking might be associated with student funding opportunities available through university grants or independent fellowships. Overall, this suggests the most impactful transformation long-term studies can make is to advocate for paying trainees in future grant proposals.

README: Long-term ecological studies' practices and goals for trainees

We surveyed long-term ecological studies that submitted a proposal to an Ecology Letters special issue on very-long term studies to investigate opportunities and priorities for trainees. Our survey was open August-November 2023 and we received 27 complete responses. Questions on the survey covered:

  • How long has the long-term study been running?
  • How are trainees recruited?
  • What tasks do trainees perform?
  • What mentorship and support are available to trainees?
  • Are trainees compensated?
  • What is the perceived utility of the study to trainees' development as scientists?

Description of the data and file structure

Our dataset contains one CSV file (long-term-studies-survey-responses.csv) with aggregated survey responses. Personal identifying information of survey respondents has been removed. The fields in the CSV file are:

  • Question
  • Choice
  • Response
  • Count

Question is the question asked on the survey, e.g. "Do undergraduate students perform any of the following tasks?". Some questions had multiple choices for respondents, which are contained in Choice. For example, the question "Do undergraduate students perform any of the following tasks?" had choices including "Analyze data", "Be a named author on a scientific papers", and "Clean equipment". Response is the response given to a question (and choice, if applicable). For example, the question "Approximately, how long has the study been running for?" had responses "10 years or less", "20 years", "30 years", ...; the question "How likely are undergraduate students to participate in the following activities while participating in the very long term study?" had multiple choices, e.g. "Cohort building activities" and "Have first-aid training", and the responses were a 5-point Likert scale. Count is the number of respondents for a given Question/Choice/Response.

We only included survey results if the respondent replied to all questions. However, some choices within questions may have been skipped. Also, some questions had a response option "Other" that allowed the respondent to offer alternative responses. These have been removed from the data to preserve anonymity of respondents. As a result, the total number of responses varies between questions.


We sent a survey to other scientists that submitted a proposal to the Ecology Letters special issue on very long-term ecological studies. The survey questions covered the following topics:

  • Duration of study
  • Trainee recruitment
  • Trainee involvement in the scientific process
  • Trainee mentorship and support
  • Compensation for trainees
  • Perceived value of program for trainees.


Office of Naval Research

National Science Foundation

Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation

David and Lucile Packard Foundation