Mark Neff

Associate Professor · he/him


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.


PhD, School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University with focus on science policy; MS, environmental studies, University of Oregon; BA German language and literature, Whitman College

Research Interests

My writing explores the public roles of science in a democracy. This work is rooted in an understanding that the sciences represent powerful ways of exploring the world around us, and a recognition that public policy questions are never distillable to the types of questions that the sciences can address. There is a widespread mistaken belief that the sciences can somehow transcend the value and worldview differences that are not only inevitable in a pluralistic democracy, but that are also essential to the effective functioning thereof. I have a conviction, rooted in research and experience, that many of this country’s struggles sorting fact from fiction and our increasing political polarization around pressing environmental and social problems are exacerbated by unfulfillable expectations that the sciences provide actionable certainties in public policy controversies. Restoring public trust in science requires acknowledging the limited but essential roles that the sciences can play in guiding decisions in a democracy.

I am currently writing a book manuscript that introduces these ideas to undergraduate students pursuing careers in the natural sciences or in fields that strive to use of scientific evidence to guide decisions. My goal is that by helping students understand what science can and cannot do in public controversies, those students will be empowered to work toward a more functional democracy that stands to take advantage of what the sciences do so well.

I invite graduate and undergraduate students interested in exploring the roles of science in environmental and medical controversies to contact me to discuss courses and research opportunities.


Access my works on Western's institutional repository.


Jogannathan, K., Emmanuel, G., Arnott, J., Mach, K. J., Bamzai-Dodson, A., Goodrich, K., Myer, R., Neff, M. W., Sjostrom, K. D., Timm, K. M. F., Turnout, E., Wong-Parodi, G., Bednarek, A. T., Meadow, A. M., Dewulf, A., Kirchoff, C. J., Moss, R. H., Nichols, L., Oldach, E., … Klenk, N. (2023). A research agenda for the Science of Actionable Knowledge: Drawing from a review of the most misguided to the most enlightened claims in the science-policy interface literature. Environmental Science & Policy, 144, 174–186.

Neff, M. Neff, M. (2021). A Toolkit for (Technocratic) Environmental Sustainability. Science & Education, 30(5), 1315–1318.

Neff, Mark W. (2020, February 10). Trump’s administration may address the outrageous academic publishing market. Slate.

Neff, Mark W. (2020). How Academic Science Gave Its Soul to the Publishing Industry. Issues in Science and Technology, 36(2), 35–43.

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

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.