The 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) provided crucial environmental protections, spurring research and corresponding development of a network of expertise that represents critical human capital in freshwater conservation. We used social network analysis to evaluate collaboration across organizational types and ecosystem focus by examining connections between authors of freshwater assessments published since the CWA. We found that the freshwater assessment network is highly fragmented, with no trend toward centralization. Persistent cohesion around organizational subgroups and minimal bridging ties suggest the network is better positioned for diversification and innovation than for learning and building a strong history of linked expertise. Despite an abundance of research activity from university-affiliated authors, federal agency authors provide a majority of the bonding and bridging capital, and diverse agencies constitute the core network. Together, our results suggest that government agencies currently play a central role in sustaining the network of expertise in freshwater assessment, protection, and conservation.

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