Monday, 13 August 2012

The publication strategy dilema

With the rise of open-access, rapidly publishing online journals academics publication strategy is becoming even more important.  These new journals do not necessarily have an impact factor but may well lead to high citations for individual articles given their more easily accessible nature.  The dilemma of where to publish to advance your academic career has never been greater.  This is well summarized in a recent article and subsequent reviews on F1000.

On plummeting manuscript acceptance rates by the main ecological journals and the progress of ecology.
Wardle DA.Ideas Ecol Evol. 2012 May 29; 5:13-5

Reviews on F1000:
Hector A: 2012.
Norton D: 2012. 

I particularly like the questions raised in the reviews as they are pertinent to my own publication dilemmas, where as an early career researcher I'm aware that I'm likely to be judged not only on the number of papers but also the impact factor or rank of the journal I publish in. 
  • Is high selectivity (and rejection rates) at journals the best system for advancing science?
  • Should a paper be judged by the journal it is in or would article-level metrics do a better job? 
  • Do we need journals any more or would we be better with a repository in the Cloud? 
  • Should all publicly-funded research be open access (as is increasingly the case in medicine)? 
  • Are new initiatives, such as PLoS, Frontiers, eLife, and Faculty of 1000's new publishing initiative F1000 Research, the way forward? 
  • Should academics in the 'more mature' stages of their careers, and for whom promotion is less of an issue, endeavor to publish research through these new publishing initiatives to counter the institutionalized emphasis on impact factor?
  • why are we so focused on quantity and what happened to the in-depth research projects or reviews of key issues that used to be published?
I also appreciate David Norton's comment about the value of books, particularly as I have recently published a couple of book chapters and have the opportunity for more - but they tend to be viewed as somehow less worthy than papers:

"I was concerned recently to hear a colleague say that a book was less important than a traditional published paper in terms of research quality – but a book might reflect the results of many years work and provide a synthesis of a considerable body of research, including much reflection; surely this is of more value to ecology than simply publishing the latest bit of data that reaches publishable size that can squeezed out of an experiment or field trial?"

Thursday, 9 August 2012

An important article

Its not often we highlight an article as 'exceptional', but we felt this refutation that eloquently counters some of the rather wild articles published recently which essentially tell us to stop making so much fuss about invasive species is an important one. 

D Simberloff, L Souza, MA Nuñez, MN Barrios-Garcia and W Bunn Ecology. 2012 Mar; 93(3): 598-607

Our Review: 

Parry H, Lonsdale M: 2012. 

This paper provides some counter-evidence to the argument that native species are as likely to become problematic invaders as non-indigenous species. The authors examined the literature on plant invasions in the United States and found that a member of the naturalised non-native pool is 40 times more likely than the native species to be perceived as invasive.
It is important to note that, while 'invasive' means different things to different researchers in the literature, these authors are using it to mean spreading from the point of introduction into the natural or semi-natural habitat and having an effect on the resident species in the habitat. The authors used Web of Science literature searches to determine for the United States the proportion of native and non-native plant species that were recorded as invasive and to glean the reasons for invasions by native species. In addition to demonstrating that non-native species have far greater invasion risk than native species, they also found that the typical cause for invasiveness of native species was mainly anthropogenic environmental change, such as altered fire regimes and grazing regimes. In other words, it was unusual for native species to spontaneously invade under natural, unmodified environmental conditions.
All this provides an important counter-argument to the proposal that there is nothing special about non-native species per se, which has arisen in recent literature (e.g. [1]). According to Simberloff et al., non-native species clearly have a greater propensity to cause damage than natives, and we should use this information strategically, rather than ignore this important trait.

Davis MA, Chew MK, Hobbs RJ, Lugo AE, ..., Ehrenfeld JG, Grime JP, Mascaro J, Briggs JC Nature. 2011 Jun 9; 474(7350): 153-4