Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday caRd 2017!

Here is this year's card, with best wishes from both of us at the EEB & Flow!

It gets a little harder every year to figure these out. R's plotting capabilities improve every year, but usually via specialized packages. I've tried more and more to use as few additional packages beyond base, and to produce a script that is hopefully compatible across platforms.
  • For best performance, users must install the 'deldir' package and the 'RCurl' package. This lets you download the necessary data file with as little effort as possible. 
  • If you have trouble accessing the file via the URL, you can just download the data file from Github directly, making sure to load the file into R using the hashed out code in Lines6-7.
Then to run, copy the full code (below), OR download the source file from github ,
OR, the easiest way, run this quick code directly:

Full script here.
(Bonus points for those who can guess which species of McArthur's warblers these are meant to be ;) )

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

More authors, more joy?

It seems that ecologists have been complaining that no one writes single author manuscripts anymore since at least the 1960s. de Solla Price predicted in 1963:
"…the proportion of multi-author papers has accelerated steadily and powerfully, and it is now so large that if it continues at the present rate, by 1980 the single-author paper will be extinct”
Fortunately, an interesting new editorial in the Journal of Applied Ecology has the data (from their archives of published and submitted papers) to evaluate to ask whether this disastrous outcome has actually occurred.

It turns out that Price was wrong about single-author extinction, although he hadn't misread the trends. Since the 1970s, the proportion of single-authored papers at the journal have declined to less than 4% and the mean number of authors has risen to more than 5 (Figure 1).

Fig 1. 
It's also notable that single-authored papers are cited significantly less often and are 2.5x less likely to be accepted (!). (If that statistic doesn't make you want to gather some coauthors, nothing will). These trends agree with others reported in the literature.

The authors hypothesize that a number of factors drive this result. Ecology has gotten 'bigger' in many ways - analyses are less likely to focus on single populations or species and more likely to be replicated through space and or time. This increased breadth requires more students or assistants to aid with experimental or field work, or collaborations with other labs to bring such data together. Similarly, ecological data collection and analyses often require multiple types of specialized knowledge, whether statistical, mathematical, technological, or systems-based. And by relying on multiple researchers to play specialized roles, the overall quality of a manuscript might be higher (as compared to a jack-of-all trades). The authors also suggest that factors including the growing number of ecologists, the more international scope of many research activities, and more democratic approaches to authorship have increased the mean number of co-authors.

What makes these results particularly interesting is that I think there is still something of a cachet for the sole-authored paper. The conceit is that writing a sole authored paper means that you have a fully realized research plan, and you're accomplished enough to bring it to fruition by yourself. But these stats at least seem to suggest that you're better off with a few friends :)

Barlow, Jos, Stephens, Philip A., Bode, Michael, Cadotte, Marc W., Lucas, Kirsty, Newton, Erika, Nuñez, Martin A., Pettorelli, Nathalie. On the extinction of the single-authored paper: The causes and consequences of increasingly collaborative applied ecological research. J Appl Ecol. 55(1): 1365-2664.