Showing posts with label papers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label papers. Show all posts

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Letting out your little Monet

I realized, sometime not too long ago, that I really enjoy adding aesthetically pleasing details to my figures in scientific publications. All scientists look at hundreds of boring, monochromatic scatterplots, bar charts and ordination plots every month, so why not make them a little more appealing? If done right, the benefits are that people are more likely to remember your key figures and perhaps results, you can convey more information by incorporating imagery, and you may actually get a little joy out of preparing those figures. The downfalls are, if done poorly, they are distracting and publishing color figures is always costly for print editions.

Here are some examples of artistically augmented publication figures -but if you have other good examples, let me know and I'll add them:
This is from a recent Ecology Letters from Crutsinger, Cadotte (me) and Sanders (2009), 12: 285-292, trying to explain how we partitioned arthropod diversity into spatial components.

This one is from Ellwood et al. (2009) in Ecology Letters 12: 277-284, which shows co-occurrence null histograms for patterns of arthropods at various hight locations on trees.

This one is from Crutsinger et al (2006) Science 313: 966-968 that displays patterns at differing trophic levels by juxtaposing photos of specific tropic members.

Finally, the use of drawings and images to illustrate phylogenetic trends in phenotypic evolution is particularly useful. Above are two examples, on the left is from Carlson et al. 2009 Evolution 63: 767-778, showing patterns of darter evolution; and on the right is from Oakley and Cunningham 2002 PNAS 99: 1426-1430, showing evolutionary pathways of compound eyes.

And here's one from Dolph Schluter (2000) American Naturalist 156: S4-S16, using drawings to illustrate how fish morphology corresponds to an abstracted index on the bottom axis.

Here are two from Joe Baily while working in Tom Whitham's Cottonwood Ecology Group that are effective ways to remind the reader what the treatments or dependent variables were (elk herbivory, leaf shape/genotype) and what the response variables were (bird predation, wood consumption by beavers). The left hand figure is from Baily & Whitham (2003) Oikos 101: 127-134 and the one on the right is from Baily et al. (2004) Ecology 85: 603-608.

Here is a great one posted by Ethan on Jabberwocky Ecology on Hurlbert's Unicorn!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review or publish; the curse of the commons

ResearchBlogging.orgNeed we be concerned about the volume and quality of manuscript reviews for journal submissions? In a recent editorial published in Ecology Letters by Michael Hochberg and colleagues, they answer yes, we should be concerned. They argue that manuscript reviewing is suffering from a tragedy of the commons, where growing submission rates to top journals is overburdening potential reviewers. This overburdening has two causes. First, that researchers tend to send their manuscripts to journals based on impact factors, regardless of the appropriateness of the manuscript for the receiving journal. Second is that authors view negative reviews as stochastic happenstance and in the rush to resubmit do little to improve their manuscript.

While the concerns are real, and the authors do suggest common sense approaches to publishing (i.e., choose appropriate journals and get colleagues to review drafts -something most of my colleagues do), there is little discussion of what incentives could be offered. The curse of the commons is when individual motives do not benefit the greater good, thus incentives could be used to alter motives potentially benefiting the larger community.

A number of journals now offer free access or free color figures in future publications for reviewing or even offering payment. Perhaps the move towards reduced length rapid turn around publications is part of the problem and that we should be valuing longer, more detailed papers (the classic quantity vs. quality problem). Whatever the potential solutions, it is promising to see journals, especially top-ranked ones like Ecology Letters, discussing these issues.

Michael E. Hochberg, Jonathan M. Chase, Nicholas J. Gotelli, Alan Hastings, Shahid Naeem (2009). The tragedy of the reviewer commons* Ecology Letters, 12 (1), 2-4 DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01276.x

Monday, December 22, 2008


Keeping up with scientific literature is a challenge. Even though is it possible to do a descent job in your super specific area of expertise, it is almost impossible to keep up with literature in general areas of science, such as ecology or evolution, given the hundreds of papers that are published each week. There are many tools that can be used to stay (kind of) updated. One of those are podcasts. If you are reading this blog (and if you frequently read blogs) it is likely that you know a lot about podcasts, but I found remarkable the few people that profits from this awesome resource in academia. There are many nice podcast on science, but few on ecology. The new podcast of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment is an awesome one, and I hope that other journals start doing the same thing (let me know if they are more!). This ESA podcast, with music by Nick Gotelli (excellent choice by the way, click here for more of his music), is surely one that you want to have in your mp3 player when you go for walk.

Other nice ones (but not specific on ecology or evolution) are the Nature podcast and the Science podcast, and my preferred one, the Scientific American podcast.