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The best sentences a scientist gets to say

Some candidates: "That's a great question, which my next slide addresses." "The error bars are too small to be visible." (one of the benefits of being a microcosmologist is that I get to say this a fair bit) Then there are the sentences you wish you could say, but...

Why my papers are like fine wine

Because they're mostly not cited often, indicating that they can only be appreciated by a cultivated elite . If everybody and their mother was citing me, that would mean my papers were the scientific equivalent of Two Buck Chuck . At least, that's what I like to tell...

UK parliamentary inquiry on peer review

The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is conducting an inquiry into the scientific peer review system. You can read the inquiry's terms of reference, see video of their hearing, and read the written evidence (including the submission Owen Petchey and...

Are some general ecological concepts TOO general?: revisiting an Oikos classic

As I've discussed elsewhere , the level of generality with which we conduct ecological research is up to us (well, usually ). We can choose to focus on the forest, or the trees. And studies of different levels of generality complement one another-- you don't fully...

A visual metaphor for the Price Equation (UPDATED)

Disclaimer: This post is about something I've been struggling with for a while, and I was so pleased when I finally figured it out that I decided to post on it. Plus, I haven't posted in a while so I figured I'd better post something . Whether these motivations are...

April 2011 Editor's Choice: lichenivorous moths.

Preamble Who has ever heard of the big bad moth? This paper is really novel and interesting on so many levels. At a basic level, there are some very nice elements developed this paper which make it a top paper. Of course it is no surprise that moths eat lichens, but I...

Why macroecology needs 'microecology': revisiting an Oikos classic

John Lawton's ' Patterns in ecology ' is a minor Oikos classic (cited 73 times since its publication in 1996). As he recognized, John was writing at a time of transition in ecology. Over the previous 15 or so years ecology (especially community ecology) had become...

Why doesn't community ecology erase the signal of historical biogeography? (UPDATED)

Current species distributions have a strong historical signal. Darwin noted that the extinct fossilized species from a given locality were more closely related to contemporary species from the same locality rather than to, say, contemporary species living far away in a...

Diego Vázquez's quick biography

I am a CONICET researcher at the Argentine Institute of Dryland Research , in Mendoza, a city of almost one million people at the foot of the highest peaks of the Andes. I am also an adjunct professor at the Institute of Basic Science of the National University of Cuyo...

'Beauty' is not (necessarily) truth

As scientists we're often attracted to elegant, 'beautiful' ideas. For instance, I, like many biologists, think evolution by natural selection is profoundly elegant and beautiful (in ways I have difficulty fully articulating). We're attracted to elegant ideas in part...

Are there inherently complex ecological phenomena?

In a previous post I suggested that the apparent overwhelming complexity and non-generality of community ecology ('every community is unique') isn't real. Instead, it's a matter of the level of description chosen by the investigator. The forest is always there to see,...

Why expect trade-offs in ecology and evolution? (UPDATED)

Evolutionary biologists and ecologists believe that evolving organisms are subject to trade-offs. You can't have a 'supergenotype' or 'superspecies' that's optimized to do everything , whose fitness (both in absolute terms, and relative to competing genotypes or...

The art of hand waving

' Hand waving ' in science has a bad reputation; referring to an argument as 'hand waving' suggests a lack of rigor. But is hand waving always a bad thing? If by hand waving we simply mean omitting assumptions or steps in an argument for no good reason (or worse, for a...

Contrarian ecology and why we need it

' It is better to know nothing than to know what ain't so' - Josh Billings, American humorist The most serious errors in science don't arise from ignorance of what's true, they arise from believing what's false. The most important false beliefs are the ones that are...

An Oikos editor, and a former editor, are fixing the peer review system

Well, we're fixing one key bit of it: the bit that ensures that there are sufficient willing referees to match the increasing flood of submissions. Scientists have strong incentives to write papers, but relatively weak incentives to review. We have to 'publish or...

Two good reasons to publish in Oikos, which you might not be aware of

1. We're a scientific society journal, not a for-profit venture. 2. We have no page charges . If you're like me and your lab is only funded at a modest level, paying $1000 USD or more to publish a single article can take funds away from other important uses like paying...

'Synthesizing ecology': revisiting an Oikos classic

Oikos' motto is 'Synthesizing ecology'. This has always struck me as an intriguing slogan, because it can be read in multiple ways. It might be thought to highlight our desire for generality. As our instructions to authors note, Oikos strives to publish papers with...

Most referees are happy.

A recent set of results from a very large survey (4000 respondents) found that about 70% of referees are satisfied with the current peer-review system. Importantly, 90% perceive peer review as a means to participate in the academic community. Wow, I am surprised! So,...

Free access to Editor's Choice articles.

Surprise! The Editor's Choice article will be available online as open access for one month. Now, I just have to get around to reading them to get the posts up!

Body size and ecosystem dynamics issue.

A new special virtual issue is available on body size and ecosystem dynamics. Please here to access.

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