A Look Back At 2014

It’s been a busy old year at Journal of Animal Ecology, with lots of personnel changes and a few new initiatives. Here, we review some of these developments.

The blog

In terms of new initiatives, the highest profile is arguably this blog – Animal Ecology In Focus – which we started in June 2014. Although the senior editors were initially quite sceptical about whether this latest venture into social media would be successful, the feedback we have had so far suggests that it is a valued addition to our outputs, along with our Twitter feed (@AnimalEcology), our Facebook page, podcasts, videos, etc. The blog was kick-started by a controversial post by our own Tim Coulson on the latest UK badger cull trials and this theme was picked up again in a later post by the other Senior Editors, who offered the services of the Journal to Defra to provide an independent assessment of this year’s badger cull trial. The blog was subsequently highlighted by the BBC and cited in a Westminster debate by MPs from across the political divide. It is likely that this issue will continue to feature on our blog for some time to come. Other notable posts in the last six months include one by Ken Wilson highlighting the decline in entomological papers published in the Journal over the last 40 years, one by Ben Sheldon on funding long-term studies and a number of posts by Tim Coulson on issues such as sex-biases in science, the value of archiving data (with Ben), and a call for pre-proposals. In December, we opened up the blog for the first time to our Associate Editors, with a powerful post by Sonia Altizer and Julie Rushmore on the role of wildlife in the spread of Ebola virus. In 2015, we plan to invite other renowned experts in animal ecology to share their thoughts with on a range of topical issues. The first of these, by Dave Goulson, will appear shortly. If you have any ideas about what might make an interesting blog post, and who might write it, please contact us.

Data archiving

A key development at the Journal from January 2014 was that in common with all BES journals, we made data archiving compulsory for all papers (except under exceptional circumstances). The aim of this is to make our science more robust and transparent and to facilitate new analyses (explained further in Tim and Ben’s blog post). To make this easier for authors, we have integrated the Journal with one of the leading data archiving facilities – Dryad. Currently, it is free for BES authors to deposit their data in this repository, and during 2014 the vast majority of our authors chose to do so. Other data archives are available to authors, of course, including Figshare, Treebase, NERC Data Centre and GenBank, or authors can choose to archive elsewhere as long as it provides comparable access and guarantee of preservation. We encourage the use of archives that are relevant to the field of study. As this is the first year that data sharing has been compulsory, there have been a few teething issues, as both the Journal and our authors get into new habits. But, overwhelmingly, this new requirement has been welcomed by the ecological community and we feel that before long it will be common practice with most if not all journals, to the benefit of us all.

Papers and other media

Last year was another successful publishing year for the journal, with our Impact Factor remaining strong (4.726), ranking us 1st out of 149 Zoology journals and 24th out of 143 Ecology journals. We published our first Synthesis paper in 2014 – ‘Insights into population ecology from long-term studies of red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus’ (Martınez-Padilla et al. 2014). Synthesis papers aim to provide a balanced, comprehensive and concise overview of well-established field or laboratory study systems, targeted at a broad ecological audience for both teaching and research. We welcome your suggestions for new Synthesis papers. Our How to… papers continue to be popular with readers. In 2014, we published a How To.. on “building integral projection models: a user’s guide” by Mark Rees et al.. We also published a Special Feature on metabolic constraints and currencies in animal ecology, guest edited by Murray Humphries and Kevin McCann. In addition, we produced Virtual Issues on a diverse range of topics in 2014, including Bio-demography (edited by Tim Coulson), Molecular Ecology (Stuart Piertney), Entomology (Simon Leather), Food Webs (Eoin O’Gorman), as well as a special VI to celebrate Open Access Week and another cross-journal VI on Pollinator Ecology. Again, if you have any ideas for papers or virtual issues you would like to see in Journal of Animal Ecology, or would like to write/edit one yourself, please contact the Journal office. Of course, our bread-and-butter will always be standard research papers and during 2014, we received 869 manuscripts and published 150 papers. Unfortunately, with a rejection rate of ~85%, this means that we have to disappoint many of those that submit to us and we cannot find room for many excellent, scientifically sound papers. On the positive side, through Wiley, we are now able to offer authors the option of having their manuscript and reviews forwarded to Ecology and Evolution, an open-access journal published in collaboration with other ecological and evolutionary journals. In 2014, ~35 manuscripts were cascaded from JAE to E&E, and in the last two years ~75 transferred manuscripts have been published in E&E. We believe that this is a positive development for our Journal and for authors who submit to it, and we expect that in 2015 many more of our authors will take advantage of this partnership to publish high-quality open-access papers at a reduced Article Processing Charge (APC). Of course, publishing articles open-access is also an option for authors who are successful in getting their paper accepted for publication in Journal of Animal Ecology, and 2014 saw an increase in the number of authors taking advantage of this facility with 11 open-access articles published in 2014, compared with six in 2013 and one in 2012.

Personnel changes

Another big change this year has been in terms of personnel. In December 2014, Liz Baker stood down as Managing Editor of the Journal after 8 years with the BES. She is replaced by Erika Newton, who has previously worked on the BES journals and so is able to hit the ground running. She is joined by Simon Hoggart, who replaced Peter Livermore as Assistant Editor in September 2014. We wish Liz and Peter well in their new endeavours. There were also changes at Senor Editor level, with Graeme Hays stepping down after 9 years, Mike Boots leaving after nearly 7 years, and Ken Wilson taking over from Tim Coulson as Executive Editor. Graeme and Mike have been replaced as Senior Editors by Ben Sheldon and Jean-Michel Gaillard; both are very experienced animal ecologists with considerable editorial experience and have already settled in well.

Last year also saw a high turnover of Associate Editors, as many of our AEs reached the end of their terms. We are particularly grateful to those AEs who started with the Journal when the new editorial board was commissioned in 2005 and so have served their maximum 9 years. These include: Stuart Bearhop, Stan Boutin, Corey Bradshaw, Jean Clobert, Andre Gilburn, Bill Gurney, Murray Humphries, Rolf Ims, Bror Jonsson, Simon Leather, Kate Lessells, Atle Mysterud, Stuart Piertney, Joseph Rasmussen and Henri Weimerskirch. Also stepping down in 2014 were Ryan Norris, Andy Russell and Isabel Smallegange. We thank you all for your sterling efforts over many years.

In trying to replace these senior AEs, we have endeavoured to recruit in research areas where we receive a lot of submissions and have attempted to improve the diversity of our editorial board. In particular, we have broadened the geographical breadth of our AEs (including new editors from South America and Asia), and we have tried to redress the biased sex-ratio of our editorial board, whilst at the same time maintaining its high-quality. At the start of last year, just 13% of our AEs were female. By the end of 2014, we had increased this to 22%. This is well below our long-term target of an even sex-ratio, but we are slowly moving in the right direction. New recruits to the editorial board include: Lise Aubry, Ron Bassar, Thierry Boulinier, Jason Chapman, Ben Dantzer, Alison Dunn, Audrey Dussutour, Jenny Gill, Sissel Jentoft, Anna Kuparinen, Anne Loison and Rachel Norman. As always, we are open to established researchers nominating themselves or their colleagues to serve as editorial board members – please send a CV and cover letter to the Journal office.

And finally…

Overall, we feel that Journal of Animal Ecology is in a strong position. We are publishing high-quality papers with lasting impact that are driving theoretical and empirical aspects of animal ecology; we have an enthusiastic and knowledgeable team of Associate Editors; and we provide a friendly forum for the discussion and dissemination of ecological research and opinion. We look forward to a successful 2015.

Ken Wilson, Executive Editor (twitter: @spodoptera007)
Tim Coulson, Senior Editor (twitter: @tncoulson)
Ben Sheldon, Senior Editor (twitter: @ben_sheldon_EGI)
Jean-Michel Gaillard, Senior Editor
Erika Newton, Managing Editor
Simon Hoggart, Assistant Editor (twitter: @AnimalEcology)

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