What makes a great paper for Journal of Animal Ecology?

In this video Executive Editor Ken Wilson discusses what he is looking for from a great paper for Journal of Animal Ecology. The message from Ken is that papers must have a clear structure, clear message, clear narrative & be genuinely novel.

Ken goes onto discuss our popular feature papers including Synthesis and ‘How to…’ papers. Ken discusses how synthesis papers are reviews focused on long term cases studies of particular systems or environments  while ‘How to…’ papers are methodological papers aimed at readers new to to a field and are designed as a guide of how to us a particular technique.

If you are interested in submitting a Synthesis or ‘How to…’ paper our guidelines for these paper types can be found here. If you would like to discuss a proposal please contact the editorial office at admin@journalofanimalecology.org.

Special Special Features

Special Features (SFs) are collections of papers on a specific research theme. For example, here at Journal of Animal Ecology we have had recent SFs on movement ecology and metabolic currencies and constraints, as well as a cross-journal British Ecological Society SF on demography. Recently, the senior editors of JAE met to discuss the role of SFs in our journal and how we could shake things up a little. Continue reading

Journal of Animal Ecology prize for early career ecologists

Competition_236015_Proof 200x200Both the British Ecological Society and Journal of Animal Ecology have long been champions of research by early career ecologists. Indeed, there are many examples of early career researchers publishing their first papers from their dissertation in the pages of Journal of Animal Ecology. To continue, and hopefully enhance, that tradition, Journal of Animal Ecology is very happy to announce a new award targeted at early career researchers. With this award, we hope to inspire early career researchers working on any aspect of animal ecology to submit reviews or syntheses that might either summarize their dissertation work, provide new insights into classic areas of animal ecology, or might shed light on emerging fields in animal ecology.

Nate Sanders
Senior Editor, Journal of Animal Ecology

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Solving the skewed sex ratio on science journal editorial boards

On this blog in October 2014, Senior Editor, Tim Coulson presented an argument for solving the sex ratio problem in scientific academia. He proposed that we should mandate that universities and institutes appoint equal numbers of men and women at each professional level from faculty positions though to full professors. Whilst the skewed sex ratio in academia has been long recognised and discussed, there is another bias much closer to home that has received significantly less attention: the male-bias on many science journal editorial boards. To coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th, I thought it would be useful to highlight this important issue.

Back in 2014, just 13% of Journal of Animal Ecology Associate Editors were female, and none of our Senior Editors were. Whilst sex ratios on other ecology journals were generally much better than this, none of them were anywhere near to sex ratio parity. So, why was this and what have we done to try to remedy this?

Journal of Animal Ecology has four senior editors, three of whom (Ben Sheldon, Jean-Michel Gaillard and Nate Sanders) have been appointed in the last 2-3 years. During this period, we strongly encouraged women to apply, but we received only a small handful of applications from women. Did we do enough to encourage experienced women to apply? Evidently not. Each of the Senior Editors involved in the shortlisting processes did informally encourage good candidates to apply – both female and male – and all of our Associate Editors at the time were also encouraged to apply. In addition, the advertisements for the positions, specifically suggested that we wanted applicants who would add to the ‘diversity’ of the Senior Editor board.

So what can we do to address this issue? We could pledge to always interview at least one female applicant, regardless of where they rank overall on our shortlist (a sort of female Rooney Rule). But based on previous pools of applicants, I am sceptical as to whether this would be of help in the ultimate goal of recruiting female Senior Editors. A different approach is required. Perhaps the solution to our Senior Editor problem is to appoint more female Associate Editors, in the hope that it will promote a stronger pipeline to the senior positions.

Correcting the male-bias of the AE board is a laudable goal in itself, of course, and for the last 2-3 years we have been taking positive action to appoint more female AEs. This is not to say that we have exclusively appointed only women, but we have followed a policy of first exhaustively considering a pool of potential female candidates. In so doing, we have improved the sex ratio from 13% in 2014 to 36% in March 2016. This has been a relatively easy process, but has not been without issues. From personal experience, I have found that when we approach suitable male candidates for AE positions, the first response is generally very positive and mostly they accept without further discussion. In contrast, female candidates are much more likely to either decline immediately due to other commitments (this is especially true of non-tenured professors in the US), or to request further information about the role and the time commitment involved. Of course the latter is a very sensible approach and perhaps just reflects a difference between the sexes in common sense!

It is my hope to achieve equality on the AE board in the not too distant future. Once we achieve this target, we hope that it can be maintained in the long term, but this will probably not happen without continued positive action, as the pool of suitable individuals (mostly experienced early-mid career faculty) is consistently male-biased.

To stimulate further discussion on these issues, I asked one of our Associate Editors, Sheena Cotter, to think about them from her personal perspective as an early-mid career female academic. Her response is below and will, I hope, encourage others to enter the discussion.

One final thought. Gender, of course, is not the only diversity issue academic journals face. I write this blog from the Universidade Federal de Viçosa in Brazil, where I have just given a presentation to staff and students on ‘How to Get Published’ from an Editor’s perspective. For my audience, an equally pressing issue is how we address the geographical and ethnic imbalance of the editorial board (and, indeed, of the papers we publish), which is still overwhelmingly in favour of white Europeans and North Americans. If we can simultaneously address all of these issues, we will be doing very well indeed.

Let us have your thoughts.

Ken Wilson, Senior Editor

A response from one of our female Associate EditorsCotter, S

When Ken told me that the editorial board of JAE had been just 13% female when he took over as Senior Editor, I wasn’t particularly surprised. The pool is smaller. The number of women in ecology is very close to parity at undergraduate, PhD and postdoctoral levels, but then starts to decline dramatically. To be approached to be an Associate Editor, a woman would have to have a certain level of experience, and by lecturer level there are already fewer females than males. I also suspect women may be less prominent than men at the same stage of their career. If the choice of who to approach is determined in part by who you are aware of in a certain field, then this may be driven by how much scientists promote themselves via networking at conferences, organising meetings and seminars, sitting on grant committees etc. It is likely that women with young families spend less time on these activities than men as they typically require time spent away from home.

There is also “unconscious bias” associated with gender. We are all susceptible to it, I don’t recall a single female lecturer when I was an undergraduate and I doubt I remarked upon it, because scientists were always men. I’m still sometimes surprised when an ambiguously named scientist turns out to be female, my default assumption is male. This may seem fairly harmless until you are in a position to recruit and you may inadvertently prefer a male candidate over an equally, or better, qualified female one. So to increase the percentage of female AEs you just have to identify suitable candidates and approach them, right? Well, apparently not, because it seems that women are more likely to say no. This was a surprise.

When I was approached to take on the role of Associate Editor for JAE, I was delighted and jumped at the chance. However, at that point I was a NERC fellow with minimal teaching duties and no children. The potential extra workload didn’t cross my mind. But many potential female candidates for AE will be trying to balance a heavy workload and a young family and may be loath to add to that burden. Before I had kids I couldn’t understand the claim that having children was the reason that women dropped out of academia, because most women don’t have children on their own, they have them with men, and presumably there are as many men with young families as there are women. So what’s going on? Of course, I don’t really know the answer, I can only talk from personal experience.

First, the physical act of carrying and then delivering a child (or two – I’m lucky enough to have twins…) is physically exhausting. I couldn’t work as hard while I was pregnant as I could beforehand. Second, it takes over your brain in a way that it doesn’t seem to for the father. Babies become real to women much earlier on in the process than they do for men. I spent so much of my time thinking and reading about pregnancy, the birth, new babies, what we’d need to buy, how our lives would change etc., that I really got hardly any work done at all. Once the baby is born, something happens to your brain, at least in the short term, and this is something that highly intelligent female colleagues have also experienced. I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate on science when my children were babies. I don’t think this really happens to men. They might still be very involved and do their fair share around the house and take their turn at night feeds (if possible) but I don’t think they experience the “brain melt”, and this takes a while to get over.

Now that my children are a bit older (2, 2 and 4), I think my brain functions just fine, but my priorities have definitely changed. I used to quite regularly stay late at work during the week and at the weekends, but now I always leave work by 5pm and only work in the evening on weekends if I absolutely have to. I am not prepared to miss the evening with my children during the week. At the weekend, I spend the day with my children and running around after 3 small ones from 6am to 7pm is pretty exhausting so working in the evening is a challenge. Shouldn’t this be true of men too? I’m sure it is true of many men, but I have also worked with several male colleagues at the same career stage as me, with young children, who regularly stay late at work. I’m not aware of any women who do this. So if I was asked to be an AE now would I jump at the chance? Of course I would, but I know what to expect; if I didn’t, given my massively increased workload since becoming a tenured lecturer and the increased priority of time with my children, if I didn’t know what to expect I’d certainly ask!

So how do we increase the number of female AEs? We approach suitably qualified female candidates and make it clear that the workload isn’t onerous and you can balance it by reducing the numbers of papers you accept to review. It is a prestigious position, increases your profile and looks good on your CV. It is vital to increase the visibility of female scientists as this can help to redress the unconscious association of “science” with “men” and increasing the pool of experienced female AEs will hopefully result in one of us applying to be a Senior Editor in the near future – watch out Ken!

Sheena Cotter, Associate Editor

Demography beyond the population: Integrated demography comes of age

Assessing variation in population abundance over time and across space is a long-standing goal of population ecologists. Up to now, two main approaches have been mostly used to identify the factors driving observed fluctuations in population abundance. First, a pattern-oriented approach, based on the monitoring of population size, involves the analysis of time series of counts. In the most recent applications, these analyses lead to partitioning observed changes in population growth into different contributing factors, like current or past population density, environmental conditions, or demographic stochasticity. Second, a process-oriented approach, based on the monitoring of demographic parameters, involves the construction of age- or stage-structured demographic models. The steady increase of case studies aiming to monitor known-aged recognizable animals over most of their lifespan, the availability of statistical methods allowing reliable estimates of demographic parameters to be obtained from field data, and the development of a powerful framework to build a large range of matrix population models have all led to this process-oriented approach becoming a standard tool of population ecologists. It has become the gold standard in the context of both the management of exploited populations and the conservation of endangered populations. However, analyses of detailed monitoring of individuals have also revealed the existence of marked individual differences in most life history traits studied so far, which have been mostly ignored until now when using population-scale demographic modelling. To account for such sources of within-population variation, a trait-based demographic approach is required. Nowadays, Integral Projection Models (IPMs) provide a way to obtain more realistic demographic models that encompass the association between demographic parameters and, for instance, phenotypic traits. In their most extended version, IPMs include the four biological functions that are necessary and sufficient to obtain the distribution of a given continuous trait in a population at a given time from the distribution of the same trait in the same population one time-step before. These functions are the survival function linking survival probability to the trait value, the recruitment function linking the number of recruits to the trait value, the growth function linking the trait value at time t+1 to the trait value at time t, and the inheritance function linking the trait value of the offspring to the trait value of the parents.

Following the British Ecological Society Symposium “Demography Beyond the Population” that was held in Sheffield about one year ago, four papers derived from this symposium have just been published in Journal of Animal Ecology as part of the British Ecological Society Cross Journal Special Feature: Demography Beyond the Population. From the analysis of the contents of these four papers it appears that a new, integrated demography, comes of age. Continue reading