Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2017: The Year in Review

Happy New Year! We hope that you all had a wonderful Winter Break and that you’re ready to start 2018. We’re beginning the year with a look back at some of our highlights of 2017. Here’s how last year looked at Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

The Articles

We published some amazing articles in 2017, too many to mention them all here. However, we would like to take a moment to thank all of the Authors, Reviewers and Editors who contributed to the journal last year. Your time and effort make the journal what it is and we are incredibly grateful. THANK YOU for all of your hard work!

Technological Advances at the Interface between Ecology and Statistics

Our first Special Feature of the year came in the April issue of the journal. The idea for Technological Advances at the Interface between Ecology and Statistics  came from the 2015 Eco-Stats Symposium at the University of New South Wales and the feature was guest edited by Associate Editor David Warton. It consists of five articles based on talks from that conference and shows how interdisciplinary collaboration help to solve problems around estimating biodiversity and how it changes over space and time.

How to Measure Natural Selection

Our second and final Special Feature of the year was How to Measure Natural Selection. The Guest Editors were Jeff Conner, John Stinchcombe and Joanna Kelley and it was published just in time for the Evolution 2017 conference in Portland, OR.  In the Special Feature, seven papers highlight new methodological and conceptual approaches to understanding how and why some individuals survive and reproduce better than others, the traits that allow them to do so, the genetic basis of those traits, and the signatures of past and present selection in patterns of variation in the genome.

Virtual Issues

The How to Measure Natural Selection Special Feature was accompanied by a Virtual Issue on Evolutionary Quantitative Genetics, edited by Associate Editor Michael Morrissey. This complimentary collection of previously published Methods in Ecology and Evolution articles highlighted important advances in methods allowing researchers to study and develop formal theoretical frameworks for quantitatively linking natural selection, genetic variation, and the rate and direction of adaptive evolution.

That was our second Virtual Issue of the year. It followed on from the Biogeography Virtual Issue that was edited by Pedro Perez-Neto and Will Pearse and was published to coincide with the International Biogeography Society’s 2017 conference. Consisting of 17 articles, it highlights methods that help biogeographers to understand how species’ distributions vary through space and time.

Our final Methods in Ecology and Evolution Virtual Issue in 2017 – Microbial Ecology – was guest edited by Xavier Harrison and came out in November. It covers a broad suite of approaches that allow us to study host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions in novel ways.

Throughout the year, we were also involved in a number of cross-journal Virtual Issues, grouping together great papers from across the BES journals into curated collections. These included Virtual Issues on Invasive SpeciesOpen Data, and the BES Early Career Researcher Awards 2016.

Robert May Early Career Reseacher Prize 2016

The winner of the 2016 Robert May Early Career Researcher Prize was Gabriella Leighton of the University of Cape Town. In her winning article – Just Google it: assessing the use of Google Images to describe geographical variation in visible traits of organisms – Gabriella shows  that the internet can save a lot of (but certainly not all) work in the field. She analysed online image data across a range of species: images taken by amateur and professional photographers, if geo-referenced, are potentially excellent sources of information on the phenotypes of species. Gabriella compared data collected from google images (quick and easy!) with that collected from fieldwork (time-consuming, expensive and dangerous), and showed that the data from google images is perfectly reliable.

Jonathan Lefcheck (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) and Brittany Teller (Utah State University) were highly commended for their papers ‘piecewiseSEM: Piecewise structural equation modeling in R for ecology, evolution, and systematics’ and ‘Linking demography with drivers: climate and competition’ respectively.

New Senior Editor

Our biggest change in 2017 was the addition of a new Senior Editor. In May, Lee Hsiang Liow of the University of Oslo joined Rob Freckleton, Bob O’Hara and Jana Vamosi as part of our Senior Editorial team. Lee Hsiang is a paleobiologist with expertise in quantitative paleobiology, macroevolution, community ecology and statistical population ecology. She’s also interested in conservation and understanding the links between speciation, extinction, phenotypic evolution, life-history evolution and population dynamics.

When Lee Hsiang first started, she said she’d like to see more submissions in the field of paleobiology. We’ve certainly seen more of these papers sent to us for consideration over the past seven months, but we’d still like to receive more.

Working with Code

Cover image by David J. Bird

Throughout 2017 we’ve been working on ways to help authors to publish code. A couple of key aspects of this have been our collaboration with rOpenSci for software review, sponsoring the first print run BES Guide to Reproducible Code (edited by Associate Editor Natalie Cooper and Pen-Yuan Hsing) and our involvement in the Ecology Hackathon at Ecology Across Borders.

We’ve also been working on a set of Guidelines for Publishing Code. These will be released officially in our January 2018 issue next week. Keep an eye out for them!

Peer Reviewer Mentoring

Peer review is a key aspect of the academic publishing process, but all too often, people get little to no training for it. To try to address this, we launched a trial peer reviewer mentoring scheme earlier this year with the BES Quantitative Ecology Special Interest Group. The scheme pairs Early Career Researcher with more experienced reviewers to help them learn about reviewing manuscripts and develop their reviewing skills. We’ll be assessing the programme in April this year and, if it is deemed to have been a success, we hope to be able to repeat and/or extend it.

Social Media and the Blog

2017 was a big year for our social media channels as we hit 14,000 followers on both Twitter and Facebook. Both have regular posts about the latest Methods articles, make sure to follow us to keep up to date with the journal.

The Methods blog was hugely popular last year, too. It was viewed over 120,000 times by people from 198 different countries. Our most popular blog post of the year was How to Synthesize 100 Articles in Under 10 Minutes: Reviewing Big Literature Using ACA by Gabriela Nunez-Mir. Thousands of you read Gabriela’s post on Automated Content Analysis; we hope that it has helped to make you tackling the challenges of ‘Big Literature’. Other popular posts from last year included Sticking Together or Drifting Apart? (a wonderful explanation of how to quantify migratory connectivity by Emily Cohen) and piecewiseSEM: Exploring Nature’s Complexity through Statistics (in which Jonathan Lefcheck discusses Structural Equation Modelling and introduces his R package, piecewiseSEM).

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the success of the Methods blog in 2017.

Looking Forward to 2018

2017 was a fantastic year for Methods in Ecology and Evolution, and we’re hoping that the success will carry on into 2018. Make sure to follow us throughout the year to keep abreast of the latest methodological advances in ecology and evolution.

Remember, all members of the British Ecological Society have access to every Methods article as soon as they’re published and you can join the society for as little as £42 per year (or £21 if you’re a student, retired or if you’re based in a country classified as ‘Low Income’ by the World Bank).

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