Posted by: Jeremy Fox | January 4, 2012

Poll: new ideas for the Oikos Blog (and the journal) (UPDATED)

Following up on my previous post looking back at the Oikos Blog’s first year and ahead to 2012, here are some ideas I had for new things we might do with the blog. Please vote for the ones you’d like to see happen. You can vote for more than one, and also write in your own ideas. Feel free to elaborate in the comments.

Personally, I like all of these ideas. Especially since they wouldn’t involve much additional work on my part (well, unless I was the one assigned to conduct the interviews) 😉

In seriousness, I’m quite keen on the idea of a new journal section devoted to publishing our best posts (which might of course include guest posts, if we were to start doing them). I do think we have posts that make a sufficiently substantial contribution that they are worth publishing in a citable, indexable, archivable format. But because they’re blog posts it’s probably worth separating them from the rest of the journal’s content, in order to allow them to maintain their distinctive style, and in order to make clear that they haven’t gone through the usual peer review process. If we did this, we’d actually be returning to something Oikos used to do, in the form of John Lawton’s View from the Park column. But I’d really like to hear what you think, and I hope Chris Lortie (who’s in charge of the blog) and the new EiC will want to as well.

UPDATE: The poll will remain open, but we have enough votes in that it’s worth summarizing the results. With this kind of poll I can’t actually tell how many people have voted (save that it’s at least 35 and <144), but so far the most popular idea is invited guest posts presenting opposing or provocative views. Next is guest posts by authors–which I’ve just learned is something Chris has been trying to arrange for months, but no authors have taken up the offer! Next most popular option is more posts by other editors, which is already happening and we’re going to try to do more on this front. Bringing up the rear are invited posts responding to posts by me or the editors (not surprising, really; that’s what comments are for), author interviews (kind of surprised folks aren’t more keen on that; guess folks would rather hear from authors in a more open-ended way?), and publishing our best posts in the journal (I can understand the lukewarm support for this, even though I personally like the idea).


  1. I keep pondering whether this or some new blog should start doing interviews with ecologists a la this wonderful blog. But that may be neither here nor there. Worth thinking about.

  2. Why would you think it should be some new blog, rather than this one?

    • Oh, I think it could go either way.

  3. I’d like to see something of a shift in emphasis toward more practically oriented articles and/or ones directly related to societally relevant topics. (This may or may not coincide with a lesser emphasis on theoretical issues, depending on how many people are involved writing–I appreciate the interest and importance of the theoretical).

    In my mind these include (non-exhaustively) things such as (these being biased certainly, by my own interests):

    (1) ecosystem “status” issues: e.g. monitoring issues, how certain/uncertain is our quantification of various ecosystems and their components and processes, how do we measure those things, how do we scale them across time and space, how well do different measurement approaches to the same phenomenon correlate with each other, what are relevant baseline/reference states and how were/are they chosen, what are new and emerging approaches to better quantification; topics like that. This would appeal to those of us who see better quantification as of fundamental importance, yet very often glossed over for one reason or another,

    (2) topics of direct societal relevance and interest, including e.g.: (1) the effects of climate change on ecosystems (and vice versa), (2) biodiversity quantification and loss, (3) ecosystem services and valuation topics, and (4) ecological restoration/mitigation/adaptation.

    I think the 2nd one is the more important of the two, and would do more to increase readership and commenting (and public education) than any other single step that could be taken. There’s a gaping hole in the blog world w.r.t. informed discussion on these topics, and the public is interested and has lots and lots of questions (and similar numbers of misconceptions!) about them.

    I think the only way this can be done is by building a “blogging team” with a wide diversity of expertise and interest, combined with invitations to guest posters. It changes the nature of the readership and the moderation load too. But that’s what I would most like to see happen with this already excellent blog.

    • Thanks for your comments Jim. This would certainly greatly broaden the range of material the blog covers, and I agree it could only be done by adding new bloggers with very different expertise than Chris or I. But given the association of the blog with the journal, and the fact that the journal doesn’t really cover these areas (at least, not their more applied and policy-relevant aspects), it’s a little hard for me to see us going in this direction. Even if it would broaden the audience for the blog, and fill a niche that needs filling in the ecological blogosphere.

      I think a better way to fill that niche would be for people with the relevant expertise to start a new blog. Perhaps associated with a leading journal covering these areas, like Ecological Applications, Journal of Applied Ecology, Global Change Biology, or Conservation Biology.

      • Entirely reasonable Jeremy.

  4. I personally think (and voted accordingly) that increasing the diversity of bloggers (e.g. by following the suggestions of oikosjeremy) would make this fantastic blog even more interesting than it already is.
    I am not convinced that publishing some posts as papers in OIKOS is worthwhile. A blog such as this one lives from its informal and flexible style, where discussions are quickly and easily initiated and followed. Published articles lack this feature of online forums. Publishing posts would press them into the rather rigid form of traditional scientific discussions via journal contributions.

  5. Some societies (e.g., ASLO) use their bulletin as a place to highlight an important paper in a recent issue. It would be fun for us to do something similar here, with SEs nominate papers that they’ve handled, then writing a summary blog if their paper is chosen. I’d be glad to contribute to this.

    • Sounds good to me. Let’s see what Chris thinks.

    • Hi Matt,

      This is a fantastic idea. I have brought it to the attention of the board. We have discussed several initiatives like this but it would be superb for any SE to post comments on the papers that really enjoyed or found useful in Oikos. Ones they have read for fun or handled. Even better would be if authors then contributed back with further insights from the paper, more informally even.

      In summary, I see a few immediate avenues for this to be actualized. (1) The deputy EiC works harder on promoting his/her favourite papers. Who is that lazy bloke anyway.. ohya me! I then contact the SE that handled the paper and she/he concurrently posts their comments regarding the paper.
      (2) SEs email me,, and I check out the paper and then it is the winner. And we both post as above in #1.
      (3) SEs just post comments on real stand-out papers.

      Then, much like the Journal of Ecology model, we invite the author to post photos etc. from the study.

      Sound good?

      • Maybe when an issue is going to press, someone on the editorial staff could contact the SEs that edited papers in that issue, requesting nominations for papers to be highlighted. Those nominations, along with a justification, would be sent to you, and the SE of the selected paper(s) would then write a blog post, including photos solicited from the authors or “borrowed” from their webpages.

      • Yes, this would be great. It would also have the advantage of ensuring the timing is in sync on both streams of dissemination. I like it.

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