Posted by: cjlortie | March 21, 2012

Introspection of Oikos papers: self synthesis and expanding the scientific discussion.

You just published a paper in Oikos. Whew. The review process is not trivial, and it took some time in spite of the amazing speed of this journal. Done, time to move on to the next one. Right? No. I have a suggestion based on a recent experience here. Take a second, and do a blog post about the Oikos paper. My recent experiences with the decline to review post and paper (not in Oikos sadly but the implications were for Oikos) were very positive and the learning continued entirely due to posts and emails by readers. See below the movie poster in the post, I added a section of additional analyses and interpretation generated by discussion with readers.

Writing and publishing a paper involves a series of decisions including an entire analytical and statistical pipeline. After your paper is in print, post to the blog describing the process, decisions you made, nuances, alternatives, additional figures, pictures of the study site, or extended implications. Most of this would not really fit in the current model for a paper. Nonetheless, it is valuable information for those that need to relate their research to your paper. There are at least a few benefits to this additional activity.

Author benefits

1. Science is a process and extending it beyond a static publication is useful.

2. Readers that enjoyed your paper could swing by the blog to see if there is additional information and read a bit more about the study (or see the study, i.e. you could post pics).

3. Readers of the blog might in turn read the paper. I don’t endorse shameless promotion, but you can certainly list the strengths and limitations of the study here and explain how it relates to other studies, published anywhere.

4. You will get feedback. Metrics have some utility in understanding what people think of your paper but active discussion is better. This will improve subsequent papers and your research too.


Readers could also post questions about a paper they read. Benefits include the following.

1. By posting appropriate questions here instead of emailing them directly to the author, they are less likely to get lost in the hundreds of emails folks receive.

2. We can all benefit from the discussion by seeing it transparently and not in a series of emails.

3. The authors are more likely to respond since the question is public.

4. I will chase them for you. If you post a great question here, I will direct it to the author on your behalf and the handling subject editor as well.  I manage the blog and that’s my job – promote appropriate discussion of all topics relevant to Oikos and the society.

Here is a little experiment we could also do if we started this process.  We could track the relative success in terms of views, downloads, and citations of those papers that are discussed versus those are not. I bet more insight into the process, or self-synthesis of the research done, is a positive step for ecology. Importantly, it has the capacity to improve ecology.

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