Posted by: oikosasa | January 24, 2013

Surf and Turf in Oikos Feb 2013

Check out the Surf & Turf papers in the February Issue! For an introduction to the concept, I leave the word to our Surf and Turf editors Josh Idjadi and Randi Rotjan. Their introductory paper in the February Issue is found here. Presentations of the actual papers are to come on this blog the following days!


It is an interesting time to be a scientist. We have access to more research tools and information than ever before, including literature access. With that access comes great opportunity: data mining, meta-analysis, global comparisons and insights, and cross-disciplinary and cross-system inspiration. However, this tremendous level of access also opens up the conversation about responsibility: are we responsible for reading that huge literature? The answer is, by necessity, “of course not”.  But like everything in science and in life, this is not a black and white issue. Among the many shades of gray are whether or not you have the responsibility to read everything in your field (traditionally, “yes”), but defining ‘your field’ is ever-harder. Is your field defined by the organism you work on? By the ecosystem you work in? By the methodology you use? By the types of questions you try to answer? The answer is “all of the above, depending on the situation”. Practically, however, it would be impossible to read and absorb information on all of these levels, in real time, all of the time. Not only do we have more access to information, but there is more information! More scientists, more journals, more articles, and more communication mediums (including blogs, like this one). In reality, we all simply do the best we can, all-the-while recognizing the importance of deep and wide reading to good scholarship.

Recently, in a rare moment of quiet and clarity, we realized that our worlds had become very “marine”. Though we both graduated from more traditional and cross-system biology departments and considered ourselves ecologists, in reality, we were working in marine systems, attending marine conferences, and immersed in marine literature. We missed being part of the general biological scene, and we wanted to engage in the scholarly exercise of thinking about some of our research questions from the perspective of a different field.  “Surf and Turf” emerged as a concept – not to wholly solve the problem – but as one part of the solution to service cross-systems cravings in a way that would be relatively short, with a reasonable time investment, and would engage collaborators in a meaningful discourse without diluting point-of-view by trying to reach consensus in a single document. We thought an effective format for this concept might be a main piece on a topic by a system-specific author, with short responses written by other system-specific authors. In this multi-paper-per-topic dialogue, the goal was to achieve breadth without compromising depth in a format that didn’t swamp an individual author by forcing an all-systems literature review, and in a way that didn’t swamp the already overwhelmed reader who is forever trying to keep up with their own field (however it may be defined).

Our authors found both agreement and debate in the 2 topics highlighted by Oikos (regional determinants of diversity, and grazing ecology), and we hope this virtual issue showcases these 2 topics as proof-of-concept examples for future Surf and Turf endeavors. In the process of putting this virtual issue together, we engaged with a number of other authors who are pursuing other venues for several additional topics. Oikos was a wonderful place to launch this concept – and we are now hoping that other journals and authors will embrace it. Still immersed in our system-specific questions, we both value and recognize the importance of cross-systems ecology as one of the key drivers of synthesis. This will not be our last attempt at cross-systems thinking, and we encourage you to do the same.  And at the least, and in this cluttered world of fast-flowing literature: thank you for reading.

-Randi Rotjan & Josh Idjadi


  1. […] Yesterday, Randi Rotjan and Josh Idjadi introduced us to the Surf and Turf concept. Today, Howard V. Cornell gives a short background to his and Susan P. Harrison’s Surf and Turf paper “Regional effects as important determinants of local diversity in both marine and terrestrial systems”: […]

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