Contest! Guess the most-cited ecology papers from the 70s, 80s, and 90s

Last year I had some fun with a contest inviting readers to guess the most-cited ecology paper published in the last 10 years. So I’ve decided to hold another contest, based on older papers. This time, your task is to guess the most-cited ecology papers published in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Here’s how it works: in the comments, list your guesses for the most cited ecology paper published in each of those three decades. One paper per decade. You get 10 points for guessing the most cited paper in a given decade, 9 points for guessing the second most cited paper in a given decade, etc., down to 1 point for guessing the tenth most cited paper in a given decade. And there’s a 5 point bonus if your guesses include the number one most-cited paper published in this entire 30 year period. Whoever scores the most points wins!

I’ve already looked up the answers. Hopefully my background research is better than it was last time! Though if it isn’t, don’t worry–I’ll look up the citation counts for all papers guessed. However, I reserve the right to award no points for any guesses I don’t consider to be ecology papers.

Because I’m such a nice guy, I’ll give you a few hints to help you out. ๐Ÿ˜‰ These hints reflect my background research, and so will be misleading if my background research is way off. But I don’t think that’s the case…

  • The vast majority of point-scoring papers appear to be from ecology journals, as opposed to general science journals.
  • Don’t bother biasing your guesses towards papers published early in each decade. All of these papers have had plenty of time to accumulate lots of citations.
  • There aren’t any point-scoring interdisciplinary papers as far as I can tell, in contrast to the previous contest. Indeed, pretty much every point-scoring paper is quite clearly an ecology paper; there really aren’t any borderline cases.
  • The most-cited paper from this 30 year period is from the 1980s.
  • I leave it to you to consider whether review papers and methods papers from these decades are particularly likely to be highly-cited or not. On the one hand, reviews and methods papers do tend to be more cited than research papers. On the other hand, the field of ecology, and its methods, has moved on considerably even since the 1990s, and certainly since the 1970s. Once-important reviews and methods papers may now be outdated and so may not have accumulated as many citations as you think.

No cheating and searching any databases, obviously!

I’ll buy the winner a drink at the ESA meeting in Minneapolis.

You have until Saturday, June 8 to submit your guesses. I’ll announce the winners on Monday, June 10. Good luck!

28 thoughts on “Contest! Guess the most-cited ecology papers from the 70s, 80s, and 90s

  1. My guesses:
    1970s: Pianka: On r- and K-selection
    1980s: Hurlbert’s pseudoreplication paper
    1990s: Levin: Pattern & scale in ecology

    • I guess I should have given more complete references, eh? I meant:
      Pianka, E. R. (1970). “On r- and K-selection.” American Naturalist 104(940): 592-597.
      Hurlbert, S. H. (1984). “Pseudoreplication and the design of ecological field experiments.” Ecological Monographs 54(2): 187-211.
      Levin, S. A. (1992). “The problem of pattern and scale in ecology.” Ecology 73(6): 1943-1967.

      • Your original refs were fine. The papers you guessed are all well-known, at least to me, so I knew which ones you meant. If there was ambiguity, I’d have asked you to clarify. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Although I haven’t decided what to do if someone’s guess isn’t merely ambiguous, but actually a miscitation. Like if somebody guessed “Pianka’s r/K selection paper from the 1980s” or something.

      • So, does the fact that you’re playing mean you plan to go to ESA? As some contest rules specify, “You must be present to claim your prize”. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Probably not going to ESA. But, like I said, I’m not worried about me winning.

  2. By the way, for anyone planning to guess the same things as Meg: go ahead if you want to. But if all of your guesses are the same as Meg’s, and those guesses turn out to win, Meg wins because she was the first to make that set of guesses.

  3. 1970s: Emlen & Oring (1977) “Ecology, sexual selection, and the evolution of mating systems.” Science.
    1980s: Hurlbertโ€™s pseudoreplication paper
    1990s: Levin: Pattern & scale in ecology

    I know, two identical to Meg and one against your tips (no interdisciplinary journals), but this is what came to my mind when I read Meg’s tweet. (hope WordPress will finally let me put my comment …).

  4. Cool game. My guesses:
    – 70’s: May’s 72 paper on stability in complex ecosystems
    – 80’s: Connell’s 83 paper in AmNat on interspecific competition
    – 90’s: Tilman’s 94 paper on biodiversity maintained by the competition-colonization trade-off

      • I do think it will be interesting to see if there are subfield-biases in what people suggest. Related to my guesses, my impression is that the Hurlbert paper is better known in some subfields (e.g., freshwater ecology) than others.

  5. My guesses:
    70s: May, R. M. (1976). Simple mathematical models with very complicated dynamics. Nature, 261(5560), 459-467.
    80s: Ter Braak, C. J. (1986). Canonical correspondence analysis: a new eigenvector technique for multivariate direct gradient analysis. Ecology, 67(5), 1167-1179.
    90s: Levin, S. A. (1992). The problem of pattern and scale in ecology: the Robert H. MacArthur award lecture. Ecology, 73(6), 1943-1967.

  6. Paine 1966 (I know, outside the scope of the contest, but it’s what hit me after reading the above)
    Wilbur & Collins 1973
    Hurlbert 1984
    Tilman 1994

    Not likely to be the winners, but it was fun to brainstorm and then look them up (so yes, a bit of cheating prior to posting, but only to verify the year). Came across another hot one in the 90s that was surprising but it may fall outside of “ecology”..

  7. 1970s: Connell JH 1978 Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs. Science 199:1302-1310
    1980s: Hurlbert SH 1984 Pseudoreplication and the design of ecological field experiments. Ecological Monographs 54: 187-211
    1990s: Levin SA 1992 The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology 73:1943-1967

  8. Hmmm… I’m going to go with:

    1970s: May 1976
    1980s: Coley, Bryant, and Chapin 1985 on resource/anti-herbivory tradeoff
    1990s: Tilman’s 199*6* paper (just because it hadn’t been mentioned yet. I totally wouldn’t bet against Levin 1992.)

    • I felt like I should have Tilman and/or May on my list, but couldn’t come up with one paper for each that I thought would be the most highly cited. I feel like I’m letting down disease ecology by not choosing an Anderson & May paper! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Yeah, Dave couldn’t figure out whether he would have chosen the ’94 or ’96 paper either… so you’re not alone.

    • I don’t remember the 70s, but I do remember Huston’s (1979) General hypothesis of species diversity. And the 90s ended for me in 1994, when Kurt Cobain died and Hanski published “A practical model of metapopulation dynamics”.

      • And the 90s ended for me in 1994, when Kurt Cobain died and Hanski published โ€œA practical model of metapopulation dynamicsโ€.

        That is perhaps the most decisive thread win I’ve ever seen! Well played, sir! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I’m sticking with much of the herd for the 80s and 90s, but going out on a (rain forest) limb for the 70s:

    Connell 1970 “On the role of natural enemies in preventing competitive exclusion in some marine animals and in rain forest trees.”

    Hurlbert 1984 Pseudoreplication

    Levin 1992 Pattern and scale in ecology

      • Sorry, Connell 1971 is a book chapter. This contest is limited to papers, because that’s what we have good citation data for. Pick another ’70s guess.

      • Ok then, my second guess would have been Connell 1978 “Diversity in tropical rain forests and coral reefs”. But then I’d be replicating Trevor Branch’s entry above, so instead I’ll stick with the Janzen-Connell theme and guess Janzen 1970 “Herbivores and the number of tree species in tropical forests”

  10. Although I am pretty new in the field – as an economist by training – I will have a guess:

    Grime, J.P. 1977. Evidence for the existance of three primary strategies in plants and its
    relevance to ecological and evolutionary theory
    Conell, J.H. 1983. On the prevalence and relative importance of interspecific competition: evidence from field experiments
    Hanski, I. 1998. Metapopulation dynamics (I also had Hanski 1994 in mind, but think that this one is ranking slightly better, but might as well be far off the mark.)

    I don’t know if it is a good sign, that all of the suggestions are in the back of my mind all the time since my work on my diploma thesis nearly 10 years ago. Except Hanski, I have not read them again ever since.

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