Many papers in ecology (and other fields) end with calls for future research. Sometimes those calls are vague as to exactly what future research is needed. Other times they’re calls to pursue very specific research programs.
Speaking as someone who has concluded papers with calls for future research, I have mixed feelings about such calls. On the one hand, new grad students love it when papers identify knowledge gaps, because the dissertation proposal writes itself. On the other hand, I feel like many calls for future research are basically useless (some of mine very much included!) “There are still things we don’t know about X, so further research is needed” is always true, for any X, and so is a totally unhelpful thing to say. After all, nobody ever writes “We now know everything there is to know about X; no further research is needed”! Plus, calls for future research are so numerous that many (most?) of them are bound to be ignored. We’re not short on ideas for future research! So surely only a tiny fraction of calls for future research are likely to be heeded by any substantial number of readers.
Hence my question: what are the most influential calls for future research in the history of ecology? Are there any cases where somebody called for research on X, and then a bunch of other people went out and did that research?
Conversely, what are the least influential calls for future research in the history of ecology? The topics on which people have repeatedly called for future research, only to be repeatedly ignored (hence the repeated calls!) At the ASN meeting in Asilomar a few months ago, Christopher Moore pointed out that theoreticians have spent decades calling for more models of the population dynamics of mutualists. So that’s a candidate for “least successful call for future research in the history of ecology”.