Also this week: another retraction for Jonathan Pruitt, PubPeer vs. journals, and more
Very sad news: Joe Connell has passed away. He was 96. He was a giant of ecology. His Mercer Award winning 1961 paper on the population biology of barnacles pioneered field experiments as a research approach. His classic results on interspecific competition now feature in many ecology textbooks. He was also perhaps the most productive and influential developer of conceptual models in the history of ecology. Particularly models to explain the maintenance of diversity in the coral reefs and tropical rain forests in which he worked for much of his career: the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, the Janzen-Connell hypothesis for the maintenance of tropical tree diversity, and the Connell-Slayter classification of modes of succession. Not all of those conceptual models and hypotheses proved equally fruitful in the long run–I think the Janzen-Connell hypothesis has held up the best–but that takes nothing away from their importance to the history of ecology. Among his many awards and honors, Joe Connell received the ESA’s Eminent Ecologist award, and was one of just 12 Lifetime Honorary Members of the ASN. This 1985 appreciation accompanying his Eminent Ecologist award provides a good overview of his life and career to that point.
You know how national governments try to bury bad news by publishing it on Friday afternoon? Well, scientific journals apparently have learned to do that when it comes to retracting or expressing concern about Jonathan Pruitt’s papers. (I’m kidding. I hope.) Last Friday afternoon, Biology Letters retracted Costa-Pereira & Pruitt 2016. The retraction is for anomalous duplicated values in the raw data. Last Friday afternoon also saw an Expression of Concern for Keiser & Pruitt 2014 Behavioral Ecology. (ht Nick Keiser, who provides some backstory.) It’s for anomalous duplicated sequences of observations. It’s only an Expression of Concern rather than a retraction because the journal allowed the authors to reanalyze the data with the anomalous observations removed and the conclusions didn’t change. The Expression of Concern notes that the integrity of the remaining data is still in question, and says that “We will publish a more complete correction once the remaining data have been verified.” I think this is…[counts on fingers]…six weeks in a row with at least one retraction, EoC, or correction for Pruitt. Plus several retractions from back in the winter, of course.
In other #pruittdata news, the Google spreadsheet tracking the current status of investigations into all of Pruitt’s papers has been put back up by…someone. I understand (what I presume is) the intent, but confess to mixed feelings about this. Dan Bolnick, who started the original spreadsheet, had reasons for taking it down.