About Jeremy Fox

I'm an ecologist at the University of Calgary. I study population and community dynamics, using mathematical models and experiments.

Poll: have you ever contacted a reviewer about a review before responding to it? Or received such contact?

In a recent post, Stephen Heard noted that he signs most of his reviews because he wants authors to be able to contact him if they have any questions or want to discuss the review. Several commenters on Stephen’s post, and on Meg’s recent post on signing reviews, said they sign their reviews for the same reason (e.g.). And some of those commenters said that they have in fact been contacted by authors wanting to discuss the reviews.

All of which surprised me, because I’d never heard of this practice! The possibility of contacting a reviewer to discuss a review before responding to it had never even occurred to me, even though I’ve been an author and reviewer for 20 years now.

I’m still mulling over what I think about this practice. On the one hand, the reviewers who do it are trying to be helpful, and I’m sure the authors who contact them appreciate the help. On the other hand, that authors appreciate it is potentially a problem–I worry that the practice creates the opportunity for unethical quid pro quos. I’m not the only one who worries about this. So I dunno.

Anyway, I’m curious how common this practice is, and what ecologists as a group think of it. So below is a quick 3-question poll.

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Friday links: nobody cares about your model organism, never work from home, and more

Mostly silliness this week: The ecology of Skull Island, electrofishing for whales, Boaty McBoatface goes forth, and more! Also, a few serious links on the March For Science, the role of facts in political debates, and more. Come for the links, stay to watch Meg and I squabble over them.

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Poll: should all reviewers be satisfied before a paper is accepted for publication?

I was very surprised by the results of Meg’s recent poll on what reviewers mean when they say that, yes, they’d be willing to review a revised version of an ms. 34% mean not merely that they’re willing to review a revised version, but that they want to see a revised version to make sure the authors have addressed their concerns. Like Meg, I had no idea that reviewers who feel that way are such a large minority!

Which got me thinking about the roles of reviewers and editors, and if my own view on their roles isn’t as universal as I had (naively?) assumed. So below is a one-question poll. Do you see reviewers as advisers to the editor? Or do you think editors should ordinarily defer to reviewers, so that all reviewers should be satisfied before a paper is accepted for publication?

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Tips for negotiating salary and startup for newly-hired tenure-track faculty

So you’ve just been offered your first* tenure-track faculty position–congratulations! Perhaps you even have multiple offers–multiple congratulations! As a brand new faculty member, you now have to do the first of many things you’ve probably never been trained to do: negotiate salary, startup, and possibly other things such as start date or teaching duties. Here’s some advice from Meg, Brian, and I.

It’s aimed at ecologists, but some of it may generalize to other fields. And it’s based primarily on our experiences and knowledge about R1 and R2 universities or their approximate equivalents in the US and Canada, but some of it may generalize to other sorts of institutions and countries. In offering this advice, we’re just sticking with what we know. We encourage commenters to chime in with their own advice, including advice applicable to other contexts.

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Poll: do you think species-rich communities are those with stronger coexistence mechanisms?

One of the most important conceptual advances in community ecology over the last couple of decades has been the development of modern coexistence theory: a quantitative, rigorous theoretical framework that exhaustively defines, and quantifies the strength of, the classes of mechanisms by which species coexist (e.g., stabilizing vs. equalizing mechanisms). Chesson (2000) is the most accessible summary of this theoretical framework. Adler et al. (2007) is an even more accessible overview of some of the key ideas. Folks like Jon Levine, Peter Adler, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, Steve Ellner, and their colleagues are now applying modern coexistence theory to real data, showing that it leads to practical real-world insights.

But most ecologists only care about coexistence mechanisms as a means to the end of understanding species diversity. And as various folks have noted (including me here on the blog), a theory of coexistence isn’t necessarily the same thing as a theory of species diversity. The question is, how are those two things related?

I’ve been thinking about that question, have chatted about it with various people, and have seen various people mention it in talks. I’ve been struck by the divergence of opinion as to what the answer is. But obviously, my anecdotal experience probably isn’t representative of the broad views of ecologists. Hence my little poll below: do you think more species-rich communities are those with stronger coexistence mechanisms? Choose the answer that best matches your views.

I may decide to do my ESA talk on this topic if the early poll responses are all over the map or if the modal answer is one I seriously disagree with. So please vote! 🙂

In the comments, I encourage you to explain your vote.