Changes in number of authors and position of corresponding author in Ecology papers

Based on my interest in authorship practices in ecology, I decided to look at papers published in Ecology in each of the past seven decades to see how corresponding authorship changed over that time.* I looked at the first (or second**) issue of Ecology in 1956 and every ten years thereafter.

tl:dr version of the results: Not surprisingly, the number of authors increased over time. For corresponding authorship, I found that, in 1996 and earlier, the corresponding author was almost never indicated. Looking every 5 years from 2001-2016, the first author*** was usually the corresponding author, though expanding the analysis to include AmNat and Evolution**** suggests that some of the changes might be due to some of the more mundane aspects of 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: What determines when people start applying for tenure track jobs?

A recent conversation I had — starting with a postdoc (not one of mine) and then continuing with others — has me curious about the factors that influence when people start applying for tenure track jobs. I’ve created a poll to try to get insight into those factors. Please fill out this poll if you have considered applying for tenure track positions (or their equivalents in other countries), even if you haven’t actually applied for any yet. I’ll leave the poll open for a few days, and hope to have a post with results appear some time next week.

Update: For the questions, if you applied/got an interview/got an offer before getting your PhD, choose “0”. If you applied/got an interview/got an offer after getting your PhD, but within a year of getting your PhD, please choose “1”.

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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.

Favorite good (or bad?) examples of “operationalizing” vague ecological concepts?

“Operationalization” is the term for taking a concept that’s vague or abstract and making it more precise and concrete, so that it can be put to practical use. Like many scientific and social scientific fields that aren’t physics or chemistry, ecology has many concepts that are only vaguely defined, or at least were only vaguely defined when they were first proposed. “Niche” is an infamous example. Or think of how one response to my critique of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis was to question whether the ideas I was critiquing were “really” part of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, properly defined. Few big ideas are born fully formed, so most new ideas have to go through some refinement and elaboration to make them operational

Sometimes, the process of operationalization is successful, meaning that eventually everyone agrees on the definition of the concept and can go out and apply it. For instance, everybody agrees what “gross primary productivity” is. There might be practical obstacles to measuring it in any particular case, and different ways of measuring it might be prone to different sorts of errors. But those are practical obstacles, not conceptual ones.

But sometimes, the process of operationalization fails.

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