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From filing cabinets to fieldwork: an investigation into Aphid population variability

By Chris Buddle, Editor of the Canadian Entomologist

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I am pleased to present the “Editor’s Pick” manuscript for the current issue of The Canadian Entomologist. This pick was a paper by Bob Lamb, Patricia MacKay and Andrei Alyokhin, titled “Seasonal dynamics of three coexisting aphid species: implications for estimating population variability

I had always admired the ongoing work on aphids, spearheaded by Bob and Pat. Their work is always relevant, meticulous, framed in an important and broader ecological context, and they have a ‘model system’ to work with. This is the kind of researcher many more junior entomologists look up to.  The current paper is no exception. In this work, Bob and Pat joined up with Andrei Alyokhin and present a careful study of population variability and effectively use this metric to better understand population dynamics over time.  For me, I see much value in this approach, and can see how this kind of work could effectively be used in teaching students about how to best describe, understand, and quantify population dynamics.  I’m also inspired to see long-term data with arthropods. These kinds of data are so useful, but relatively rare. It’s great to see Bob, Pat and Andrei publish thoughtful and important work using such data.  I may also look around some old filing cabinets at my University…

Bob was kind enough to answer a few questions about this work, with input from his co-authors.

What inspired this work?

When Pat MacKay and I were anticipating eventual retirement from paying jobs as entomologists, we decided to begin a study of an aphid population that could be pursued as long as we could walk trails and count aphids. Our goal was to figure out why aphid populations seem to be so unstable. Eventually we wrote up our findings on the stability of one native species over the first 10 years of a study we hope will go on for at least another 10 years. A few years ago we realized we needed comparative data, but were too old to start on a 20-year study of another aphid species. The solution was to write to colleagues who also had long-term data sets, to see if they were interested in looking at their data from this perspective. So far the colleagues we have contacted have been enthusiastic collaborators. The first was Andrei Alyokhin our coauthor on the current paper. He gave us access to 60 years of data on three aphid species. The first paper on the stability of these aphids was published in the Canadian Entomologist two years ago. The current paper extends that earlier work, looking now at how aphid seasonal biology affects our estimates of stability.

Bob Lamb, sporting "aphid hunting gear"

Bob Lamb, sporting “aphid hunting gear”

What do you hope will be the lasting impact of this paper?

We hope that this paper will help convince other researchers that Joel Heath’s metric, PV, which we use to quantify population variability, is a robust way to quantify one aspect of the stability of populations. If more researchers adopt this metric, ecologists will have a much greater opportunity to apply a comparative approach and identify factors that contribute to stability or instability of populations.

Where will your next line of research on this topic take you?

Pat MacKay and I continue to extend our time series on the abundance of a native aphid, and are now focusing more on the ecological processes that cause our five populations to rise and fall. We also hope to expand our studies of stability to still more aphid species, but also species with very different life histories. At the moment I am working with a colleague, Terry Galloway, University of Manitoba, on several time-series of ectoparasite abundance on birds.

Do you have any interesting anecdotes about this research?

One of the most interesting aspects of the work on aphids from potatoes is the source of the data – 60 years or more of weekly aphid counts. The data for the early years were discovered by Andrei Alyokhin in an abandoned filing cabinet stored in a barn at the University of Maine. Andrei was a new faculty member at the time exploring his research facilities. His predecessors had maintained meticulous records of aphid densities in potato plots since soon after World War II. Andrei was quick to recognize the value of this data, and more importantly recognized the need to go on collecting the data in the same way. The result is an amazing data set, one of the longest continuous records at one location of the dynamics of multi-voltine species.

Lesson 1: newly-hired entomologists should begin their careers by searching old filing cabinets.

Lesson 2: meticulous long-term records can be invaluable, sometime in ways that you might not anticipate.

Andrei discovering data in old filing cabinets

Andrei discovering data in old filing cabinets

Lamb R.J., MacKay P.A. & Alyokhin A. (2013). Seasonal dynamics of three coexisting aphid species: implications for estimating population variability, The Canadian Entomologist, 145 (03) 283-291. DOI:

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Kids like bugs: entomology outreach in elementary schools (Part 2)

Last week, Chris Buddle and Paul Manning posted the first of a two-part series on outreach activities in elementary schools. That post focused on the ‘why’ – this one (also written by Chris and Paul) is about the ‘how’.

How to talk to kids about bugs:

First thing about talking to elementary school kids is stay calm and don’t worry!  If you have any University-level training in Entomology, you are qualified – Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be able to speak about all aspects of entomology: play to your strengths! If you are a taxonomists working on Syrphidae flies, bring in your flies and talk about them these magnificent animals.  If your experience is broader and less specialized, browse some notes, look on-line, or peek at a textbook: do a short overview of the main Orders of insects and their characteristics. Although most kids get some entomology in elementary schools, it’s not usually very much (although ALL kids do seem to learn about monarch butterflies!).

One great way to speak to kids about bugs is to make the session thematic.  In addition to bringing in a drawer or two of insects, link the specimens to biology. For example, one of us (Paul) has recently used ‘metamorphosis’ as a focal point for discussion. The transition from larvae to adult is a biological wonder, and acts as an excellent focal point for discussion. It brings together different facets of biology, from hormones, to physiological development, behavioural adaptations, through to discussion about life history strategies.  Paul brought galls into the classroom, and demonstrated that there were larvae living inside. The students screamed with excitement when they saw the larvae living within the gall. One student described it as a ‘cute white blob‘. Several students asked if they could bring the larvae home (wouldn’t Mom and Dad just LOVE that!).

Kids like bugs. And they like to draw them.

Kids like bugs. And they like to draw them.

Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”.  In fact, kids find it refreshing to hear that an ‘expert’ doesn’t know all the answers.  Turn it around to illustrate that the world of entomology is so vast that there are a lot of unknowns out there, and many questions still to be answered.

Have patience. With younger grades, asking kids questions, or having them answer questions, can quickly turn into ‘stories’ from young, enthusiastic students. For example:

Q: Does anyone know what kind of insect a ladybug is?

        [Hand shoots into the air…]

 A (from a 6 year old): Um, yes, I know a lot about those things.  Once, when I was 4, I remember that I saw a beautiful bug flying by my garden – it was really big and black and I think it was a ladybug and my granddad told me about how ones like that eat trees and kill the trees and that makes me sad because we have a big tree in our front yard that I really like but sometimes my little bratty brother hides behind it and scares me when I am walking by. But I really like all bugs especially ladybug ones that are red but they smell funny sometimes and my mom said they can bite – will they bite me if I play with them? why do they smell funny? why are there so many spots on them? do their spots get bigger when they grow….

Give kids a chance to tell you these stories, but know that it will take patience…. but heck, if bugs get them talking and excited, that can’t be a bad thing!

(as an aside, most elementary school teachers will typically coach students so that they will ask/answer question instead of tell stories)

Bring a few props: If you can do an event outdoors, try to bring a few sweep nets and vials.  We will often bring extra vials from the lab and give students the vials to keep (heck, plastic vials cost very little!). For MONTHS afterwards, parents will often tell us about how their child packed that vial full of insects and carried it around obsessively for weeks. That’s a great way to inspire entomology.

Beetle galleries are easily found in wood, and can be a great prop to bring to an entomology session with school kids.

If you are doing an indoor talk, make sure to have a lot of photographs of interesting insects, and whenever possible, discuss/show or use examples from your local fauna – this will allow kids to connect to things they have seen on the playground or in their own yards – this connection between the content you are discussing and the insects they are seeing on their own, is very powerful.  With a smaller group, you can certainly bring in a few drawers of insects – if you don’t have any, this becomes a great excuse to make a little synoptic collection of your own to use for educational purposes. Or, ask your local entomology museum, or local naturalist club, about borrowing some specimens.

Whenever possible, bring a few ‘real’ field guides. One of us (CB) ran a biodiversity challenge at an elementary school and managed to convince the school to buy a couple of sets of field guides. The kids LOVE the look and feel of real field guides and will thumb through them with delight. Part of our own passion about natural history can be traced back to field guides in our houses when we were young.

A field guide to insects - suitable for all ages!

field guide to insects – suitable for all ages!

Don’t dumb down the material: Too often we think kids need to be talked down to, but nothing is further from the truth. As mentioned above, kids are sponges for information and in our experience they want to hear the details. You will want to avoid jargon, but other than that, provide the details whenever you can. Again, doing a ‘thematic’ talk with school kids becomes quite important because you just won’t have time to cover anything in-depth if you try to cover too much.

Finally, and most importantly, be passionate and enthusiastic. Kids will feel your positive energy and love of entomology; they will feed off of this, take it home with them; they will start asking more questions, start to dream, and fall further in love with the world around them. Spending a bit of time in a classroom is perhaps one of the most important kinds of outreach activities to do.

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Cross-posted from: http://arthropodecology.com/2013/04/26/kids-like-bugs-entomology-outreach-in-elementary-schools-part-2/

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Canadian Entomologist Editor’s Pick – March 2013

By Chris Buddle, editor of The Canadian Entomologist

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The Canadian Entomologists’ latest issue is devoted to Arctic Entomology, with guest editors Derek Sikes and Toke T. Høye putting together an excellent suite of papers on this topic.  This is a very timely issue – there is an incredible amount of Arctic entomology happening around the world, and the Arctic is an area that is undergoing rapid environmental change.   It’s good that scientists are paying attention, and that entomologists are doing high quality research in the north.

Deciding on an “editor’s pick” for this issue was difficult as there were many excellent papers to choose from.  However, I ended up selecting Gergely Várkonyi and Tomas Roslin’s paper titled “Freezing cold yet diverse: dissecting a high-Arctic parasitoid community associated with Lepidoptera hosts”.   These authors, from Finland, have presented a very nice study about some food-web dynamics occurring in Zackenberg, Greenland  – a truly high Arctic field site, and one that has a remarkable history of long-term ecological monitoring.  Their work is focused on unraveling some of the amazing interactions between Lepidoptera and their parasitoids, and this paper provides a “systematic effort to characterise the high-Arctic Hymenoptera and Diptera parasitoid community associated with Lepidoptera hosts”.   This is a great paper, and hopefully continues to inspire continued efforts to study entomology at high latitudes.

Greenlandic field station

I asked the authors some questions about their work and they kindly provided in-depth answers:

Q1:  What inspired this work?

TOMAS: What got me interested in Arctic predator-prey dynamics was the work of my friend Olivier Gilg. His exploration of the predator-prey dynamics among collared lemmings and their few and selected enemies of Northeast Greenland made me realize that in a species-poor environment, the impact of individual species on each other will be oh-so-much easier to disentangle than among the zillions of interactions typical of tropical and even temperate communities. Here if anywhere you can actually work out both the structure and inner workings of full food webs – which is the very the idea that we have now realized in our study. (And well, from a less scientific point of view, after visiting Northeast Greenland I also realized that this is the most beautiful area of the globe, and that there is nowhere else that I would rather work.)

GERGELY: I have been interested in northern insects, especially hymenopteran parasitoids, since a very long time. I did my PhD in a subarctic environment in Finnish Lapland, with the main focus on host-parasitoid population dynamics between periodic moths and their enemies. I first encountered Greenlandic ichneumonids when my former teacher in ichneumonid taxonomy – and current friend – Reijo Jussila worked on the descriptions of some new species from the Scoresbysund area in Northeast Greenland. More than a decade later, Tomas asked me to identify some samples from Traill Island (NE Greenland), where he had initiated a pilot project on Lepidoptera-Hymenoptera food webs. The next step was when he invited me to join his project about to be launched at Zackenberg. The rest is history…

Q2:  What do you hope will be the lasting impact of this paper?

TOMAS: What I hope that we have achieved are three things: to expose the importance of versatile biotic interactions even in a harsh arctic environment, to reveal the massive effort needed to convincingly dissect even a simple food web, and to establish the baseline structure of a food web facing imminent climate change.

GERGELY: Could not say it any better. I can only add that I hope our thorough overview of the taxonomy and natural history of individual parasitoid species will contribute to getting a better understanding of who is who and what roles each species play in this arctic scene.

flowers in containers

Q3:  Where will your next line of research on this topic take you? 

TOMAS: While we have now figured out the structure of the Lepidoptera-parasitoid web, we should remember that this is but a small module of the overall food web of the region. Our current work aims at expanding/zooming out from this core web towards the full food web of the region, which should actually be more realistically doable here than anywhere else on the globe (see above). In this work, we try to make maximal use of modern molecular tools, offering new resolution to documenting trophic interactions.

GERGELY: Apart from the community ecology goals of this project, we will further continue to update what is known about the parasitic wasp fauna of Greenland. I am focusing on the Ichneumonidae, the single most species-rich family of Hymenoptera in both Greenland and the entire World. By combining morphology and molecular methods, I attempt to clarify species boundaries and detect potential cryptic species. The ultimate goal of this research is to compile a modern taxonomic overview of the Ichneumonidae of Greenland.

Q4: Any amusing anecdotes about this research?

TOMAS: Gergely used to wear a handy hiking suit of light coloration. One day he was almost shot as a polar bear after sneaking up on an unsuspecting colleague in the field.

GERGELY: Well, first of all I was not sneaking, just looking for adult wasps in a safe distance from this colleague of ours. She thought my net was a giant paw of a polar bear (!) and she was really scared for a short moment. But she was definitely not about to shoot me!

Mountain

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Landing an entomological tenure track job: perfecting the practice of academic kung fu

By Chris Buddle (McGill University) & Dezene Huber (University of Northern BC)

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Last autumn there was quite an interesting discussion on twitter among some entomologists in Canada about the ‘job search’ – more specifically focused on the process of seeking tenure-track academic appointments.  Many of us shared our sob stories, and although the time, place and characters varied, the common element was REJECTION.  Those of us who currently are lucky enough to hold faculty appointments remember the rejection to success ratio, and some of us still have stacks of rejection letters.  While most of us really enjoyed the academic freedom that came with working as a postdoc, the job-search process was more often than not discouraging and deflating, and a really difficult time in our lives.

Towards the end of the PhD program, most of us are riding high – our papers are getting published, we are truly ‘experts’ in our fields of study, we are being congratulated, buoyed by our peers and mentors, and we are ready to take on the world.   We found ways to get a post-doc and perhaps traveled to a different country for additional experience, with a sense of hope, optimism, and enthusiasm for the next stage of our careers.

Then, like the world supply of helium, our hopes were quickly diminished.

“I will easily get a job interview at THAT University”.

Nope.  Not even an interview.

“Perfect – that job advertisement was MADE for me – they will hire me.  It’s a perfect fit”.

Nope. A mass e-mail rejection letter instead.

“I’m the GREATEST in my field of study.  Universities will be asking me to apply”

Nope.  That never happens.

I’m sure that I’ll be seriously considered for this position

Nope. The rejection letter came back saying that there were more than 400 applicants for the position.

Even if I don’t get the job, I’ll be able to get feedback from someone on the committee.”

Nope. It’s highly unlikely that, among the 400 applicants, anyone on the committee even remembers you.

There are really two ways to look at this.  It is possible to get discouraged and frustrated, and give up hope OR it’s possible to see that persistence can pay off and eventually the right job will come along, and you will be competitive.  Sure, the opportunities have to be there, but that kind of timing and ‘luck’ isn’t something you can control.

Here are a few pointers that will hopefully help you think about that tenure-track job search, and give you a sense of optimism:

  • It will take a huge dose of patience and persistence, but there ARE tenure-track jobs out there for people with Entomological interests, even in Canada. Recently, Manitoba hired an entomologist, and University of Ottawa just hired an assistant professor on the evolution of plant-pollinator interactions.
  • University professors do eventually retire! (…Although it needs to be noted that the reality in the current economy is that their positions are not always replaced)
  • You don’t have to restrict your options to only University positions.  We know of faculty members who worked in private companies, or in government, and made a lateral transfer, eventually, to academia.  Your holy grail may be a tenure-track job, but other opportunities are equally rewarding and could eventually get you a tenure-track job. Or you may find that life “beyond the ivory tower” is much to your liking anyhow. In fact, you may be interested in the advice column at Chronicle.com by that very name.
  • Be creative with your CV.  There are relatively few jobs for entomologists, sensu stricto, but there are jobs for evolutionary biologists, ecologists, or other more ‘general’ disciplines (Look: Concordia recently held a competition for a community and ecosystem ecologist!)  Re-work your cover letters and CV to reflect your potential in these jobs, and that you use insects as ‘model organisms’. And always tailor your cover letter and CV to any job for which you apply. Don’t just send in the same material to every search committee. Search committees are looking for that elusive thing that we call “fit.”
  • Keep your eye on the ball:  to get that coveted university position, the peer-reviewed publication remains the MOST IMPORTANT item on your CV.  Publish, publish, publish. During this stage of your career, keep the focus on that part of the research process. In particular, enjoy the fact that, as a postdoc, you are relatively free to conduct research and publish without many of the other responsibilities (e.g., teaching, administration) that will come with a tenure-track post.
  • Be realistic. If a job ad states that the committee is looking for an acarologist specializing in the mites of toucans, and you are an acarologist who studies toucan mites, then you have a good chance of landing an interview. If the job ad asks for a “terrestrial ecologist working at any scale from microbial to landscape” and you fit somewhere in there, chances are so do a few hundred other recent graduates.
  • When you see something that looks potentially appropriate for you, apply. Rejection is painful but costs nothing; not applying to something that might have worked out is doubly painful.  People who have agreed to write you letters of recommendation will be patient with you (if they are not, perhaps they are not the right people to give you a letter…?)
  • Have another postdoc or your mentor read through your application material. Chances are your mentor has been on a few search committees and can give you useful tips.
  • Every time you apply for a job, consider it a chance to improve your application material.
  • When you do land an interview, prepare for it like there’s no tomorrow. You are a researcher, do your best to figure out everything that you possibly can about the department to which you are applying and, even more, the personalities that make up that department.  Once you get an interview, this means your CV is strong enough, and the job interview is about the ‘fit’.
  • OK, to be fair, there are other tricks to success in academia.
  • Landing an academic position is not always going to be in the cards for everyone. It is best to have alternate plans so that you don’t get stuck in the so-called postdoctoral holding pattern for years and years. At least one of us (DH) committed to himself to start to explore alternate options at the five year mark after walking the convocation stage. Have a plan B. Your Plan B might actually turn out better than your Plan A in the end.
  • Rejection in terms of tenure-track jobs is really just a warm-up to the continual sense of rejection you will feel if you do end up working as a Professor.  You might as well get used to it.  This is not a statement to bring on doom and gloom: it’s the reality.  You must develop broad shoulders.

Rejection is a fundamental and core part of the academic life: The publication process is becoming so difficult that you can pretty much assume that your paper will get rejected the first few times around (check out this paper about rejection rates…).  Funding agencies are cash-strapped, and it’s getting harder and harder to find ways to fund research projects.  High caliber graduate students will ‘shop around’ for the best graduate program, and will often reject your laboratory. Be a practitioner of academic kung fu – use the weight of rejection against rejection itself by learning from it and applying it to your next attempt.

Depressed yet?

Don’t be.  A tenure track has so many advantages, and these far outweigh the annoying stream of rejections. And the other options available to a bright, young researcher are often as appealing (and usually pay more) than being on the tenure track anyhow.  ..but that’s a topic for another post.

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ESC members: visit your headquarters!

Article by Dr. Chris Buddle, Professor at the McGill University.

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The Entomological Society of Canada's home of operations in Ottawa, Ontario.

The Entomological Society of Canada’s home of operations in Ottawa, Ontario.

I was in Ottawa back in December, and found a bit of time to visit the Entomological Society of Canada’s headquarters, on Winston Avenue.  It was a real treat – our office manager (Derna Lisi) is always thrilled to have visitors, and will make you a lovely cup of coffee!  The office is where memberships get processed, general queries from members get answered, and where printing, mailing and processing paperwork gets done.  It’s also a place where you can browse through ALL the volumes of The Canadian Entomologist.  The office has seven copies of all TCE issues, well-organized, and fully accessible.  Although the journal is electronic now, it sure is nice to hold the Volume 1, Issue 1, in your hands.  That is a lot of history!   It is also somewhat comforting to know that hard copies exist, and that they are well cared for.

The Canadian Entomologist 1(1) - 1868

The Canadian Entomologist 1(1) – 1868

Although I visit Ottawa with some frequency, I always seemed to find reasons not to visit the ESC headquarters.  That was a mistake.  It was a real pleasure to meet Derna, see the operations, and realize that our society has a brick-and-mortar face to it. We are all busy and overworked, but I do encourage you to stop by 393 Winston Ave next time you are in Ottawa.  As a further incentive, there are some lovely shops nearby, including Mountain Equipment Coop.  Go grab your field clothes and stop in to say hi to Derna!  You’ll be glad you did.

[googlemaps https://maps.google.ca/maps?q=393+Winston+Avenue,+Ottawa,+ON&layer=c&sll=45.391733,-75.756668&cbp=13,34.84,,0,1.72&cbll=45.391568,-75.756585&hl=en&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=393+Winston+Ave,+Ottawa,+Ontario+K2A+1Y5&ll=45.391733,-75.756668&spn=0.004408,0.009645&t=h&z=14&panoid=z4yTx0-6DuB1ViiOT7x3Fw&source=embed&output=svembed&w=425&h=350]

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Determining authorship for a peer-reviewed scientific publication

By Chris Buddle
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Authorship on written work should never be taken lightly.  Authorship implies ownership and responsibility for the ideas and content portrayed as the written word.  In science, our currency is the written word, in the form of peer-reviewed articles submitted and published in scientific journals, and multi-authored works are the norm (sometimes to ridiculous degrees!).   Being an author on a paper is critically important for success in academia: the number of publications on your CV can get you job interviews, scholarships, and often leads to increased research funding.  Scientists are often judged by publication metrics, and although we may not like this system, it remains prevalent.  With this context I pose the following question: What is the process by which an individual is granted the privilege of being an author on a peer-reviewed journal article?  This blog post will provide an objective method to determine authorship for a publication, and by sharing it, I hope it helps bring some clarity to the issue.

(Note: as a biologist, I am drawing from my experiences publishing in the fields of ecology and entomology, and in my role as the Editor-in-Chief for a scientific journal, The Canadian Entomologist – the ideas presented below may not be transferable to other fields of study).

A paper that resulted from a graduate class; should all these individuals be authors on this paper? (yes, of course!)

The method outlined below starts by thinking about five main stages in the publication process, and there are individuals associated with each stage:

1. Research concept, framework, and question:  The research process leading to a publication has a conceptual backbone – it is the overarching research framework.  The background ideas and concepts that initiate the research that leads to a publication come from somewhere (…and someone).  Although the end product of research may be the publication, a good research question is at the start, and drives the entire process.  Without a solid framework for research, and a clear question, the research will simply never be in a form suitable for publication.   The person (or people) who developed the big-picture ideas, research framework, and research question are to be considered as authors on the final publication.  In the University framework, this is often an academic who has developed a laboratory and research program around a thematic area of study.

2.  Funding.  Someone has to pay for research – whether it be a large, collaborative research grant that supports many graduate students, or whether it be a small grant from a local conservation agency.  An individual scientist applied for money, and was able to support the research that leads to the publication.  These monies could directly support the research (e.g., provide travel funds, purchase of equipment), the individual doing the research (e.g., pays the graduate student stipend, or technician), or the monies could offset the costs associated with the publication process itself (e.g., many journals charge authors to submit their work, also known as page charges).    The individual(s) who pay for the research need to be considered as authors on the final publication resulting from the research.  More often than not, this individual is the main “supervisor” of a research laboratory, but could also be important collaborators on grant applications, often from other Universities or Institutions.

3. Research design and data collection:  Once the overall research question is in place, and funding secured, the actual research must be designed and executed.  These are placed together under one heading because it is difficult to separate the two, nor should they be separated.  You cannot design a project without attention to how data are collected, nor can you collect data without a clear design.  In a typical University environment, Master’s and PhD students are intimately associated with this part of the research equation, and spend a very significant portion of their time in design and data collection mode.  Without a doubt, the individual(s) who “design and do” the research must be considered as authors.

4.  Data analyses, and manuscript preparation:  The next step in the process is taking the data, crunching the numbers, preparing figures and tables, and writing a first draft of the manuscript.  This is a very important step in the process, as this is the stage where the research gets transformed into a cohesive form.  In a typical University laboratory, this is often done by Master’s students, PhD students, or post-docs, and the product of this stage is often (part of) a graduate student’s thesis.   However, it is also quite likely that a research associate, technician, or Honour’s student be involved at this stage, or that this stage is done by multiple individuals.  For example, data management and analyses may be done by a research technician whereas the head researcher does the bulk of the synthetic writing.  Regardless, one or many individuals may be involved in this stage of the publication process, and all of these people must be considered as authors on the final product.

5. Editing, manuscript submission, and the post-submission process: The aforementioned stage is certainly not the final stage.  A great deal of time and effort goes into the editing process, and quite often the editing and re-writing of manuscripts is done by different individuals than those who wrote the first draft.  Important collaborators and colleagues may be asked to read and edit the first draft and/or other students within a laboratory may work to fine-tune a manuscript.  Most likely, the supervisor of a graduate students invests a lot of time and energy at this stage, and works to get the manuscript in a form that is ready to be submitted to a scientific journal.   The submission process itself can also be difficult and daunting – papers must be formatted to fit the style requirements for specific journals, and the on-line submission process can take a long time.  After the manuscript has been submitted and reviewed by peers, it will most likely return to authors with requests for revisions.  These revisions can be lengthy, difficult, and require significant input (perhaps from many individuals).   For all these reasons, this fifth stage of the publication process cannot be undervalued, and the individual(s) associated with editing, submitting and dealing with revisions must be considered as authors.

Those five categories help define the main stages that lead to a scientific publication, and there are individuals associated with each stage.  Here’s the formula to consider adopting when considering which individuals should be authors on the final product:  if an individual contributed significantly to three or more of the above stages, they should be an author on the final paper.  Here’s an example: in a ‘typical’ research laboratory, the supervisor likely has a big-picture research question that s/he is working on (Stage 1) and has secured funding to complete that project (Stage 2).  A Master’s student, working with this supervisor, will work on the design and collect the data (Stage 3), and as they prepare their thesis, will do the bulk of the data analysis and write the first draft of the paper (Stage 4).  In most cases, the editing and manuscript submission process is shared by the supervisor and the student, and both individuals are likely involved with the revisions of the manuscript after it has been peer-reviewed (Stage 5).  In this case, both individuals clearly contributed to at least three of five categories, and the paper should be authored by both individuals.

A classic example of a paper with a graduate student and supervisor as co-authors.

What about the research assistant that helped collect data? – since they only contributed to Stage 3, they are not considered as an author.  The same is true of a collaborator at a different University who may have helped secure the funding (Stage 2), but did not help with the process in any other way – they do not qualify as authors on this work.   It is quite possible that a post-doc in a laboratory contributes to multiple stages, even on a single Master’s project. For example, the post-doc may have helped secure the funding, assisted significantly with data analysis, and helped to edit the final paper – this entitles them to authorship.

This entire method may be considered too rigid, and cannot really be implemented given the complexities of the research process, and given personalities and politics associated with the research process. Furthermore, many researchers may include their friends on publications, in hopes that the favour will be returned so both individuals increase their publication numbers.    I do not think this is ethical, and overall, if an individual did not contribute to the research process in a significant way, they should not be authors.  The method outlined above provides one way to help determine how this ‘significant way’ can be determined objectively.  The process is certainly not without fault, nor will it work in all circumstances, but perhaps it will help to define roles and help to consider seriously who should be considered as authors on papers.

I can also admit that I have not always contributed to “3 of 5 stages” on all the paper for which I am an author, so you can call me a hypocrite.  That’s OK, (I’ve been called worse), and I reiterate that the process outlined above is context-dependent, and simply provides a framework, or guide, for thinking about this important issue in science.

I am certainly not alone in this discussion, nor with this concept – Paul Friedman wrote about this (in A New Standard for Authorship) and the method in analogous to the one outlined above (although with more categories).  Some journals also specify their expectations for authorship.  As an example, in its instructions to authors, PNAS states that ‘Authorship should be limited to those who have contributed substantially to the work’, and request that contributions be spelled out clearly.  This is a good idea, and forces people to think about the issue.

I’ll finish with two more important points:  First, determining authorship, and thinking about authorship, must be a transparent and clear process.  Graduate students must not be surprised when their supervisor states that some other researcher will be an author on their work – this should have been clear from the start.  A discussion about authorship must occur early in the research process.  Full stop.

Second, another key question is the order of authors.  For example, when is the student’s name first on a publication, and the supervisor second?  What’s the convention for your field of study? Who should be second author when there are four or five co-authors?  This is a complicated question and, you guessed it, one that will be addressed in a future blog post!

Please share your thoughts… how does your laboratory deal with the question of authorship on scientific papers?

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Why a scientific society needs a blog

Chris Buddle, Editor-in-Chief, The Canadian Entomologist
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I’ve been involved with the Entomological Society of Canada for a long time.  It’s a wonderful community of Canadian entomologists sharing an interest and enthusiasm for arthropods. The ESC’s activities are mostly centered around  its annual conference, its range of publications, and it offers a suite of awards and scholarships.  The society’s website also hosts career opportunities, photo contests, and a range of other rich and varied entomological content. The latest, big news for the society is that on 1 June, the ESC officially launched its own blog.  This blog was the brainchild of a few members of the society.

So…why does a scientific society need a blog?  What’s the benefit to members of the society, to the society itself, and what’s the benefit for the broader entomological community?  Here are some thoughts about this:

1) Visibility:  it’s a tough time for scientific societies – funding is tight, and for a lot of people, the value of memberships to societies may seem less important than it once was.  Therefore, increased visibility though an on-line presence is important. A static website is essential, but a blog has a fluidity and dynamic presence that is hard to match with a website.  An active blog with well-written and interesting content will do a lot to increase a society’s visibility.  The visibility from an active blog is also global in its reach.

2) Opportunities to contribute:  the ESC blog will have dozens of contributors – means anybody with an interest in entomology (regardless of their profession and educational background) has an opportunity to write something for a broader audience.  Blog posts are often easier to write, they are shorter than research papers, and the content need not be vetted through a peer-review process.  It’s a forum for creative ideas, stories, photographs, and fun facts about insects.  The blog already has a couple of nice examples to illustrate this point.  For example, Chris Cloutier, a naturalist at the Morgan Arboretum on the Island of Montreal, just wrote a lovely post about the Hackberry Emperor.  Chris is an example of a different kind of entomologist – he’s not a research scientist, nor is his primary profession Entomology.  However, he does outreach, has a wealth of expertise and  talent, and he has a lot to offer the entomological community.  These kind of opportunities create an environment of inclusion for a society – members have a voice and can share their ideas and expertise.  Non-members can also contribute and recognize that there is a strong community associated with the ESC (…and perhaps some of the non-members will see the value of the society and join).

3) Economics: more than ever before, scientific societies are struggling to maintain members, and balance their books.  A blog is a cheap and effective way to promote their science to the world and the cost can be as little as a domain name.  I can think of no other method by which a society can promote itself at this cost point.  You could even argue that the time for static websites may be coming to a close since they are costly to host, require people with specific technical skills, and require a lot of back-end support.  The good blog sites can be administered by people with relatively few of these skills (I’m proof of that!!).

4) Marketing and branding:  a high quality blog helps a society get its brand to a broad audience, and helps to market the society to the world.   The ESC has a long and wonderful history, but its main audience over the years has mostly been academics, research scientists, and students of entomology.   The ESC brand has excellence and quality behind it and that kind of brand should be shared, expanded, and through this process, the society will hopefully gain positive exposure and more members.

5) Communication: At the end of the day, knowledge is something to be shared.  Scientific communication is a fast-changing field and one that is making all of us reconsider how we talk and write about our interests.   I think we all have a responsibility to do outreach.  There is so much mis-information out on the Internet, and people with specialized and well-honed skills must be heard and must have a means to share accurate information in a clear and effective manner – e.g., a society blog. I also think many entomologist are perfectly positioned to do effective outreach (I’ve written about this before).  Part of the ESC’s mandate is dissemination of knowledge about insects and social media is a key piece of any communication strategy.

What do you think?  Can you think of other reasons why scientific societies need to embrace social media?  Please share your ideas!

I will finish with a stronger statement:  scientific societies are perfectly positioned to have the BEST blogs on the Internet.  A scientific society is a community, a community with history, and a community built on high level of expertise.  A scientific society also provides a structure and framework for bringing together high quality knowledge about a particular topic.  A blog can be amazingly strong with this kind of support.  A society is also about people and these people work tirelessly behind the scenes to facilitate the dissemination of high quality content.   These people, structured in committees, and with oversight from an executive committee, can provide tangible support that will help to keep a blog from becoming unidimensional.  The ESC’s blog administrators (Crystal and Morgan) know how to keep the content of high quality, and know how to put all the pieces together – and they know they can do this because they have an entire community behind them.  The society is committed to supporting the blog and for that reason, there is reason to be optimistic about its long-term success.

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Originally posted at: http://arthropodecology.com/2012/06/13/why-a-scientific-society-needs-a-blog/

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Meet the Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Entomologist

My name is Chris Buddle – I’m an Associate Professor at McGill University, in Quebec, Canada, and the Editor-in-Chief for The Canadian Entomologist. I have worked at McGill University, in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, for about 10 years. As a Professor, my work involves all three aspects of academia – teaching, research, and service.

For teaching, I instruct undergraduate courses in our “Environmental Biology” program – this involves teaching courses in both my own area of expertise (entomology) as well as in more general areas (e.g., ecology).

My research program is quite varied; although originally hired as a “Forest Insect Ecologist” my research expertise is broader than that, and I currently oversee graduate students working on insect pest management, the ecology of herbivorous insects in forest canopies, and the biodiversity of Arctic arthropods. The latter initiative is part of a larger-scale project titled the Northern Biodiversity Program.

For “service” I devote a lot of time and energy into my position as the Editor-in-Chief for the Entomological Society of Canada’s flagship journal The Canadian Entomologist (TCE) – a journal that joined a publishing partnership with Cambridge University Press in January of this year.

TCE is an excellent scientific journal, and I am honoured to be associated with it. Its excellence is in part because of TCE’s long history as an internationally renowned entomology journal – it has been published continuously since 1868. TCE is a journal with particularly high editorial and technical standards. We pride ourselves on serving authors well, and on producing a product that has been carefully edited, and that is technically clean. TCE is one of the relatively rare entomology journals that publishes on all facets of the discipline, including taxonomy and systematics, biodiversity and evolution, insect pest management, behaviour and ecology, and more.

We are, therefore, an entomology journal for all entomologists – anyone interested in arthropods can generally find an article of relevance within its pages. I’m also excited about TCE’s new partnership with Cambridge. This publishing house has an equally impressive history, and an equally high standard of publication quality. With this partnership, authors no longer pay page charges for TCE, and receive a complementary PDF of their articles.

As Editor-in-Chief, I have an opportunity to help guide the journal into the future. My editorial objectives include a balance of doing what we have done well in the past (i.e., high quality standards), but also seeking some new opportunities. For example we are initiating a plan to produce a topical “special issue” of TCE every year, for the first issue of each volume. For Volume 145 (the year 2013), we will be devoting an entire issue to the topic of “Perspectives on Arctic Arthropods“. This is an extremely important area of study given the current global concerns about changing climates, especially since some of the effects will be most acute in polar regions. The call for papers for this special issue went out at the end of January, and authors have until 15 June 2012 to submit their manuscripts.

Another objective I have is to continually improve our service to authors. Our move to an on-line manuscript submission system is helping this tremendously and I am continuing to work with my editorial team to tweak the system for the benefit of our authors. I am also interested in bringing entomology, and TCE, to a broader audience. Entomology is a vast and wonderful discipline, but the pages of entomology journals often target a specialized audience. I think a lot of what we publish in the journal is of broad interest, and for that reason, I tweet for the Entomological Society of Canada’s twitter account (follow us: @CanEntomologist). This is an effective way to use social media to highlight articles we publish, activities of the Entomological Society of Canada, and other interesting entomology events and stories. We also have plans to work with our society to develop a blog devoted to entomology in Canada, and TCE will be featured prominently on this blog.

I would like to conclude with a few words of advice for up-and-coming entomologists looking to publish their work. The publication ‘game’ can be a complex one, and it is a changing landscape that can be difficult to navigate. In addition to thinking about the traditional metrics when considering different journals, I do recommend that all potential authors look carefully at the “aims and scope” section for potential venues for publication – it is important that your work will be a good fit with the journal. It’s also easy to be swayed by numerous journals that are sprouting up and seem to be offering everything for nothing. Some journals may seem attractive at first glance, but be aware that quality of service, and the quality of the editorial process, may be less than what could be offered by journals backed by a publisher with strong credentials. More ‘traditional’ journals often have an incredible amount of behind-the-scenes support, and this matters. I will also stress that all authors must strive for a clean, concise, and well-written manuscript. I cannot state strongly enough that careful writing and proofreading is of paramount importance.

In sum, it’s truly a delight to be associated with The Canadian Entomologist and its publication partner, Cambridge University Press. The future is bright for the journal, and I am exciting to work hard to increase the profile and readership of TCE, all the while maintaining its history of excellence. I have assembled a strong editorial team of 20 subject editors, and have additional support from my Editorial Assistant, Dr. Andrew Smith. We are all here to help you publish your best entomological research, and get it into the hands of an international audience.

Read the first issue of the year for free here

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This article was originally published at http://blog.journals.cambridge.org/ and can be found at: http://blog.journals.cambridge.org/2012/04/meet-the-editor-in-chief-of-the-canadian-entomologist/