Ecological restoration (pictured here, sand dune restoration conducted by NH Sea Grant in New Hampshire, USA) is a form of solution science. (Image Credit: Caitlin Mandeville., CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Shining a Brighter Light on Solution Science in Ecology (2020) Doubleday & Connell, One Earth, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2019.12.009
These days, it can feel hard to go even a day without thinking about the many environmental challenges facing the world. Climate change, habitat degradation, species extinctions… it can all feel a bit overwhelming sometimes. In fact, many of us ecologists chose careers in this field because we hope to contribute to solving these problems. There is no doubt that many of the questions investigated by ecologists have direct relevance to our ability to live more sustainably on earth. But how often do ecologists make the leap from basic ecological knowledge to the ways that this knowledge can be used to make a positive difference in the world?
In a January 2020 publication, authors Doubleday and Connell calculated the percentage of articles published in top ecology journals that have a clear focus on solving environmental problems and found that only 14% of top ecology articles focus on what they call “solution science”.
Image Credit: Kennet Kjell Johansson Hultman, CC0 1.0, Image Cropped
Last week saw International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It’s an important day, recognising the importance of a strong female presence in the scientific community, and how far all scientific disciplines have to go to achieve gender equality.
So naturally the journal Biological Conservations decided to release a paper entitled Where There Are Girls, There Are Cats*. It’s an ill-informed, ill-conceived paper that essentially blames women for free-ranging cat populations. It is insulting to women, and quite frankly insulting to any scientist who has had a paper rejected in the last year (yes, I’m bitter). It’s also kind of hilarious in all the wrong ways. As such, there was justifiable mockery and jaw-droppage on Twitter. Yet as with the recent #PruittGate debacle, most of the community has veered away from directly attacking the researchers. They’ve been focussing on the real problem here – in this case the peer review system.
Scientific papers nowadays are written more on computers than with ink and paper, but no matter how you write a paper it is important to distinguish who gets credit for what. (Image credit: Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, Image Cropped)
A huge component of science is the execution of successful experiments and then writing about those experiments. Consequently, a lot of weight is put on who did what, and what kind of credit people deserve for what they do. This can result in some arguments about how much so and so did for the project, and why they deserve authorship credit. In this article, I want to briefly cover some authorship issues and what kind of impact authorship can have on a scientist’s career.