With research rolling off the PhD production line young ecology researchers searching for a sense of the science-culture foundations of their discipline are easily overwhelmed. There are, Flinders U’s Corey Bradshaw and French colleague Franck Courchamp write, half a million ecology papers on the Web of Science. So, Bradshaw and Courchamp asked hundreds of ecology experts to name the journal articles all researchers should read.
Their results demonstrate what researchers want; modelling studies led from “argumentation papers.” Community ecology, biodiversity distribution, population ecology “and, to a lesser extent,” evolutionary ecology, conservation biology and functional ecology are the big subjects among the 17 fields covered by articles on the top 100 list.
And in an unhappy result for advocates of cash-machine metrics, Bradshaw and Courchamp found; “most recommended papers were not published in the highest-ranking journals, nor did they have the highest number of mean annual citations, showing the limitations of using such citation-based indices as metrics of article or researcher impact.”
Not that environmental scientists need to have read an article to recommend it; “a remarkable example is the top-ranked paper in the all-article list which is entirely absent in the read-only top 100,” they write.
Not, you understand that this is a problem, they charitably explain; “even though many of the recommended papers had not been read per se, the proponents possibly knew enough of their content or main message via partial readings, discussions, related readings or their mentors’ previous recommendations.”
So, who you ask, is author of the number one article all ecologists should read? Some bloke called Charles Darwin who wrote with A R Wallace, “On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection” in 1858.