Achieving Reproducibility in Research

Earlier this month Leila Walker attended a panel discussion imparting ‘Practical Tips for Reproducible Research’, as part of the Annual Meeting of the Macroecology Special Interest Group (for an overview of the meeting as a whole check out this Storify). The session and subsequent drinks reception was sponsored by Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Here, Leila reports back on the advice offered by the panel members.

For anyone interested in viewing further resources from the session, please see here. Also, you may like to consider attending the best practice for code archiving workshop at the 2016 BES Annual Meeting. Do you have any tips for making your research reproducible? Comment on this post or email us and let us know!

This year’s Annual Meeting of the Macroecology SIG was the biggest yet, with around 75 attendees and even representation across the PhD, post-doc and faculty spectrum. The panel discussion aimed to consider what reproducibility means to different people, identify the reproducibility issues people struggle with, and ultimately provide practical tips and tools for how to achieve reproducible research. Each of the participants delivered a short piece offering their perspective on reproducibility, with plenty of opportunity for discussion during the session itself and in the poster and wine reception that followed.

Attendees enjoy a wine reception (sponsored by MEE) whilst viewing posters and reflecting on the Reproducible Research panel discussion. Photo credit: Leila Walker

Attendees enjoy a wine reception (sponsored by MEE) whilst viewing posters and reflecting on the Reproducible Research panel discussion. Photo credit: Leila Walker

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New Initial Submission Requirements

Submitting to Methods in Ecology and Evolution is now easier than ever!

Formatting manuscripts for submission can take a long time.

Formatting manuscripts for submission can take a long time.

Formatting a manuscript for journal submission can be time-consuming and frustrating work, especially for the first version. To make things a little bit simpler for our authors, we now have just a few small formatting requirements for initial submissions.

To have a paper considered in Methods in Ecology and Evolution it just needs to:

  • Be double line spaced and in a single column
  • Be within the word count (6000-7000 words for Standard Articles, 3000 words for Applications)
  • Include both line and page numbers
  • Have a statement of where you intend to archive your data
  • Follow the standard manuscript structure: Author details, Abstract (must be numbered according to journal style), Keywords, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion

This means that you do not need to worry about the format of your references, the placement of your figures (they can be within the text, at the end of the document or uploaded as separate files), whether or not you have used scientific names or anything else like that. Continue reading

A Video is Worth a Million Words: Why You Should Make a Video about YOUR Article

Post provided by NATHALIE PETTORELLI & CHRIS GRIEVES

Why should you make a video about your article?

Why should you make a video about your article?

With impact being considered more and more in promotion applications and REF-style (Research Excellence Framework) exercises, science communication is becoming an integral part of a scientist’s job. The problem is: most of us academics aren’t exactly trained in science outreach and our communication styles are heavily biased towards anything written, as opposed to anything visual.

With technological advancements constantly making things easier, however, more and more scientists are taking the plunge and adventuring into the world of YouTube and Vimeo to disseminate their work. But why are they doing so? Is it easy? Do you need expert help or can you do it yourself easily?

This blog post aims to answer all the questions and worries you may have as a scientist thinking of making a video about your work for the first time. To address these worries and questions in the most comprehensive way, we asked 12 authors who recently produced a video about their paper (in some cases their first) if they could give us some insights on their experience, and detail for us the challenges and benefits of choosing this style of communication. Their stories are the background to our story. Continue reading

Writing Manuscripts: The Alternative ‘Guide to Authors’

Post provided by EMMA SAYER

If the reviewer doesn't get it, you haven't explained it clearly enough! © Chelm261

If the reviewer doesn’t get it, you haven’t explained it clearly enough! ©Chelm261

“If the reviewer doesn’t get it, you haven’t explained it clearly enough!” This is one quote from my PhD supervisor that I haven’t forgotten. Getting research funded and published depends to a very large extent on our ability to get the point across. Although scientific texts appear to differ wildly from other forms of writing, a good research paper actually follows the same basic principles of effective communication as a newspaper article or advertising text.

There are some fairly simple guidelines on presenting and structuring written information to get the point across and highlight the key messages that are very useful for manuscripts, thesis chapters, proposals, basically any kind of academic writing. At Functional Ecology, we’ve collected tips and tricks from various sources to help authors effectively communicate their research and ideas. Here are our key points:

1) Know Your Audience

A research paper is about communicating your research in a way that makes sense to others. © Vinch

A research paper is about communicating your research in a way that makes sense to others. © Vinch

The central principle for any type of communication is: know your audience. A research paper isn’t just about presenting information – it’s about communicating your research to others. When you start preparing a manuscript, you need to think about who will read it. In the first instance, this is probably a busy editor or reviewer, so you should make sure that you get your key messages across without making your readers work too hard. Good science writing isn’t about using clever-sounding words and sentences, it’s about getting the point across in such a way that readers can understand the research and reach the right conclusion (i.e. the one you want them to reach). Continue reading

Maximising the Exposure of Your Research: Search Engine Optimisation and why it matters

This post is an outcome of the ‘Maximising the Exposure of Your Research’ Workshop at the BES 2015 Annual Meeting in Edinburgh (UK). If you’re interested in joining us for our 2016 Annual Meeting in Liverpool (UK), you can find some more information and pre-register HERE.

© Got Credit

© Got Credit

In recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of academic articles published. At the same time, readers are changing how they find content, tending towards a point of entry at article level as opposed to journal level. These two factors mean that it is increasingly necessary for authors to make their articles easy for relevant readers to find. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of the best ways to do this.

While writing your paper, there are a few things that you can do to optimise it for search engines, such as Google Scholar. The tips below focus on three areas that are prioritised by search engines when looking for content. Following these tips will help you to maximise the exposure of your research. Continue reading

A Quickstart Guide for Building Your First R Package

Post Provided By DR IAIN STOTT

Iain is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research and the MaxO Center at the University of Southern Denmark. He is currently working as a part of MaxNetAging, a Research Network on Aging. Iain was one of the presenters at the UK half of the Methods in Ecology and Evolution 5th Anniversary Symposium in April. You can watch his talk, ‘Methods Put to Good Use: Advances in population ecology through studies of transient demography’ here.

If you’re anything like me, you might experience a minor existential crisis weekly. As scientists we question the world around us and, for me, this questioning turns all-too-often inwards to my career. I don’t think that’s unusual: ask any scientist about their ‘Plan B’, and the extent to which it’s thought through is often astonishing (if a café-cum-cocktail bar ever opens in Glasgow’s West End, which specialises in drinks that employ spice blends from around the world and are named after old spice trade routes and trading vessels, then you know I’ve jumped the science ship).

Contributing open-source software is something which has made my work feel a bit more relevant and helped me feel a bit less of an imposter. I’ll explain why that is, give some tips to beginners for building a first R package, and hopefully persuade other (especially early-career) researchers to do the same. Continue reading

When to Identify Non-Preferred Reviewers

©Nic McPhee

©Nic McPhee

Last month we published a blog post with some tips on selecting preferred reviewers for your manuscript. It was hugely popular (if you haven’t read it yet you can do so here), so we have decided to follow it up with some advice on identifying NON-preferred reviewers (or Author Opposed Reviewers as they are now known on ScholarOne).

Unlike preferred reviewers, you are not required to identify non-preferred reviewers when you submit your paper to Methods. However, in certain cases this option is can be very useful for your manuscript. It is important not to overuse or misuse this feature of the submission system though and the below tips will help you to avoid doing this.

The Golden Rule: Always Explain Why!

It can often be difficult to decide whether to identify someone as an author opposed reviewer. While there are some guidelines that journals can (and do) offer, a lot of the time authors find themselves in the grey area between these. We understand that it is unlikely that every question you have will be answered by our guidance (although we hope that we can address at least a few of them), but there is a way around this: explain why you have made a person a non-preferred reviewer. Continue reading

The DOs and DON’Ts of Selecting Preferred Reviewers

Like many journals, Methods in Ecology and Evolution asks authors to submit a list of preferred reviewers along with their manuscript. This can be a difficult task and is often one that is overlooked or rushed when submitting. However, this list can be very important in the peer review process.

Why Do We Need Preferred Reviewers?

©Nic McPhee

©Nic McPhee

There are a number of reasons that we ask authors to provide preferred reviewers. These suggestions can be extremely useful in a number of situations. For example, if the Associate Editor is struggling to find referees for a paper, the preferred reviewers become a very valuable resource. Not only are they potential reviewers, but if they are unable to review the paper they can suggest other people who might be able to.

As Methods is a generalist journal, sometimes papers are submitted that do not fit perfectly into the areas of expertise of our Associate Editors. In cases such as these, the preferred reviewers can be a wonderful starting point for the reviewer search. Providing the Editors with a good list of experts in the subject (who they may not know off the top of their head) can make the peer review process quicker and easier for everyone involved.

While Editors are by no means required or obliged to choose the reviewers that authors suggest, the list can often be a source of inspiration. If the Editor chooses not to invite any of the preferred reviewers, they may use the suggestions to try to find people with similar expertise.

Providing a good list of preferred reviewers can speed up the peer review process and make it a much less stressful experience. So, what makes a preferred reviewer list good or bad? The DOs and DON’Ts below should help you to suggest the right reviewers for your paper. Continue reading

Choosing Where to Submit: Is Your Manuscript Right for MEE?

You’ve spent months, or even years, working on a project. You’ve finalised your manuscript and you’re ready to submit. But which journal should you send your paper to?

@ Colin (click image to see original)

@ Colin (click image to see original)

In recent years, this question has only gotten harder. As more and more journals enter the market, the decision of where to send your paper is becoming increasingly confusing. With predatory journals muddying the waters and an increasing pressure to publish, deciding where to submit can be a daunting task for even seasoned academics.

Is Methods in Ecology and Evolution the right journal for your manuscript? Is your manuscript right for Methods? Hopefully this blog post will give you a set of tools to make that decision a little easier. Most of these can be applied to other journals too (although some may need to be tweaked a little). Continue reading