The following post was written by Tim Poisot. To see the original version, please visit his blog.
Tim is an Associate Editor who works on Applications submissions for Methods in Ecology and Evolution. His research interests include spatial and temporal dynamics of species interactions at the community level, the relevance of variability in community structure on emerging ecosystem properties, and the evolutionary dynamics of multi-species assemblages.
I am back from the centennial meeting of the Ecological Society of America. I met a lot of great people, saw a lot of great talks, and had lovely discussions. One thing that has been in the back of my mind for a while though, is the question of how much methodology should go into an oral presentation?
Methods are important — over the last two years I have found that this has been the part of papers I criticize the most during peer review. Any result is only as robust as its least robust element and there are, in ecology, enough sources of variability that we do not want methods to add any more. As a consequence, appreciating a result and its robustness require that we be able to understand and evaluate the methods by which this result has been obtained.
There are a few elements to evaluating a method. Does it rely on a sound and tested theory? Is it properly applied? Is the method correctly implemented? All of these questions (and some more) should be asked — and answered in the affirmative — before we decide to accept a result. If not, we are putting ourselves in the position to blindly accept what we are being told. Continue reading