Stop, think, and beware of default options

Post provided by Paula Pappalardo (with contributions from Elizabeth Hamman, Jim Bence, Bruce Hungate & Craig Osenberg)

Esta publicación también está disponible en español.

You spent months carefully collecting data from articles addressing your favorite scientific question, you have dozens of articles neatly arranged on a spreadsheet, you found software or code to analyze the data, and then daydream about how your publication will be the most cited in your field while making cool plots. If that sounds familiar, you have probably done a meta-analysis. Meta-analysis uses statistical models to combine data from different publications to answer a specific question.

What you may not have realized when going down the meta-analysis rabbit hole, is that small, seemingly inconsequential, choices can greatly affect your results. If you want to know about one of them lurking behind the scenes… read on!

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Para, piensa, y ten cuidado con las configuraciones por defecto

Post escrito por Paula Pappalardo (con aportes de Elizabeth Hamman, Jim Bence, Bruce Hungate & Craig Osenberg)

This post is also available in English.

Pasaste meses laboriosamente colectando datos de artículos científicos acerca de tu pregunta favorita, tienes decenas de artículos perfectamente organizados en una base de datos, ya encontraste el programa o código para analizar los datos, y entonces imaginas como tu publicación va a ser la más citada en tu campo de investigación mientras haces unos gráficos lindísimos. Si esto te suena familiar, seguramente has hecho un meta-análisis. Un meta-análisis usa modelos estadísticos para combinar datos de distintas publicaciones para responder a una pregunta específica.

Lo que quizás no te diste cuenta mientras navegabas los pasos del meta-análisis, es que pequeñas decisiones (a veces pareciendo de muy poca importancia) pueden tener grandes efectos en los resultados. Si quieres saber más acerca de una de estas decisiones en particular… ¡sigue leyendo!

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MInOSSE: all you need to reconstruct past species geographic range is in the fossil record!

Post provided by Francesco Carotenuto

A very important ecological feature of a species is its geographic range, which can be described by its size, position and shape. Studying the geographic range can be useful to understand the ecological needs of a species and, thereby, to plan conservation strategies. In ecological studies, mathematical models are the new standard to reconstruct the distribution of living species on Earth because of their accuracy in predicting a species presence or absence at unsampled locations. These methods are able to reconstruct the climatic niche of a species and to project it onto a geographic domain in order to predict the species’ spatial distribution. To do this, besides the occurrences of a species, the models necessarily require the spatial maps of environmental variables, like temperature and precipitation, for all the study area.

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A brief history about the R package ‘metan’

Post provided by Tiago Olivoto

Este post também pode ser lido em Português

In our recent paper in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Alessandro Lúcio and I describe a new R package, metan, for multi-environment trial analysis. Multi-environment trials are a kind of trial in plant breeding programs where several genotypes are evaluated in a set of environments. Analyzing such data requires the combination of several approaches including data manipulation, visualization and modelling. The latest stable version of metan (v1.5.1) is now on CRAN. So, I want to share the history about my first foray into using R, creating an R package, and submitting a paper to a journal that I’ve never had submitted before.

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Uma breve história sobre o pacote R ‘metan’

Post ESCRITO POR Tiago Olivoto

This post is also available in English

Em nosso recente artigo na Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Alessandro D. Lúcio e eu descrevemos um novo pacote R para análise de ensaios multi-ambientes chamado metan. Ensaios multi-ambientes são um tipo de ensaio em programas de melhoramento de plantas, onde vários genótipos são avaliados em um conjunto de ambientes. A análise desses dados requer a combinação de várias abordagens, incluindo manipulação, visualização e modelagem de dados. A versão estável mais recente do metan (v1.5.1) está disponível agora no repositório CRAN. Então, pensei em compartilhar a história da minha primeira incursão no uso do R criando um pacote e submetendo um artigo para uma revista que nunca havia submetido antes.

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Two More New Associate Editors

Today we are welcoming two more Associate Editors to the Methods in Ecology and Evolution who were invited to work with the journal following our open call earlier this year. Jessica Royles joins from the University of Cambridge, UK and Simon Blomberg is coming to us from the University of Queensland, Australia. You can find out more about both of them below.

Simon Blomberg

“I am a statistician who started out as a lizard demographer. I am interested in all applications of statistics in evolutionary biology and systematics. It is my passion to see that good science gets done by everybody, and sound statistical methods are essential to reach that goal. My research involves the application of stochastic process models (predominantly Itoh diffusions) to the macroevolution of quantitative traits. I believe that evolution can be described by beautiful mathematics but theory must be tested with data. I have published widely on phylogenetic comparative methods. I use Bayesian methods, data augmentation, regularisation and other modern and traditional statistical methods. I am interested in how to treat missing data. I still like lizards. Also jazz.”

Simon has been working on stochastic process models for a couple of years. His most recent article ‘Beyond Brownian motion and the Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process: Stochastic diffusion models for the evolution of quantitative characters‘ is now available on BioRxiv and he would welcome comments on it from the Methods community.

Jessica Royles

“I am interested in the impact of climate change on plant physiology and specialise in using stable isotopes as environmental markers. Having worked in Antarctica I have strong interests in polar biology, high latitude peatlands and fieldwork techniques. My current work focusses on  temperate bryophytes and I am interested in using techniques including gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence at different spatial scales to link the leaf level to the ecosystem level.”

Jessica’s most recently published article – ‘Widespread Biological Response to Rapid Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula‘ – describes how she and her co-authors used moss cores to study Antarctic warming due to climate change. The article builds on her previous paper ‘Plants and Soil Microbes Respond to Recent Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula‘. Jessica is currently working on a Moss Ecophysiology project which aims to investigate the value of mosses as tools to understand past climate.

We are thrilled to welcome Simon and Jessica to the Associate Editor Board and we look forward to working with them over the coming years.

Issue 8.1

Issue 8.1 is now online!

The January issue of Methods is now online!

All of the articles in this month’s issue of Methods in Ecology and Evolution are free for the whole year. You will not need a subscription to access or download any of them throughout 2017.

Our first issue of this year contains three Applications articles and two Open Access articles. These five papers will be freely available permanently.

– CDMetaPOP: Cost–Distance Meta-POPulation provides a novel tool for questions in landscape genetics by incorporating population viability analysis, while linking directly to conservation applications.

– Rphylopars: An R implementation of PhyloPars, a tool for phylogenetic imputation of missing data and estimation of trait covariance across species (phylogenetic covariance) and within species (phenotypic covariance). Rphylopars provides expanded capabilities over the original PhyloPars interface including a fast linear-time algorithm, thus allowing for extremely large data sets (which were previously computationally infeasible) to be analysed in seconds or minutes rather than hours.

– ggtree: An R package that provides programmable visualisation and annotation of phylogenetic trees. ggtree can read more tree file formats than other software and allows colouring and annotation of a tree by numerical/categorical node attributes, manipulating a tree by rotating, collapsing and zooming out clades, highlighting user selected clades or operational taxonomic units and exploration of a large tree by zooming into a selected portion.

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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

Ten Top Tips for Reviewing Statistics: A Guide for Ecologists

post provided by Dr Mark Brewer.

Mark is a statistician with Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland, based in Aberdeen. His main statistical research interests are Species Distribution Modelling, Compositional Data Analysis, Bayesian Mixture Modelling and Bayesian Ordinal Regression. Mark 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, ‘Model Selection and the Cult of AIC’ here.

The level of statistical analysis in ecology journals is far higher than in most other disciplines. Ecological journals lead the way in the development of statistical methodology, necessitated by challenging practical problems involving complex data sets. As a statistician, publishing also in hydrology, soil science, social science and forensic science journals, I’ve found papers in those areas are much more likely to only use well-established methods than papers in ecology.

Here’s the big question though: why then do I have the most difficulty with ecological journals when it comes to statistical analyses? Let’s be clear here: when I say “difficulty”, I mean I receive reviews which are just plain wrong. Most statisticians I’ve spoken to who work in ecology have anecdotes from reviews which demonstrate a lack of understanding by the non-statistician reviewer (including the all-too-frequent “perhaps you should consult a statistician”). So, why the apparent disconnect?

The difference seems to be in how non-statisticians in different disciplines treat the statistics in a paper. In many subject areas, reviewers are almost deferential to the statistical analysis; in ecology, reviewers can be forthright in their condemnation, often without justification. Reviewers have every right to question the statistical analysis in a paper, but the authors have the exact same right to expect a high quality review from a genuine expert in the field. Has ecology become blasé about statistics? Continue reading

Issue 6.1

Issue 6.1 is now online!

Our first issue of 2015 is now online!

This month we include one freely available Applications article:

A biochemical approach for identifying plastics exposure in live wildlife

We also have two wonderful Open Access papers, ‘Evaluation and management implications of uncertainty in a multispecies size-structured model of population and community responses to fishing‘ by Robert B. Thorpe, Will J. F. Le Quesne, Fay Luxford, Jeremy S. Collie and Simon Jennings and ‘Split diversity in constrained conservation prioritization using integer linear programming‘ by Olga Chernomor, Bui Quang Minh, Félix Forest, Steffen Klaere, Travis Ingram, Monika Henzinger and Arndt von Haeseler.

This month’s cover image shows more than 170 plastic pieces that were found in the digestive system of a single deceased seabird. Plastic items this seabird ate included industrial pellets (‘nurdles’) that are just a few millimeters long, drink bottle lids, ties used for helium balloons, a plastic doll’s arm and numerous other plastic pieces, some more than 55 mm in length. We can necropsy deceased birds to find out what they have eaten as they forage in the open ocean. However, to understand the pervasiveness of plastics in the marine environment and the potential impacts to wildlife, non-destructive sampling is key.

There is a new method to assess the ubiquity of plastics ingestion in seabirds. A simple swabbing technique, coupled with gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry, can be used to identify phthalate plasticizers that have been adsorbed into the preening oil of seabirds.The approach is quick, simple and can be used on live, wild-caught individuals without harm, serving as an effective tool to help manage declining, threatened or endangered species.

You can read more about this swabbing technique in Hardesty et al.’s ‘A biochemical approach for identifying plastics exposure in live wildlife‘, which is available free of charge.
Photo © Britta Denise Hardesty, CSIRO.

To keep up to date with Methods newest content, have a look at our Accepted Articles and Early View articles, which will be included in forthcoming issues.