A Look Back At 2015 … And A Little Peek Forward

It’s been another busy year at Journal of Animal Ecology, with more personnel changes and a few new initiatives. Here, we review some of these developments.

Papers and other media

Last year was another good year for the journal, with our Impact Factor remaining strong (4.504), ranking us 2nd out of 149 Zoology journals and 24th out of 143 Ecology journals. We continued to publish a number of successful Feature papers, including two How to.. papers, which continue to be extremely popular with our readers. The first, by Marie-Therese Puth, Markus Neuhäuser and Graeme D. Ruxton ‘On the variety of methods for calculating confidence intervals by bootstrapping’ and the second, by Damien Farine and Hal Whitehead, on ‘Constructing, conducting and interpreting animal social network analysis’. The latter was accompanied by a Virtual Issue on social network analysis, edited by Senior Editor Ben Sheldon. We also published a joint Virtual Issue with Journal of Applied Ecology and Methods in Ecology and Evolution on ‘Monitoring Wildlife’, featuring a selection of papers focusing on new methods and technologies for monitoring animals in their natural environments. To coincide with Open Access Week in October 2015, the five BES journals published a Virtual Issue of a selection of our OA papers. We also welcome unsolicited inquiries about potential Virtual Issues, whether you would like to see a particular topic covered, or whether you would like to edit one yourself. Similarly, we continue to welcome other special features including Synthesis, Review and How to.. papers, as well as topical Forum articles, so if you have any ideas, please let us know.

Of course, our bread-and-butter will always be standard research papers and during 2015, we received over 800 new manuscripts and published 167 papers. For many of the papers we cannot publish, there is the option of having the manuscript and reviews forwarded to Ecology and Evolution, an open-access journal we publish with Wiley in collaboration with other ecological and evolutionary journals. We believe that this is a positive development for ecologists who submit to our Journal, and expect that in 2016 many more authors will take advantage of this partnership to publish high-quality open-access papers at a reduced Article Processing Charge (APC). Open-access is also an option for papers published in Journal of Animal Ecology, of course, and 2015 again saw an increase in OA papers over previous years.

A number of the papers we published in 2015 triggered clear press interest, including A sting in the spit: widespread cross-infection of multiple RNA viruses across wild and managed bees’ by Dino McMahon and co-authors, and a paper revealing the forging behaviour of ocean sunfish by Itsumi Nakamura et al., both the paper by McMahon and Nakamura et al featured on the BBC. Also a paper by Thomsen et al detailing a study of how insects collected on a rooftop over 18 years revealed climate change effects was reported in a number of outlets including Time Magazine.


In September, Tim Coulson stepped down as Senior Editor after nearly 9 years, including 3 years as Executive Editor. Tim guided the journal into the era of freely accessible data, an issue he has been passionate about for many years. Tim was also responsible for the introduction of our highly successful “How to…” papers. Taking Tim’s place on the Senior Editor board is Nate Sanders, from the University of Copenhagen. Nate is interested in macroecology, global change ecology and community ecology, often focusing on ants as study organisms. He also has considerable editorial experience and has already settled into the job well. He also has really good taste in bourbon.

We also said goodbye to a number of our Associate Editors – Brett Sandercock, Jonathan Newman, Kate Jones, James Jones, Sonia Altizer, Nathalie Seddon and Alexandre Roulin – we thank you all for your great service to the Journal over many years. We are pleased to welcome, Ben Dantzer, Elizabeth Derryberry, Jenny Gill, Bethany Hoye, Julie Morand-Ferron, Ally Phillimore, Laura Prugh, Celine Teplitsky, Sonya Clegg and Kate Parr as new Associate Editors in 2015. When recruiting new experts to join is as AEs, we have also endeavoured to improve the diversity of our editorial board. In particular, we have again tried to redress the biased sex-ratio of our editorial board and have succeeded in increasing the proportion of female AEs from just 13% in 2014 to 31% by the end of 2015. Our AEs are so important to the running and reputation of the Journal, and in 2016, we will continue to strive for an active, representative, diverse international board of outstanding animal ecologists. As always, we are open to established researchers of either sex nominating themselves or their colleagues to serve as editorial board members. Please just send a CV and cover letter to the Journal office if you are interested in being considered, or in nominating someone else.

In 2015, we also announced the winner of the 2014 Elton Prize, awarded to the best paper published in Journal of Animal Ecology that year by an early-career researcher. The prize was awarded to James L. Maino from University of Melbourne, Australia, for his paper ‘Reconciling theories for metabolic scaling’. The Senior Editors particularly liked that James and his co-authors tested a priori predictions from their parameterised model against a real dataset for mammalian respiration, with exciting results.

The blog

In June 2014, we started this blog to complement our existing media outputs including our Twitter feed (@AnimalEcology), our Facebook page, podcasts, videos, etc. Initially, all the posts were written just by the Senior and Associate Editors, but in 2015 we also began to invite other animal ecologists to the party, starting with Dave Goulson who posted a controversial blog asking Has Farming Lost its Way? Other notable blog posts in 2015 included Shripad Tuljapurkar’s essay proposing ‘paraboliccareers for academics; back-to-back posts by Senior Editors Tim Coulson and Jean-Michel Gaillard questioning the amount of complexity required in ecological models; a post by Senior Editor Ken Wilson celebrating 30 years of Soay sheep research on the Scottish islands of St Kilda; another by Philip Francis Thomsen and colleagues showing how 18 years of trap data have shed new light on the effects of climate change on insects; and a post to celebrate World Fisheries Day by Associate Editor Anna Kuparinen on the linkages between fish ecology and fisheries management.

We also, for the first time in 2015, used the blog to allow some of our authors to post videos and slide shows relating to their study systems and JAE papers. Notable examples included a video by Leigh Marsh showing how a deep-sea remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has revealed new insights into the life-history of a newly-discovered species of yeti crab; a slideshow by Cat Horswill and Mick Mackey of penguins on the Sub-Arctic island of South Georgia; another excellent slideshow and blog by Rob Pringle on elephants as environmental architects in central Kenya’s Laikipia Highlands; a photo display and blog by Mark Elbroch on cougars in northwest Wyoming; and a festive slideshow in December on The Secret Life of Reindeer.

Our blog has proved hugely popular with our readers, attracting over 16,000 views in 2015 alone. If you have ideas about what might make an interesting blog post, and who might write it, please contact us.

Data archiving

Since January 2014, all of the BES journals made data archiving compulsory for all papers (with waivers granted only under exceptional circumstances). To make this easier for authors, we have integrated the Journal with one of the leading data archiving facilities – Dryad. Currently, it is free for BES authors to deposit their data in this repository, and the vast majority of our authors (72%) chose to do so last year. Other data archives are available to authors, of course, including figshare (nearly 5% of archived papers), Movebank, GenBank, Treebase and NERC Data Centres. Although there were initially some minor teething issues with the process, and some scepticism from a small number of authors over its implications, it is now overwhelmingly welcomed by the ecological community. Indeed, we are proud at the British Ecological Society that we are at the forefront of openness and transparency in the publication of scientific data and only wish that the medical and pharmaceutical industries would follow suit.

On the horizon

2016 has started with a bang with the publication of our Special Feature on Movement Ecology , edited by Bram Van Moorter, Manuela Panzacchi, Francesca Cagnacci and Mark S. Boyce all of which are freely available. The feature also includes an Editorial by Associate Editor Luca Borger and a blog post with cartoon video by Manuela Panzacchi on the impact of anthropogenic habitat loss, fragmentation and disturbance on Norwegian reindeer. We have another Special Feature planned for later this year on “Demography Beyond the Population” – this will feature 4 papers in Journal of Animal Ecology and 20 papers in total published across all six British Ecological Society journals, for the first time. Also on the horizon is a new webpage written by Assistant Editor Simon Hoggart on how authors can best promote their papers. There has been a lot of discussion recently (link link) about increasing the transparency of research and data beyond data archiving. This is likely to be something that will be discussed further in the ecological community over the coming year and beyond and is likely to feature in future blog posts.

And finally…

We feel that Journal of Animal Ecology is in a strong position. We are publishing high-quality papers with lasting impact; we have an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and increasingly diverse team of Associate Editors; and we feel we provide a friendly forum for the dissemination and discussion of animal ecology research. We always welcome feedback and suggestions about how we might improve our service to authors or the quality and diversity of research we publish, so please feel free to contact us. We look forward to a successful 2016.

Ken Wilson, Executive Editor (twitter: @spodoptera007)
Ben Sheldon, Senior Editor (twitter: @ben_sheldon_EGI)
Jean-Michel Gaillard, Senior Editor
Nate Sanders, Senior Editor (twitter: @Nate_J_Sanders)
Erika Newton, Managing Editor (twitter: @ErikaLNewton)
Simon Hoggart, Assistant Editor (twitter: @AnimalEcology)

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