- Open Access
Ecology and eScience
© Mulder; licensee Springer 2012
- Received: 24 May 2011
- Accepted: 10 February 2012
- Published: 10 February 2012
Stress ecology, climate change, human well-being, and global sustainability are popular items (Naeem et al. 2009). Given all the challenges in a developing world where the global population is supposed to reach 9.15 billion in 2050 (Pimentel et al. 1999; United Nations Population Division 2010), policy makers are, for the first time, keen on concrete assessments of our world, looking with interest and fear to ecological models. Although the discussion between scientists and politicians is known to be difficult, too many recent catastrophes during a single year - from the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (De Gouw et al. 2011) up to the ongoing radioactive Fukushima wreckage (Schiermeier 2011) - rapidly forced a better and constructive interaction between applied ecologists and policy makers at different organization levels. Such an interaction is also reflected by the arising use of internet metrics, blogs, tweets, and social networking - all digital tools that are already more or less linked to the thought process that society and policy are currently going through. Scientists are used to the Web of Science for selecting the appropriate papers, and policy makers are using methodologies for weighing opinions (Bollen et al. 2009). The latter authors even defined modern science as a 'gift economy', and they are absolutely right. What else should happen to improve the interactions between policy and research?
eScience: computation impacted science
The world of science changed radically
Balancing theory and empirical data at different levels allowed a shift in the scientific inquiries, resulting in an improved performance of current investigation. (Previously, a myriad of topics made navigation more difficult.) Internet, networking, international programs, and the astonishingly high amount of data confluence into this new conceptual framework (Hey et al. 2009), where any traditional (sub)discipline has been forced to change (see Box 1 and references therein; Mulder et al. 2011). Internet can unify such (sub)disciplines in a fractal-like world with increasing complexity and accessible detail (Figure 2), demonstrating the need to unify philosophy of science with the science and technology studies.
Albeit some ecologists seem not to be fully aware of the enhancements of online scholarly communication, open access is really beginning to spread. Still, only one-fourth of the contributions published between 2003 and 2010 by the Public Library of Science [PLoS] (2011) belong to the categories Development and Evolutionary Biology, Ecology, Marine and Aquatic Sciences, or Plant Biology, and less than 0.15% of the seven hundreds of thousand contributions deposited during the same period in the arXiv (2011) belong to the 'Quantitative Biology' category. Seeing how many ecologists appreciate PLoS (and open access in general), these relatively low contributions surprise me. Something comparable occurs with data sharing: empirical data sets are of the highest value (cf. Bourne 2005), but ecologists seem to become 'shy' when asked to make their data accessible. This makes me question why in 2010, only 7% of all the participants to one EU-funded project responded to their open data call?
This short overview shows, on the one hand, how many ecologists are already dealing with data sharing and eScience, and on the other hand, how different complementary frameworks seem to coexist. The overlap between schools and frameworks can be rather confounding. For instance, although many features are common to different ways of performing research, metadata focusing on compiled information for local communities are widespread as ecological networks, whereas scientific data derived from simulated or empirical information are commonly defined as food webs. This implies that webs can, in most cases, be seen as networks although not all ecological networks may be seen as traditional food webs. However, in contrast to many nested networks, eScience is mutual and, as such, is expected to grow with vigor because, in contrast to (antagonistic) living organisms, eScience has no discrete boundaries but has digitally cross-connected domains with high modularity.
Thinking seriously about the scenario
After all the efforts of producing a research paper (from laboratory and/or field work up to forecasting, networking, feedbacks, and final writing), how are ecologists currently thinking about their outreach? Bourne (2010) provocatively wrote that in contrast to the rather static PDF interface, publishing workflows - and preprint repositories and post-publication commentaries can be seen as a kind of creative workflows - are more powerful but harder to manage and represent, therefore, a major change for most scientists.
Apparently, ecologists belong to those scientists, but if they are not able to keep online the attention of their own colleagues, then how can they expect any concrete feedbacks from environmentally interested laypersons and policy decision makers? How can stakeholders expect a concrete use of ecological indicators if most scientists dealing with such an integrative discipline seem to (be willing to) ignore a large part of data and recent literature on environmental impact and ecosystem services (cf. Bjorndal et al. 2011)?
Having seen these disputes between institutions, it is not a wonder that Al Gore has succeeded in areas where so many scientists, stakeholders, and NGOs have failed. It is time for a radical departure; to improve the synergy between authors, publishers, and readers, two possible incentives should be considered as novel opportunities:
Be explicit and do not try to be exhaustive
There is an increasing amount of review papers cited to support empirical data, and most results can be interesting for a wide variety of scientists if the original results could be put in a much wider context. Most manuscripts just aim to bridge knowledge gaps, but overwhelming references are always inappropriate to catch real attention, and chains of citations have to be avoided as they move from journal to journal (Hirsch 2005). We should strive to generate less academic papers and attempt to sample the web uniformly.
Be wide and do not claim something else
Bibliographic couplings aim to identify structures and communities (Menczer 2004). To avoid strong discipline bias, take substantial precaution. Do not claim shocking lack of knowledge (such terms are not objective) and do not cite only the papers that seem to confirm your results (Jennions and Møller 2002). Your literature shows your horizons. In the framework of eScience, papers always benefit from testing the theory or hypothesis regarding how relationships change, so be wide in the chosen references.
Let us put matters straight: ecological forecasts are imperative (Clark et al. 2001). These authors defined ecological forecasting as 'the process of predicting the state of ecosystems, ecosystem services, and natural capital' (Clark et al. 2001). Although some scientists still prefer to claim that no data are available to specify uncertainties or find that novel ideas cannot be tested properly for lack of appropriate technology (cf. Collins 2010), others state that larger data sets (inclusive historic data sets) are meanwhile discoverable (Hunt et al. 2009), making ecological forecasting feasible. Data are interwoven with peer-reviewed scientific papers, are authored in digital form, and are benefits of today's structural use of the entire digital environment (Lynch 2009).
A new scientific endeavor online
As a matter a fact, 'science aims to produce far more than a simple mechanical prediction of correlations' (Ginsparg 2009), and most open-access journals clearly aim to support a better comprehension of the exabytes of already available information and to improve strongly the dissemination of data, causalities, and implications. Therefore, Ecological Processes is governed by three principles: research quality, multidisciplinarity and integration, and open access. (Overarching principles are reflected by all those who have agreed to provide part of their precious time as committed editors.) As editors in chief, we all have plenty of ideas for what Ecological Processes means, but we really wish to get your input too, as you like it.
- Adhikari B, Nadella K: Ecological economics of soil erosion: a review of the current state of knowledge. Ann New York Acad Sci 2011, 1219: 134–152. 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05910.xView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Allesina S, Pascual M: Googling food webs: can an Eigenvector measure species' importance for coextinctions? PLoS Comput Biol 2009,5(9):e1000494. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000494View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- arXiv Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY; 2011.http://arxiv.org . Accessed 20 Apr 2011
- Bai Y, Han X, Wu J, Chen Z, Li L: Ecosystem stability and compensatory effects in the Inner Mongolia grassland. Nature 2004, 431: 181–184. 10.1038/nature02850View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Bjorndal KA, Bowen BW, Chaloupka M, Crowder LB, Heppell SS, Jones CM, Lutcavage ME, Policansky D, Solow AR, Witherington BE: Better science needed for restoration in the Gulf of Mexico. Science 2011, 331: 537–538. 10.1126/science.1199935View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Bollen J, Van de Sompel H, Hagberg A, Chute R: A principal component analysis of 39 scientific impact measures. PLoS ONE 2009,4(6):e6022. 10.1371/journal.pone.0006022View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Bourne P: Will a biological database be different from a biological journal? PLoS Comput Biol 2005,1(3):e34. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.0010034View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Bourne PE: What do I want from the publisher of the future? PLoS Comput Biol 2010,6(5):e1000787. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000787View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Bourne PE, Fink JL, Gerstein M: Open access: taking full advantage of the content. PLoS Comput Biol 2008,4(3):e1000037. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000037View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Clark JS, Carpenter SR, Barber M, Collins S, Dobson A, Foley JA, Lodge DM, Pascual M, Pielke R Jr, Pizer W, Pringle C, Reid WV, Rose KA, Sala O, Schlesinger WH, Wall DH, Wear D: Ecological forecasts: an emerging imperative. Science 2001, 293: 657–660. 10.1126/science.293.5530.657View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Cohen JE: Mathematics is biology's next microscope, only better; biology is mathematics' next physics, only better. PLoS Biol 2004,2(4):e439.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Collins JP: Sailing on an ocean of 0s and 1s. Science 2010, 327: 1455–1456. 10.1126/science.1186123View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Costanza R, D'Arge R, De Groot R, Farber S, Grasso M, Hannon B, Limburg K, Naeem S, O'Neill RV, Paruelo J, Raskin RG, Sutton P, Van den Belt M: The value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature 1997, 387: 253–260. 10.1038/387253a0View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- De Gouw JA, Middlebrook AM, Warneke C, Ahmadov R, Atlas EL, Bahreini R, Blake DR, Brock CA, Brioude J, Fahey DW, Fehsenfeld FC, Holloway JS, Le Henaff M, Lueb RA, McKeen SA, Meagher JF, Murphy DM, Paris C, Parrish DD, Perring AE, Pollack IB, Ravishankara AR, Robinson AL, Ryerson TB, Schwarz JP, Spackman JR, Srinivasan A, Watts LA: Organic aerosol formation downwind from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Science 2011, 331: 1295–1299. 10.1126/science.1200320View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- De Zwart D, Dyer SD, Posthuma L, Hawkins CP: Predictive models attribute effects on fish assemblages to toxicity and habitat alteration. Ecol Appl 2006, 16: 1295–1310. 10.1890/1051-0761(2006)016[1295:PMAEOF]2.0.CO;2View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Dicke M, Van Loon JJA, De Jong PW: Ecogenomics benefits community ecology. Science 2011, 305: 618–619.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Dommain R, Couwenberg J, Joosten H: Development and carbon sequestration of tropical peat domes in south-east Asia: links to post-glacial sea-level changes and Holocene climate variability. Quater Sci Rev 2011, 30: 999–1010. 10.1016/j.quascirev.2011.01.018View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Dugan PJ, Barlow C, Agostinho AA, Baran E, Cada GF, Chen D, Cowx IG, Ferguson JW, Jutagate T, Mallen-Cooper M, Marmulla G, Nestler J, Petrere M, Welcomme RL, Winemiller KO: Fish migration, dams, and loss of ecosystem services in the Mekong basin. Ambio 2010, 39: 344–348. 10.1007/s13280-010-0036-1View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Dunne JA, Williams RJ, Martinez ND, Wood RA, Erwin DH: Compilation and network analyses of Cambrian food webs. PLoS Biol 2008,6(4):e102. 10.1371/journal.pbio.0060102View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Elser JJ: Biological stoichiometry: a chemical bridge between ecosystem ecology and evolutionary biology. Am Nat 2006, 168: S25-S35. 10.1086/509048View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Elser JJ, Andersen T, Baron JS, Bergström A-K, Jansson M, Kyle M, Nydick KR, Steger L, Hessen DO: Shifts in lake N:P stoichiometry and nutrient limitation driven by atmospheric nitrogen deposition. Science 2009, 326: 835–837. 10.1126/science.1176199View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Ginsparg P: Scholarly communication. In The fourth paradigm: data-intensive scientific discovery. Redmond, Microsoft Research Edited by: Hey T, Tansley S, Tolle K. 2009, 185–191.Google Scholar
- Grimm NB, Grove JM, Pickett STA, Redman CL: Integrated approaches to long-term studies of urban ecological systems. BioScience 2000, 50: 571–584. 10.1641/0006-3568(2000)050[0571:IATLTO]2.0.CO;2View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Haldane AG, May RM: Systemic risk in banking ecosystems. Nature 2011, 469: 351–355. 10.1038/nature09659View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Henzinger M, Lawrence S: Extracting knowledge from the World Wide Web. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2004, 101: 5186–5191. 10.1073/pnas.0307528100View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Hey T, Trefethen A: e-Science and its implications. Phil Trans R Soc Lond A 2003, 361: 1809–1825. 10.1098/rsta.2003.1224View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Hey T, Trefethen A: Cyberinfrastructure for e-Science. Science 2005, 308: 817–821. 10.1126/science.1110410View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Hey T, Tansley S, Tolle K (Eds): The fourth paradigm: data-intensive scientific discovery In Microsoft Research, Redmond 2009.Google Scholar
- Hirsch JE: An index to quantify an individual's scientific research output. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2005, 102: 16569–16572. 10.1073/pnas.0507655102View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Hunt JR, Baldocchi DD, Van Ingen C: Redefining ecological science using data. In The fourth paradigm: data-intensive scientific discovery. Microsoft Research, Redmond Edited by: Hey T, Tansley S, Tolle K. 2009, 21–26.Google Scholar
- Jennions MD, Møller AP: Publication bias in ecology and evolution: an empirical assessment using the 'trim and fill' method. Biol Rev 2002, 77: 211–222.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Laurance WF: Future shock: forecasting a grim fate for the Earth. Trends Ecol Evol 2001, 16: 531–533. 10.1016/S0169-5347(01)02268-6View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Lynch C: Jim Gray's fourth paradigm and the construction of the scientific record. In The fourth paradigm: data-intensive scientific discovery. Microsoft Research, Redmond Edited by: Hey T, Tansley S, Tolle K. 2009, 177–183.Google Scholar
- Menczer F: Evolution of document networks. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2004, 101: 5261–5265. 10.1073/pnas.0307554100View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Mulder C, Boit A, Bonkowski M, De Ruiter PC, Mancinelli G, Van der Heijden MGA, Van Wijnen HJ, Vonk JA, Rutgers M: A belowground perspective on Dutch agroecosystems: how soil organisms interact to support ecosystem services. Adv Ecol Res 2011, 44: 277–357.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Naeem S, Bunker DE, Hector A, Loreau M, Perring CP (Eds): Biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and human wellbeing Oxford University Press, Oxford; 2009.Google Scholar
- Pimentel D, Bailey O, Kim P, Mullaney E, Calabrese J, Walman L, Nelson F, Yao X: Will limits of the Earth's resources control human numbers? Environ Dev Sustain 1999, 1: 19–39. 10.1023/A:1010008112119View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- PLoS Public Library of Science, San Francisco, CA; 2011.http://www.plos.org . Accessed 20 Apr 2011
- Schiermeier Q: Radiation release will hit marine life. Nature 2011, 472: 145–146. 10.1038/472145aView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Sjögren P, Lamentowicz M: Human and climatic impact on mires: a case study of Les Amburnex mire, Swiss Jura Mountains. Veg Hist Archaeobot 2008, 17: 185–197. 10.1007/s00334-007-0095-9View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Stoeckl N, Hicks CC, Mills M, Fabricius K, Esparon M, Kroon F, Kaur K, Costanza R: The economic value of ecosystem services in the Great Barrier Reef: our state of knowledge. Ann New York Acad Sci 2011, 1219: 113–133. 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05892.xView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Taylor Lovell S, Johnston DM: Creating multifunctional landscapes: how can the field of ecology inform the design of the landscape? Front Ecol Environ 2009, 7: 212–220. 10.1890/070178View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- United Nations Population Division: World population prospects. 2010.http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm. Accessed 18 Jan 2012Google Scholar
- Van Straalen NM: Ecotoxicology becomes stress ecology. Environ Sci Technol 2003, 37: 324A-330A. 10.1021/es0325720View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Wang J, Huang J, Wu J, Han X, Lin G: Ecological consequences of the Three Gorges Dam: insularization affects foraging behavior and dynamics of rodent populations. Front Ecol Environ 2010, 8: 13–19. 10.1890/070188View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- West PC, Narisma GT, Barford CC, Kucharik CJ, Foley JA: An alternative approach for quantifying climate regulation by ecosystems. Front Ecol Environ 2011, 9: 126–133. 10.1890/090015View ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Yu Q, Chen Q, Elser JJ, He N, Wu H, Zhang G, Wu J, Bai Y, Han X: Linking stoichiometric homeostasis with ecosystem structure, functioning, and stability. Ecol Lett 2010, 13: 1390–1399. 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01532.xView ArticleGoogle Scholar
- Zu Dohna H, Cecere MC, Gürtler RE, Kitron U, Cohen JE: Spatial re-establishment dynamics of local populations of vectors of Chagas disease. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2009,3(7):e490. 10.1371/journal.pntd.0000490View ArticleGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.