Are exotic plants good for pollinators?

Answer quickly. Do you think most pollinators can use exotic plants, and hence will probably benefit from them? My gut feeling was to answer yes, but I am not convinced after seriously reviewing the available evidence.

A while ago I accepted to write a book chapter on the interface between behaviour and invasive species. I really like the idea that pollinators behaviour mediates its responses to environmental changes, including plant invasions. Hence, the main point of the book chapter is that “not all pollinators respond equally”. Yes, the idea of winners and losers of the global change is becoming a leitmotiv in my research.

Doing a book chapter allowed me to do a review, an opinion paper, and throw in some re-analysis of old data for supporting  my claims all in one. I am pretty happy about the result because it crystallise a lot of thoughts I had since my PhD and identifies important knowledge gaps.

If you want to read a draft before the book gets published, you can find a pre-print here: Invasive plants as novel food resources, the pollinators’ perspective.

Book chapters vs Journal papers

I was offered to write a book chapter (a real one, not for a predatory editorial) and I asked my lab mate what she thought about it, given that time spent writing book chapters is time I am not writing papers in my queue. She kindly replied, but I already knew the answer because, all in all, we share office, we are both postdocs on the same research topic, and in general have a similar background. Then I asked my other virtual lab mates in tweeter and, as always, I got a very stimulating diversity of opinions, so here I post my take home message from the discussion.

Basically there are two opinions: One is “Book chapters don’t get cited” (link via @berettfavaro, but others shared similar stories with recommendations of not to lose time there). However quite other people jump on defending that books are still well read. Finally some people gave his advice on what to write about:

So, I agree that books don’t get cited, but I also agree that (some) books get read. In fact, I read myself quite a lot of science books (Julie Lockwood Avian Invasions is a great in deep book on a particular topic, or Cognitive Ecology of pollinators, edited by Chitka and Thomson, is a terrific compendium of knowledge merging two amazing topics). However: I don’t cite books.

So if you want to be cited do not write a book chapter. If what you have to say fits into a review or a research article, don’t write a book chapter. But if you have something to say for which papers are not the perfect fit (e.g. provide a historical overview of the topic, speculate about merging topics) then write a book chapter! It also will look nice in your CV.

Finally some people had a fair point on availability, a thing to take into account:

@ibartomeus I’ve done 3 this year and I’m concerned about future accessibility. In my field, books are getting expensive too, who buys them?

— Dr Cameron Webb (@Mozziebites) November 8, 2013

In summary:

  • Book chapters are not papers.
  • They won’t get cited, but will get read. However…
  • Make sure your editorial is well-known (& also sells pdf versions /allow preprints in your web)
  •  For early career researchers one/two book chapters can give you credit, but remember that you will be evaluated mainly on papers, so keep the ratio of books/papers low.

PS: Yes, I will write it!