More on editors (now that I am one of them)

I am excited to join Journal of Ecology as an associate editor. I argued previously here that communication should be better along the publishing process, and now I have the opportunity/pressure to apply that to myself, so If I am editing your paper, let’s have a constructive conversation!

Anyway, this is a good moment to revise my thinking on the publishing scene. Of course, all opinions are only mine, and I like my opinions to change overtime (if needed), because things are not static, and change is good (specially if change is not random, but with some directionality). Panta rei.

First of all, I am happy to be involved in the editorial process, because only by participating actively in a community you can help shaping that community. I learnt a lot about science from reviewing papers, and I hope to also learn a lot from editing papers. (Of course it will also look nice in my CV). There is a lot of conversation on how to reform academic publishing. I agree that some things need to change, but I don’t think we need a revolution of how we publish, but rather an evolution. Why throw away all we learned so far and start from zero with a totally different system? Is better if we build upon what is there. The more pleasant is the transition, the better. May be the differences on what actions revolutionary people and I would take are not that different, but conceptually is important for me to construct in positive. I am not saying I can do much to change things from my position now, but I certainly can try to move things step by step.

Second I want to support more consciously open journals and society based journals. That means thinking more where to publish and for who I am reviewing. J Ecol is good example of a society based journal, which benefits doesn’t goes to some investors, but to the society. Fernando Maestre has a good post on this point.

Third, after some thinking and reading I decided that we do need an editorial process. I think that several journal models are compatible, and I support the idea of PLOS ONE type of journal, but with thousands of articles being published every week, the role of an editor (post of pre peer review) selecting the most influential papers is needed. How to do that is debatable, but for now is good that different systems co-exists: Prestigious Journals selecting your article, F1000 prime post-evaluations, my colleague recommendations on twitter, etc..)

If you get that far, may be you want to know a few more good things about J Ecology: All papers accepted remain copyright of the authors, All papers have free access after two years of publication. So my 2010 paper is already free! And if you are interested on getting more visibility, J Ecol blog is a good place to explain your results in more informal format (videos, podcasts,…).

That’s it for today!

Long-term goals

I was skimming trough “How to Do Ecology” book from Karban and Huntzinger*, when I read that is important to have a long-term goal in your career. Something to use as a reference tool to see how your articles contribute to that goal and help you focus your career. I just panic for a second, not sure of having one. What if I am constructing my research program in an opportunistic way? Given I published on organisms as diverse as plants, birds or bees, or topics like biological invasions, pollination, or climate change, I was not sure that all this articles contribute to a long-term goal. The panic only lasted for a few minutes, as I realised that my main interest (and now my goal) is to understand human modified ecosystems. Indeed, I was quite happy to see that most of my research can help understand how this human dominated ecosystems work, or which species can survive in human modified ecosystems and which not, or how species adapt to live in human modified ecosystems. By that time I started thinking that Human Modified Ecology needs a good acronym, so I spent the next ten minutes trying to find a funny one… but that is less interesting (and I didn’t succeed). So the take home message is that I am glad to have verbalized my long-term goal, and be conscious of having one. I’ll take Karban’s advice and try to be more conscious of what I do and why I do it.

*I recommend that book to any grad student starting the PhD. Also good advice for everyone from Alon here and here.

Why Postdocs are the teenagers of academia.

I’m starting my third postdoc. After two postdocs, I thought it would be nice to have my own lab, but given the situation in my home country, doing another postdoc is more appealing, specially in a good lab and with a flexible project. Then, I realised I should stop thinking about the future and enjoy up to the last second of my postdoctoral stage. What’s the hurry? We, Postdocs are the teenagers of Academia. We are not leaving with our parents anymore, but we still don’t have family responsibilities. And just to be clear, by parents I mean PhD advisors, and by family your own grad students. All teenagers want to grow fast, but hey, once you’ve grown you miss your teenage instability, experimenting with new things, the lack of long term responsibilities, the hormonal up-and-downs with high days just after submitting a ms to Science and the down days where you get rejected and nothing makes sense. I don’t want to be a teenager forever, but while I am here, I will use my time to hangout with other teenagers, keep trying new risky things and enjoy this period I know someday i will miss.