In Insights we discover the story behind a recent publication in Functional Ecology: what inspired the authors to do the research, how did the project develop and what wider impact might the work have?
For more than a decade, we have been engaged in a vigorous dialogue about the barriers to creating a more equitable scientific community in terms of gender balance and cultural background. There has been a concerted effort from many different perspectives to better understand and communicate about the issue through original research 1234, review articles and reports by think tanks and government agencies 56, conference sessions and workshops (for example), not to mention innumerable opinion pieces in publications ranging from Science to US News and World Report to the Huffington Post. Millions of dollars in funding through foundations and government agencies have been dedicated to efforts directed at increasing diversity and equity in STEM. A large majority of the scientific community has raised their hand and said, “Yes, creating equity in the sciences is important.” And yet, the problem still looms large.
As some of you may also be doing at the turn of a new year, I have been assessing the good, bad and ugly of 2017, while also looking ahead and planning (an incredibly successful) 2018. Launching the TeaComposition H2O initiative was probably largest and most rewarding project I had taken on last year. It has been one year since the launch, and since then more than 300 sites have been signed-up in ~35 countries. I have also been able to meet, either in-person or online, more than 100 research and citizen scientists who have been interested enough in the initiative to deploy more than 19,000 tea bags in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (check it out!).
While musing, my thoughts took a bit of a detour and started wondering how I got into the decomposition business. Unless you work at The Body Farm, researching rotting things is typically not a ‘sexy’ science. My first decomposition project was not on seagrasses during my PhD in Sydney… actually – it took me a minute to realise this – my first decomposition project was for a science fair in elementary school.
A lot of science has filled my brain since I was 10, but a few details remain. Certainly, using a pre-made science project from a book in the library felt cheap. Instead, testing which conditions led to greater decomposition of wide-ruled loose-leaf paper somehow felt right. I think I was on the right track by adding water to a treatment, but perhaps not the case for the vinegar treatment. I only had one replicate for each treatment, but I did manage to get a couple tufts of fungus to grow, and that is about it. The judges must have thought the author of that tri-fold poster was an odd kid. Maybe. But considering I am still here in decomposition research and am undoubtedly working in good company, I think the decay project was an overall success.
The memory also reminds me (and I need to be reminded every so often while under the constant need to do and write) how science experiences in school can be impactful. We have made some progress in translating TeaComposition H2O to the classroom and for the general public, and there are several programs out there that have already done this successfully. Have you all had similar experiences in translating your science for schools? I’d love to hear about it.
As I sign off, best wishes for a balanced and productive 2018, and remember to share your science with a kid or two.
I have been in Davos a few times; two of my collaborators work and live there. Quite place. Stunning as well. And it is home to a world-leading institute for snow research. At the end of January, Davos hosts the World Economic Forum. At this year’s forum, the effects of extreme climate event and the loss of biodiversity have been identified as areas of great concern (see global risks landscape for 2018 below). An excerpt of the report can be found here. Are politics finally moving? I am slightly optimistic!
Last week, we introduced 15 new Associate Editors for Functional Ecology. What has not yet been mentioned is that the list of Associate Editors for the journal now consists of 54% men and 46% woman. I quickly analysed these numbers, and the gender balance in the FE editorial board is rather good (Chi^2 = 0.71, P = 0.40).
Staying with the equality, Nature reports on a study that analysed what happens when reviewers focus just on the science when they review grants. In such case, gender bias fades. When asked to also judge the scientist, woman still loose out. See the report here, and the original paper here.
On Dynamic Ecology, Meghan Duffy shared a thought-provoking blog describing the wider impact of sexual harassment and calls out for a change in the lab cultures. Slightly related, the Guardian had an interesting item on bullying in academia.
If you happen to work in peatlands, and your work is of importance to the conservation of Irish peatlands, the Dutch Foundation for Irish Peatbogs, has a grant call open. They fund up to €2k; preference is given to early career researchers.
Last year, Functional Ecology welcomed 15 new Associate Editors from 9 different countries to the journal as part of the cross-journal open call for AEs. Read more about our new associate editors and their interests below.
I’d like to first take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2018. I hope that in the year that lies ahead, this blog will contribute to your work and may inspire you to submit your best work to Functional Ecology.
I am just back from annual leave, which started after the hugely inspirational Ecology Across Borders meeting in Ghent, Belgium (more on that meeting in one of my following blogs). This year for me begins with Functional Ecology having published its January edition, which has a special focus on functional traits along a transect (guest editors Shuli niu, Aimee classen, and Yiqi Luo).
In the low countries, like my home country of the Netherlands, recent weather conditions have caused the rivers to reach very high levels. The good news here is that recent developments in creating more space for rivers has paid off, and flooding of communities has not yet occurred. To finish, on the other side of the world (from where I am!), Sydney deals with the highest temperatures measured since 1939. Who says nothing wrong with our climate? I am curious to see how our natural ecosystems deal with these phenomena.