Friday, November 3, 2017

Last Days at Biological Conservation

Posted by Richard B. Primack

“Men do not fail commonly for want of knowledge, but for want of prudence to give wisdom the preference.” 
-Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack

After nine years, I recently stepped down as Editor in Chief of Biological Conservation. I supervised a team of 9 Editors, handling over 14,000 submissions, and eventually publishing over 3,000 articles that advanced our knowledge and provided practical value for people protecting biodiversity in the field and developing policy. 

In this staged photograph, four co-authors are having a disagreement; in one Biological Conservation editorial, my co-authors and I describe problems co-authors can encounter, and provide some recommendations for happy co-author relationships

We published many Special Issues on topics of current interest. For example, articles in the special issue on environmental DNA showed that the presence of rare species and newly arrived invasive species in lake or river could be detected from a few molecules of DNA in small water sample. And our Citizen Science issue described how to work with networks of volunteers in conservation projects. 

We examined the editorial process of the journal, finding there was no bias in acceptance rates of papers submitted by female authors, though individual editors had different acceptance rates. We learned that Chinese and Indian scientists often worked on weekends, Japanese and Mexican scientists often worked at night, and European scientists tended to work typical office hours. We evaluated how reviewer recommendations affected acceptance rates, and determined that a “Reject” review was like the “kiss of death.” And finally, we described problems that co-authors sometimes encounter in working together, and provided constructive suggestions for co-authors. 

This confused editor tries to make a decision based on four very different reviews! In fact, our analysis showed that reviews tend to be consistent from reviewer to reviewer

As Editor in Chief, I always tried to recognize that authors needed to be treated as individuals, and in many cases I could assist them with particular issues. We helped many young scientists to publish their first paper in an international journal, and establish their careers. In the end, we were able to create a community of authors, reviewers, editors, and readers, who could cooperate to advance our knowledge in the field of conservation biology.

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