Last year Jacqueline Gill had a New Year’s resolution to read one academic paper a day (on average) for a year. With the pressure of getting new classes off the drawing board and into the classroom, I had felt that my own careful reading of the literature had slacked so I was excited to join her in this challenge. I’m glad to say that on Tuesday December, 30th I read my last and 365th paper*. This has been the first time I’ve kept to a New Year’s resolution and I am incredibly thankful for the challenge.
I think the challenge definitely improved my teaching, my scholarship and perhaps most importantly gave me an excuse to read papers that were outside of my field. I wanted to join Anne Jefferson (and soon to be others) in writing a wrap up.
Why I read: To me this challenge reminded me of why I got into science, because of the joy of learning, the excitement of drawing together lines of evidence from different bodies of evidence, and the thrill of opening an old text and reading about a world that no longer exists.
Who I read: 120 of the 365 papers had a woman first author (32.8%). This wasn’t bad, but as I don’t know what the ratio of the population from which I’m drawing from is like I’m not sure if I’m over or under representing. Regardless I purposefully tried to bring in women authors into all of my classes. I also noticed that Twitter had a strong influence on both who I read and how I noticed papers. For example, I met Sari Van Anders over twitter and probably wouldn’t have read her papers without that connection. Similarly, one of the papers I published this year was written with two co-authors Ruth Hufbauer and Katie Amatangelo, both of whom I initially met through twitter. I also found a lot of good papers through Prosanta Chakrabarty and Luiz Rocha who are very diligent in passing along good resources
What I read: For the entire list click here. Not surprisingly most of what I read was about fish conservation. Although there was also a strong trend towards historical ecology as I was developing that course during 2015. As I mentioned above however I also took this as a chance to read papers on a variety of topics from human sexuality to ant behavior to stuff on dinosaurs (LOTS on dinosaurs).
When I read: Not surprisingly most of the papers I read were published in 2015, although because of the historical ecology work I do have a few going back into the 1800s, including this gem from 1883 when you could get an American Naturalist paper for noticing that a Turkey Vulture could smell a buried dead cow.
Where I read: I haven’t run the statistics, but not surprisingly the majority of the papers I read took place in the Pacific. Sadly I had very few papers either taking place in, or written by people from Latin America (although this paper was really great). The overwhelming majority of authors came from the US, Australia and the UK. I would like to diversify that as I move forward.
How I read Of the 365 papers 30 were in PLOS One/Biology 38 were in Scientific Reports 10 were in Ecology and Evolution and 8 were in the BMC series). So overall around 25% of the articles I read were in Open Access publications. (This number is a little higher because I didn’t include things that were open access because of time, or some of the other open access journals like Ecology and Society). I’m pleased with this, as I tried to take most of my ‘wildcard’ readings from open access places, but I’d like to do better. I’m also really curious to see what the altmetrics influence of the #365papers challenge was. That might be a post for another day.
(Update, it’s another day, so I want to expand this a bit. In October I tweeted about this paper looking at the phylogeogrpahy of mudskippers. As of today, January 1st 2016, this is the only altmetric attention that this paper has gotten, yet that single tweet puts it in the 20th percentile for it’s cohort in Scientific Reports. This lends evidence that most papers are not read (or at least not talked about). Of course since I’m now blogging about this paper, the metrics for that paper will increase. Heisenberg would be proud.
This is yet another reason why one should be on twitter, not only do I find out about interesting papers, but if you’re on twitter you have a much greater chance of getting your paper out and read)
I also must come clean. The idea was to read every paper in its entirety. That definitely trailed off, although I did read the Abstract, Introduction and Discussion of every paper in here. As for the Materials and Methods and Results? Well…….
What would I do better next time: I kept track of everything in Sente (my reference manager) with a tag for “365 papers” and “women in science” I think moving forward I’d take better data on the geography of reading so that I can better track the diversity of places that I’m reading from.
The top five paper from 2015 (in no order)
Dowell SA, de Buffrénil V, Kolokotronis SO, Hekkala ER (2015) Fine-scale genetic analysis of the exploited Nile monitor (Varanus niloticus) in Sahelian Africa. BMC Genet 16: 32.
A great paper that shows the impacts of ancient African city-states on modern day genetic diversity in a bad ass animal. Also, shows how this thing has genotypes which, if introduced to the U.S., could have these things crawling up through Baltimore.
Alter SE, Brown B, Stiassny ML (2015) Molecular phylogenetics reveals convergent evolution in lower Congo River spiny eels. BMC Evol Biol 15: 224.
Convergent evolution is such a fun thing to teach, and the fact that there are cave-like morphologies existing in several different groups living in the Congo River really demonstrates the selection power of the environment
Rick TC, Ogburn MB, Kramer MA, McCanty ST, Reeder-Myers LA, et al (2015) Archaeology, taphonomy, and historical ecology of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus). Journal of Archaeological Science 55: 42-54.
This was such a fun paper to teach as they had a really fantastic experimental design to show clearly how different kinds of archaeological biases may influence our understanding of historical data.
McGee MD, Borstein SR, Neches RY, Buescher HH, Seehausen O, Wainwright PC (2015) A pharyngeal jaw evolutionary innovation facilitated extinction in Lake Victoria cichlids. Science 350: 1077-1079.
This paper really links the evolution and ecology of Rift Lake cichlids together and places it in a conservation context by looking at how communities change after the introduction of Nile perch. It tells a great story and even though it’s short, it doesn’t read as if it’s been artificially truncated.
Drew JA, Amatangelo KL, Hufbauer RA (2015) Quantifying the Human Impacts on Papua New Guinea Reef Fish Communities across Space and Time. PLoS One 10: e0140682
Ok, it’s a bit cheesy to put my one in, but if you don’t get excited about your own work you need to change your research. I love this because it uses museum databases to look at the ecology and conservation of Papua New Guinea reefs and relies on historical ecology to tie it all together
That’s it for now, it’s almost 2016 and I wish you happy reading!
*I actually was a bit of an overachiever as number 343 Romancing the Wild was a book but I only counted it as once (it had 8 chapters, so perhaps 8 papers, not sure)