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Copyright © 2001 by The Resilience Alliance

The following is the established format for referencing this article:
Holling, C. S. 2001. Conservation Ecology, 2001: A journal for both authors and readers. Conservation Ecology 5(1): 20. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss1/art20/


Conservation Ecology, 2001: A Journal for Both Authors and Readers

C. S. Holling

University of Florida

Published: June 29, 2001


The principal motive that drives scientists and scholars is the quirky delight in discovering territory unseen by others. But more than just the joy of exploration fuels scientific inquiry, because the land discovered is created by both mind and experience. At rare times, the discovery is so novel that the idea, data, and models are resisted or ignored for a time. Mendel’s elegant experiments that presaged Darwin’s intuition of variability and inheritance were long ignored. Darwin’s work itself was long in design, thought, and writing, yet still deeply challenged. Great novelty must work hard against the tradition of busy people, routine ways of thought, and needed skepticism. Unfortunately, not only the novelty of the discovery, but also by whom and by what means that discovery is articulated can influence its acceptance.

Publish my latest discoveries in a new, free, electronic journal? What, are you mad?

From its inception in 1993, Conservation Ecology has been one of the very few journals that was peer reviewed, had an extensive multidisciplinary editorial board, was free, and was entirely electronic. That distinction delights some, but bothers many others. Publishing in a relatively new, exclusively electronic journal is not comfortably familiar. Authors increasingly struggle for recognition in a tough world where demonstrated excellence in novel research and in institutional governance and teaching can be equally demanded of young faculty. Such demands are terribly hard to meet and often force a narrowness of research focus and a hard-nosed effort to succeed within terms set by narrow disciplines fighting for scarce resources in a competitive market. Universities are no longer the places for the leisurely, yet rigorous, thought, action, and teaching that their image still projects. In this changed university environment, publishing in a fledgling, cross-disciplinary, electronic journal can be perceived as a luxury.

Who has dared to publish in Conservation Ecology? Certainly the bold and wonderful people of the Resilience Project set the stage with delightfully relevant, novel, integrative papers. (See the editorial in the previous issue for more on the Resilience Project.) There have been brave entrepreneurs who ignored common practice in their joy of communicating novel, integrative discovery. They represent a small, but growing, proportion of the authors publishing in Conservation Ecology. We thank them for sharing their discoveries as we endeavor to chart new courses in scientific communication.

Conservation Ecology comes of age (or the powers that be finally admit we’re doing something great)

Publishing in Conservation Ecology may no longer require gambling with one's academic career. The journal has matured such that standard evidence for the tough program of promotion and tenure can be obtained for the papers we publish. In 2000, an analysis by Michael Fosmire and Song Yu showed that the papers we published in 1997 and 1998 placed Conservation Ecology above the 75th percentile of refereed articles in the paper-dominated journals of the biological sciences. Not bad for a the first two years of the journal! That influence becomes more significant as abstracting sources and search programs expand. This year Conservation Ecology took a big step toward "respectability" when the Science Citation Index, the premier indexing service for the sciences, agreed to cover the journal. Now that is satisfying “impact” for scholars in the market with new ideas!

As of February 2001, Conservation Ecology was accepted for coverage in the Institute for Scientific Information's Science Citation Index Expanded, Alerting Services, and Current Contents/Agriculture, Biology, and Environmental Sciences. ISI's Web of Science, a service to which many academic libraries subscribe, allows researchers to search simultaneously across ISI's Citation Indices for Science Index (which now includes Conservation Ecology), Social Sciences, and the Arts & Humanities. This should facilitate cross-disciplinary use of articles published in Conservation Ecology. The journal is also abstracted by BIOSIS (Biological Abstracts and Zoological Record), Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (Biological Sciences database, and Public Affairs Information Service ( PAIS International).

Faculty and promotions committees should approve of the new recognition accorded to Conservation Ecology. Over 10,809 subscribers to Conservation Ecology in 108 developing and developed countries are finding that electronic journals provide easier access to the most up-to-date knowledge than paper journals. This is in keeping with a recent paper (Lawrence 2001) that analyzed publishing in computer science journals and showed a dramatic increase in the citation rates of articles published electronically compared to papers published in non-electronic sources.


Our current Issue 1 of Volume 5 illustrates this potential. It is one of our largest issues to date, with 12 papers, three perspectives (one with three commentaries), a book review, and three responses to previously published papers that deepen or extend the issues raised. All this is available instantly, for free, from just about any computer connected to the Internet in the world.

In the current issue, I particularly recommend the Special Feature on “Insect Pollinator Declines”. Editors James Cain, James Thomson, and Vincent Tepedino organized this fine example of early substantive analysis of an issue that could threaten plant and crop production. They engaged the best scientists who have been examining the subject with keen interest. They structured a series of papers, set conditions for the science and the evaluation, and initiated a fine review and revision program for each paper. That is hard work for organizers and authors, but when well done, as this was, the Special Feature sets the stage for policy by describing what is known, what is uncertain, and what is unknown. Such Special Features have become an important contribution of Conservation Ecology. We welcome suggestions for new features that will shape the search for sustainability.

In addition to the original research articles, we have also published three Perspectives in the current issue. These, too, add something fresh, from the specific viewpoint of one person. They are meant to provoke thought and novel ideas. At times, as with the Perspective by Marco Janssen comparing immune systems and ecosystems, we call for informed comment to broaden and deepen the investigation. Si Levin, Brian Walker, and Craig Allen have provided this from each of their three perspectives in systems science, large-scale rangeland science, and fundamental ecosystem ecology. New thoughts and new proposals are raised that can launch novel inquiry. We encourage our readers to join the debate by using the response feature linked to each of these papers.

In another Perspective, Mohan Munasinge shares his deep experience in bringing science and economics together to explore climate change and sustainable development. Around highly contentious, politicized issues such as climate change, there can be a sudden revolt by those in one discipline against those in another. However, with care and concern on the part of collaborative scientists, scholars, and the organizer, a synthesis can emerge that is deep and substantial. Munasinge shares that sequence with us in an issue of global significance and current political argument.


The next issue of Conservation Ecology will contain further examples of progress in experiments using the World Wide Web to build and communicate knowledge. In a competition launched in December 2000, we asked for papers of substance, suitable for electronic, not print publishing, that could demonstrate ways to make the complex simple by using the dynamic features of the Web. There were eight submissions that are now being reviewed and revised, waiting for a group of judges to award the prizes. All accepted papers will be published by 31 December 2001. This should be fun and should say something about the state of our community. It helps to encourage others to be part of this effort to communicate substantive science in both familiar and novel ways for integrative analysis of aspects of scientific research and scholarship related to sustainable development.


Responses to this article are invited. If accepted for publication, your response will be hyperlinked to the article. To submit a comment, follow this link. To read comments already accepted, follow this link.


Allen, C. R. 2001. Ecosystems and immune systems: Hierarchical response provides resilience against invasions. Conservation Ecology 5(1):15. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/Journal/vol5/iss1/art15

Cane, J. H., and V. J. Tepedino. 2001. Causes and extent of declines among native North American invertebrate pllinators: detection, evidence, and consequences. Conservation Ecology 5(1): . [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss1/art1/

Fosmire, M., and S. Yu. 2000. Free scholarly electronic journals: How good are they? Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship 27(Summer 2000). http://www.library.ucsb.edu/istl/00-summer/refereed.html

Janssen, M. A. 2001. An immune system perspective on ecosystem management. Conservation Ecology 5(1):13. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/Journal/vol5/iss1/art13/

Lawrence, S. 2001. Free online availability substantially increases a paper's impact. Nature 411, 521 (31 May 2001).

Levin, S. A. 2001. Immune systems and ecosystems. Conservation Ecology 5(1): 17. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol5/iss1/art17/

Munasinghe, M. 2001. Exploring the linkages between climate change and sustainable development: A challenge for transdisciplinary research. Conservation Ecology 5(1): 14. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/Journal/vol5/iss1/art14/

Walker, B. 2001. Ecosystems and immune systems: Useful analogy or stretching a metaphor? Conservation Ecology 5(1): 16. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/Journal/vol5/iss1/art16/

Address of Correspondent:
C. S. Holling
Department of Zoology
University of Florida
223 Bartram Hall
Gainesville, Florida 32611-2009 USA
Phone: (352) 543-6955
Fax: (352) 392-3704

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