In this podcast Ken Thompson (of Functional Ecology) interviews Marc Cadotte as they discuss the British Ecological Society’s bold and innovative project, Applied Ecology Resources, and its open access journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence.

This podcast was recorded at the BES Annual Meeting 2019 in Belfast. A full transcript of the interview can be found below.

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Ken Thompson (KT): I’ve caught up with Marc Cadotte to talk about a few things…but first of all, I want to ask him about Applied Ecology Resources because this really is a bit of a departure for the BES.

Marc Cadotte (MC): Applied Ecology Resources is a fundamentally new way that the BES is trying to extend ecological information to broader audiences, to really ensure that the impact of all ecological information is maximized by reaching practitioners.

[It] is a portal…where you come in and there are multiple information types, and what we conceived of this was really about what practitioners, managers, policy makers need to come up with solutions to problems, to develop management objectives, to carry out their projects.

One component [of AER] would be a grey literature repository that will include case studies and reports from organisations of all sizes around the world in any language and these will be given permanent identifier numbers, they’ll have keywords that will be searchable [and] citable.

Another one of the information sources within AER will be [Ecological Solutions and Evidence], there’ll also be research summaries, policy statements – basically we want to have a one stop shop for practitioners and managers and policy make  rs to go to find all the bits of information they might find useful.

KT: Okay, and it’s available via the BES website and it’s free?

MC: Yep…all components of it will be free to access, it’ll be available through a central website. [..] In the front end what a user will experience is the ability to put in a search term whether it’s a species of concern or habitat type or management intervention, and what will be returned for them would be a number of peer-reviewed articles, review articles, maybe data and case studies, reports, summaries, all pertained to their topic of interest.

KT: If you have stuff maybe unpublished…that you think would go well in this new repository, how do you go about getting them in there?

MC: So there’ll be information contact for them to go through. If it’s individuals, it’s quite straightforward. We are also partnering with large organisations so people that work for [them], presum[ing] the organisations themselves would have some relationship with Applied Ecology Resources, [wi]ll be able, through their employer…upload their reports.

We’ve actually been contacted by people who work at the interface between research and practice who have said to us early on: “I really like the idea of an open access journal but the stuff I do is more like reports and may not pass the muster of a peer-review but might be of value” and immediately we tell them we have this other option for them to share their information. They still get credit for it – it’s citable and searchable – it’s just a different model for sharing information.

KT: A key part of…Applied Ecology Resources is this new journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence – ESE I’m sure it’s going to be known as in future – and you’re going to be the Executive Editor of that? Can you tell us how that works?

MC: The new journal, ESE, will be an open access journal. Since it’s a new journal we’re playing with new formats for papers; and how to communicate; and how to upload and everything. We’ve kept in mind practitioners so we’re keeping the submission process as simple as possible. [T]he journal itself will have multiple types of papers including traditional papers like research articles, review articles, forums, commentaries, but we’re also going to have practitioner papers…

[A] practitioner paper…is a flexible format paper geared towards practitioners that’ll allow them in maybe an essay format to communicate outcomes of projects, their experiences, lessons learned – basically anything that they think will be a value to other practitioners. We will also have data papers where datasets have been collected through long term monitoring or applied projects can also be described and shared through this as well, something that practitioners might be interested in.

[T]his is an open access journal so it comes with charges to authors as open access journals do, but we actually have much reduced open access charges for practitioners and practitioner paper[s], and we’re also going to be supporting these charges, especially for practitioners and people from small organisations, financially through [the] BES.

KT: This journal is obviously going to hope to attract people who wouldn’t normally publish in a journal at all, I mean not academics. So your message I think, if I understood you, is don’t be frightened of this, it’s there for you?

MC: Well I think, safe to say we’re really trying to gear this new publication, this journal, to practitioners and we want to reduce as many hurdles as possible. [W]e [also] want this to appear to be a welcoming home for them, so the Editorial Board of this journal will be a mix of practitioners and academics. [T]he idea is that it’ll be practitioners who will be handling the papers of other practitioners, so we’ll have people that…really know intimately what it means to be a practitioner [and] produce practitioner type of information.

As I said, the author instructions are going to be extremely simple – there’s going to be very flexible format for uploading papers. We want to just make sure that practitioners are not coming up against any sort of hurdle for submitting.

KT: You’ve been in charge of Journal of Applied Ecology until recently…and clearly these two journals could potentially overlap a little? What’s your advice about anyone who’s undecided about which one to use?

MC: I would say that Journal of Applied Ecology and this new journal ESE certainly have similar remits in that they really want to communicate ecological applied research that can have impact. One thing about Journal of Applied Ecology is that it publishes the most general, the broadest, the most high-impacting novel applied ecology research in the world which means that [the] journal rejects about 80% of manuscripts that are submitted to it. A lot of those are very good studies that are very focused, very systems-specific and have on-the-ground relevance for practitioners – but maybe aren’t general enough.

[T]he second journal is really meant to publish things that practitioners would find of immense value so my recommendation to authors is that for their best work, send it to Journal of Applied Ecology. For the work they think will have the greatest impact and people around the world will be generally interested in, that’s where you send it.

For papers that don’t quite pass muster of the high standards of Journal of Applied Ecology [there will be] an option to cascade those articles and their reviews directly to the new journal. [There’ll be] an integrated review system so that [authors] won’t have to go through the process again of submitting it and getting new reviews…

KT: But a lot of ESE stuff you expect will come direct to ESE because it won’t ever be appropriate for Journal of Applied Ecology?

MC: Exactly, so there’s lots of research that’s done in very local scales – it’s done in very focused type[s] of problems and management solutions and those would be very appropriate for the new journal even if they haven’t been that appropriate for Journal of Applied Ecology.

KT: We’re expecting [then], I guess, that the acceptance rate for ESE should be really quite high?

MC: Yep, so what matters for acceptance in ESE is a couple of things: one is that it has to have applied relevance – it has to be a meaningful to applied ecology management and to practitioners. [A]nd it has to be technically correct – it has to be technically sound in terms of the methodology. If those two criteria are met, there should be no hurdle to acceptance.

KT: Just one final thing…do you see [Conservation Evidence] as a competitor at all or complimentary?

MC: I am so happy you brought this up. So Conservation Evidence has established itself as an important communication tool for conservation interventions – very specific type of problem and a very specific type of publication. We’ve been working with Bill Sutherland [founder of Conservation Evidence] and he’s on the Advisory Board for AER. Conservation Evidence summaries and papers will be fed in through AER so when a user goes on and does a search, they’ll also have access to all Conservation Evidence material through AER.

KT: Right, so Conservation Evidence is incorporated, basically, in AER?

MC: Yeah, it’ll still be its own journal [with] its own processes but it will be available through and streamed into AER. It will form a broader set of information that a user will find.

KT: Sounds absolutely great, I look forward to seeing it and reading it. Thank you very much.