100 Influential Papers - page 4

04
ED I TOR S ’ I NT RODUCT I ON
In early 2012 the Committee of Council planning the
Society’s 100th Anniversary Celebrations in 2013
asked us to prepare the scientific content of a booklet
and website bringing together a selection of the most
influential papers published in the Society’s journals.
The committee agreed to our suggestion that an
appropriate number would be 100 papers.
How should the papers be chosen? Some ecologists
suggested that we should use only objective criteria
such as the number of citations and/or the number
of downloads. This procedure would not have done
justice to the earlier papers, say those published in the
first fifty years, when the number of ecologists writing
and reading papers was so much smaller and before
the advent of electronic searching.
We should remember that the membership of the
BES was little over 1000 in 1960 but has now reached
almost 4000.
We chose to use a mixture of criteria, including
numbers of citations and downloads, but placing a
strong emphasis on the suggestions of respected
ecologists around the world because we felt that as
researchers and teachers they could inform us of what
had most influenced them in their thinking. We invited
nominations from 113 correspondents representing the
breadth of ecology, pure and applied, and a wide age
range. Each was invited to name the one paper they felt
absolutely must be in any such list, and then suggest
another paper which might not occur to large numbers
of correspondents but was thought highly significant
by them for one reason or another. All correspondents
were asked to consider all the BES journals which
embrace some 17000 papers since 1913.
We imagined that a list of papers that absolutely must
be included might be short. In fact that did not happen,
and for three journals no paper received more than
one or two nominations. The exception was Journal
of Ecology for which Harper’s Presidential Address
attracted eight nominations, and Watt’s seven. Given
the criteria we set, it is unsurprising that there were
few papers suggested from the last five years so
the Society’s fifth journal Methods in Ecology and
Evolution, launched in 2009, is not represented in this
selection. However, several of the selected papers from
the longer established journals fell within the remit of
this new journal so we would expect Methods to be
well-represented in any future lists.
In the end we were able to include virtually all papers
cited more than 500 times by 31 March 2012 (a
total of 26) and most of the papers nominated by
our correspondents. We added a number in order to
cover under-represented fields, the earlier years, and
high down-loads, and to reach our total of 100. There
is, of course, overlap between these criteria. Where
we had a title, but not a submitted piece of text, we
invited other ecologists to write about them. We are
very grateful to them and to all those who nominated
papers in response to our invitation.
We considered grouping the papers by decades, but
decided to do it by fields within ecology. These are
necessarily somewhat arbitrary, but we hope they will
be helpful. It is worth saying that the selected papers
represent a good spread over the 10 decades with an
average of six per decade in the first 50 years when
the two journals then being published had grown
relatively modestly in number of pages per year, and 13
per decade in the last 50 years when there were four
journals and many more pages.
The desire during the last few decades for high
citation rates has inevitably led some prospective
authors to send papers which might otherwise have
been published in BES journals to others with a high
citation index. At the same time, subjects related to
Ecology have launched or increased promotion of
their own journals. Despite these trends, our journals
have maintained high citation rates, and perhaps just
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