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Welcome Max Mühlenhaupt

18 November 2019

The MeaseyLab welcomes Max Mühlenhaupt

Max Mühlenhaupt (think windmill) comes from the Free University in Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin) where he is studying for a MSc in Biology (Masterstudiengang Biologie). Max previously spent time with Dr James Baxter-Gilbert, when James was conducting his PhD in Australia. Max was responsible for chasing dragons in circles. I know it sounds like a fantasy, but I'm assured that this is what he did.


Max Mühlenhaupt with Dr James Baxter-Gilbert outside the Department for Botany & Zoology, Stellenbosch University

Max is in Stellenbosch to conduct his project: Examining the potential for evolutionary drivers behind biological invasions of Guttural Toads. He will focus on the early life-history stages of these toads: tadpoles and metamorphs. This will take place in a mesocosm experiment in Durban. Watch this space to learn more of Max and his adventures in South Africa.

Max reminds us that he is not an intern, but a co-investigator, and of course we are very happy to have him on board in this capacity.


The CIB Annual Research Meeting 2019

15 November 2019

CIB ARM 2019

Another year has gone by, and it is time for another Annual Research Meeting (see some previous years here: 2018, 2017. Following directly on from the frameworks workshop, the ARM featured all the usual Core Team Members, and all of the wonderful CIB post-docs and students. 

This year, the post-docs decided on a theme of pictures in pods for the students to present on. Each student talk was 5 minutes, and was composed of pictures (photos, graphs, conceptual frameworks, etc.) with a legend. The talks were arranged into themed pods, and each pod was led by a post-doc.

As usual, the students raised to the challenge with excellence. The MeaseyLab had excellent talks from Natasha Kruger and Carla Wagener, as well as excellent pods led by James Baxter-Gilbert and Nitya #MohantyMagic. 

It was a special day for Nitya, as not only was he staring in the proceedings of the ARM, but it was his last day in South Africa. He has now flown to Bangalore to start his new post-doc position on December 2nd. We are hoping that it won’t be the last we see of Nitya, and hopefully soon we’ll be seeing some more publications from his productive post-doc in the MeaseyLab.

Once again, the entire ARM was an uplifting experience. The CIB students do such a great job. I was especially pleased to see Nathi Ntuli receiving a commendation from the judges for his MSc presentation on feral pigs in South Africa. Go Nathi go!

  Lab  meetings

Goodbye Nitya!

15 November 2019

Goodbye Nitya

Last Friday, we had a lab braai to say goodbye to Nitya Mohanty, who leaves us today for his new post-doc in the lab orMaria Thaker in Bangalore

Nitya first appeared in an email in late 2015. If you’ve ever wanted to know what to say in an email to get someone to take you on as a PhD student, sight unseen, then you’d have to ask him. Because that’s what happened, eventually.

In early 2016, Nitya began to develop his PhD proposal and eventually arrived and registered at SU in July 2016 to present his proposal to the department. Nitya had won a partial bursary from the department that would cover the cost of a flight to and from South Africa each year, and some extra monies for registering for a PhD at SU. 

We’ve seen many blog posts over the years since then about Nitya, as he’s been a busy student. Here’s a small selection of highlights: 

First trip into the field

A conference in Scotland

Advisor visits the Andamans field sites

Producing papers&Popular articles

More papers

Nitya graduated inMarch 2019, and by then had already started his first post-doc in the MeaseyLab. He developed the theme of pet invasions, as well as finishing some of his PhD chapters, turning them into manuscripts for submission. 

We’ve had a lot of fun having Nitya in the MeaseyLab. We wish him all the best in his new endeavours, wherever they take him.  We are really happy that Nitya will be studying sleep ecology in a more formal framework. Sleep is something that is very close to Nitya’s heart. He’s the one person who has shown time and again that he can perform sleep wherever he goes. It’s great to see that all that practice has finally paid off!

  Frogs  Lab

Another stimulating CIB workshop

12 November 2019

Framework workshop

Every year, the CIB hosts a workshop on a particular theme in invasion biology. The workshop is timed to coincide with the CIB Annual Research Meeting (ARM - more on that later). Regular readers of this blog will remember workshops on Functional Response (see here), urban invasions (see here) invasion syndromes (see here) and BRICS networks (see here). This year the theme of the workshop was frameworks in invasion biology.


If you’ve not noticed yet, invasion biology has an awful lot of frameworks, and some folks just love constructing and refining them. John Wilson got a whole bunch of these framework lovers together for a workshop with several aims over 3 days at Spier wine farm, near Stellenbosch.


The first aim was to have everyone contribute a paper on some aspect of frameworks for a special issue of the journal NeoBiota. The MeaseyLab contribution is aimed at calculating the cost of making impact studies that can be scored with EICAT and SEICAT. I hope that you’ll be seeing some more of this study as time goes by. The special issue should be out toward the end of 2020… watch this space.


The second aim was to create a framework for all of the other frameworks out there, and to see how they all fit in. This was a task that took most of our time over the workshop, and was very challenging trying to get what are large multi-dimensional concepts onto sheets of 2 dimensional paper. But it was also fun to see how different people could see this happening, and it’ll be even more interesting to see what comes out of this.

Lastly, the workshop aimed to streamline some thoughts on existing frameworks to make them more workable in terms of policy, management and implementation. See if you can see some familiar faces from MeaseyLab days gone by...

  Lab  meetings

NeoBiota needs to think again if they believe they have Open Access

09 November 2019

Open Access in Invasion Science - A reply to Jeschke et al 2019


In a recent editorial, Jeschke et al (2019) pat themselves on the back for editing a good Open Access journal. They contrast the price of publishing Open Access inNeoBiotawith some of the most expensive journals, and then decide that the fee from their publisher (Pensoft) is ‘considerably lower’. But Jeschke et al, and their like-minded friends from Plan S (Schiltz 2018), are simply perpetuating the abuse from publishing houses.


A paywall is never acceptable wherever you put it

Any paywall, whether it be high, or ‘considerably lower’ (i.e. EUR 900) is a wall that excludes many researchers, certainly from developing countries (as evidenced by the list of countries of corresponding authors ofNeoBiotathroughout the time that it has been indexed on ISI (Fig 1). Before the editors ofNeoBiotagive themselves another pat on the back, perhaps they should rethink their fee waivers. A 10% discount is offered to scientists living and working in lower middle-income countries: a remaining paywall of EUR 810 is hardly reduced. Scientists living and working in low-income countries are allowed one free waiver per year. I’ve pasted the list of these countries at the bottom of this blog. According to Fig 1,NeoBiotahave never waived the fees of a publication. Now that’s an impressive record. Time to think again?



Fig 1. The country of the corresponding author of all publications inNeoBiotawithin Web of Science (back to 2015) includes 1 author from Columbia.

I have made this point before (Measey 2018; and in a blog post here and another here): even the fees ofNeoBiotacost a lot more than the research and student bursaries in a lot of countries. While previously I lobbied for the source of these publishing fees to become public - which would show that for a great majority of researchers, publishing fees are coming from research funds. Funds that would otherwise further knowledge are going directly into the pockets of publishers. Publishers instantly refused to do this. Now I think that our energies would be better spent demolishing the paywall (what they refer to as Diamond Open Access). And for almost all of us, this means doing so without the benefit of a rich uncle. 

Until we have Diamond Open Access for all, having the paywall after publication is actually preferable for most of us, as most of us cannot afford to pay anything. We do have to publish our work, and would rather that it was out there behind a paywall, than not out there at all. Compare the list of who publishes inNeoBiotawith with those who choose to publish in Biological Invasions where the paywall comes after publication (NB those who paid for Open Access so that Springer could double-dip (cf Barbaro et al. 2015) have been removed from this dataset).

Figure 2: The country of the corresponding author of the last 500 publications in Web of Science (back to 2015) inBiological Invasionsincludes authors from Chile, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Mexico.

I am not advocating a paywall, but I disagree that by placing the paywall before publication (i.e. on acceptance) Jeschke et al have solved anything for anyone other than the most privileged researchers. In the words of Peterson et al (2018), "do not replace one problem with another". Instead, what we need is to tear down the paywall with a completely new publishing model for academia.

The answer lies inside our University Libraries 

The university library has undergone a massive transformation over the last 20 years. During my PhD, I made a weekly visit to the library to physically pick up the latest issues of all the journals that came through the postal service from all over the world. For papers that I found out about but had no access to, I had a stack of postcards that were specifically for reprint requests, and I enthusiastically filled them out and posted them off to researchers the world over. Librarians arranged these issues on the shelves and eventually sent them off for binding into volumes and then worried about the physical space that was available inside the library as every year publication inflation (Larivière & Costas 2016) meant more pages to be supported within their walls.

Probably the most stressful time in library now is around negotiating the next contract with a mega-publisher. Will they be able to meet next year’s demand for cash? How much are other universities paying? Of course, the bundles are sold with non-disclosure agreements, so that librarians who successfully negotiate a lower price at one institution cannot influence the negotiations at another. Doesn’t this sound like an extortion racket? 

The solution then would be for our learned academic societies to come to agreements directly with university libraries. Today, publishing is less about type-setting (which many top publishers outsource and do very poorly), and more about dissemination. This is something that our library and academic librarians have been doing for decades, and do far better and far more cheaply than any publishing house. Given the choice, most of us would prefer to entrust our academic endeavors to our own libraries rather than to for-profit publishing houses.

There are more reasons why it makes sense for libraries to take on the roll as publishers. Most of us are employed by universities or research institutions that also fund our libraries. Linking the work we do (writing, reviewing and editing) more closely with our institutions would result in a greater appreciation for this part of our workload. Editors and associate editors will appreciate that they get little credit from their institutions for a considerable extra amount of work that they perform. 

Libraries have fantastic networks, and are our professional long-term storage partners. They developed efficient and impressive information technology (IT) long before it hit most academic departments. Their inter-library networks are what we now need to disseminate the knowledge that we generate without any walls. 


We need to give up our addiction to fancy layouts

Once the storage and dissemination of our contributions are taken care of, the only service left from the publishers is a fancy layout. This is mostly a historical legacy which I've talked more about in the past (see here). I have to admit that I really like seeing my work being nicely produced and printed. But I’m happy to give this up if it means demolishing paywalls. In reality, LaTex can solve most of these problems so that we simply use the journal (library) produced template, that will need minimal manipulation afterwards. 

No doubt, there will be some institutions that will invest extra to have nicer layouts. But I feel confident that this will not change the impact factor, or any other metrics, as academics will value the content for what it contains rather than what it looks like. Admittedly, nothing about the contents of the highest ranking journals suggests that impact factor is consistently related to research quality.


Neobiotacan lead the way

The European Group on Biological Invasions are perfectly placed to say goodbye to Pensoft when their contract expires and head into a brave new world without paywalls. Unlike some other journals, they own their title and are free to leave the throttling grip of their publishers. If they remove the paywall, I am sure that many invasion scientists will abandon the rival Springer publication. I know that I will. I will also happily support the entire editorial team ofBiological Invasionsif they agree to resign en-mass (as did Peterson et al 2019) and move to a no fees platform under a new name (as Springer own the nameBiological Invasions- let them keep the name, but nothing else). 

If you have read this far, then I hope that you will join the call for real Open Access - no paywalls for anyone.


Literature

Barbaro A, Zedda M, Gentili D, Greenblatt RL (2015) The presence of high-impact factor  open access journals in science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) disciplines. Italian Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science6: 57−75. https://doi.org/10.4403/jlis.it-11257

Jeschke, J.M., Börner, K., Stodden, V. and Tockner, K., 2019. Open Access journals need to become first choice, in invasion ecology and beyond.Neobiotadoi: 10.3897/Neobiota.52.39542

Larivière, V. and Costas, R., 2016. How many is too many? On the relationship between research productivity and impact. PloS one11(9), p.e0162709.

Measey, J. 2018. Europe's plan S could raise everyone else's publication paywall.Nature562 (7728):494.

Peterson AT, Anderson RP, Beger M, Bolliger J, Brotons L, Burridge CP, Cobos ME, Cuervo‐Robayo AP, Di Minin E, Diez J, Elith J, Embling CB, Escobar LE, Essl F, Feeley KJ, Hawkes L, Jiménez‐García D, Jimenez L, Green DM, Knop E, Kühn I, Lahoz‐Monfort JJ,  Lira‐Noriega A, Lobo JM, Loyola R, Mac Nally R, Machado‐Stredel F, Martínez‐Meyer E, McCarthy M, Merow C, Nori J, Nuñez‐Penichet C, Osorio-Olvera L, Pyšek P, Rejmánek  M, Ricciardi A, Robertson M, Rojas Soto O, Romero‐Alvarez D, Roura‐Pascual N, Santini L, Schoeman DS, Schröder B, Soberon J, Strubbe D, Thuiller W, Traveset A, Treml EA,  Václavík T, Varela S, Watson JEM, Wiersma Y, Wintle B, Yanez‐Arenas C, Zurell D (2019) Open access solutions for biodiversity journals: do not replace one problem with another. Diversity and Distributions25: 5−8. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12885

Schiltz, M., 2018. Science without publication paywalls: cOAlition S for the realisation of full and immediate Open Access.PLoS medicine,15(9), p.e1002663.


Low Income Countries:https://data.worldbank.org/income-level/low-income

  • AFGHANISTAN
  • BENIN
  • BURKINA FASO
  • BURUNDI
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
  • CHAD
  • CONGO, DEM. REP.
  • ERITREA
  • ETHIOPIA
  • GAMBIA, THE
  • GUINEA
  • GUINEA-BISSAU
  • HAITI
  • KOREA, DEM. PEOPLE’S REP.
  • LIBERIA
  • MADAGASCAR
  • MALAWI
  • MALI
  • MOZAMBIQUE
  • NEPAL
  • NIGER
  • RWANDA
  • SIERRA LEONE
  • SOMALIA
  • SOUTH SUDAN
  • SYRIAN ARAB REPUBLIC
  • TAJIKISTAN
  • TANZANIA
  • TOGO
  • UGANDA
  • YEMEN, REP.
  Lab  Writing
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