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Does scientific collaboration increase the impact of ecological articles?

Ecology is no longer the preserve of the lone naturalist. The majority of research in ecology today is carried out in teams and nearly half of published papers are written by groups representing collaborating institutions. That is one of the conclusions to emerge from a paper in the May 2005 issue of the journal Bioscience.

Researchers assessed ecology papers published in the journal Oecologia between 1998 and 2000. Oecologia is one of the world’s leading research journals in ecology with a rigorous peer review policy — it rejects four out of every five papers that are submitted for publication.

The researchers, from the University of Turka, Finland, and Royal Holloway, University of London, found that 80 per cent of papers published in Oecologia involved more than one author and 40 per cent were written by authors from more than one institution.

European ecologists were more collaborative than those from the US, the researchers found. They also found that US-based ecologists were prone to citing authors from the US more frequently than authors from Europe. However, ecologists from the US were less likely to cite their own work compared with ecologists from Europe.

The researchers also found that papers resulting from international collaborations were no more likely to be cited, compared with research papers from local collaborative efforts. This is a change from 20 years ago, when international collaborations were far more likely to be cited compared with domestic research collaborations.