28 June 2012

Big in Japan

This is not a paper I wanted to write.

I didn’t want to write it – not because I was coerced, or because I don’t think it’s valuable – but because I would rather have had one paper rather than two.

Early in 2011, I co-authored a modeling paper on Marmorkrebs with my colleague down the hall, Paty Feria. We had tried to figure out the risk of Marmorkrebs invading in places where they had been documented as being released, or were available in the pet trade. Despite rumours, there was nothing confirmed about Marmorkrebs in any location in Asia at the time.

But papers take time to write. The manuscript was already done and had been submitted to journals by late summer 2010.

In early fall 2010 that I’d learned of an older report of Marmorkrebs being found in Japan at the Sapporo Salmon Museum (pictured above) in 2006. It had been reported in a book, and one written in Japanese, so it not the easiest piece of information to come across using my usual Internet search strategies. I dutifully reported on the Marmorkrebs blog.

We thought out paper was based on a complete set of records of where Marmorkrebs had been found... and then we discover, not just another record, but one in a whole new continent. This fact was probably influencing my SciAM Guest Blog post (later included in Open Lab):

Scientists like to think of themselves as being ahead of the curve. In the case of Marmorkrebs, we’ve consistently been about a few years behind events on the ground. Pet owners in Germany report the crayfish to scientists — paper comes out three years later. Marmorkrebs show up in market in Madagascar — paper comes out four years later. This isn’t anyone’s fault; it’s an indication both of how long careful science takes and how rapidly events are unfolding.

If anything, though, finding of the Marmorkrebs in Japan probably pushed us to get the first paper out, feeling that it could be useful in helping policy and planners.

That left us with a new paper to write. We had one individual Marmorkrebs in the Japanese ecosystem, so the threat was real. There were interesting conservation and economic impact angles here, too.

We did end up pushing things further in this paper in terms of the models, and gained a new collaborator in the process. Based on some of the feedback we got, we did not just run the same models as in the 2011 paper. Now, there are five models in the new paper. Paty and I were able to run... four of them. One of the models kept refusing to render, for reasons that were were never able to determine. It was maddening. Paty reached out to her colleague overseas, Jesús Muñoz, who agreed to help us. He helped not only to fix the problem, but also helped us do more types of analyses than we initially set out to do.

That Jesús was not at the same campus as us overseas made for some interesting collaborative issues, primarily getting files from point A to point B. Some of the files generated in modeling are huge, and even my trusty Dropbox folder was spitting the dummy. We went though many rounds of trying to figure out how to get the files from on computer to another. But that was eventually solved.

Something of an offhand comment by another colleague, Kristi Lowe, led to the choice of journal. She mentioned that she had just published a paper in Aquatic Biosystems. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the journal before, but she had been very happy with the editorial process. She’s also told me that the journal had changed from Saline Systems and broadened its scope to include freshwater systems.

And they were having a sale.

Aquatic Biosystems, like many other open access journals, has a publication fee. But they were waiving the fee until the start of June as part of a promotion.
My current projects are being funded by things like my #SciFund donors (♥ you guys), and publication fees are often almost as much as entire projects cost. While I have no problems asking for a waiver, it was a good deal. I was a sucker for a bargain and decided to go for it.

I’m very happy about much of this paper: new co-author, new journal, open access, relevant to policy.

But in my perfect world, this paper wouldn’t exist. I admire papers that are comprehensive. I would have much preferred had the 2011 and 2012 papers all in one bigger, more substantive paper. But I was overtaken by events. This has happened to me a couple of times now, which is disconcerting.

But better to be overtaken by events than be stagnant.

Related posts

Potential invasions anew new horisons
How my ethics of brain scanning paper was overtaken by events


Faulkes Z, Feria TP, Muñoz J. 2012. Do Marmorkrebs, Procambarus fallax f. virginalis, threaten freshwater Japanese ecosystems? Aquatic Biosystems 8: 13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/2046-9063-8-13

Feria TP, Faulkes Z. 2011. Forecasting the distribution of Marmorkrebs, a parthenogenetic crayfish with high invasive potential, in Madagascar, Europe, and North America. Aquatic Invasions 6(1): 55-67. http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/ai.2011.6.1.07

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