Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Weed Research journal perspectives from the IWSC, Hangzhou, China

Nearly 600 weed scientist from 50 countries met in Hangzhou, China over the week of 16 to 23 June 2012 for the 6th International Weed Science Congress.  This meeting, led by the International Weed Science Society, was staged by the Chinese Weed Science Society. Our hosts organised a great venue and gave us a good conference, interesting excursions and fine opening and closing ceremonies.  As the Editor-in-Chief of Weed Research, it was an opportunity to see and be seen and present a face behind those decision letters, both rejection and acceptance, from Weed Research. The journal was well-represented, with nine Subject Editors present.  We were also able to meet and discuss some of the work of the Editorial Board, including paper handling times, something all authors are sensitive about. 

As the E-i-C, I was also invited to observe a meeting to discuss the next East Asia Weed Science Congress, This was chaired by Dr Do-Soon Kim (Seoul), a member of our Editorial Board. This meeting is jointly held between the Chinese, Japanese and Korean Weed Science Societies and it was agreed these will be held every 3 years, following the first meeting in Jeju in 2011.  I therefore had the pleasure to meet the senior executives of all three societies:
For the Japanese Weed Science Society, President Prof Hiroshi Matsumoto (Tsukuba; hmatsu@biol.tsukuba.ac.jp), Prof Tohru Tominaga (Kyoto; tominaga@kais.kyoto-u.ac.jp); Dr Shunji Kurokawa (NARO Tsukuba; shunji@affrc.go.jp) 
For the Weed Science Society of China, Chairman Prof Chaoxian Zhang (Beijing; cxzhang@wssc.org.cn), Vice-Chairman Prof Qiang Sheng (Nanjing; wrl@njau.edu.cn); Prof Bo Li (Shanghai)
For the Korean Society of Weed Science, Publication Secretary Dr In-Yong Lee (RDA Suwon; leeinyong@korea.kr), Director Dr Byeong-Chul Moon (RDA Suwon; moonbc@korea.kr) and Planning Secretary Do-Soon Kim

Interestingly, it was also an opportunity to meet the executive of our sister Wiley journal, Weed Biology & Management. This journal was started about 10 years ago by the Japanese Weed Science Society. As a new journal, it continues to cost that Society a significant amount of money to publish. 

On the final day in Hangzhou, I and Prof Jens Streibig (Copenhagen) taught a course on writing a paper for an international journal, from 09:30 to a little after 13:00.  It was extremely gratifying and worthwhile to have an audience of 40 from 8 countries, especially as the course was a late addition to the programme.  It is the policy of Weed Research to encourage submission from across the globe and to try to help authors with the submission and review process, while maintaining the high standards of the journal. These taught courses are one method of spreading this message and it will be repeated in Samsun, Turkey, next year, at the next European Weed Research Society Symposium.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Ecosystem services – a bit of a mess

Ecosystem function, ecosystem processes, ecosystem services, final ecosystem services, ecosystem goods, natural capital and biodiversity – all these terms are currently very popular in ecological and related circles, reflecting the improved links between science and policy.  These are important, as society considers its options for increased food production, the threats of climate change and the needs of species, habitat and landscape conservation.  A recent paper by Mace, Norris and Fitter (TREE, January 2012; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169534711002424, for those with academic access) gives a comprehensive review of the relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem services. Reading this paper and a series of in-depth research proposals on the subject over recent weeks confirms my suspicions that the area is complex and conceptually messy.  As scientists, we need to have our concepts sorted, preferably elegantly, before we can make headway in presenting evidence to influence policy. 
Of course one problem is the semantic one.  The term “biodiversity” moved into societal use years ago and the same is now true for “ecosystem services”.  As with language and species, evolution occurs and our scientific understanding of the terms is moulded by use in our human world. For “biodiversity”, Mace et al. suggest we use the definition of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which boils down to the variability of all living things.  This isn’t very practical or useful, while society’s understanding is much broader, sometimes including more spiritual aspects. Turning to “ecosystem services”, we seem to be in a similar muddle. The interesting aspect of this term is that the human perspective is the key.  The services and goods are for humans. It is a service if it ultimately does something for us.  The corollary must be that it is not a service if there is nothing in it for us.  However, processes that support function of ecosystems may provide unknown services or be unconnected to human good.  In western European landscapes, where at least 70% of land is managed and all of it has some aesthetic value, perhaps every ecological process is associated with ecosystem services. Again, the term is not very practical or useful.  It may have allowed the popularisation of ecology, but it isn’t helping the science and this will ultimately cause trouble in the public arena, with mixed understanding of terms.
Can we please return to process, function and sustainability and drop biodiversity and ecosystem services?  Mace et al. make an excellent plea that we concentrate on developing ecosystem management with a range of stakeholders.  Most of ecology is context dependent, so let us embrace the many objectives of land management and concentrate on understanding the processes, with the aim of highlighting how to sustain particular systems, be they productive, semi-natural or natural.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Christmas and New Year 2012

We are all back at work and well in to 2012, but just a word or two before more academic blogs follow -
We had a lovely family Christmas - a great treat to have everyone home, so a big thank you for travelling from Scotland.  We thoroughly enjoyed having everyone home - Gareth and Sarah, Mike and Karen and star of the show, grandaughter Abbie - 14 months and crawling, a really happy soul, starting words.  She says "Hiya" to everyone - great fun in supermarkets!
Hope you all have a wonderful 2012.