There is essentially no limit to the topics for Invited Features (IF) so long as they fit within the broader scope and subject matter guidelines of Ecological Applications. The key guideline for an IF is that papers address aspects of a topic or theme, and this topic or theme is likely to be of broad interest to ecologists.
Potential authors and coordinating editors should ask themselves the following questions:
- Is the Invited Feature likely to inform a large and diverse audience about material with which our readers are unfamiliar? Will it cause a large audience to re-examine an issue that is not as settled as most have presumed?
- Does the IF adequately address the “applications” of the science being described, i.e., how the information and understanding could be used to influence policy on the management or solution of real problems? Similarly, do the individual contributions focus on applications of the research being reported or are the authors more interested in relatively esoteric fundamental issues?
- Do the authors of the individual papers explain how the results of often very focused and species- or location-specific studies can provide useful insights in other systems?
- Is the group of papers special in the sense that a reader is unlikely to find something like it published elsewhere in compact form?
- Do the articles speak to a broad audience and make many connections to a wide range of past and current work?
- If the answers to most of these questions are yes, then the proposed IF is likely to be appropriate for Ecological Applications. In IF articles we are less worried about ample supporting data and statistical design than is the tradition for Ecological Applications articles. IF articles need not represent totally original work on the part of the authors, but instead can review or synthesize a body of work.
Format and Length
Most IFs are composed of 4–8 papers. The papers will be published as they are ready and will be grouped together in a virtual collection online. A short summary will explain the objectives of the IF and briefly introduces the papers. The summary is written by the organizer(s) of the IF and can follow different formats.
- One summary option is a text-only piece of no more than 1200 words (intended to fit on no more than 2 printed journal pages). This type of paper should mention the articles in the feature and may include up to 12 key words. It should not contain an abstract or any references.
- A second summary option allows for a slightly longer article of no more than 5000 words in the more traditional journal format. This type of paper can include an abstract (200 words or less), literature citations, and may include small tables and/or figures.
- The last option would be to publish both a 1200-word-or-less summary, together with a longer 5000-word-or-less article that expands on the ideas. If the organizers of an IF feel the need for both of these papers, they should be written to complement one another.
All summary papers must be submitted for consideration with the other papers that comprise the IF. It is also possible to organize an IF that includes some features of a Forum. For example, there might be a summary and several major papers, followed by several short comments on the set of papers.
A short description (no more than three sentences) should be provided to announce the feature online. A small figure or photograph (either 140x182 pixels or a square 164x164 pixels) should be included to accompany the collection online. Please include three to six key words (“Tags”) that reference your collection. Please see the Collections tab for examples.
The general guideline is that an IF may occupy 30–80 printed pages in the journal. Roughly speaking, this translates to 90–240 manuscript pages (including references, tables, figures, and figure legends). Given the increasing number of submissions to the journal, 80 pages should be considered an upper limit, and shorter features are encouraged. Longer IFs are possible only if external funding can be provided to support a special issue of the journal; it costs on the order of $25,000 to produce a special issue.
Soliciting Manuscripts and the Review Requirement
Depending on how the idea for an IF is generated, authors and topics might be selected in a variety of ways. Sometimes the organizers of a symposium or small conference submit a proposal to the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) to incorporate the papers from that meeting into an IF. In that case, the authors and topics may have already been selected. In other cases, an idea for an IF is proposed to the EIC. If the EIC finds the proposal appropriate (generally after consultation with selected subject-matter editors), the organizer then contacts potential contributors.
If a proposal for an IF is judged to be appropriate for the journal, it does not guarantee that individual papers will be accepted for publication. Perhaps the most critical requirement for an IF is that all papers must go through the normal, rigorous peer review. It is critical that the organizers and the authors all recognize that this review will take place and that individual papers frequently are rejected. One problem with IFs is that once a proposal has been accepted for consideration, some authors may assume that all the manuscripts will be published. Consequently they do not invest the same effort that would have been invested on independent submissions to a major journal. It is critical to clearly convey the requirement for a rigorous review to all contributors as it will save time later.
The journal policies regarding financial arrangements for publication (e.g., page charges, charges for color figures in the print edition, etc.) apply to all Invited Feature papers, including summaries. In particular, authors of papers in IFs are responsible for covering page costs (including color plates) and the costs of reprints in the same way that authors of independent submissions are. In some cases the organizer of an IF will have access to funds that can pay for these costs.
Proposing the IF and Establishing a File with the EIC
The organizer should prepare a short, written proposal for the EIC that includes a brief explanation of the topic and a list of tentative titles and authors. The proposal should explain why the IF will be of interest to a broad audience. After the proposal has been accepted, a more definite list of authors and titles must be submitted. This should be done only after authors have been contacted. Before submission of papers can begin, the Editorial Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) must be supplied with a list of all the papers proposed for the IF and a copy of the short description of the IF.
At this point it will be necessary to determine who will be the editor for the IF. If the IF is organized by a member of the Editorial Board, then that Board member typically will serve as the editor of the IF. If the IF is organized by someone not on the Board, that person can become a Guest Editor. A designated member of the Editorial Board or the EIC can serve as a co-editor with the organizer.
Peer Review of Manuscripts
Manuscripts need to be submitted online following requirements for all other submissions. See Author Guidelines. Every attempt will be made to have each manuscript reviewed by at least two qualified peer reviewers. Appropriate reviewers may be identified by the editor or by the organizer with the approval of the co-editor. It is important to identify reviewers who do not have any conflicts of interests (e.g., collaborators, co-authors, or colleagues at the same institution). In cases where the editor or organizer of the IF is an author of one of the papers, peer-review of that paper will be coordinated by the EIC or another member of the Editorial Board.
Editors should handle manuscripts using ScholarOne and use that system to submit the names of potential reviewers online. If reviewers have already been contacted by the editor and have agreed to write reviews, please notify the Editorial Office (email@example.com). It is only necessary to provide names of two reviewers per manuscript if the reviewers have already agreed, and the Editorial Office will provide the reviewers with access to the manuscript and notify the editor when the reviews are in.
One possible variation is for the review to be handled by a panel of reviewers specifically assembled to review all the manuscripts. This is an acceptable procedure so long as each manuscript is reviewed by two qualified reviewers and individual written reviews are produced. The review process will still be managed by the Editorial Office.
Decisions on Manuscripts and Final Instructions for Authors
After the reviews have been received, the editor must make a decision about each manuscript using ScholarOne. When a manuscript has been accepted, the authors must follow the instructions in the acceptance letter to submit their final versions. Any failure to do so will delay publication of the manuscript.