We’ve recently published a paper detailing some of the results from our fieldwork and research in Southeast Alaska. This latest article discusses how habituation to human activity in some bears and fear of human activity in other bears differentially effects bear activity patterns in and around Chilkoot Lake State Park. The article is open-access, which means you do not need any special subscription or password to access the article and read it. You can read the article here, for free.
It can take a long time from data collection to publication. We collected images from camera traps set up all over the Chilkoot valley between June and October 2014. Every week or couple weeks, as we’d collect the data from the cameras, I would download photographs on my computer and tag them– go through the photos one by one, identify what the camera captured (sometimes a bear, sometimes another animal, sometimes just moving shadows or wind would trigger the camera), and use software to alter the photograph’s metadata to include information about what was in the photo.
After the ‘trapping’ season ended in October 2014 and I completed tagging all the photos, I looked at all the data cumulatively. How many bear encounters were there? How many human encounters? When did these encounters occur throughout the day? Throughout the season? I then completed a variety of analyses to identify and evaluate patterns I was seeing in the data. For example, when are humans most active? When are bears most active? Does bear activity depend on whether a bear is habituated to human activity or not? How much overlap is there between bear activity and human activity? Does bear activity change the farther bears get from areas where there is a lot of human activity?
Once I had the analyses completed I wrote the manuscript, which we then edited and submitted to an academic journal for peer review. Peer review is a process by which other scientists read the manuscript and judge the work. It’s meant to ensure academic integrity in publication of science. Other scientists evaluate the ways in which the data were collected, the analyses used and whether they were appropriate given the type of data and the questions being asked, and whether or not the conclusions being made are appropriate. The peer-review process can be long, often taking several months. There are generally no incentives, financial or otherwise, for acting as a peer reviewer, so given the extremely busy lives of most academics reviews aren’t usually prioritized against other tasks. Once reviews are finally complete they’re sent back to the editor, who decides, based on the reviews and his or her own evaluation of the work, whether the paper should be published, needs major revision, or should be rejected.
Almost all papers end up needing revisions. Sometimes revisions are minor, like clarifying a few concepts or including some additional background information. Often reviewers ask for major revisions. Authors can then decided whether to overhaul the paper and submit it again, submit the paper to a different journal to be reviewed by different scientists (who may have different biases and will thus interpret the work differently), to start over again with new analyses and a new paper, or to scrap the work entirely. This back-and-forth between the authors and reviewers goes on until the reviewers and editors of a journal finally accept the paper for publication.
But that’s not the end of it! Once a paper is accepted for publication it still needs works. Journals have strict guidelines about formatting and file types, and often need to have figures, charts, and tables formatted a specific way. Articles will also be proofread, and proofs will be sent to the authors to check over to make sure that there aren’t any additional edits to be made or small editorial mistakes to be corrected. Finally, the article is slated for release in a journal’s lineup. Most journals only publish once monthly, so once an article is accepted and proofed it might still be several weeks before it’s released.
The entire process of publishing a paper is a long and arduous process. We collected the data for this project in summer and fall of 2014, spent just over a year doing data analysis, writing, and editing, and submitted the manuscript to a journal for peer review in early January of 2016. And now, finally, it’s been published! Check it out!