Reading scientific articles is a valuable and major part of the activity of scientists. Yet, with the upsurge of currently available articles and the increasing specialization of scientists, it becomes difficult to identify, let alone read, important papers covering topics not directly related to one’s own specific field of research, or that are older than a few years. Our objective was to propose a list of seminal papers deemed to be of major importance in ecology, thus providing a general ‘must-read’ list for any new ecologist, regardless of particular topic or expertise. We generated a list of 544 papers proposed by 147 ecology experts (journal editorial members) and subsequently ranked via random-sample voting by 368 of 665 contacted ecology experts, covering 6 article types, 6 approaches and 17 fields. Most of the recommended papers were not published in the highest-ranking journals, nor did they have the highest number of mean annual citations. The articles proposed through the collective recommendation of several hundred experienced researchers probably do not represent an ‘ultimate’, invariant list, but they certainly contain many high-quality articles that are undoubtedly worth reading—regardless of the specific field of interest in ecology—to foster the understanding, knowledge and inspiration of early-career scientists.
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We are grateful to the many participating editorial members, as well as to C. Albert and G. M. Luque for help with the survey and article management. We are also grateful to the members of B. Holt’s 2017 postgraduate seminar class ‘Advanced Community Ecology’ for their input to the paper. F.C. was supported by BNP Paribas and Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Invacost) grants, and C.J.A.B. was supported by BNP Paribas and Australian Research Council grants.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
List of 75 additional articles of the “read” list, Supplementary Figures 1–4, Supplementary Table 1–2 Summary, Supplementary Note.
Ranking of all the papers according to the category of ‘type’ (case study, review, concept, opinion, methodology, career).
Ranking of all the papers with the various variables, including the final rank, the average score, the number of votes (nVot), number of times proposed (nProp), the Impact Factor of the Journal (Ifjrnl), the number of citations in Web of Knowledge (citWoK) and Google Citation (citGoog) and the yearly number of citations in Web of Knowledge (citWoKyr) and Google Citation (citGoogyr).
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