These past few days, I have been re-reading a paper that stimulated me a lot during my PhD. And I found myself wanting to dig in a little bit deeper into the mechanisms of one particular result. Since this paper was published in the 1990s, I never even attempted to look for the code, and started re-writing my own implementation. It made me realize a few things along the way.
Last week, I was part of a very interesting discussion about how data sharing in ecology has, so far, failed. Up to 64% of archived datasets are made public in a way that prevents re-use, but this is not even the biggest problem. We are currently sharing ecological data in a way that is mostly useless.
There are very few domains of ecology for which we know any general laws. This is particularly true in the “mess” that is community ecology. Even most recent attempts at conceptual unification rarely go beyond the fact that community ecology is driven by selection, drift, speciation, and dispersal. But so does everything else, as far as living organisms are concerned. Not that we should abandon community ecology, but we need to recognize how little we are able to generalize any of the things we know. Can we replicate ecological results?