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An effective mutualism? The role of theoretical studies in ecology and evolution

Cite this dataset

Servedio, Maria (2019). An effective mutualism? The role of theoretical studies in ecology and evolution [Dataset]. Dryad.


Theoretical models often have fundamentally different goals than do empirical studies of the same topic. Models can test the logic of existing hypotheses, explore the plausibility of new hypotheses, provide expectations that can be tested with data, and address aspects of topics that are currently inaccessible empirically. Theoretical models are common in ecology and evolution, and are generally well-cited, but I show that many citations appearing in non-theoretical studies are general to topic and a substantial proportion are incorrect. One potential cause of this pattern is that some functions of models are rather abstract, leading to miscommunication between theoreticians and empiricists. Such misunderstandings are often triggered by simplifying, logistical assumptions that modelers make. The 2018 Vice Presidential Symposium of the American Society of Naturalists included a variety of mathematical models in ecology and evolution from across several topics. Common threads that appear in the use of the models are identified, highlighting the power of a theoretical approach and the role of the assumptions that such models make.

Usage notes

Data from a survey of how theoretical authors perceive citations of their papers by non-theoretical papers.  Each entry shows the survey respondent, their theoretical paper that they assessed, the year, whether they consider the paper to be "ecological" (Ec) or "evoltionary" (Ev),  followed by the numbers adnd percentages of citations that the theoretical authors perceived to be Incorrect, General to topic (and correct), and Specific and appropriate. The three sheets contain the same data, just with different summary figures.

The exact wording of the survey used to obtain this data is also included.