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On the quest for novelty in ecology
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  • Gianluigi Ottaviani,
  • Alejandro Martinez,
  • Matteo Petit Bon,
  • Stefano Mammola
Gianluigi Ottaviani
Institute of Botany Czech Academy of Sciences Trebon Department

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Alejandro Martinez
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
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Matteo Petit Bon
Department of Wildland Resources, Quinney College of Natural Resources and Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, USA
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Stefano Mammola
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
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The volume of scientific publications is ever increasing, making it difficult for scholars to publish papers that can capture the readers’ attention. An obvious way to attract readership is by making a truly significant discovery; yet another way may involve tweaking the language to overemphasize the novelty of results. Using a dataset of 52,236 paper abstracts published between 1997 and 2017 in 17 ecological journals, we found that the relative frequency of the use of novelty terms (e.g., ‘groundbreaking’, ‘new’) almost doubled over time. Conversely, we found no such pattern with the use of confirmatory terms (e.g., ‘replicated’, ‘reproducibility’). We argue that, while increasing research opportunities are triggering advances in ecology, the writing style of authors and publishing habits of journals should better reflect the inherent confirmatory nature of ecology.