Synthesis, Perspective, Commentary: A call to all authors!

Biogeography is a rapidly moving research area that intersects with many other scientific disciplines and contemporary environmental issues. Moreover, the biogeographic literature is diverse, scattered across disciplinary journals and continually expanding. Making sense of this ever-changing landscape of scientific discourse is challenging, but can be greatly facilitated by accessible and readable synthesis and discussion articles. Such articles have often been seen as the exclusive preserve of senior scientists – the ‘silverbacks of biogeography’. This is categorically incorrect; good ideas, novel viewpoints and compelling writing are not age-dependent and we actively encourage enquiries and submissions from scientists at all career stages.

Journal of Biogeography (JBI) has three article types (Synthesis, Perspective, and Commentary) that allow authors to develop new themes and concepts, re-assess and revisit standard models and frameworks, and to contribute to current debates. Each article format has slightly different aims:

Synthesis articles have the aim of reviewing or reassessing a timely area of biogeographical research. We use ‘Synthesis’ rather than ‘Review’ to emphasize that such articles should ideally contribute to an integrated understanding, resolving misunderstandings and apparent contradictions and, often, presenting new conceptual frameworks or categorizations. Synthesis papers may take the form of traditional narrative reviews or more formal meta-analysis (e.g., Gurevitch et al. 2001).

Perspective articles offer a forum for more personal perspectives on key research fields, concepts and issues within biogeography. Such a format is ideal for developing and substantiating new ideas and arguments (and for highlighting flaws and inconsistencies in traditional/standard models and concepts). 

Commentary articles are comments on the latest original research in biogeography. This could be criticisms of the articles, but could equally be used to draw attention to implications or interpretations that were not considered in the original article.  

While we welcome submissions in these categories from all authors, we want to take this time to particularly encourage junior authors.

There are a lot of very good reasons to give serious thought to writing a review (Synthesis) or discussion (Perspective/Commentary) article. Firstly, they are enormous fun to develop and write. Freed from the standard research article format you have much greater freedom to develop strong, compelling narratives, and to bring in your own ideas and informed speculations. Most articles are collaborations, and much of the enjoyment stems from the exchange of ideas and thoughts with colleagues rather than the actual process of writing – although, if you are like me, this can also be strangely enjoyable.

Secondly, they can have a major impact on your career. Review and discussion articles are often highly cited, can generate high levels of debate and interest among the scientific community. I always advise my PhD students and post-docs to adopt a mixed publication strategy, combining standard research articles with other more discursive article types. This strategy is one of the best ways to boost your CV, your scientific visibility and your publication metrics.

Finally, there is a common but incorrect perception among many early career-stage researchers that these sorts of articles are much more difficult to write than standard research articles. This is related to the common view that review and discussion articles are the domain of senior scientists. Many of us on the chief editorial board at JBI can personally testify this is not the case. My first published article (Ladle 1992), for example, written during the 2nd year of my PhD, was a Review. I was extremely fortunate that one of the reviewers – the late, great Leigh Van Valen – realized that I was new to the publishing world and provided some of the best feedback I have ever received on how to make a good scientific argument.

We believe it is important to follow that example at JBI, making review-type articles accessible to all. To meet this goal, JBI has created a new Research Highlights Editor position on the chief editorial board. Nearly thirty years after that first review, I am about to start work in this position, and I would like to begin with an open invitation to the global biogeographical community: if you have ideas for writing a Synthesis, Perspective or Commentary we would be delighted to hear from you. I am very happy to receive direct enquiries ( or via or, if you have a manuscript, please consider submitting it to us ( see “submit an article”). We can’t guarantee publication, but we will do everything we can to ensure that it is fairly reviewed and to offer constructive advice on structure, content and style.

Written by:
Richard Ladle
Research Highlights Editor

Gurevitch, J., Curtis, P. S., & Jones, M. H. (2001). Meta-analysis in ecology. Advances in Ecological Research32, 199-247.
Ladle, R. J. (1992). Parasites and sex: catching the Red Queen. Trends in Ecology & Evolution7, 405-408.

Published by jbiogeography

Contributing to the growth and societal relevance of the discipline of biogeography through dissemination of biogeographical research.

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