Hot Topics Author Guidelines

What is a Hot Topic?

Hot Topics in Ecology are evidence-based syntheses of topics that are relevant to environmental policy development, land management and to broadening the general community’s ecological knowledge base. Hot Topics aim to deliver timely, factual overviews that promote the application of scientifically defensible ecological knowledge in public debate. The Hot Topics forum may also report summaries of ecological questions that do not have an immediate policy or management application.

A Hot Topic is designed to be a summary of the existing scientific evidence supporting a relatively narrow question or problem. The question may or may not have been “resolved”. The purpose of the Hot Topic is to provide a go-to place for the public and for ESA members to find evidence summarised in a way that would make it useful for schools, policy makers and community groups.

General Format

Hot Topics will usually start with an applied ecology question and then summarise the evidence published in research papers regarding the likely ecological consequences of particular management or policy choices. 

Each Hot Topic consists of a one-page summary and a database of peer-reviewed literature. Arguments put forward in the one-page summary are supported by evidence listed in the literature database.

The Contributor is expected to work with the ESA Hot Topics Editor and Working Group in order to produce a Hot Topic that is ready for publication and research to a level meeting the acceptable Hot Topic standard.

The Hot Topic cannot have been published elsewhere. It must be original to the Ecological Society of Australia. Each Hot Topic will be assigned a DOI and the six most downloaded Hot Topics each year will be published in Austral Ecology.

Sections of a Hot Topic

A plain English heading, 4-8 words long. Must be specific enough that the question or problem can be described and evidence summarised in ~300 words. For example, “Habitat restoration and biodiversity” is too broad, “Farmland restoration in southern Australia” is probably still too broad, but “Threatened plants and farmland tree-planting” might be specific enough.

A short summary in plain English. Should be 10-15 words long. For the previous example,  “Do farmland tree-planting schemes benefit the 600 Australian plant species threatened by agriculture?” might be specific enough.

2 to 4 take-home bullet points describing the key points that are outlined in more detail in the main text. These points should have at least one sentence and piece of evidence in the main text directly associated with them.

Up to 300 words of plain-English interpretation of the scientific evidence for the topic, not including references. Must summarize a minimum of three scientific articles (that are all synthesised in the Supporting Evidence Spreadsheet), and articles should have a variety of authors. Should address the key issues and knowledge gaps, if any. Ideally, background to the Hot Topic can be summarised in a sentence, with reference to a key scientific article, so that the bulk of the body can be used to summarise results of particular studies addressing the question or problem.

An excel spreadsheet with the list of scientific articles used to inform the Hot Topic, and details about each article specifying the evidence that is referred to in the main text. Quotation marks can be used to identify exact textual statements. Columns in the spreadsheet are: “”, “”. The spreadsheet does not need to be an exhaustive review but must present both sides of the evidence if the topic includes ambiguity or controversy.

Format for submission

When submitting a Hot Topic, please embed citations using a numbered citation format, with references listed in order at the bottom of the main text. Ensure that your submission ends with a count of all words including references, and words excluding references.

Format of final Hot Topic

Citations will be removed from the final version to enable it to be printed as a factsheet, with the complete list of citations still available online. Authors will be asked to select 3 to 5 citations that can be hyperlinked to specific sections of the main text online.