Primary data on the environment is our gold standard. EnvironmentCounts.org (EC) is dedicated to the open and informed discussion of important environmental issues based on access to reliable and high-quality evidence. We strive to be independent, understandable and trustworthy as reflected in our Aim, Vision, Credo and Key Operating Principles – see EC In Brief. We take great care in ensuring that EC articles are interesting, distinctive and easily understandable to our target audience – people who are not professionals in the environmental field. Accordingly, we have developed these guidelines to provide (potential) authors sufficient information to prepare with all the of guidelines – and unique. The purpose of this section is: (1) to inform (potential) authors and readers about the site’s editorial approach; (2) to identify the types of articles EC publishes; and (3) to provide guidelines to contributors about standards, formats and submissions.
In assessing documents or data sets for inclusion or reference in the web site, EC editors consider the overall quality in terms of merit, types of content and readability. 1.1 Merit EC defines merit, in articles and data sets, as consisting of three essential elements:
- Authority – provenance, authorship, evidence base and rigour of analysis, appropriateness of referencing, peer reviewed
- Objectivity – independent of external control, supported by measured evidence and testable argument
- Balance – acknowledgment of alternative views
These elements are considered in reviewing all submissions. 1.2 Types of Content EC recognizes and distinguishes among three types of content: (i) primary data and compilations of primary data; (ii) interpretations, legislation and theory; and (iii) Policy papers, forecast modelling and other sources. (i) Primary data and compilations of primary data (our gold standard) – includes data from peer reviewed, academic and authoritative government (including international government agency) sources. (ii) Interpretations of primary data and theory – includes peer reviewed, academic and government (including international government agency) articles, keynote papers, reports and legislation. We define interpretation as being based on specific primary data sets and it applies to those specific cases. Theory is higher level and seeks to encompass all data sets, present and future. Its role is to design hypotheses for testing and to carry universal explanations and understandings. While theory is not a large focus of the site we believe that there is a role for covering the best of emerging theories in selected cases which can serve to illuminate interpretation and indicate gaps in data which could be the focus of future data collection. (iii) Policy papers, forecast modeling and other sources – are excluded, no matter how interesting or useful they may appear. 1.3 Readability While everyone is welcome to visit and use the site, EC’s target audience is people who are not professionals in the environmental field. Accordingly we are committed to making all EC content readable and understandable without specialist knowledge. We edit and review our articles to avoid jargon, encourage simple sentence structure and provide informative tables and graphics.
- Types of Articles
EC provides reviews of selected high quality articles and data from well-qualified sources, many of which are peer reviewed. We do not author or publish original research. EC publishes three types of articles: What’s New – This type of article provides a short, newsworthy item. Items presented in What’s New could be candidates for further attention as Reviews or Analytical/Technical articles, as described below. What’s New items are typically less than 500 words. Reviews – These articles pull together the best and most recent primary data and current research in a topic area. These articles are typically less than 1500 words. Analytical/technical – These articles present research findings. The focus is on discussing the primary data, the analytical methods used and relevant conclusions. Typically these articles are less than 1500 words. The inclusion of graphics and tables is encouraged so long as they are readily understandable and contribute materially to the presentation and its readability.
- Structure and Style
3.1 Structure Each EC article has a title, an abstract, an article body and, optionally, additional materials. Please note that EC is committed to providing links to the original content. Title (Restricted to a maximum of 120 characters) The key criteria for an appropriate title are that it is brief, understandable and focused on a readily understood problem or issue. For example, the title: Does rapid Arctic warming cause extreme weather in the Mid-latitudes? is much preferred to the alternative title: Potential Arctic amplification effects on broader Northern Hemisphere weather patterns Abstract The abstract is a brief, self-contained and complete summary of the entire article. It covers:
- Background – introducing the subject and what the article intends,
- Methods – information for the reader to understand what was done, and how,
- Results – the principal findings of the article, and
- Conclusion – the primary take-home message(s).
Abstracts typically contain no more than 150 words. Article body The body of an article follows the general structure outlined for the abstract. While each article can have a unique structure, the following areas need to be covered:
- Introduction/Background – introducing the subject matter and what the article intends,
- Methods – information for the reader to understand what was done, and how,
- Results – the principal findings of the article,
- Conclusion – the primary take-home message(s), and
- Sources – links to the original content must be provided.
Additional Materials (Optional) There are three optional sections that can be appended as links:
- Editor’s Comments – comments which, typically, could include why the editor selected the article, what they particularly liked (and/or disliked) about the original article and a note on the data, source of the document and author.
- Supplementary Notes – containing additional materials which can provide more detailed information about the data and methodologies discussed in the article
- Interactive Graphics – which could further illustrate issues raised or points made in the article.
3.2 Style EC concentrates on presenting material which is targeted to, and readable by, its intended audience – people who are not professionals in the environmental field. Readers understand prose when it flows smoothly from background to approach to conclusion. Readability is also enhanced by appropriate graphics and tables. The rationale for and logic of an argument has to be clear and readily understood. If a reader finds, early in reading an article, that the prose is unclear, there is less likelihood that the article will be read in its entirety. All EC content is expected to have:
- simple and straightforward sentences;
- headings that help with the flow and continuity of the presentation;
- a well-reasoned and focussed presentation; and
- clearly-defined technical terms and no jargon.
We encourage the inclusion of informative graphics and tables provided they are relevant to the presentation and not just add-ons; and it is possible to understand their meaning by just looking at them (and not having to refer to the text).
- Editorial Oversight
Operating oversight of these guidelines is the responsibility of the Editorial Committee which is appointed by the Board of Directors and is responsible for all editorial decisions. This responsibility includes:
- interpreting editorial standards for contributors and editors;
- review and approval of each article prior to publication;
- establishing editorial priorities; and
- recommending changes to the web site.