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Are hypotheses necessary in ecology and evolution?
  • +12
  • Matthew Betts,
  • Adam Hadley,
  • David Frey,
  • Sarah Frey,
  • Dustin Gannon,
  • Scott Harris,
  • Hankyu Kim,
  • Kara Leimberger,
  • Katy Moriarty,
  • Joseph Northrup,
  • Ben Phalan,
  • Josee Rousseau,
  • Thomas Stokely,
  • Jonathon J. Valente,
  • Diego Zarrate-Charry
Matthew Betts
Oregon State University
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Adam Hadley
Oregon State University
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David Frey
Oregon State University
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Sarah Frey
Oregon State University
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Dustin Gannon
Oregon State University
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Scott Harris
Oregon State University
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Hankyu Kim
Oregon State University
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Kara Leimberger
Oregon State University
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Katy Moriarty
Oregon State University
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Joseph Northrup
Trent University
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Ben Phalan
University of Cambridge
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Josee Rousseau
Oregon State University
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Thomas Stokely
Oregon State University
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Jonathon J. Valente
Oregon State University
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Diego Zarrate-Charry
Oregon State University
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Abstract

Research hypotheses have been a cornerstone of science since before Galileo. Many have argued that inclusion of multiple hypotheses (1) encourage discovery of mechanisms, and (2) reduce bias – both features that should increase transferability and reproducibility. However, we are entering a new era of big data and highly predictive models where some argue the hypothesis is outmoded. Indeed, using a detailed literature analysis, we found prevalence of hypotheses in eco-evo research is very low (6.7-26%) and static from 1990-2015, a pattern mirrored in an extensive literature search (N=302,558 articles). Our literature review also indicates that neither grant success or citation rates were related to the inclusion of hypotheses, which may provide disincentive for hypothesis formulation. Here we confront common justifications for avoiding hypotheses and present new arguments based on benefits to the individual. Although hypotheses are not always necessary, we expect their continued and increased use will help our fields move toward greater understanding, reproducibility, prediction, and effective conservation of nature.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

12 Jan 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
13 Jan 2021Submission Checks Completed
13 Jan 2021Assigned to Editor
18 Jan 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
26 Jan 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
27 Jan 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
04 Feb 20211st Revision Received
05 Feb 2021Submission Checks Completed
05 Feb 2021Assigned to Editor
05 Feb 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
08 Feb 2021Editorial Decision: Accept