The Round Table "Ignorance of acarology undermines research validity" will be chaired by Dr. Alejandra Perotti, University of Reading, UK
The number of acarologists is steadily declining at least in Western Europe, and, unfortunately, we have to live with the fact that this will not change in the foreseeable future. The amount of research in acarology hasn't decreased and is increasingly done by people lacking sufficient training and expertise in the field of acarology. Manuscripts on research on fundamental mechanisms in ecology or applied aspects in medical entomology or forensic biology using mites will likely not face any acarologist any more during peer review. Publications where either the mite species is no longer identified, wrongly identified, or where flawed assumptions are made about the biology of a species, become scientific invalid. A publication with unidentified mite species represents in fact research that is not reproducible, and this strikes at the heart of the scientific method. A publication where mite species are wrongly identified; for example, authors assume it is a common species that had been named in other publications, or identifying mites by comparing pictures on the web instead of with an appropriate key; these publications are just wrong and do not belong in the literature cannon. The problem is not limited to identification. For example, ecologists might assume life history traits common for arthropods that are actually different in crucial points for the particular mite species they are working with and therefore derive invalid conclusions which might lead to constructing invalid models. This can have a snowball effect by misleading other researchers who base their premises and build their hypotheses on published work that is invalid. These researches might waist lots of time and funding pursuing dead ends and/or even jeopardize their careers.
The purpose of this discussion is to get together to find a strategy to, for example, make better use of the still existing (or living) body of expertise in acarology. The roundtable will start with a presentation of several, concrete case studies illustrating the problem. The audience is then invited to express their opinion regarding the problem and the desirability of a particular solution. We would like to invite EURAAC members to discuss options; senior acarologists and editors of acarological journals are especially solicited for their view.