Tony Fox

Tony Fox photo

Professor of Waterbird Ecology
Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University

Involved with the BOU as:
IBIS associate editor

BOU member since: early 1980s

Most likely to be found . . .
. . . enthusing, usually about Greenland White-fronted Geese, but also Bullfinches, Spotted Crakes, but generally whatever obsesses this week!

What does being an IBIS associate editor involve?
Making an initial appraisal of the quality of the work and if good enough, thinking about the most appropriate folk to appraise the manuscript in a fair and balanced way. Then trying to persuade the poor hapless potential referees (all of whom suffer crushing workloads already) that their vital role in assessing the work is worth their time, attention and evaluation skills. When the submissions have come back from referees, our role is to assess their assessments and try and come to balanced and fair recommendation to the Editorial Board on the suitability for publication and the need to take account of the comments of the reviewers and ourselves.

What do you enjoy most about being an IBIS associate editor?
It is an absolute privilege to be exposed to a constant stream of exciting, new and innovative research, whether it comes from new angles on old problems, novel techniques or unique discoveries. The magic of ornithology and our ability to unlock its secrets never ceases to engage. Not every researcher excels in telling the story in the most effective way, so much of the satisfaction comes from using the selfless wisdom of referees to help improve the presentation of the authorship, while maintaining the standards of the journal.

What would you say to anyone who is considering submitting a paper to IBIS?
Make sure you understand the criteria for publication in a journal like Ibis and read the last four issues until you have a good feel for what publishing in Ibis is all about. Then simply determine to DO IT!!! Follow the guidelines for submission. Think carefully about how you compose the elements of your work in a logical way. Concentrate on telling a clear story, with a setting, a goal and a rationale, with a simple and repeatable explanation of what and why you have done what you did. Present your results as economically as possible, using simple but stunning graphics and/or plain tabulations to catch the eye and communicate the content as effectively as possible, with as few words and as much imagery as possible. Start the discussion by telling the world the single most stunning thing to come from this work, your absolutely most significant research study ever, making sure you are, of course, always modest and humble despite these incredible earth-shattering results! Following that, discuss your findings in a focussed, short, punchy and disciplined way under 3-5 key header points within a tight pre-planned structure. Reduce the number of words in your first draft by 25%, then go back and reduce that draft by 25% again. Consider repeating the previous two exercises. Get colleagues, especially arch-enemies (which, of course, you will not have, being YOU) to read, criticise and short the text. Then go back and shorten that text again. Remove all fluff and packing. Read the guidelines again and again, and then one more time, even if your attention is flagging. And make sure you follow them! But above all, just submit! Ibis relies on a continuous flow of high quality submissions and we continue to be extremely grateful to the community of authors and reviewers out there that make Ibis what it is!

Why are you a member of the BOU?
Because the BOU produces Ibis, organises excellent conferences and makes me part of a huge extended community that is a curious combination of family, friends and professional network!

When did your interest in ornithology begin?
Watching (what I now know to be) a Chaffinch feeding on crumbs in a Colwyn Bay car park as a very small child and looking up to see (what I now know to be) a Black-headed Gull, as if encountering birds and recognising their differences for the very first time.

What is your most memorable bird-y experience?
Sitting in the fo’c’s’le of a boat on 22 August 2001 with Ebbe Bøgebjerg and a small group of very relaxed, but moulting (and quietly whistling) drake Common Scoter we had just implausibly (but very deliberately) caught in the open sea 16 km south of the island of Læsø in Ålborg Bugt.

What is your favourite outdoor place and why?
Cors Fochno, northern Ceredigion in the 1970s and 1980s when the early summer air was heavy with the scent of Myrica gale and the almost deafening wild cries of Curlew song. Why? Because it is a simply gorgeous and mystical place, where I spent so very many happy days (including the day of Charles and Diana’s wedding avoiding the media attention of the day), but perhaps now also because those breeding Curlew have now long gone.