The collection of biological information, including data gathered in the field, is fundamental to improve our understanding of how human impacts on biological systems can be recognized, mitigated or averted. However, the role of empirical field research has faded appreciably in the past decades with sobering implications.

This study analysed publication trends in the conservation literature from 1980 to 2014 to evaluate whether there is reason for concern about a potential decrease in fieldwork-based investigations compared to other types of studies.

The obtained results show that the proportion of fieldwork-based investigations in the conservation literature dropped significantly from the 1980s until today; indeed, the authors state that fieldwork-based publications decreased by 20% in comparison to a rise of 600% and 800% in modelling and data analysis studies, respectively. It was additionally found that the most highly cited academic journals in conservation science published fieldwork studies less frequently that the lower rank journals.

The authors state that the apparent decrease in fieldwork-based investigations is the result of bottom-up pressures, including those associated with the publishing and the academic reward systems, while a second set acts top-down, driven by current societal needs and/or priorities.

It is concluded that only a higher appreciation within the scientific community for empirical research may increase society’s sense of awe and respect for nature, ultimately leading to additional paths to ecosystem restoration.

Ríos-Saldaña CA, Delibes-Mateos M, Ferreira CC (2018) Are fieldwork studies being relegated to second place in conservation science? Global Ecology and Conservation 14:e00389