A few weeks ago, I was ask by Nature Sustainability to review a manuscript for research article by Katherine Meyer and colleagues that extended the mathematical theory of resilience (doi:10.1038/s41893-018-0168-z). I agreed to comment on the manuscript, and explained in my response to the editor in the second round of review how important it is that reviewers of theoretical manuscripts have the necessary mathematical/theoretical background, even when such reviewers are hard to find.
I argued that the signal-to-noise ratio in for theoretical and mathematical work (with respect to both publications and peer reviews) is currently too low to generate the progress that society needs.
As a result, the editor kindly asked me to contribute a News & Views article in Nature Sustainability, based on the original research article. In this piece, I explain why there is still plenty of interesting mathematical theory to be developed in sustainability research, and why doing so is crucial for addressing the environmental issues society faces.
By recognizing the important roles that theory and mathematics have to play in putting our planet back onto a sustainable track, Nature Sustainability are reinforcing the message at the heart the International Initiative for Theoretical Ecology, and I thank them for this.