The evolution of chondrichthyan research through a metadata analysis of dedicated international conferences between 1991 and 2014
Science is continually evolving, with recent developments in some fields, such as conservation biology, leading to shifts in priorities and needs. Recent international conferences focused on chondrichthyan research provide an opportunity to assess how the research environment of chondrichthyan science has evolved through time. We compiled metadata from Sharks Down Under (1991) and the two Sharks International conferences (2010 and 2014), spanning 23 years. Analysis of the data highlighted taxonomic biases towards charismatic species, a declining number of studies in fundamental science such as those related to taxonomy and basic life history, and the emergence of new research fields or tools such as social science and stable isotope analysis. Although there are limitations associated with our study, which are discussed, it lays the foundation for continued assessment of the progression of chondrichthyan research as future chondrichthyan-focused international conferences are organised. Considering the research biases that our metadata analysis identifies, we suggest that: (i) greater attention should be given to species or species groups that are of particular conservation concern but that may not necessarily be charismatic (e.g. batoids); (ii) increased support should be given to scientists from low-income countries; (iii) new research areas should continue to be developed and included within broad integrated research programmes; and (iv) concurrent with this, foundational research should not be neglected.
Keywords: rays, research priority, sharks, taxonomic bias