I am a lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK.
My current research investigates (1) how primates respond to the deaths of others and what this can tell us about the evolution of cognition and emotion and (2) how individuals access information to make decisions. In particular, I study how individuals use their social environment to access information, and how their phenotype, their individual characteristics, may limit their use of that information.
My previous research addressed how and why animals' behaviour varies from others but is consistent through time. Through a series of unanticipated findings, my PhD research questioned methodological and conceptual issues in the field of animal personality.
My current research revolves around three themes:
How animals access and use information
Animals can get information in two ways: either by sampling their environment themselves, i.e. personal information, or by watching other individuals, i.e. social information. I investigate whether, how and why individuals differ in their preferences for using personal and social information.
How networks dictate information flow
The social network—the patterning of social interactions among individuals—may be important for individuals’ access to information. I investigate how information transmits through social networks.
How primates respond to death
Every living animal dies. Yet we know next to nothing about how animals respond to the deaths of others, even in our closest living relatives, the non-human primates. I investigate within- and between-species variation in primates' responses to the deaths of others. Find out more here.
Ethics in academia
Competition in academia, epitomised by the pervasive and harmful aphorism “publish or perish”, affects researcher behaviour: it increases productivity in terms of publication output, but also leads to biases in the scientific literature. This is because academics are not being assessed on whether their research leads to scientific truth, but on their putative ‘impact’. Unfortunately, this ‘impact’ is measured by various proxies that ostensibly reflect the importance of academics’ contributions to the scientific literature, but which are fundamentally flawed. As long as academics are rewarded for impact rather than integrity, selection in academia has and will continue to result in: biases in the academic literature; the loss of creativity in approaching research questions; irreproducibility of results and over-inflation of effect sizes; wasted research funds; weakening of the public trust in science; the attrition of women in academia; low levels of psychological health in academics and, in extreme cases, public and/or personal harm.
Consequently, the selective environment for academics has to change for researchers’ behaviour to change. This requires a collective, cultural shift in academics’, funders’, and governments’ research values and practices. Solutions have been proposed by many people but few have been implemented collectively by academics. The question thus remains: Why? In an effort to combat these problems, and change at least one researcher’s behaviour—mine—I have resolved to make the following small changes to my behaviour.
Sign reviews, be constructive
Sign my reviews. Signing my reviews makes me culpable and thus thorough and constructive. I have been signing for a few years now, and I must admit that there have been many times where I've made a comment to the authors and then had to take the time to check whether the comment was justified because I sign. This includes little checks, such as going back to a manuscript's statistical analyses section to double check co-variates, to bigger 'checks', such as going back to the literature to find and cite the correct reference for an assertion I've made. My one worry with signing is the possibility that authors for whom I've given a favourable review will feel obliged to be favourable to my submitted manuscripts, should they be asked to review one. However, I feel the benefit of transparency outweighs this possible cost.
Boycott 'luxury' and for-profit journals, publish open access
Carefully choosing where to publish. There are two issues here. The first has to do with the influence that publishing in 'luxury' journals, including Science, Cell and Nature, has on academics' careers and the documented behavioural changes academics have made to publish in them. As I have listed these above, I won't reiterate the points here. But I would urge others to consider what makes good science: should one value the rigorousness and integrity of the scientific process behind a finding, or the p-value at the end of that process and the tidiness of the 'story'?
I realise that I am hurting my funding and career prospects by relying on others to read my work to assess its quality themselves. (This is even more apparent to me after a recent encounter with a senior academic who told me he would not read my work to know whether it is insightful, he would rely on the journal's impact factor to tell him that.) However, as there is overwhelming evidence that valuing these journals is misplaced, I will attempt to do great science and have a successful career (if more fraught with disappointment) without them.
The second issue has to do with publishers making prodigious profits from publishing publicly- and charity-funded research. It does seem unethical to drain funding away from science to private companies. Coupled with this is a lack of transparency and accessibility when publishing behind a paywall. I will thus publish as much as possible in open access journals. (For the record, paying for gold open access in paywalled journals deals with only the access half of this battle: the company still makes a profit from funds that could better be spent on more research.) However, I will publish in society journals such as Animal Behaviour, as membership to these societies is relatively low, and the benefits include journal access. Finally, I will continue to uphold my end of the Cost of Knowledge petition.
Dezeure, J., Dagorrette, J., Baniel, A., Carter, A.J., Cowlishaw, G., Marshall, H.H., Martina, C., Raby, C.L. and Huchard, E. Developmental transitions in body color in chacma baboon infants: Implications to estimate age and developmental pace. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 174(1), pp.89-102.
Martina, C, Cowlishaw, G and Carter, AJ, Individual differences in task participation in wild chacma baboons. Animal Behaviour, 172, pp.73-91.
Menz, CS; Carter, AJ; Best, EC; Freeman, NJ; Dwyer, RG; Blomberg, SP; Goldizen, AW. Higher sociability leads to lower reproductive success in female kangaroos Royal Society Open Science 7: 200950 doi.org/10.1098/rsos.200950
Carter, AJ; Baniel, A; Cowlishaw, G; Huchard, E. Baboon thanatology: responses of filial and non-filial group members to infants' corpses. Royal Society Open Science 7: 192206 doi.org/10.1098/rsos.192206
Martina C; Cowlishaw G; Carter AJ. Exploring individual variation in associative learning abilities through an operant conditioning task in wild baboons. PLOS ONE 15(4): e0230810. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230810
Fischer, J; Higham, JP; Alberts, SC; Barrett, L; Beehner, JC; Bergman, TJ; Carter, AJ … Zinner, D. (2019). The Natural History of Model Organisms: Insights into the evolution of social systems and species from baboon studies. eLife, 8, e50989. doi.org/10.7554/eLife.50989
Woodford, PJ & Carter, AJ. Science, social critique, and the need for ethics: Commentary on Marino & Merskin on Sheep Complexity. Animal Sentience. 25: 34
Castles, MP; Brand, R; Carter, AJ; Maron, M; Carter, KD; Goldizen, AW. Relationships between male giraffes’ colour, age and sociability. Animal Behaviour. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.08.003
Carter, AJ; Lee, AEG‡; Marshall, HH‡, Torrents Ticó, M; G Cowlishaw. Phenotypic assortment in wild primate networks: implications for the dissemination of information. Royal Society Open Science doi: 10.1098/rsos.140444.
Carter, AJ; Lee, AEG; Marshall, HH†. Research questions should drive edge definitions in social network studies. Animal Behaviour in press.
Marshall, HH, AJ Carter, A Ashford, M Rowcliffe, G Cowlishaw. Social effects on foraging behaviour and success depend on local environmental conditions. Ecology and Evolution doi: 10.1002/ece3.1377.
Carter, AJ; Marshall, HH; Heinsohn, R & Cowlishaw, G. Personality predicts the propensity for social learning in a wild primate. PeerJ, 2, e283.
- Selected for “Top Animal Behaviour Papers” collection by PeerJ editors, 2014.
Carter, AJ; English, S & Clutton-Brock, TH. 2014. Cooperative personalities and social niche specialization in female meerkats. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 27, 815-825.
Carter, AJ; Horrocks, NPC; Huchard, E; Logan, CJ; Lukas, D; MacLeod, KJ; Marshall, HH; Peck, HL; Sanderson, JL & Sorensen, MC. Junior scientists are sceptical of sceptics of open access: a reply to Agrawal. Trends in Plant Science, 19, 339-340.
Castles, M; Heinsohn, R; Marshall, HH; Lee, AEG; Cowlishaw, G & Carter, AJ. Social networks created with different techniques are not comparable. Animal Behaviour, 96, 59-67.
Highcock, L & Carter, AJ. Intraindividual Variability of Boldness Is Repeatable across Contexts in a Wild Lizard. PLoS ONE, 9, e95179.
Sick, C; Carter, AJ‡; Marshall, HH‡; Knapp, LA; Dabelsteen, T & Cowlishaw, G. Evidence for varying social strategies across the day in chacma baboons. Biology Letters, 10, 20140249.
Carter, AJ; Marshall, HH; Heinsohn, R & Cowlishaw, G. Personality predicts decision making only when information is unreliable. Animal Behaviour, 86, 633-639.
- Covered by the Conversation
Carter, AJ; Feeney, WE; Marshall, HH; Cowlishaw, G & Heinsohn, R. Animal personality: what are behavioural ecologists measuring? Biological Reviews, 88, 465-475.
Carter, AJ. On validity and controls in animal personality research: a comment on Galhardo et al. Biology Letters 9, 20121080.
Marshall, HH; Carter, AJ; Ashford, A; Rowcliffe, JM & Cowlishaw, G. How do foragers decide when to leave a patch? A test of alternative models under natural and experimental conditions. Journal of Animal Ecology, 82, 894-902.
Pays, O; Beauchamp, G; Carter, AJ & Goldizen, AW. Foraging in groups allows collective predator detection in a mammal species without alarm calls. Behavioral Ecology, 24, 1229-1236.
Carter, AJ‡ & Feeney, WE‡. Taking a Comparative Approach: Analysing Personality as a Multivariate Behavioural Response across Species. PLoS ONE, 7, e42440.
Carter, AJ; Goldizen, A & Heinsohn, R. Personality and plasticity: temporal behavioural reaction norms in a lizard, the Namibian rock agama. Animal Behaviour, 84, 471-477.
Carter, AJ; Heinsohn, R; Goldizen, AW & Biro, PA. Boldness, trappability and sampling bias in wild lizards. Animal Behaviour, 83, 1051-1058.
Carter, AJ; Marshall, H; Heinsohn, R & Cowlishaw, G. Evaluating animal personalities: do observer assessments and experimental tests measure the same thing? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66, 153-160.
Carter, AJ; Marshall, HH; Heinsohn, R & Cowlishaw, G. How not to measure boldness: novel object and antipredator responses are not the same in wild baboons. Animal Behaviour, 84, 603-609.
- Featured on Animal Behaviour website as “Editors’ Choice”
Marshall, HH; Carter, AJ; Coulson, T; Rowcliffe, JM & Cowlishaw, G. Exploring foraging decisions in a social primate using discrete choice models. American Naturalist, 180, 481-495.
Marshall, HH; Carter, AJ; Rowcliffe, JM & Cowlishaw, G. Linking social foraging behaviour with individual time budgets and emergent group-level phenomena. Animal Behaviour, 84, 1295-1305.
Carter, AJ; Goldizen, AW & Tromp, SA. Agamas exhibit behavioral syndromes: bolder males bask and feed more but may suffer higher predation. Behavioral Ecology, 21, 655-661.
Carter, AJ; Macdonald, SL; Thomson, VA & Goldizen, AW. Structured association patterns and their energetic benefits in female eastern grey kangaroos, Macropus giganteus. Animal Behaviour, 77, 839-846.
Carter, AJ; Pays, O & Goldizen, AW. Individual variation in the relationship between vigilance and group size in eastern grey kangaroos. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 64, 237-245.
Carter, AJ & Wilson, RS. Improving sneaky-sex in a low oxygen environment: reproductive and physiological responses of male mosquito fish to chronic hypoxia. Journal of Experimental Biology, 209, 4878-4884.
†Authors listed alphabetically ‡Both authors contributed equally