ResearchGate, the professional network for researchers, and Pensoft today announced a new partnership that will see a set of Pensoft’s open access journals increase their reach and visibility through ResearchGate – increasing access and engagement with its 25 million researcher members.
As part of this new partnership, 20 journals published by Pensoft – including the publisher’s flagship titles ZooKeys, PhytoKeys, MycoKeys, Biodiversity Data Journal and Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO Journal) amongst others – will now have their content automatically added to ResearchGate upon publication to benefit from enhanced visibility and discoverability through ResearchGate’s innovative Journal Home offering. These journals will all have dedicated profiles and be prominently represented on all associated article pages on ResearchGate, as well as all other relevant touch points throughout the network.
Journal Home provides a unique opportunity for Pensoft to connect its authors with their readers. The new journal profiles on ResearchGate will provide a central location for each journal, enabling researchers to learn more, discover new article content, and understand how, through their network, they are connected to the journal’s community of authors and editors. Authors of these journals additionally benefit from having their articles automatically added to their ResearchGate profile page, giving them access to metrics, including who is reading and citing their research. These rich insights will also enable Pensoft to build a deeper understanding of the communities engaging with its journals.
“Pensoft is delighted to be working with ResearchGate to provide an even greater service to our authors and readers. ResearchGate offers an innovative way for us to grow the reach and visibility of our content, while also giving us a way to better understand and engage our author and reader audiences.”
said Prof Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft.
“We couldn’t be happier to see Pensoft embark on this new partnership with ResearchGate. Journal Home will not only enable Pensoft authors to build visibility for their work, but provide them and Pensoft with greater insights about the communities engaging with that research. I look forward to seeing this new collaboration develop”
said Sören Hofmayer, co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at ResearchGate.
ResearchGate is the professional network for researchers. Over 25 million researchers use researchgate.net to share and discover research, build their networks, and advance their careers. Based in Berlin, ResearchGate was founded in 2008. Its mission is to connect the world of science and make research open to all.
Since its launch in 2011, MycoKeys has evolved into a leading journal in the field of mycology. Over the years, the publication has garnered substantial recognition, reflected in over 6,000 citations of its 550+ articles at the time of its 100th issue release.
MycoKeys has witnessed consistent growth over time, receiving more than 130 manuscripts annually for the past six years. The journal’s global influence is evident, attracting contributions from researchers across 80 countries, with particularly strong representation from China, Thailand, Germany, the USA, Sweden, and Italy.
The journal’s range of topics is vast, predominantly focusing on the systematics and taxonomy of fungi, especially Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. MycoKeys has been a platform for significant taxonomical contributions, with over 1100 new species and numerous new genera and families described.
These are the three most accessed papers published in MycoKeys:
Nilsson R, Tedersoo L, Abarenkov K, Ryberg M, Kristiansson E, Hartmann M, Schoch C, Nylander J, Bergsten J, Porter T, Jumpponen A, Vaishampayan P, Ovaskainen O, Hallenberg N, Bengtsson-Palme J, Eriksson K, Larsson K, Larsson E, Kõljalg U (2012) Five simple guidelines for establishing basic authenticity and reliability of newly generated fungal ITS sequences. MycoKeys 4: 37-63. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.4.3606
Tedersoo L, Anslan S, Bahram M, Põlme S, Riit T, Liiv I, Kõljalg U, Kisand V, Nilsson RH, Hildebrand F, Bork P, Abarenkov K (2015) Shotgun metagenomes and multiple primer pair-barcode combinations of amplicons reveal biases in metabarcoding analyses of fungi. MycoKeys 10: 1-43. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.10.4852
Hawksworth D (2011) A new dawn for the naming of fungi: impacts of decisions made in Melbourne in July 2011 on the future publication and regulation of fungal names. MycoKeys 1: 7-20. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.1.2062
Embracing modern communication channels, MycoKeys maintains an active social media presence, engaging with over 1,500 followers on X and 2,200 on Facebook. Its research has not only appealed to the academic community but has also captured the interest of mainstream media, with coverage in outlets like The Washington Post and CNN.
As MycoKeys celebrates this landmark issue, we thank the authors, reviewers and editors who have helped every step of the way. The journal continues to contribute profoundly to our understanding of fungi, leveraging cutting-edge methods to explore this fascinating kingdom of life, and we look forward to the next 100 issues and beyond.
Readers at some of the journals published by Pensoft, who have downloaded/printed a publication or ordered a physical copy of a journal issue over the last few weeks, might be in for a surprise concerning the layout of the PDF format of the articles.
Even though it’s been years since online publishing has become the norm in how we are consuming information – including scientific publications – we understand that academia is still very much fond of traditional, often paper-based, article layout format: the one you use when accessing a PDF file or a print copy, rather than directly scrolling down through the HTML version of the article.
Even if today large orders of printed volumes from overseas are the exception, rather than the rule, we know we have readers of ours who regularly print manuscripts at home or savе them on their devices. Trends like this have already led to many journals first abandoning the physical- for digital-first, then transitioning to digital-only publication format.
As we speak, readers are accessing PDF files from much higher-quality desktops, in order to skim through as much content as possible.
In the meantime, authors are relying on greater-quality cameras to document their discoveries, while using advanced computational tools capable of generating and analysing extra layers of precise data. While producing more exhaustive research, however, it is also of key importance that their manuscripts are processed and published as rapidly as possible.
So, let’s run through the updates and give you our reasoning for their added value to readers and authors.
Revised opening page
One of the major changes is the one to the format of the first page. By leaving some blank space on the left, we found a dedicated place for important article metadata, i.e. academic editor, date of manuscript submission / acceptance / publication, citation details and licence. As a result, we “cleaned up” the upper part of the page, so that it can better highlight the authors and their affiliations.
Bottom line: The new layout provides a better structure to the opening page to let readers find key article metadata at a glance.
Expand as much – or as little – as comfortable
As you might know, journals published by Pensoft have been coming in different formats and sizes. Now, we have introduced the standard A4 page size, where the text is laid in a single column that has been slightly indented to the right, as seen above. Whenever a figure or a table is used in a manuscript, however, it is expanded onto the whole width of the page.
Before giving our reasons why, let’s see what were the specific problems that we address.
Case study 1
Some of our signature journals, including ZooKeys, PhytoKeys and MycoKeys, have become quite recognisable with their smaller-than-average B5 format, widely appreciated by people who would often be seen carrying around a copy during a conference or an international flight.
However, in recent times, authors began to embrace good practices in research like open sharing of data and code, which resulted in larger and more complex tables. Similarly, their pocket-sized cameras would capture much higher-resolution photos capable of revealing otherwise minute morphological characters. Smaller page size would also mean that often there would be pages between an in-text reference of a figure or a table and the visual itself.
So, here we faced an obvious question: shall we deprive their readers from all those detailed insights into the published studies?
Yet, the A4 format brought up another issue: the lines were too long for the eye comfort of their readers.
What they did was organise their pages into two-column format. While this sounds like a good and quite obvious decision, the format – best known from print newspapers – is pretty inconvenient when accessed digitally. Since the readers would like to zoom in on the PDF page or simply access the article on mobile, they will need to scroll up and down several times per page.
In addition, the production of a two-column text is technologically more challenging, which results in extra production time.
Bottom line: The new layout allows journals to not sacrifice image quality for text readability and vice versa. As a bonus, authors enjoy faster publication for their papers.
If you have a closer look at the PDF file, you would notice that print-ready papers have also switched to a more simplistic – yet easier to the eye – font. Again, the update corresponds to today’s digital-native user behaviour, where readers often access PDF files from devices of various resolutions and skim through the text, as opposed to studying its content in detail.
In fact, the change is hardly new, since the same font has long been utilised for the webpages (HTML format) of the publications across all journals.
Bottom line: The slightly rounder and simplified font prompts readability, thereby allowing for faster and increased consumption of content.
What’s the catch? How about characters and APCs?
While we have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from editors, authors and readers, there has been a concern that the updates would increase the publication charges, wherever these are estimated based on page numbers.
Having calculated the lines and characters in the new layout format, we would like to assure you that there is no increase in the numbers of characters or words between the former and current layout formats. In fact, due to the additional number of lines fitting in an A4 page as opposed to B5, authors might be even up for a deal.
* At the time of the writing, the new paper layout has not been rolled out at all journals published by Pensoft. However, most of the editorial boards have already confirmed they would like to incorporate the update.
Mention fungi, and most people will probably think of the mushrooms they pick in fall, or maybe the yeast they add when baking or making wine. Others will perhaps recall last week’s mouldy bread – or cucumbers gone bad in the refrigerator. Indeed, mycologists have studied these fungi as sources of food and fermentation but also decay and disease for centuries.
But while we’re used to thinking of fungi as organisms that form physical structures such as fruiting bodies, or yeast-like life forms that we can grow in our kitchens or laboratories, it is gradually becoming clear that fungi don’t readily assort into only these two groups. DNA sequencing studies of environmental substrates such as soil are finding massive evidence of large groups of fungi that do not seem to form fruiting bodies and that we seem unable to grow in the lab – but that are there nonetheless. These groups are often called “dark fungi,” in analogy with the concept of “dark matter” in astronomy – something we know is out there, but that we cannot directly observe right now.
A new study in MycoKeys contrasts the accumulation of fungal species recovered using traditional mycological approaches with those recovered using environmental DNA sequencing over time. Even when allowing for various kinds of biases, the authors found that species discovery through environmental sequencing vastly outpaces traditional species recovery in a strongly increasing trend over the last five years. The authors conclude that dark fungi form a defining feature of the fungal kingdom.
“And that’s where it gets interesting”, Henrik Nilsson at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the lead author of the study, says. “Under the current rules of nomenclature, these fungi cannot be given scientific names – they cannot be described formally. And species and groups that cannot be named formally, well, they tend to fall between the cracks. They’re typically not considered in nature conservation initiatives. They are often left out from efforts to estimate the evolutionary history of fungi, and their ecological roles and associations are largely overlooked when we try to figure out how mass and energy flow in ecosystems. They’re essentially treated as if they didn’t exist.”
Second author Martin Ryberg at the University of Uppsala, Sweden chimes in, “And it’s not like we’re adding the few missing pieces to an otherwise nearly complete jigsaw puzzle. It seems to be the other way around. We’re talking about tens of large groups of fungi – and thousands upon thousands of species, some of which seem to be so common that we have yet to find a soil sample from which they’re absent. Indeed, we’re talking about what could well prove to be the dominant life style in the fungal kingdom.”
The mycological community has been debating whether the rules of fungal nomenclature should be modified to allow formal description of these dark fungi. So far, the matter has not been resolved in the affirmative. “I think our study shows that it’s time to stop that debate, like, right away,” Nilsson says. “What we should be debating is how we should describe them. What criteria must be fulfilled for a dark fungus to be given a formal scientific name? Clearly, formation of a fruiting body or growth in the laboratory can’t be part of those criteria.”
Co-author Alice Retter of the University of Vienna, Austria explains, “We figured we’d kickstart the how debate by listing criteria that we think make sense – criteria that would be stringent enough to allow for only particularly well-vetted dark fungi to be described, upholding a high level of scientific rigor and reproducibility in the process. We blended our own observations with suggestions from the mycological community, culled from depositing a preprint of the manuscript at bioRxiv. We’re certainly not claiming that our suggestions form the final word in the debate. It’s more like they’re the first. We’re thinking that the mycological community will jointly be able to come up with a set of sound guiding principles on the matter – and here comes an initial set of well-meaning observations for nucleation.”
The authors advocate gentle modifications to the nomenclatural rules governing the naming of fungi to allow giving formal names to at least the most well-documented species and groups of dark fungi. The suggested modifications would, at present, exclude many rare or otherwise less well-documented dark fungi from formal description.
“But you don’t have to have a theory of everything to have a theory of something,” senior author Kessy Abarenkov of the Tartu Natural History Museum, Estonia asserts. “By establishing rules for what’s needed to describe dark fungi, and specifying when we’ll have to refrain from describing such species at present, mycologists can do what they do best: doggedly gather enough research data to warrant naming of the dark fungi, group by group, and species by species. It’s what mycology has excelled at for hundreds of years. It’s just the setting that’s a bit new.”
Sten Anslan, University of Tartu, continues: “Much is at stake, obviously. The current rules governing the naming of fungi have served mycology well for a long time. We don’t want to upend or overthrow them. But we fear that if they’re not updated in this particular regard, there’s a risk that they grow increasingly obsolete over time. Having a book of rules that govern maybe only some few percent of the organisms it was originally conceived to govern – the fungal kingdom – would seem untenable in the long run.”
Marisol Sanchez-Garcia of the Swedish Agricultural University concludes: “The nomenclatural aspects of dark fungi will presumably be discussed at some length at next year’s international mycological congress in Maastricht, the Netherlands. We’re hopeful that the mycological community will reach meaningful agreement on integration of the dark fungi into the rules of nomenclature. After all, mycologists are used to negotiating and solving non-trivial questions on a day-to-day basis, and this one is hardly any different. Being part of tackling a huge, more or less unknown group of organisms where precious little is set in stone and where the rules will have to be adapted over time for the endeavour to stay attuned to recent developments, well, that’s what makes being a mycologist so interesting and rewarding in my eyes.”
Nilsson RH, Ryberg M, Wurzbacher C, Tedersoo L, Anslan S, Põlme S, Spirin V, Mikryukov V, Svantesson S, Hartmann M, Lennartsdotter C, Belford P, Khomich M, Retter A, Corcoll N, Gómez Martinez D, Jansson T, Ghobad-Nejhad M, Vu D, Sanchez-Garcia M, Kristiansson E, Abarenkov K (2023) How, not if, is the question mycologists should be asking about DNA-based typification. MycoKeys 96: 143-157. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.96.102669
Apart from coordinating the Horizon 2020-funded project BiCIKL, scholarly publisher and technology provider Pensoft has been the engine behind what is likely to be the first production-stage semantic system to run on top of a reasonably-sized biodiversity knowledge graph.
OpenBiodiv is a biodiversity database containing knowledge extracted from scientific literature, built as an Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management System.
As of February 2023, OpenBiodiv contains 36,308 processed articles; 69,596 taxon treatments; 1,131 institutions; 460,475 taxon names; 87,876 sequences; 247,023 bibliographic references; 341,594 author names; and 2,770,357 article sections and subsections.
In fact, OpenBiodiv is a whole ecosystem comprising tools and services that enable biodiversity data to be extracted from the text of biodiversity articles published in data-minable XML format, as in the journals published by Pensoft (e.g. ZooKeys, PhytoKeys, MycoKeys, Biodiversity Data Journal), and other taxonomic treatments – available from Plazi and Plazi’s specialised extraction workflow – into Linked Open Data.
“The basics of what was to become the OpenBiodiv database began to come together back in 2015 within the EU-funded BIG4 PhD project of Victor Senderov, later succeeded by another PhD project by Mariya Dimitrova within IGNITE. It was during those two projects that the backend Ontology-O, the first versions of RDF converters and the basic website functionalities were created,”
At the time OpenBiodiv became one of the nine research infrastructures within BiCIKL tasked with the provision of virtual access to open FAIR data, tools and services, it had already evolved into a RDF-based biodiversity knowledge graph, equipped with a fully automated extraction and indexing workflow and user apps.
Currently, Pensoft is working at full speed on new user apps in OpenBiodiv, as the team is continuously bringing into play invaluable feedback and recommendation from end-users and partners at BiCIKL.
As a result, OpenBiodiv is already capable of answering open-ended queries based on the available data. To do this, OpenBiodiv discovers ‘hidden’ links between data classes, i.e. taxon names, taxon treatments, specimens, sequences, persons/authors and collections/institutions.
Thus, the system generates new knowledge about taxa, scientific articles and their subsections, the examined materials and their metadata, localities and sequences, amongst others. Additionally, it is able to return information with a relevant visual representation about any one or a combination of those major data classes within a certain scope and semantic context.
Users can explore the database by either typing in any term (even if misspelt!) in the search engine available from the OpenBiodiv homepage; or integrating an Application Programming Interface (API); as well as by using SPARQL queries.
On the OpenBiodiv website, there is also a list of predefined SPARQL queries, which is continuously being expanded.
“OpenBiodiv is an ambitious project of ours, and it’s surely one close to Pensoft’s heart, given our decades-long dedication to biodiversity science and knowledge sharing. Our previous fruitful partnerships with Plazi, BIG4 and IGNITE, as well as the current exciting and inspirational network of BiCIKL are wonderful examples of how far we can go with the right collaborators,”
All journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.
In support of transparency and openness in scholarly publishing and academia, the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft joined the Journal Comparison Service (JCS) initiative by cOAlition S, an alliance of national funders and charitable bodies working to increase the volume of free-to-read research.
As a result, all journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.
The JCS was launched to aid libraries and library consortia – the ones negotiating and participating in Open Access agreements with publishers – by providing them with everything they need to know in order to determine whether the prices charged by a certain journal are fair and corresponding to the quality of the service.
According to cOAlition S, an increasing number of libraries and library consortia from Europe, Africa, North America, and Australia have registered with the JCS over the past year since the launch of the portal in September 2021.
While access to the JCS is only open to librarians, individual researchers may also make use of the data provided by the participating publishers and their journals.
This is possible through an integration with the Journal Checker Tool, where researchers can simply enter the name of the journal of interest, their funder and affiliation (if applicable) to check whether the scholarly outlet complies with the Open Access policy of the author’s funder. A full list of all academic titles that provide data to the JCS is also publicly available. By being on the list means a journal and its publisher do not only support cOAlition S, but they also demonstrate that they stand for openness and transparency in scholarly publishing.
“We are delighted that Pensoft, along with a number of other publishers, have shared their price and service data through the Journal Comparison Service. Not only are such publishers demonstrating their commitment to open business models and cultures but are also helping to build understanding and trust within the research community.”
said Robert Kiley, Head of Strategy at cOAlition S.
About cOAlition S:
On 4 September 2018, a group of national research funding organisations, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (ERC), announced the launch of cOAlition S, an initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality. It is built around Plan S, which consists of one target and 10 principles. Read more on the cOAlition S website.
About Plan S:
Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funding and performing organisations. Plan S requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms. Read more on the cOAlition S website.
The Horizon 2020 – funded project BiCIKL has reached its halfway stage and the partners gathered in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) from the 22nd to the 25th of October for the Second General Assembly, organised by Pensoft.
The BiCIKL project will launch a new European community of key research infrastructures, researchers, citizen scientists and other stakeholders in the biodiversity and life sciences based on open science practices through access to data, tools and services.
BiCIKL’s goal is to create a centralised place to connect all key biodiversity data by interlinking 15 research infrastructures and their databases. The 3-year European Commission-supported initiative kicked off in 2021 and involves 14 key natural history institutions from 10 European countries.
BiCIKL is keeping pace as expected with 16 out of the 48 final deliverables already submitted, another 9 currently in progress/under review and due in a few days. Meanwhile, 21 out of the 48 milestones have been successfully achieved.
The hybrid format of the meeting enabled a wider range of participants, which resulted in robust discussions on the next steps of the project, such as the implementation of additional technical features of the FAIR Data Place (FAIR being an abbreviation for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable).
This data includes biodiversity information, such as detailed images, DNA, physiology and past studies concerning a specific species and its ‘relatives’, to name a few. Currently, the issue is that all those types of biodiversity data have so far been scattered across various databases, which in turn have been missing meaningful and efficient interconnectedness.
Additionally, the FAIR Data Place, developed within the BiCIKL project, is to give researchers access to plenty of training modules to guide them through the different services.
Halfway through the duration of BiCIKL, the project is at a turning point, where crucial discussions between the partners are playing a central role in the refinement of the FAIR Data Place design. Most importantly, they are tasked with ensuring that their technologies work efficiently with each other, in order to seamlessly exchange, update and share the biodiversity data every one of them is collecting and taking care of.
By Year 3 of the BiCIKL project, the partners agree, when those infrastructures and databases become efficiently interconnected to each other, scientists studying the Earth’s biodiversity across the world will be in a much better position to build on existing research and improve the way and the pace at which nature is being explored and understood. At the end of the day, knowledge is the stepping stone for the preservation of biodiversity and humankind itself.
“Needless to say, it’s an honour and a pleasure to be the coordinator of such an amazing team spanning as many as 14 partnering natural history and biodiversity research institutions from across Europe, but also involving many global long-year collaborators and their infrastructures, such as Wikidata, GBIF, TDWG, Catalogue of Life to name a few,”
said BiCIKL’s project coordinator Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft.
“The point is: do we want an integrated structure or do we prefer federated structures? What are the pros and cons of the two options? It’s essential to keep the community united and allied because we can’t afford any information loss and the stakeholders should feel at home with the Project and the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub.”
Joe Miller, Executive Secretary and Director at GBIF, commented:
“We are a brand new community, and we are in the middle of the growth process. We would like to already have answers, but it’s good to have this kind of robust discussion to build on a good basis. We must find the best solution to have linkages between infrastructures and be able to maintain them in the future because the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub is the location to gather the community around best practices, data and guidelines on how to use the BiCIKL services… In order to engage even more partners to fill the eventual gaps in our knowledge.”
“In an era of biodiversity change and loss, leveraging scientific data fully will allow the world to catalogue what we have now, to track and understand how things are changing and to build the tools that we will use to conserve or remediate. The challenge is that the data come from many streams – molecular biology, taxonomy, natural history collections, biodiversity observation – that need to be connected and intersected to allow scientists and others to ask real questions about the data. In its first year, BiCIKL has made some key advances to rise to this challenge,”
“As a partner, we, at the Biodiversity Information Standards – TDWG, are very enthusiastic that our standards are implemented in BiCIKL and serve to link biodiversity data. We know that joining forces and working together is crucial to building efficient infrastructures and sharing knowledge.”
The project will go on with the first Round Table of experts in December and the publications of the projects who participated in the Open Call and will be founded at the beginning of the next year.
For the 37th time, experts from across the world to share and discuss the latest developments surrounding biodiversity data and how they are being gathered, used, shared and integrated across time, space and disciplines.
Between 17th and 21st October, about 400 scientists and experts took part in a hybrid meeting dedicated to the development, use and maintenance of biodiversity data, technologies, and standards across the world.
For the 37th time, the global scientific and educational association Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG) brought together experts from all over the globe to share and discuss the latest developments surrounding biodiversity data and how they are being gathered, used, shared and integrated across time, space and disciplines.
This was the first time the event happened in a hybrid format. It was attended by 160 people on-site, while another 235 people joined online.
“It’s wonderful to be in the Balkans and Bulgaria for our Biodiversity Information and Standards (TDWG) 2022 conference! Everyone’s been so welcoming and thoughtfully engaged in conversations about biodiversity information and how we can all collaborate, contribute and benefit,”
“Our TDWG mission is to create, maintain and promote the use of open, community-driven standards to enable sharing and use of biodiversity data for all,”
“We are proud to have been selected to be the hosts of this year’s TDWG annual conference and are definitely happy to have joined and observed so many active experts network and share their know-how and future plans with each other, so that they can collaborate and make further progress in the way scientists and informaticians work with biodiversity information,”
said Pensoft’s founder and CEO Prof. Lyubomir Penev.
“As a publisher of multiple globally renowned scientific journals and books in the field of biodiversity and ecology, at Pensoft we assume it to be our responsibility to be amongst the first to implement those standards and good practices, and serve as an example in the scholarly publishing world. Let me remind you that it is the scientific publications that present the most reliable knowledge the world and science has, due to the scrutiny and rigour in the review process they undergo before seeing the light of day,”
In a nutshell, the main task and dedication of the TDWG association is to develop and maintain standards and data-sharing protocols that support the infrastructures (e.g., The Global Biodiversity Information Facility – GBIF), which aggregate and facilitate use of these data, in order to inform and expand humanity’s knowledge about life on Earth.
It is the goal of everyone volunteering their time and expertise to TDWG to enable the scientists interested in the world’s biodiversity to do their work efficiently and in a manner that can be understood, shared and reused by others. After all, biodiversity data underlie everything we know about the natural world.
If there are optimised and universal standards in the way researchers store and disseminate biodiversity data, all those biodiversity scientists will be able to find, access and use the knowledge in their own work much more easily. As a result, they will be much better positioned to contribute new knowledge that will later be used in nature and ecosystem conservation by key decision-makers.
On Monday, the event opened with welcoming speeches by Deborah Paul and Prof. Lyubomir Penev in their roles of the Chair of TDWG and the main host of this year’s conference, respectively.
The opening ceremony continued with a keynote speech by Prof. Pavel Stoev, Director of the Natural History Museum of Sofia and co-host of TDWG 2022.
He walked the participants through the fascinating biodiversity of Bulgaria, but also the worrying trends in the country associated with declining taxonomic expertise.
He finished his talk with a beam of hope by sharing about the recently established national unit of DiSSCo, whose aim – even if a tad too optimistic – is to digitise one million natural history items in four years, of which 250,000 with photographs. So far, one year into the project, the Bulgarian team has managed to digitise more than 32,000 specimens and provide images to 10,000 specimens.
The plenary session concluded with a keynote presentation by renowned ichthyologist and biodiversity data manager Dr. Richard L. Pyle, who is also a manager of ZooBank – the key international database for newly described species.
In his talk, he highlighted the gaps in the ways taxonomy is being used, thereby impeding biodiversity research and cutting off a lot of opportunities for timely scientific progress.
“But we do not have easy access to much of this information because the different databases are not well integrated. Taxonomy offers us the best opportunity to connect this information together, to answer important questions about biodiversity that we have never been able to answer before. The reason meetings like this are so important is that they bring people together to discuss ways of using modern informatics to greatly increase the power of the data we already have, and prioritise how we fill the gaps in data that exist. Taxonomy, and especially taxonomic data integration, is a very important part of the solution.”
Pyle also commented on the work in progress at ZooBank ten years into the platform’s existence and its role in the next (fifth) edition of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, which is currently being developed by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).
“We already know that ZooBank will play a more important role in the next edition of the Code than it has for these past ten years, so this is exactly the right time to be planning new services for ZooBank. Improvements at ZooBank will include things like better user-interfaces on the web to make it easier and faster to use ZooBank, better data services to make it easier for publishers to add content to ZooBank as part of their publication workflow, additional information about nomenclature and taxonomy that will both support the next edition of the Code, and also help taxonomists get their jobs done more efficiently and effectively. Conferences like the TDWG one are critical for helping to define what the next version of ZooBank will look like, and what it will do.”
During the week, the conference participants had the opportunity to enjoy a total of 140 presentations; as well as multiple social activities, including a field trip to Rila Monastery and a traditional Bulgarian dinner.
While going about the conference venue and field trip localities, the attendees were also actively uploading their species observations made during their stay in Bulgaria on iNaturalist in a TDWG2022-dedicated BioBlitz. The challenge concluded with a total of 635 observations and 228 successfully identified species.
“Biodiversity provides the support systems for all life on Earth. Yet the natural world is in peril, and we face biodiversity and climate emergencies. The consequences of these include accelerating extinction, increased risk from zoonotic disease, degradation of natural capital, loss of sustainable livelihoods in many of the poorest yet most biodiverse countries of the world, challenges with food security, water scarcity and natural disasters, and the associated challenges of mass migration and social conflicts.
Solutions to these problems can be found in the data associated with natural science collections. DiSSCo is a partnership of the institutions that digitise their collections to harness their potential. By bringing them together in a distributed, interoperable research infrastructure, we are making them physically and digitally open, accessible, and usable for all forms of research and innovation.
At present rates, digitising all of the UK collection – which holds more than 130 million specimens collected from across the globe and is being taken care of by over 90 institutions – is likely to take many decades, but new technologies like machine learning and computer vision are dramatically reducing the time it will take, and we are presently exploring how robotics can be applied to accelerate our work.”
In his turn, Dr Donat Agosti, CEO and Managing director at Plazi – a not-for-profit organisation supporting and promoting the development of persistent and openly accessible digital taxonomic literature – said:
At the closing plenary session, Gail Kampmeier – TDWG Executive member and one of the first zoologists to join TDWG in 1996 – joined via Zoom to walk the conference attendees through the 37-year history of the association, originally named the Taxonomic Databases Working Group, but later transformed to Biodiversity Information Standards, as it expanded its activities to the whole range of biodiversity data.
Then, in the final talk of the session, Deborah Paul took to the stage to present the progress and key achievements by the association from 2022.
Launched in 2017 on the Pensoft’s publishing platform ARPHA, the journal provides the quite unique and innovative opportunity to have both abstracts and full-length research papers published in a modern, technologically-advanced scholarly journal. In her speech, Deborah Paul reminded that BISS journal welcomes research articles that demonstrate the development or application of new methods and approaches in biodiversity informatics in the form of case studies.
Amongst the achievements of TDWG and its community, a special place was reserved for the Horizon 2020-funded BiCIKL project (abbreviation for Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library), involving many of the association’s members.
Having started in 2021, the 3-year project, coordinated by Pensoft, brings together 14 partnering institutions from 10 countries, and 15 biodiversity under the common goal to create a centralised place to connect all key biodiversity data by interlinking a total of 15 research infrastructures and their databases.
In fact, following the week-long TDWG 2022 conference in Sofia, a good many of the participants set off straight for another Bulgarian city and another event hosted by Pensoft. The Second General Assembly of BiCIKL took place between 22nd and 24th October in Plovdiv.
You can also explore highlights and live tweets from TDWG 2022 on Twitter via #TDWG2022.
By the time authors – who have acknowledged third-party financial support in their research papers submitted to a journal using the Pensoft-developed publishing platform: ARPHA – open their inboxes to the congratulatory message that their work has just been published and made available to the wide world, a similar notification will have also reached their research funder.
This automated workflow is already in effect at all journals (co-)published by Pensoft and those published under their own imprint on the ARPHA Platform, as a result of the new partnership with the OA Switchboard: a community-driven initiative with the mission to serve as a central information exchange hub between stakeholders about open access publications, while making things simpler for everyone involved.
All the submitting author needs to do to ensure that their research funder receives a notification about the publication is to select the supporting agency or the scientific project (e.g. a project supported by Horizon Europe) in the manuscript submission form, using a handy drop-down menu. In either case, the message will be sent to the funding body as soon as the paper is published in the respective journal.
“At Pensoft, we are delighted to announce our integration with the OA Switchboard, as this workflow is yet another excellent practice in scholarly publishing that supports transparency in research. Needless to say, funding and financing are cornerstones in scientific work and scholarship, so it is equally important to ensure funding bodies are provided with full, prompt and convenient reports about their own input.”
comments Prof Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft and ARPHA.
“Research funders are one of the three key stakeholder groups in OA Switchboard and are represented in our founding partners. They seek support in demonstrating the extent and impact of their research funding and delivering on their commitment to OA. It is great to see Pensoft has started their integration with OA Switchboard with a focus on this specific group, fulfilling an important need,”
adds Yvonne Campfens, Executive Director of the OA Switchboard.
About the OA Switchboard:
A global not-for-profit and independent intermediary established in 2020, the OA Switchboard provides a central hub for research funders, institutions and publishers to exchange OA-related publication-level information. Connecting parties and systems, and streamlining communication and the neutral exchange of metadata, the OA Switchboard provides direct, indirect and community benefits: simplicity and transparency, collaboration and interoperability, and efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Pensoft is an independent academic publishing company, well known worldwide for its novel cutting-edge publishing tools, workflows and methods for text and data publishing of journals, books and conference materials.
All journals (co-)published by Pensoft are hosted on Pensoft’s full-featured ARPHA Publishing Platform and published in a way that ensures their content is as FAIR as possible, meaning that it is effortlessly readable, discoverable, harvestable, citable and reusable by both humans and machines.
Fusarium is one of the most important fungal plant pathogens, affecting the cultivation of a wide range of crops. All over the world, thousands of farmers suffer agricultural losses caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (referred to as Foc for short), which directly affects their income, subsistence, and nourishment.
As a soil-borne fungus, Foc invades the root system, from where it moves into the vascular tissue that gradually deteriorates, until eventually the plant dies. What makes it particularly hard to deal with is that, even 20 years after all infected plants and tissue are removed, spores of it still remain in the soil.
One industry significantly affected by Foc is global banana export, largely dependent on the cultivation of members of the Cavendish subgroup, which are highly susceptible to some of the Foc strains.
For over 100 years, the fungus has affected banana production worldwide. Researchers predict it will continue spreading intensively in Asia, affecting important banana-producing countries such as China, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Viet Nam.
For Viet Nam, predictions on the impact of Foc for the future are dramatic: an estimated loss in the banana production area of 8% within the next five years, and up to 71% within the next 25 years. In particular, the recent rise of the novel TR4 strain has resulted in worldwide anxiety about the future of the well-known Cavendish banana and many other cultivars. Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense is, however, not limited to TR4 or other well-known strains, like Race 1 or Race 2; it is a species complex that plant pathologists are yet to fully disentangle.
In Viet Nam, like in the rest of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, most bananas are consumed and traded locally, supporting rural livelihood. This means that any reduction in crop harvest directly affects local people’s income and nourishment.
It has thus become necessary to find out what are the individual species causing the Fusarium wilt among Vietnamese bananas. Only by understanding which species are infecting the cultivated bananas can concrete measures be taken to control the future spreading of the disease to other regions.
The study shows that approximately 3 out of 4 Fusariuminfections of the northern Vietnamese bananas are caused by the species F. tardichlamydosporum, which can be regarded as the typical Race 1 infections. Interestingly, Foc TR4 is not yet a dominant strain in northern Viet Nam, as the species causing the disease – F.odoratissimum – only accounts for 10% of the Fusarium infections. A similar proportion of Fusarium infections is caused by the species Fusarium cugenangense – considered to cause Race 2 infections among bananas.More importantly, Fusarium wilt was not only found in cultivated bananas: the disease seemed to also affect wild bananas. This finding indicates that wild bananas might function as a sink for Fusarium wilt from where reinfections towards cultivars could take place.
Le Thi L, Mertens A, Vu DT, Vu TD, Anh Minh PL, Duc HN, de Backer S, Swennen R, Vandelook F, Panis B, Amalfi M, Decock C, Gomes SIF, Merckx VSFT, Janssens SB (2022) Diversity of Fusarium associated banana wilt in northern Viet Nam. MycoKeys 87: 53-76. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.87.72941