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.
In a paper published in the journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, authors estimate £18 million has been saved in efficiencies by researchers accessing digital specimens rather than physical collections.
· Scientists from the Natural History Museum (NHM) deep-dive into the uses and users of natural history collections held in the UK
· Modest estimates report a saving of £18 million in efficiencies by researchers accessing digital data rather than physical collections
· Today, software can complete in a week what it would take a human two years to achieve
· Call for investment to secure the UK’s stance as a world superpower in science and tech, and for a future in which both people and planet thrive
A new report has evaluated the use and impact of digitised natural science collections held in the UK and how they contribute to scientific, commercial and societal benefits.
UK natural science collections hold more than 137 million items spanning an incredible 4.56-billion-year history of life on Earth. These collections have emerged as a pivotal data resource to understanding the Earth in its past and current state – and will continue to inform the investors and policy-makers of the future.
UK natural science data in demand
GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility—is an international database providing open access data on all types of life on Earth. In this paper led by the NHM, scientists report that there are 7.6 million specimens, less than 6% of total UK natural science collections sampled, freely accessible on GBIF.
They found that 12% of the total peer-reviewed journal articles citing GBIF data specifically cite UK natural science collections. These data currently make up just 0.3% of total occurrences on GBIF, meaning they punch an incredible 40 times above their weight.
When asked previously, over 90% of GBIF users linked their use of these data to advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals which look to reduce hunger, poverty and inequality, and spur economic growth while tackling climate change and protecting the oceans and forests.
The case for digitising UK natural science collections
The introduction of these collections onto a digital platform has revolutionised scientific research. In this paper published in the journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, the authors estimate £18 million has been saved in efficiencies by researchers accessing digital specimens rather than physical collections, assuming a minimal single physical visit replaced per citation. Of this, £1.4 million has been attributed to UK researchers, money which can be reinvested back into UK science institutions – those at the forefront of finding solutions to real world problems.
Lead author and Deputy Head of Digital, Data and Informatics, Helen Hardy says, ‘The advancement of digitisation has been truly transformational to the scientific community. Today it’s possible to use software that takes a week to achieve the type of information gathering it would take a human over 3,000 hours, or two years, to complete – individuals realising an entire life’s work in just a few months! Anticipation is high for further innovations such as the further integration of artificial intelligence into taxonomic work.’
UK government want the UK to be a science and technology superpower, and natural science collections provide a unique opportunity to achieve this. To unlock the true potential of collections data, UK Natural Science collections are joining forces through the Distributed System of Scientific Collections UK (DiSSCo) to make the case for investment of £155 million in a research infrastructure which is expected to unlock at least a seven- to ten- fold economic return on investment. Working alongside the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to digitise the critical mass of collections, the data will be available through a robust technological infrastructure and continually developed in line with recent innovations.
Ken Norris, Deputy Director of Science at the NHM says, ‘In the midst of a planetary emergency, and what some experts believe to be the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event, estimates say that over 50% of the world’s GDP, which equates to approx. 44 trillion dollars, is dependent on the natural world. By understanding what is in collections now, both on a national and international scale, we can identify trends, necessary actions, and what we need to collect to underpin policy and investment decisions for a future where people and planet thrive.’
Hardy H, Livermore L, Kersey P, Norris K, Smith V, Pullar J (2023) Users and uses of UK Natural History Collections – a Summary, https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8403318
A longer paper on this study including further detail on the methodology and findings is also available:
Hardy H, Livermore L, Kersey P, Norris K, Smith V (2023) Understanding the users and uses of UK Natural History Collections. Research Ideas and Outcomes 8: e113378 https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.9.e113378
Photo credit: Trustees of the Natural History Museum
For the Pensoft team, September 2023 was a busy and exciting month filled with conferences. Travelling across Europe, they promoted journals, connected with the scientific community, and rewarded exceptional research with free article publications.
Let’s take a look back at all the events of the past month.
The conference looked at evolutionary adaptations from the perspective of behavioural ecology, reproduction biology, genetics, physiology, as well as nature conservation. It particularly focused on the pressing issues of wildlife research and species conservation in the context of global environmental change. Most of the ≈100 participants were young scientists from more than 30 countries.
The Pensoft team greeted fellow attendees with an exhibition stand and presented the conservation and ecology-focused journals Neobiota, Nature Conservation, One Ecosystem, and Biodiversity Data Journal. Pensoft also advocated for EuropaBon, who are designing an EU-wide framework for monitoring biodiversity and ecosystem services, and REST-COAST, whose mission is to provide the tools to restore environmental degradation of rivers and coasts. Within both European-funded initiatives, Pensoft is a key dissemination partner that contributes expertise in science communication, scholarly publishing, and the development of digital tools and platforms.
Pensoft presented Joao Pedro Meireles from Utrecht University with the Best Poster Award for his research on pair compatibility in okapis, entitling him to a free publication in one of Pensoft’s open-access journals.
“My study looked at pair compatibility in the zoo breeding programme of Okapi. During breeding introductions, sometimes the male becomes aggressive towards the female and we decided to investigate the potential factors. We ran a survey among all zoos that house the species in Europe and we found that differences in husbandry were linked to the aggressiveness performed by the males.”
This year’s meeting was held with the theme: “The future of biodiversity – overcoming barriers of taxa, realms and scales.” There was a particular emphasis on future challenges and opportunities facing biodiversity, and how to address and manage these in an interdisciplinary and integrative way.
Conference participants were welcomed at the Pensoft stand, where they could learn more about the projects EuropaBon and SELINA, which deal with biodiversity, ecosystem and natural capital topics.
Also in Leipzig, the European Conference on Ecological Modellingtook place between the 4th and 8th of September. The event focused on the transformation of how societies deal with natural resources in a world where biodiversity and ecosystem services are at high risk.
The ECEM 2023 continued a series of conferences launched by the European chapter of ISEM, the International Society for Ecological Modelling. ISEM promotes the international exchange of ideas, scientific results, and general knowledge in the areas of systems’ analysis and simulations in ecology, and the application of ecological modelling for natural resource management.
The Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung team presented a poster on the Formal Model format and potential new MiDox formats, unique publication types that can be submitted to Pensoft’s Food and Ecological Modelling Journal.
118th Congress of the Italian Botanical Society
Pensoft was proud to sponsor the 118th Congress of the Italian Botanical Society, which took place in Pisa, Italy from the 13th to 16th of September. Experts in various fields of Botany gathered to share their research on the following topics:
Summer may be well and truly over, but as a new academic year begins, Pensoft looks forward to attending more conferences, rewarding more incredible research, and connecting with more of the scientific community. Thank you to everyone who contributed to or engaged with Pensoft’s open-access journals this year, and here’s to a successful final quarter of 2023.
To bridge the gap between authors and their readers or fellow researchers – whether humans or computers – Knowledge Pixels and Pensoft launched workflows to link scientific publications to nanopublications.
A new pilot project by Pensoft and Knowledge Pixels breaks scientific knowledge into FAIR and interlinked snippets of precise information
As you might have already heard, Knowledge Pixels: an innovative startup tech company aiming to revolutionise scientific publishing and knowledge sharing by means of nanopublications – recently launched a pilot project with the similarly pioneering open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO), in a first of several upcoming collaborations between the software developer and the open-access scholarly publisher Pensoft.
“The way how science is performed has dramatically changed with digitalisation, the Internet, and the vast increase in data, but the results are still shared in basically the same form and language as 300 years ago: in narrative text, like a story. These narratives are not precise and not directly interpretable by machines, thereby not FAIR. Even the latest impressive AI tools like ChatGPT can only guess (and sometimes ‘hallucinate’) what the authors meant exactly and how the results compare,”
said Philipp von Essen and Tobias Kuhn, the two founders of Knowledge Pixels in a press announcement.
So, in order to bridge the gap between authors and their readers and fellow researchers – whether humans or computers – the partners launched several workflows to bi-directionally link scientific publications from RIO Journal to nanopublications. We will explain and demonstrate these workflows in a bit.
Now, first, let’s see what nanopublications are and how they contribute to scientific knowledge, researchers and scholarship as a whole.
Basically, a nanopublication – unlike a research article – is just a tiny snippet of a scientific finding (e.g. medication X treats disease Y), which exists as a complete and straightforward piece of information stored on a decentralised server network in a specially structured format, so that it is readable for humans, but also “understandable” and actionable for computers and their algorithms.
A nanopublication may also be an assertion related to an existing research article meant to support, comment, update or complement the reported findings.
In fact, nanopublications as a concept have been with us for quite a while now. Ever since the rise of the Semantic Web, to be exact. At the end of the day, it all boils down to providing easily accessible information that is only a click away from additional useful and relevant content. The thing is, technological advancement has only recently begun to catch up with the concept of nanopublications. Today, we are one step closer to another revolution in scientific publishing, thanks to the emergence and increasing adoption of what we call knowledge graphs.
Apart from enabling computer algorithms with wholesome access to published research findings, nanopublications allow for the knowledge snippets that they are intended to communicate to be fully understandable and actionable. With nanopublications, each byte of knowledge is interconnected and traceable back to its author(s) and scientific evidence.
By granting computers the capability of exchanging information between users and platforms, these data become Interoperable (as in the Iin FAIR), so that they can be delivered to the right user, at the right time, in the right place.
Another issue nanopublications are designed to address is research scrutiny. Today, scientific publications are produced at an unprecedented rate that is unlikely to cease in the years to come, as scholarship embraces the dissemination of early research outputs, including preprints, accepted manuscripts and non-conventional papers.
By linking assertions to a publication by means of nanopublications allows the original authors and their fellow researchers to keep knowledge up to date as new findings emerge either in support or contradiction to previous information.
A network of interlinked nanopublications could also provide a valuable forum for scientists to test, compare, complement and build on each other’s results and approaches to a common scientific problem, while retaining the record of their cooperation each step along the way.
A scientific issue that would definitely benefit from an additional layer of provenance and, specifically, a workflow allowing for new updates to be linked to previous publications is the biodiversity domain, where species treatments, taxon names, biotic interactions and phylogenies are continuously being updated, reworked and even discarded for good. This is why an upcoming collaboration between Pensoft and Knowledge Pixels will also involve the Biodiversity Data Journal (stay tuned!)
What can you do in RIO?
Now, let’s have a look at the *nano*opportunities already available at RIO Journal.
The integration between RIO and Nanodash: the environment developed by Knowledge Pixels where users edit and publish their nanopublications is available at any article published in the journal.
Add reaction to article
This function allows any reader to evaluate and record an opinion about any article using a simple template. The opinion is posted as a nanopublication displayed on the article page, bearing the timestamp and the name of the creator.
All one needs to do is go to a paper, locate the Nanopubs tab in the menu on the left and click on the Add reaction command to navigate to the Nanodash workspace accessible to anyone registered on ORCiD.
Within the simple Nanodash workspace, the user can provide the text of the nanopublication; define its relation to the linked paper using the Citation Typing Ontology (CiTO); update its provenance and add information (e.g. licence, extra creators) by inserting extra elements.
To do this, the Knowledge Pixels team has created a ready-to-use nanopublication template, where the necessary details for the RIO paper and the author that secure the linkage have already been pre-filled.
Post an inline comment as a nanopublication
Another opportunity for readers and authors to add further meaningful information or feedback to an already published paper is by attaching an inline comment and then exporting it to Nanodash, so that it becomes a nanopublication. To do this, users will simply need to select some text with a left click, type in the comment, and click OK. Now, their input will be available in the Comment tab designed to host simple comments addressing the authors of the publication.
While RIO has long been supporting features allowing for readers to publicly share comments and even CrossRef-registered post-publication peer reviews along the articles, the nanopublications integration adds to the versatile open science-driven arsenal of feedback tools. More precisely, the novel workflow is especially useful for comments that provide a particularly valuable contribution to a research topic.
To make a comment into a nanopublication the user needs to locate the comment in the tab, and click on the Post as Nanopub command to access the Nanodash environment.
Add a nanopublication while writing your manuscript
A functionality available from ARPHA Writing Tool – the online collaborative authoring environment that underpins the manuscript submission process at several journals published by Pensoft, including RIO Journal – allows for researchers to create a list of nanopublications within their manuscripts.
By doing so, not only do authors get to highlight their key statements in a tabular view within a separate pre-designated Nanopublications section, but they also make it easier for reviewers and scientific editors to focus on and evaluate the very foundations of the paper.
By incorporating a machine algorithm-friendly structure for the main findings of their research paper, authors ensure that AI assistants, for example, will be more likely to correctly ‘read’, ‘interpret’ and deliver the knowledge reported in the publication for the next users and their prompts. Furthermore, fellow researchers who might want to cite the paper will also have an easier time citing the specific statement from within the cited source, so that their own readers – be it human, or AI – will make the right links and conclusions.
Within a pre-designated article template at RIO – regardless of the paper type selected – authors have the option to either paste a link to an already available nanopublication or manage their nanopublication via the Nanodash environment by following a link. Customised for the purposes of RIO, the Nanodash workspace will provide them with all the information needed to guide them through the creation and publication of their nanopublications.
Why Research Ideas and Outcomes, a.k.a. RIO Journal?
Well, one may argue that there simply was no better choice than an academic outlet that was initially designed to serve as “the open-science journal”: something it has been honourably recognised for by SPARC in 2016, only one year since its launch.
Innovative since day #1, back in 2015, RIO surfaced as an academic outlet to publish a whole lot of article types, reporting on scientific work from across the research process, starting from research ideas, grant proposals and workshop reports.
After all, back in 2015, when it was only a handful of funders who required Data and Software Management Plans to be made openly and publicly, RIO was already providing a platform to publish those as easily citable research outputs, complete with DOI and registration on Crossref. In the spirit of transparency, RIO has always operated an open and public by default peer review policy.
More recently, RIO introduced a novel collections workflow which allows, for example, project coordinators, to provide a one-stop access point for publications and all kinds of valuable outputs resulting from their projects regardless of their publication source.
Bottom line is, RIO has always stood for innovation, transparency, openness and FAIRness in scholarly publishing and communication, so it was indeed the best fit for the nanopublication pilot with Knowledge Pixels.
We encourage you to try the nanopublications workflow yourself by going to https://riojournal.com/articles, and posting your own assertion to an article of your choice!
Don’t forget to also sign up for the RIO Journal’s newsletter via the Email alert form on the journal’s website and follow it on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Mastodon.
The dynamic open-science project collection of BiCIKL, titled “Towards interlinked FAIR biodiversity knowledge: The BiCIKL perspective” (doi: 10.3897/rio.coll.105), continues to grow, as the project progresses into its third year and its results accumulate ever so exponentially.
Following the publication of three important BiCIKL deliverables: the project’s Data Management Plan, its Visual identity package and a report, describing the newly built workﬂow and tools for data extraction, conversion and indexing and the user applications from OpenBiodiv, there are currently 30 research outcomes in the BiCIKL collection that have been shared publicly to the world, rather than merely submitted to the European Commission.
Shortly after the BiCIKL project started in 2021, a project-branded collection was launched in the open-science scholarly journal Research Ideas and Outcomes(RIO). There, the partners have been publishing – and thus preserving – conclusive research papers, as well as early and interim scientific outputs.
The publications so far also include the BiCIKL grant proposal, which earned the support of the European Commission in 2021; conference abstracts, submitted by the partners to two consecutive TDWG conferences; a project report that summarises recommendations on interoperability among infrastructures, as concluded from a hackathon organised by BiCIKL; and two Guidelines papers, aiming to trigger a culture change in the way data is shared, used and reused in the biodiversity field.
At the time of writing, the top three of the most read papers in the BiCIKL collection is completed by the grant proposal and the second Guidelines paper, where the partners – based on their extensive and versatile experience – present recommendations about the use of annotations and persistent identifiers in taxonomy and biodiversity publishing.
What one might find quite odd when browsing the BiCIKL collection is that each publication is marked with its own publication source, even though all contributions are clearly already accessible from RIO Journal.
This is because one of the unique features of RIOallows for consortia to use their project collection as a one-stop access point for all scientific results, regardless of their publication venue, by means of linking to the original source via metadata. Additionally, projects may also upload their documents in their original format and layout, thanks to the integration between RIO and ARPHA Preprints. This is in fact how BiCIKL chose to share their latest deliverables using the very same files they submitted to the Commission.
“In line with the mission of BiCIKL and our consortium’s dedication to FAIRness in science, we wanted to keep our project’s progress and results fully transparent and easily accessible and reusable to anyone, anywhere,”
explains Prof Lyubomir Penev, BiCIKL’s Project Coordinator and founder and CEO of Pensoft.
“This is why we opted to collate the outcomes of BiCIKL in one place – starting from the grant proposal itself, and then progressively adding workshop reports, recommendations, research papers and what not. By the time BiCIKL concludes, not only will we be ready to refer back to any step along the way that we have just walked together, but also rest assured that what we have achieved and learnt remains at the fingertips of those we have done it for and those who come after them,” he adds.
All processes fit into a broad S-shaped envelope extending from the briefest to the most enduring biological events. For the first time, we have the first simple model that depicts the scope and scale of biology.
As biology is progressing into a digital age, it is creating new opportunities for discovery.
Increasingly, information from investigations into aspects of biology from ecology to molecular biology is available in a digital form. Older ‘legacy’ information is being digitized. Together, the digital information is accumulated in databases from which it can be harvested and examined with an increasing array of algorithmic and visualization tools.
That information also must make its way to trustworthy repositories to guarantee the permanent access to the data in a polished and fully suited for re-use state.
The first layer in the infrastructure is the one that gathers all old and new information, whether it be about the migrations of ocean mammals, the sequence of bases in ribosomal RNA, or the known locations of particular species of ciliated protozoa.
This is achieved by compiling information about the processes conducted by all living organisms. The processes occur at all levels of organization, from sub-molecular transactions, such as those that underpin nervous impulses, to those within and among plants, animals, fungi, protists and prokaryotes. Further, they are also the actions and reactions of individuals and communities; but also the sum of the interactions that make up an ecosystem; and finally, the consequences of the biosphere as a whole system.
In the Nature’s Envelope, information on sizes of participants and durations of processes from all levels of organization are plotted on a grid. The grid uses a logarithmic (base 10) scale, which has about 21 orders of magnitude of size and 35 orders of magnitude of time. Information on processes ranging from the subatomic, through molecular, cellular, tissue, organismic, species, communities to ecosystems is assigned to the appropriate decadal blocks.
The extremes of life processes are determined by the smallest and largest entities to participate, and the briefest and most enduring processes.
The briefest event to be included is the transfer of energy from a photon to a photosynthetic pigment as the photon passes through a chlorophyll molecule several nanometres in width at a speed of 300,000 km per second. That transaction is conducted in about 10-17 seconds. As it involves the smallest subatomic particles, it defines the lower left corner of the grid.
The most enduring is the process of evolution that has been progressing for almost 4 billion years. The influence of the latter has created the biosphere (the largest living object) and affects the gas content of the atmosphere. This process established the upper right extreme of the grid.
All biological processes fit into a broad S-shaped envelope that includes about half of the decadal blocks in the grid. The envelope drawn round the initial examples is Nature’s Envelope.
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.
Did the boy bite the cat, or was it the other way around?
When processing a sentence with several objects, one has to establish ‘who did what to whom’. When a sentence cannot be interpreted by recalling an image from memory, we rely on voluntary imagination to construct a novel mental image in our mind.
In a previous study, the team of Dr. Andrey Vyshedskiy, a neuroscientist from Boston University, USA, hypothesized that this voluntary imagination ability has fundamental importance for combinatorial language acquisition. To test the hypothesis, the researchers designed a voluntary imagination intervention and administered it to 6,454 children with language deficiencies (age 2 to 12 years).
In that three-year study, published in 2021, the scientists concluded that children, who were engaged with the voluntary imagination intervention, showed 2.2-fold improvement in combinatorial language comprehension compared to children with similar language deficiencies. These findings suggested that language can be improved by training voluntary imagination and confirmed the importance of the visuospatial component of language.
In his latest work, now published in the open-science scholarly journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO), Dr. Vyshedskiy builds on these experimental findings to address the question of language evolution and suggest that evolutionary acquisition of language was driven primarily by improvements of voluntary imagination, rather than the speech apparatus.
Dr. Vyshedskiy proposes that this step-wise development of voluntary imagination – and not the speech apparatus per se – was the key factor underlying the acquisition of modern combinatorial language.
There are several additional lines of evidence suggesting dissociation of articulate speech and voluntary imagination.
Firstly, there is significant genetic and archeological evidence that modern speech apparatus was acquired 600,000 years ago, which is quite a long time before acquisition of modern voluntary imagination 70,000 years ago.
Secondly, mirroring phylogenetic sequences, typical children develop articulate speech by their second year, two years before they acquire the voluntary imagination necessary to comprehend spatial prepositions, recursion, and complex fairy tales.
Thirdly, speech is not an obligatory component of combinatorial language at all. If early humans had voluntary imagination, they could have invented sign language. All formal sign languages include spatial prepositions and other recursive elements. This has been evidenced in the 1970s, when the largest natural experiment of language origin to date reported on 400 Nicaraguan deaf children from two schools who spontaneously invented a new combinatorial sign language in just a few generations. This means that the capacities of the speech apparatus could not have been a limiting factor in the acquisition of modern combinatorial language at all.
Fourthly, articulate sounds can be generated by gray parrots and thousands of other songbird species. However, these birds do not acquire combinatorial language. So, evolution of sound articulation is independent from and also a simpler process than improving voluntary imagination.
In conclusion, on the basis of children studies, neurological observations, archeological findings, combinatorial sign language invention by Nicaraguan deaf children, and variety of sound boxes in birds, Dr. Vyshedskiy argues that the evolution of hominin speech apparatus must have followed (rather than led to) the improvements in voluntary imagination.
Contrary to the common assumption, it is voluntary imagination rather than speech that appears to define the pace of combinatorial language evolution.
Vyshedskiy A (2022) Language evolution is not limited to speech acquisition: a large study of language development in children with language deficits highlights the importance of the voluntary imagination component of language. Research Ideas and Outcomes 8: e86401. https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.8.e86401
Ask any scientist — for every “Eureka!” moment, there’s a lot of less-than-glamorous work behind the scenes. Making discoveries about everything from a new species of dinosaur to insights about climate change entails some slogging through seemingly endless data and measurements that can be mind-numbing in large doses.
Community science shares the burden with volunteers who help out, for even just a few minutes, on collecting data and putting it into a format that scientists can use. But the question remains how useful these data actually are for scientists.
A new study, authored by a combination of high school students, undergrads and grad students, and professional scientists showed that when museum-goers did a community science activity in an exhibit, the data they produced were largely accurate, supporting the argument that community science is a viable way to tackle big research projects.
“We were able to combine a small piece of the Field Museum’s vast collections, their scientific knowledge and exhibit creation expertise, the observational skills of biology interns at Northeastern Illinois University (USA), led by our collaborator Tom Campbell, and our Roosevelt University student’s data science expertise. The creation of this set of high-quality data was a true community effort!”
The study focuses on an activity in an exhibition at the Field Museum, in which visitors could partake in a community science project. In the community science activity, museumgoers used a large digital touchscreen to measure the microscopic leaves photographs of plants called liverworts.
These tiny plants, the size of an eyelash, are sensitive to climate change, and they can act like a canary in a coal mine to let scientists know about how climate change is affecting a region. It’s helpful for scientists to know what kinds of liverworts are present in an area, but since the plants are so tiny, it’s hard to tell them apart. The sizes of their leaves (or rather, lobes — these are some of the most ancient land plants on Earth, and they evolved before true leaves had formed) can hint at their species. But it would take ages for any one scientist to measure all the leaves of the specimens in the Field’s collection. Enter the community scientists.
“Drawing a fine line to measure the lobe of a liverwort for a few hours can be mentally strenuous, so it’s great to have community scientists take a few minutes out of their day using fresh eyes to help measure a plant leaf. A few community scientists who’ve helped with classifying acknowledged how exciting it is knowing they are playing a helping hand in scientific discovery,”
says Heaven Wade, a research assistant at the Field Museum who began working on the MicroPlants project as an undergraduate intern.
Community scientists using the digital platform measured thousands of microscopic liverwort leaves over the course of two years.
“At the beginning, we needed to find a way to sort the high quality measurements out from the rest. We didn’t know if there would be kids drawing pictures on the touchscreen instead of measuring leaves or if they’d be able to follow the tutorial as well as the adults did. We also needed to be able to automate a method to determine the accuracy of these higher quality measurements,”
To answer these questions, Pivarski worked with her students at Roosevelt University to analyze the data. They compared measurements taken by the community scientists with measurements done by experts on a couple “test” lobes; based on that proof of concept, they went on to analyze the thousands of other leaf measurements. The results were surprising.
“We were amazed at how wonderfully children did at this task; it was counter to our initial expectations. The majority of measurements were high quality. This allowed my students to create an automated process that produced an accurate set of MicroPlant measurements from the larger dataset,”
The researchers say that the study supports the argument that community science is valuable not just as a teaching tool to get people interested in science, but as a valid means of data collection.
Pivarski M, von Konrat M, Campbell T, Qazi-Lampert AT, Trouille L, Wade H, Davis A, Aburahmeh S, Aguilar J, Alb C, Alferes K, Barker E, Bitikofer K, Boulware KJ, Bruton C, Cao S, Corona Jr. A, Christian C, Demiri K, Evans D, Evans NM, Flavin C, Gillis J, Gogol V, Heublein E, Huang E, Hutchinson J, Jackson C, Jackson OR, Johnson L, Kirihara M, Kivarkis H, Kowalczyk A, Labontu A, Levi B, Lyu I, Martin-Eberhardt S, Mata G, Martinec JL, McDonald B, Mira M, Nguyen M, Nguyen P, Nolimal S, Reese V, Ritchie W, Rodriguez J, Rodriguez Y, Shuler J, Silvestre J, Simpson G, Somarriba G, Ssozi R, Suwa T, Syring C, Thirthamattur N, Thompson K, Vaughn C, Viramontes MR, Wong CS, Wszolek L (2022) People-Powered Research and Experiential Learning: Unravelling Hidden Biodiversity. Research Ideas and Outcomes 8: e83853. https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.8.e83853
So far, science has described more than 2 million species, and millions more await discovery. While species have value in themselves, many also deliver important ecosystem services to humanity, such as insects that pollinate our crops.
Meanwhile, as we lack a standardized system to quantify the value of different species, it is too easy to jump to the conclusion that they are practically worthless. As a result, humanity has been quick to justify actions that diminish populations and even imperil biodiversity at large.
In a study, published in the scholarly open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, a team of Estonian and Swedish scientists propose to formalize the value of all species through a conceptual species ‘stock market’ (SSM). Much like the regular stock market, the SSM is to act as a unified basis for instantaneous valuation of all items in its holdings.
However, other aspects of the SSM would be starkly different from the regular stock market. Ownership, transactions, and trading will take new forms. Indeed, species have no owners, and ‘trade’ would not be about transfer of ownership rights among shareholders. Instead, the concept of ‘selling’ would comprise processes that erase species from some specific area – such as war, deforestation, or pollution.
Conversely, taking some action that benefits biodiversity – as estimated through individuals of species – would be akin to buying on the species stock market. Buying, too, has a price tag on it, but this price should probably be thought of in goodwill terms. Here, ‘money’ represents an investment towards increased biodiversity.
Interestingly, the SSM revolves around the notion of digital species. These are representations of described and undescribed species concluded to exist based on DNA sequences and elaborated by including all we know about their habitat, ecology, distribution, interactions with other species, and functional traits.
For the SSM to function as described, those DNA sequences and metadata need to be sourced from global scientific and societal resources, including natural history collections, sequence databases, and life science data portals. Digital species might be managed further by incorporating data records of non-sequenced individuals, notably observations, older material in collections, and data from publications.
The study proposes that the SSM is orchestrated by the international associations of taxonomists and economists.
“Non-trivial complications are foreseen when implementing the SSM in practice, but we argue that the most realistic and tangible way out of the looming biodiversity crisis is to put a price tag on species and thereby a cost to actions that compromise them,”