It was in late 1992 when biologist and ecologist Prof Dr Lyubomir Penev in a collaboration with his friend Prof. Sergei Golovatch established Pensoft: a scholarly publisher with the ambition to contribute to novel and even revolutionary methods in academic publishing by applying its own approach to how science is published, shared and used. Inspired by the world’s best practices in the field, Pensoft would never cease to view the issues and gaps in scholarly publishing in line with its slogan: “by scientists, for scientists”.
As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pensoft, we are asking ourselves: What’s a tree without its roots?
That’s why we’ve put up an attractive timeline of Pensoft’s milestones on our website, and complemented it with some key figures, in an attempt to translate those years into numbers. Yet, one can say only that much in figures. Below, we’ll give a bit more context and background about Pensoft’s key milestones.
1994: Pensoft publishes its first book & book series
In time for New Year’s Day in 1994, we published the first book bearing the name of Pensoft. The catalogue of the sheet weaver spiders (Lyniphiidae) of Northern Asia did not only set the beginning of the publishing activities of Pensoft, but also started the extensive Pensoft Series Faunistica, which continues to this day, and currently counts over 120 titles.
2003: Pensoft joins its first EU-funded research project
By 2003, we were well-decided to expand our activities toward participation in collaborative, multinational projects, thereby building on our mission to shed light and communicate the latest scientific work done.
By participating in the FP6-funded project ALARM (abbreviation for Assessing LArge-scale environmental Risks with tested Methods), coordinated by Dr. Joseph Settele from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany), we would start contributing to the making of science itself in close collaboration with another 67 institutions from across Europe. Our role at ALARM during the five years of the duration of the project was to disseminate and communicate the project outcome. At the end of the project, we also produced the highly appreciated within the community Atlas of Biodiversity Risk.
As for today, 19 years later, Pensoft has taken part in 40 research projects as a provider of various services ranging from data & knowledge management and next-generation open access publishing; to communication, dissemination and (web)design; to stakeholder engagement; consultations; and event and project management.
Our project activities culminated last year, when we became the coordinator of a large and exciting BiCIKL project, dedicated to access to and linking of biodiversity data along the entire data and research life cycle.
2008: Pensoft launches its first scholarly journal to revolutionise & accelerate biodiversity research
Openly accessible and digital-first since the very start, the ZooKeys journal was born on a sunny morning in California during the Entomological Society of America meeting in 2007, when Prof Lyubomir Penev and his renowned colleague Dr Terry Erwin from the Smithsonian Institution agreed over breakfast that zoologists from around the world could indeed use a new-age taxonomic journal. What the community at the time was missing was a scholarly outlet that would not only present a smooth fast track for their research papers, while abiding by the highest and most novel standards in the field, but do so freely and openly to any reader at any time and in any place. Fast forward to 2021, ZooKeys remains the most prolific open-access journal in zoology.
With over 1,100 volumes published to date, ZooKeys is one of our most renowned journals with its own curious and intriguing history. You can find more about it in the celebratory blog post we published on the occasion of the journal’s 1,000th volume in late 2020.
At the time of writing, Pensoft has 21 journals under its own belt, co-publishes another 16, and provides its self-developed journal management platform ARPHA to another 35 scholarly outlets.
2010a: Pensoft launches its first journal publishing platform
By 2010, we realised that the main hurdle holding our progress as a next-age publisher of scientific knowledge was posed by the technology – or lack thereof – underlying the publishing process. We figured that – in our position of users – we were best equipped to figure what exactly this backbone structure should be made of.
This is when we released the publishing platform TRIADA, which was able to support both the editorial and the publication processes at our journals. This was also the point in time when we added “technology provider” to the Pensoft’s byline. Surely, we had so many ideas in our mind and TRIADA was only the beginning!
2010b: In the 50th issue of ZooKeys, Pensoft publishes the first semantically enhanced biodiversity research papers
Later the same year, TRIADA let us write some history. The 50th volume of ZooKeys wasn’t only special because of its number. It contained the first scholarly papers in the study of biodiversity featuring semantic enrichments.
The novelty that keeps a taxon only a click away from a list of related data, including its occurrences, genomics data, treatments, literature etc. is a feature that remains a favourite to our journals’ users to this very day. Unique to date, this workflow is one of the many outcomes of our fantastic long-time collaboration and friendship with Plazi.
2011: Journal of Hymenoptera Research becomes the first society journal to move to Pensoft
Three years after the launch of the very first Pensoft journal, we received a request from the International Society of Hymenopterists who wanted for their own journal: the Journal of Hymenoptera Research to follow the example of ZooKeys and provide to their authors, editors and readers a similar set of services and features designed to streamline biodiversity knowledge in a modern, user-friendly and highly efficient manner.
Ever since, the journal has been co-published by the Society and Pensoft, and enjoyed growing popularity and appeal amongst hymenopterists from around the world.
2013: Pensoft replaces TRIADA with its own in-house built innovative ARPHA Platform
As we said, TRIADA was merely the crude foundation of what was to become the ARPHA publishing platform: a publishing solution providing a lot more than an end-to-end entirely online environment to support the whole publishing process on both journal and article level.
On top of that, ARPHA’s publishing package includes a variety of automated and manually provided services, web service integrations and highly customisable features. With all of those, we aimed at one thing only: create a comprehensive scholarly publishing solution to our own dearest journals and all their users.
2013b: Pensoft develops an XML-based writing tool
Having just unveiled ARPHA Platform, we were quite confident that we have developed a pretty all-in publishing solution. Our journals would be launched, set up, hosted and upgraded safely under our watchful eye, while authors, editors and reviewers would need to send not a single email or a file outside of our collaborative environment from the moment they submit a manuscript to the moment they see it published, indexed and archived at all relevant databases.
Yet, we could still spot a gap left to bridge. The Pensoft Writing Tool (or what is now known as the ARPHA Writing Tool or AWT) provides a space where researchers can do the authoring itself prior to submitting a manuscript straight to the journal. It all happens within the tool, with co-authors, external collaborators, reviewers and editors all able to contribute to the same manuscript file. Due to the XML technology underlying AWT, various data(sets) and references can be easily imported in a few clicks, while a list of templates and content management features lets researchers spend their time and efforts on their scientific work rather than format requirements.
2015: Pensoft launches the open-science RIO Journal
Six years ago, amid heated discussions over the pros and cons of releasing scientific knowledge freely to all, we felt it’s time to push the boundaries even further.
No wonder that, at the time, a scholarly journal with the aim to bring to light ‘alternative’ research outputs from along the whole research process, such as grant proposals, project and workshop reports, data management plans and research ideas amongst many others, was seen as quite brave and revolutionary. Long story short, a year after its launch, RIO earned the honorary recognition from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) to be named an Open Science Innovator.
Learn about the key milestones and achievements at RIO Journal to date – in addition to its future goals – in the special blog post and the editorial published on the occasion of the journal’s fifth anniversary.
2016: Pensoft provides ARPHA Platform as a white-label journal publishing solution for the first time
Led by our intrinsic understanding for scholars and smaller publishers, we saw the need of many journals and their owners to simultaneously secure a user-friendly and sustainable publishing solution for their scientific outlets. This is why we decided to also offer our ARPHA Platform as a standalone package of technology, services and features, dissociated with Pensoft as a publisher. This option is particularly useful for university presses, learned societies and institutions who would rather stick to exclusivity when it comes to their journal’s branding and imprint.
The first to seek out this publishing solution of ours was The Vilnius Gediminas Technical University Press and its Business: Theory and Practice journal.
2017: Pensoft launches its conference-dedicated platforms for abstracts and proceedings
Another step forward to encompassing the whole spectrum of research outputs was to take care after conference materials: proceedings and abstracts. Once again, our thinking was that all scientific work and efforts need to be made openly available, accessible, reusable and creditable.
Both ARPHA Conference Abstracts and ARPHA Proceedings allow for organisers to conveniently bring the publications together in a conference-branded collection, thereby providing a one-stop permanent access point to all content submitted and presented at a particular event, alongside associated data, images, videos and multimedia, video recordings of conference talks or graphic files of poster presentations.
Publications at both platforms benefit from all key advantages available to conventional research papers at a Pensoft journal, such as registration at Crossref and individual DOI; publication in PDF, semantically enhanced HTML and data-minable XML formats; indexing and archiving at multiple major databases; science communications services.
2019: Pensoft develops the OpenBiodiv Knowledge Graph
As firm believers in the power and future of linked and FAIR data, at Pensoft we realise there is still a great gap in the way biodiversity data is collated, stored, accessed and made available to researchers and key stakeholders for further reuse.
In fact, this is an area within biodiversity research that is in dire need of a revolutionary mechanism to provide a readily available and convenient hub that allows a researcher to access all related data via multi-directional links interconnecting various and standardised databases, in accordance with the Web 2.0 principles.
As the first step in that direction, in 2019, we launched the OpenBiodiv Knowledge Graph, which began to collate various types of biodiversity data as extracted from semantically enhanced articles published by Pensoft and taxonomic treatments harvested by Plazi.
Since then, the OpenBiodiv Knowledge Graph has evolved into the Open Biodiversity Knowledgement Management System (OBKMS), which also comprises a Linked Open Dataset, an ontology and а website. Our work on the OBKMS continues to this day, fueled by just as much enthusiasm as in those early days in 2019.
2020: Pensoft launches ARPHA Preprints
By 2020, a number of factors and issues that had long persisted within scholarly publishing and academia had already triggered the emergence of multiple preprint servers. Yet, the onset of the unprecedented for our age COVID-19 pandemic, seemed like the final straw that made everyone realise we needed to start uncovering early scientific work, and we needed to do that fast.
At the time, we had already been considering applying the Pensoft approach to preprints. So, we came up with a solution that could seamlessly blend into our existing infrastructure.
Offered as an opt-in service to journals published on the ARPHA Platform, ARPHA Preprints allows for authors to check a box and post their manuscripts as a preprint as they are filling in the submission form at a participating journal.
Learn more about ARPHA Preprints on the ARPHA blog.
2021a: RIO Journal expands into a project-driven knowledge hub
Ever since its launch, RIO had been devised as the ultimate scholarly venue to share the early, intermediate and final results of a research project. While collections at the journal had already been put in good use, we still had what to add, so that we could provide a one-stop place for consortia to permanently store their outputs and make them easily discoverable and accessible long after their project had concluded.
With the upgraded collections, their owners received the oppotunity to also add various research publications – including scholarly articles published elsewhere, author-formatted documents and preprints. In the former case, the article is visualised within the collection at RIO via a link to its original source, while in the latter, it is submitted and published via ARPHA Preprints.
2021b: Pensoft becomes a coordinator of the BiCIKL project
Over the years, we have been partnering with many like-minded innovators and their institutions from across the natural science community. Surely, we hadn’t successfully developed all those technologies and workflows without their invaluable feedback and collaborations.
In 2021, our shared passion and vision about the future of research data availability and usage culminated in the project BiCIKL (abbreviation for Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library), which was granted funding by the European Commission and will run until April 2024.
Within BiCIKL, our team of 14 European institutions are deploying and improving our own and partnering infrastructures to bridge gaps between each other’s biodiversity data types and classes with the ultimate goal to provide flawless access to data across all stages of the research cycle. By the end of the project, together we will have created the first-of-its-kind Biodiversity Knowledge Hub, where a researcher will be able to retrieve a full set of linked and open biodiversity data.
Naturally, being a coordinator of such a huge endeavour towards revolutionising biodiversity science is a great honour by itself.
For us, though, this project has a special place in our hearts, as it perfectly resonates with the very reason why we are here: publishing and sharing science in the most efficient and user-friendly manner.