How to ensure biodiversity data are FAIR, linked, open and future-proof?

Now concluded Horizon 2020-funded project BiCIKL shares lessons learned with policy-makers and research funders

Within the Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library (BiCIKL) project, 14 European institutions from ten countries, spent the last three years elaborating on services and high-tech digital tools, in order to improve the findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability (FAIR-ness) of various types of data about the world’s biodiversity. These types of data include peer-reviewed scientific literature, occurrence records, natural history collections, DNA data and more.

By ensuring all those data are readily available and efficiently interlinked to each other, the project consortium’s intention is to provide better tools to the scientific community, so that it can more rapidly and effectively study, assess, monitor and preserve Earth’s biological diversity in line with the objectives of the likes of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the European Green Deal. Their targets require openly available, precise and harmonised data to underpin the design of effective measures for restoration and conservation, reminds the BiCIKL consortium.

Since 2021, the project partners at BiCIKL have been working together to elaborate existing workflows and links, as well as create brand new ones, so that their data resources, platforms and tools can seamlessly communicate with each other, thereby taking the burden off the shoulders of scientists and letting them focus on their actual mission: paving the way to healthy and sustainable ecosystems across Europe and beyond.

Now that the three-year project is officially over, the wider scientific community is yet to reap the fruits of the consortium’s efforts. In fact, the end of the BiCIKL project marks the actual beginning of a European- and global-wide revolution in the way biodiversity scientists access, use and produce data. It is time for the research community, as well as all actors involved in the study of biodiversity and the implementation of regulations necessary to protect and preserve it, to embrace the lessons learned, adopt the good practices identified and build on the knowledge in existence.

This is why amongst the BiCIKL’s major final research outputs, there are two Policy Briefs meant to summarise and highlight important recommendations addressed to key policy makers, research institutions and funders of research. After all, it is the regulatory bodies that are best equipped to share and implement best practices and guidelines.

Most recently, the BiCIKL consortium published two particularly important policy briefs, both addressed to the likes of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment; the European Environment Agency; the Joint Research Centre; as well as science and policy interface platforms, such as the EU Biodiversity Platform; and also organisations and programmes, e.g. Biodiversa+ and EuropaBON, which are engaged in biodiversity monitoring, protection and restoration. The policy briefs are also to be of particular use to national research funds in the European Union.

One of the newly published policy briefs, titled “Uniting FAIR data through interlinked, machine-actionable infrastructures”, highlights the potential benefits derived from enhanced connectivity and interoperability among various types of biodiversity data. The publication includes a list of recommendations addressed to policy-makers, as well as nine key action points. Understandably, amongst the main themes are those of wider international cooperation; inclusivity and collaboration at scale; standardisation and bringing science and policy closer to industry. Another major outcome of the BiCIKL project: the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub portal is noted as central to many of these objectives and tasks in its role of a knowledge broker that will continue to be maintained and updated with additional FAIR data-compliant services as a living legacy of the collaborative efforts at BiCIKL.

The second policy brief, titled “Liberate the power of biodiversity literature as FAIR digital objects”, shares key actions that can liberate data published in non-machine actionable formats and non-interoperable platforms, so that those data can also be efficiently accessed and used; as well as ways to publish future data according to the best FAIR and linked data practices. The recommendations highlighted in the policy brief intend to support decision-making in Europe; expedite research by making biodiversity data immediately and globally accessible; provide curated data ready to use by AI applications; and bridge gaps in the life cycle of research data through digital-born data. Several new and innovative workflows, linkages and integrative mechanisms and services developed within BiCIKL are mentioned as key advancements created to access and disseminate data available from scientific literature. 

While all policy briefs and factsheets – both primarily targeted at non-expert decision-makers who play a central role in biodiversity research and conservation efforts – are openly and freely available on the project’s website, the most important contributions were published as permanent scientific records in a BiCIKL-branded dedicated collection in the peer-reviewed open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO). There, the policy briefs are provided as both a ready-to-print document (available as supplementary material) and an extensive academic publication.

Currently, the collection: “Towards interlinked FAIR biodiversity knowledge: The BiCIKL perspective” in the RIO journal contains 60 publications, including policy briefs, project reports, methods papers, conference abstracts, demonstrating and highlighting key milestones and project outcomes from along the BiCIKL’s journey in the last three years. The collection also features over 15 scientific publications authored by people not necessarily involved in BiCIKL, but whose research uses linked open data and tools created in BiCIKL. Their publications were published in a dedicated article collection in the Biodiversity Data Journal.

***

Visit the Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library (BiCIKL) project’s website at: https://bicikl-project.eu/.

Don’t forget to also explore the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub (BKH) for yourself at: https://biodiversityknowledgehub.eu/ and watch the BKH’s introduction video

Highlights from the BiCIKL project are also accessible on Twitter/X from the project’s hashtag: #BiCIKL_H2020 and handle: @BiCIKL_H2020.

Pensoft took a BiCIKL ride to Naturalis to report on a 3-year endeavour towards FAIR data

Three years ago, the BiCIKL consortium took to traverse obstacles to wider use and adoption of FAIR and linked biodiversity data.

Leiden – also known as the ‘City of Keys’ and the ‘City of Discoveries’ – was aptly chosen to host the third Empowering Biodiversity Research (EBR III) conference. The two-day conference – this time focusing on the utilisation of biodiversity data as a vehicle for biodiversity research to reach to Policy – was held in a no less fitting locality: the Naturalis Biodiversity Center

On 25th and 26th March 2024, the delegates got the chance to learn more about the latest discoveries, trends and innovations from scientists, as well as various stakeholders, including representatives of policy-making bodies, research institutions and infrastructures. The conference also ran a poster session and a Biodiversity Informatics market, where scientists, research teams, project consortia, and providers of biodiversity research-related services and tools could showcase their work and meet like-minded professionals.

BiCIKL stops at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center

The main outcome of the BiCIKL project: the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub, a one-stop knowledge portal to interlinked and machine-readable FAIR data.

The famous for its bicycle friendliness country also made a suitable stop for BiCIKL (an acronym for the Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library): a project funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme that aimed at triggering a culture change in the way users access, (re)use, publish and share biodiversity data. To do this, the BiCIKL consortium set off on a 3-year journey to build on the existing biodiversity data infrastructures, workflows, standards and the linkages between them.

Many of the people who have been involved in the project over the last three years could be seen all around the beautiful venue. Above all, Naturalis is itself one of the partnering institutions at BiCIKL. Then, on Tuesday, on behalf of the BiCIKL consortium and the project’s coordinator: the scientific publisher and technology innovator: Pensoft, Iva Boyadzhieva presented the work done within the project one month ahead of its official conclusion at the end of April.

As she talked about the way the BiCIKL consortium took to traverse obstacles to wider use and adoption of FAIR and linked biodiversity data, she focused on BiCIKL’s main outcome: the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub (BKH).

Key results from the BiCIKL project three years into its existence presented by Pensoft’s Iva Boyadzhieva at the EBR III conference.

Intended to act as a knowledge broker for users who wish to navigate and access sources of open and FAIR biodiversity data, guidelines, tools and services, in practicality, the BKH is a one-stop portal for understanding the complex but increasingly interconnected landscape of biodiversity research infrastructures in Europe and beyond. It collates information, guidelines, recommendations and best practices in usage of FAIR and linked biodiversity data, as well as a continuously expanded catalogue of compliant relevant services and tools.

At the core of the BKH is the FAIR Data Place (FDP), where users can familiarise themselves with each of the participating biodiversity infrastructures and network organisations, and also learn about the specific services they provide. There, anyone can explore various biodiversity data tools and services by browsing by their main data type, e.g. specimens, sequences, taxon names, literature.

While the project might be coming to an end, she pointed out, the BKH is here to stay as a navigation system in a universe of interconnected biodiversity research infrastructures.

To do this, not only will the partners continue to maintain it, but it will also remain open to any research infrastructure that wishes to feature its own tools and services compliant with the linked and FAIR data requirements set by the BiCIKL consortium.

On the event’s website you can access the BiCIKL’s slides presentation as presented at the EBR III conference.

What else was on at the EBR III?

Indisputably, the ‘hot’ topics at the EBR III were the novel technologies for remote and non-invasive, yet efficient biomonitoring; the utilisation of data and other input sourced by citizen scientists; as well as leveraging different types and sources of biodiversity data, in order to better inform decision-makers, but also future-proof the scientific knowledge we have collected and generated to date.

Project’s coordinator Dr Quentin Groom presents the B-Cubed’s approach towards standardised access to biodiversity data for the use of policy-making at the EBR III conference.

Amongst the other Horizon Europe projects presented at the EBR III conference was B-Cubed (Biodiversity Building Blocks for policy). On Monday, the project’s coordinator Dr Quentin Groom (Meise Botanic Garden) familiarised the conference participants with the project, which aims to standardise access to biodiversity data, in order to empower policymakers to proactively address the impacts of biodiversity change.

You can find more about B-Cubed and Pensoft’s role in it in this blog post.

On the event’s website you can access the B-Cubed’s slides presentation as presented at the EBR III conference.

***

Dr France Gerard (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) talks about the challenges in using raw data – including those provided by drones – to derive habitat condition metrics.

MAMBO: another Horizon Europe project where Pensoft has been contributing with expertise in science communication, dissemination and exploitation, was also an active participant at the event. An acronym for Modern Approaches to the Monitoring of BiOdiversity, MAMBO had its own session on Tuesday morning, where Dr Vincent Kalkman (Naturalis Biodiversity Center), Dr France Gerard (UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) and Prof. Toke Høye (Aarhus University) each took to the stage to demonstrate how modern technology developed within the project is to improve biodiversity and habitat monitoring. Learn more about MAMBO and Pensoft’s involvement in this blog post.

MAMBO’s project coordinator Prof. Toke T. Høye talked about smarter technologies for biodiversity monitoring, including camera traps able to count insects at a particular site.

On the event’s website you can access the MAMBO’s slides presentations by Kalkman, Gerard and Høye, as presented at the EBR III conference.

***

The EBR III conference also saw a presentation – albeit remote – from Prof. Dr. Florian Leese (Dean at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and Editor-in-Chief at the Metabarcoding and Metagenomics journal), where he talked about the promise, but also the challenges for DNA-based methods to empower biodiversity monitoring. 

Amongst the key tasks here, he pointed out, are the alignment of DNA-based methods with the Global Biodiversity Framework; central push and funding for standards and guidance; publication of data in portals that adhere to the best data practices and rules; and the mobilisation of existing resources such as the meteorological ones. 

Prof. Dr. Florian Leese talked about the promise, but also the challenges for DNA-based methods to empower biodiversity monitoring. He also referred to the 2022 Forum Paper: “Introducing guidelines for publishing DNA-derived occurrence data through biodiversity data platforms” by R. Henrik Nilsson et al.

He also made a reference to the Forum Paper “Introducing guidelines for publishing DNA-derived occurrence data through biodiversity data platforms” by R. Henrik Nilsson et al., where the international team provided a brief rationale and an overview of guidelines targeting the principles and approaches of exposing DNA-derived occurrence data in the context of broader biodiversity data. In the study, published in the Metabarcoding and Metagenomics journal in 2022, they also introduced a living version of these guidelines, which continues to encourage feedback and interaction as new techniques and best practices emerge.

***

You can find the programme on the conference website and see highlights on the conference hashtag: #EBR2024.

Don’t forget to also explore the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub for yourself at: https://biodiversityknowledgehub.eu/ 

BiCIKL keeps on adding project outcomes in own collection in RIO Journal

The publications so far include the grant proposal; conference abstracts, a workshop report, guidelines papers and deliverables submitted to the Commission.

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. 

In fact, one of the Guidelines papers, where representatives of the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF), the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) and the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) came together to publish their joint statement on best practices for the citation of authorities of scientific names, has so far generated about 4,000 views by nearly 3,000 unique readers.

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. 

Access to data and services along the entire data and research life cycle in biodiversity science.
The figure was featured in the BiCIKL grant proposal, now made available from the BiCIKL project collection in RIO Journal.

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

So, we can see many project outputs marked as RIO publications, but also others that have been published in the likes of F1000Research, the official journal of TDWG: Biodiversity Information Science and Standards, and even preprints servers, such as BiohackrXiv

This is because one of the unique features of RIO allows 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.

***

You can keep tabs on the BiCIKL project collection in RIO Journal by subscribing to the journal newsletter or following @RIOJournal on Twitter and Facebook.

Interoperable biodiversity data extracted from literature through open-ended queries

OpenBiodiv is a biodiversity database containing knowledge extracted from scientific literature, built as an Open Biodiversity Knowledge Management System. 

The OpenBiodiv contribution to BiCIKL

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.

“I believe that OpenBiodiv is a good real-life example of how the outputs and efforts of a research project may and should outlive the duration of the project itself. Something that is – of course – central to our mission at BiCIKL.”

explains Prof Lyubomir Penev, BiCIKL’s Project Coordinator and founder and CEO of Pensoft.

“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,”

he adds.

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.

Sample of predefined SPARQL queries at OpenBiodiv.

“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,”

concludes Prof Lyubomir Penev.

***

Follow BiCIKL on Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter at #BiCIKL_H2020.

You can also follow Pensoft on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and use #OpenBiodiv on Twitter.

BiCIKL partners sign the Leiden Declaration on FAIR Digital Objects

Key figures from Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Plazi and Pensoft were amongst the first to sign the Declaration at the closing session of the First International Conference on FAIR Digital Objects (FDO2022)

Several of the BiCIKL partners signed the Leiden Declaration on FAIR Digital Objects, thereby committing to “a new environment that works as a truly meaningful data space,” as framed by the organisers of the conference, whose first instalment turned out to be the perfect occasion for the formal publication of the pact. 

Key figures from Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Plazi and Pensoft were amongst the first to sign the Declaration at the closing session of the First International Conference on FAIR Digital Objects (FDO2022), which took place in October 2022 in Leiden, the Netherlands, where it was hosted by the Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

***

The conference brought together key international technical, scientific, industry and science-policy stakeholders with the aim to boost the development and implementation of FAIR Digital Objects (FDOs) worldwide. It was organised by the FDO Forum, an initiative supported by major global initiatives and by a variety of regional and national initiatives with the shared goal to achieve a better coherence amongst the increasing number of initiatives working on FDO-based designs and implementations.  

By joining the Declaration’s signees, the BiCIKL partners formally committed to:

  • Support the FAIR guiding principles to be applied (ultimately) to each digital object in a web of FAIR data and services;  
  • Support open standards and protocols;
  • Support data and services to be as open as possible, and only as restricted as necessary;
  • Support distributed solutions where useful to achieve robustness and scalability, but recognise the need for centralised approaches where necessary;
    • Support the restriction of standards and protocols to the absolute minimum;
    • Support freedom to operate wherever possible;
    • Help to avoid monopolies and provider lock-in wherever possible.

***

During the event, Plazi and Pensoft held a presentation demonstrating how their Biodiversity Literature Repository turns taxonomic treatments ‘locked’ in legacy scientific literature into FAIR Digital Objects. As a result of the collaboration between Plazi and Pensoft – a partnership long-preceding their involvement in BiCIKL – this workflow has also been adapted to modern-day publishing, in order to FAIRify data as soon as it is published.

A slide from the Plazi presentation at the FDO2022, Leiden, the Netherlands. Credit: Plazi.

***

Ahead of FDO2022, all submitted conference abstracts – including the one associated with Plazi’s presentation – were made publicly available in a collection of their own in Pensoft’s open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO). Thus, not only did the organisers make the conference outputs available to the participants early on, so that they can familiarise themselves with the upcoming talks and topics in advance, but they also ensure that the contributions are permanently preserved and FAIR in their own turn. 

The conference collection, guest edited by Tina Loo (Naturalis Biodiversity Center), contains a total of 51 conference abstracts, where each is published in HTML, XML and PDF formats, and assigned with its own persistent identifier (DOI) just like the collection in its entirety (10.3897/rio.coll.190).

***

Read more about the declaration and sign it yourself from this link. You can also follow the FDO Forum on Twitter (@FAIRDOForum).

One Biodiversity Knowledge Hub to link them all: BiCIKL 2nd General Assembly

The FAIR Data Place – the key and final product of the partnership – is meant to provide scientists with all types of biodiversity data “at their fingertips”

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.

Prof. Lyubomir Penev (BiCIKL’s project coordinator Prof. Lyubomir Penev and CEO and founder of Pensoft) opens the 2nd General Assembly of BiCIKL in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

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 FAIR Data Place online platform – the key and final product of the partnership and the BiCIKL initiative – is meant to provide scientists with all types of biodiversity data “at their fingertips”.

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.

“I see our meeting in Plovdiv as a practical demonstration of our eagerness and commitment to tackle the long-standing and technically complex challenge of breaking down the silos in the biodiversity data domain. It is time to start building freeways between all biodiversity data, across (digital) space, time and data types. After the last three days that we spent together in inspirational and productive discussions, I am as confident as ever that we are close to providing scientists with much more straightforward routes to not only generate more biodiversity data, but also build on the already existing knowledge to form new hypotheses and information ready to use by decision- and policy-makers. One cannot stress enough how important the role of biodiversity data is in preserving life on Earth. These data are indeed the groundwork for all that we know about the natural world”  

Prof. Lyubomir Penev added.
Christos Arvanitidis (CEO of LifeWatch ERIC) at the 2nd General Assembly of the BiCIKL project.

Christos Arvanitidis, CEO of LifeWatch ERIC, added:

“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.”


Joana Pauperio (biodiversity curator at EMBL-EBI) at the 2nd General Assembly of the BiCIKL project.

“BiCIKL is leading data infrastructure communities through some exciting and important developments”  

said Dr Guy Cochrane, Team Leader for Data Coordination and Archiving and Head of the European Nucleotide Archive at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

“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,”

he added.

Deborah Paul, Chair of the Biodiversity Information Standards – TDWG said:

“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.

***

Learn more about BiCIKL on the project’s website at: bicikl-project.eu

Follow BiCIKL Project on Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter at #BiCIKL_H2020.

***

All BiCIKL project partners:

Call for Expression of Interest for biodiversity data-related scientific projects from BiCIKL

The purpose of this call is to solicit, select and implement four to six biodiversity data-related scientific projects that will make use of the added value services developed by the leading Research Infrastructures that make the BiCIKL project.

The BiCIKL project invites submissions of Expression of Interest (EoI) to the First BiCIKL Open Call for projects. The purpose of this call is to solicit, select and implement four to six biodiversity data-related scientific projects that will make use of the added value services developed by the leading Research Infrastructures that make the BiCIKL project.

By opening this call, BiCIKL aims to better understand how it could support scientific questions that arise from across the biodiversity world in the future, while addressing specific scientific or technical biodiversity data challenges presented by the applicants.

We need and want to assess real-world problems and make the best possible use of our data and technical capabilities. This will greatly assist in defining the long-term development goals of the participating Research Infrastructures and improve the way they can technically and operationally work together to deliver greater scientific value.

explain the project partners.

The BiCIKL project – a Horizon 2020-funded project involving 14 European institutions, representing major global players in biodiversity research and natural history, and coordinated by Pensoft – establishes a European starting community of key research infrastructures, researchers, citizen scientists and other biodiversity and life sciences stakeholders based on open science practices through access to data, tools and services.

Find more about the Call and submit your Expression of Interest

***

Follow BiCIKL on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation on Twitter via #BiCIKL_H2020.

Celebrating 30 years of scholarly publishing at Pensoft!

As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pensoft, we are asking ourselves: What’s a tree without its roots? Here, we’ll tell you the story of Pensoft.

On this occasion full of sweet memories, we are also inviting you to complete this 3-minute survey. We would deeply appreciate your invaluable feedback!

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

Website: https://zookeys.pensoft.net/

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

Explore the 50th ZooKeys issue.

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

Website: https://jhr.pensoft.net/

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.

Impact Factor and CiteScore trend for Journal of Hymenoptera Research since 2015.

2013: Pensoft replaces TRIADA with its own in-house built innovative ARPHA Platform

Website: https://arphahub.com/

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

Website: https://arpha.pensoft.net/

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

Website: https://riojournal.com/

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 

Website: https://ap.pensoft.net/

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. 

Learn more about the upgraded collections module on our blog and explore the collections on RIO’s website. 

Research projects with collections in RIO Journal.

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.

Visit the BiCIKL website, explore the news section and follow @BiCIKL_H2020 on Twitter.

To stay up to date with the highlights from our various activities at Pensoft, follow us onTwitter,Facebook and LinkedIn

New BiCIKL project to build a freeway between pieces of biodiversity knowledge

Within Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library (BiCIKL), 14 key research and natural history institutions commit to link infrastructures and technologies to provide flawless access to biodiversity data.

In a recently started Horizon 2020-funded project, 14 European institutions from 10 countries, representing both the continent’s and global key players in biodiversity research and natural history, deploy and improve their own and partnering infrastructures to bridge gaps between each other’s biodiversity data types and classes. By linking their technologies, they are set to provide flawless access to data across all stages of the research cycle.

Three years in, BiCIKL (abbreviation for Biodiversity Community Integrated Knowledge Library) 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, thereby accessing the complete story behind an organism of interest: its name, genetics, occurrences, natural history, as well as authors and publications mentioning any of those.

Ultimately, the project’s products will solidify Open Science and FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data practices by empowering and streamlining biodiversity research.

Together, the project partners will redesign the way biodiversity data is found, linked, integrated and re-used across the research cycle. By the end of the project, BiCIKL will provide the community with a more transparent, trustworthy and efficient highly automated research ecosystem, allowing for scientists to access, explore and put into further use a wide range of data with only a few clicks.

“In recent years, we’ve made huge progress on how biodiversity data is located, accessed, shared, extracted and preserved, thanks to a vast array of digital platforms, tools and projects looking after the different types of data, such as natural history specimens, species descriptions, images, occurrence records and genomics data, to name a few. However, we’re still missing an interconnected and user-friendly environment to pull all those pieces of knowledge together. Within BiCIKL, we all agree that it’s only after we puzzle out how to best bridge our existing infrastructures and the information they are continuously sourcing that future researchers will be able to realise their full potential,” 

explains BiCIKL’s project coordinator Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft, a scholarly publisher and technology provider company.

Continuously fed with data sourced by the partnering institutions and their infrastructures, BiCIKL’s key final output: the Biodiversity Knowledge Hub, is set to persist with time long after the project has concluded. On the contrary, by accelerating biodiversity research that builds on – rather than duplicates – existing knowledge, it will in fact be providing access to exponentially growing contextualised biodiversity data.

***

Learn more about BiCIKL on the project’s website at: bicikl-project.eu

Follow BiCIKL Project on Twitter and Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter at #BiCIKL_H2020.

***

The project partners: