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.

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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/ 

Brand new journal Estuarine Management and Technologies streamlines innovation in ecosystems conservation

There has been an increasing need to support the exchange of research related to the conservation and sustainable management of estuarine ecosystems by means of new-age technologies and approaches.

Where freshwater rivers meet seas and oceans lies a scientifically intriguing and ecologically important type of ecosystem. As estuarine ecosystems provide various and diverse services to humanity and the planet at large, including food security and natural buffers and filters in the events of storms and water pollution, there has been an increasing need to facilitate and support the exchange of research findings and ideas related to their conservation and sustainable management by means of new-age technology and novel approaches.

This is how a team of renowned and passionate scientists, headed by Dr. Soufiane Haddout (Ibn Tofail University, Morocco), took the decision to launch a brand new open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly, aptly titled Estuarine Management and Technologies. They explain the rationale behind the journal in a new editorial, published to mark the official launch of the journal.

Having already worked closely with the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft on the fine touches of the concept of the new academic title, the team opted to use Pensoft’s publishing platform of ARPHA. As a result, the new journal provides a seamless, end-to-end publishing experience, encompassing all stages between manuscript submission and article publication, indexation, dissemination and permanent archiving. 

Within the collaboration between the journal’s and Pensoft’s teams, Estuarine Management and Technologies will take advantage of various services offered by the ARPHA platform, including full-text automated export in machine-readable and minable JATS-XML format to over 60 relevant databases for scientific literature and data; semantically enriched and multimedia-friendly publications accessible in HTML; and rich statistics about the outreach and usage of each published article and its elements (e.g. figures and tables), including views, downloads, online mentions, and citations. 

The publishing platform’s in-house indexing team will continue their close work with the journal’s editors to ensure that the scholarly outlet retains highest quality and integrity, so that it covers the criteria for indexation at additional key databases that require individual evaluation. In the meantime, ARPHA’s technical and editorial teams will provide technical and customer support to authors, editors and reviewers. The marketing and promotion team of ARPHA will be also joining forces with the journal to boost the visibility and image of the new academic title.

During the launch phase, content accepted for publication following double-blinded peer review will be made public right away for free to both authors and readers, where the journal will be operating under a continuous publication model.

Estuarine Management and Technologies welcomes studies from a wide spectrum of disciplines, including physics, chemistry, geology, biology, and hydrology, with a focus on interdisciplinarity, multifaceted approaches and holistic perspectives.

“One crucial aspect of estuarine management is the sustainable use of resources to balance conservation with human needs. Striking this delicate equilibrium requires a holistic understanding of the intricate web of ecological interactions within estuarine environments. Advanced technologies, such as isotopic techniques, environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis, can provide insights into the biodiversity of estuarine ecosystems with unprecedented precision,”

explain Dr Haddout and his colleagues in the opening editorial.

Amongst the unique features of the new journal are several additional publication types, such as Expert View, Video Paper, Rapid Communication, Mini Review and Estuarine Scientists, where these have been added to traditional publication outputs (e.g. Research Paper, Review Paper, Data Paper) to foster collaboration between researchers and other stakeholders in the field.

The journal is also running an annual Trailblazing Talent in Estuarine Management and Technologies award intended to recognise and encourage young scientists and engineers at the forefront of cutting-edge research in estuarine management and technologies. Nominations and applications are currently open.

Estuarine Management and Technologies also welcomes applications for guest editors in order to further expand the journal and its immediate expert network.

“I am delighted to see the Estuarine Management and Technologies journal already live on the ARPHA platform. We are confident that this particularly important, yet so far quite overlooked area of study will greatly benefit from this highly promising journal,”

says Prof. Lyubomir Penev, CEO and founder of Pensoft and ARPHA.

“I am pleased to announce the launch of the Estuarine Management and Technologies journal on ARPHA, a decision rooted in our commitment to advancing the field. We believe that this strategic partnership will not only enhance the visibility and accessibility of our journal, but will also foster collaboration and innovation within the estuarine management and technologies community. We expect this alliance to be a catalyst for scholarly excellence, providing a robust platform for researchers and practitioners to share insights, address challenges, and propel the field forward. Together with ARPHA, we are confident in the positive impact our journal will have on shaping the future of estuarine management and technologies.”

says Dr. Soufiane Haddout, Editor-in-Chief and founder, Estuarine Management and Technologies.

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You can visit the journal website and sign up for its newsletter from the homepage.

You can also follow Estuarine Management and Technologies on X (formerly Twitter).

Pensoft’s statement on the European Union’s Conclusions on OA scholarly publishing

We are firm supporters of healthy competition that drives innovation and revolutionary technologies, while supporting freedom of choice.

On behalf of Pensoft Publishers, we express our support for the Conclusions on high-quality, transparent, open and equitable scholarly publishing, recently published by the Council of the European Union. We do share all concerns articulated in the document that highlight major inequities and outstanding issues in the scholarly publishing environment.

In our opinion, it is of utmost importance to promptly address the existing issues in the publishing system, where healthy competition can thrive and contribute to a reality safe from potential mono-/oligopolies and corporate capture.

We firmly believe that only an industry that leaves room for variously-scaled pioneers and startups is capable of leading a long-awaited shift to a high-quality, transparent, open and equitable scholarly publishing landscape aligning with the principles of FAIRness.

Yet, we shall acknowledge that the industry has so far failed to eradicate the most fundamental flaw of the past. In the beginning, the main aim of the Open Access (OA) movement was removing the barrier to access to publicly funded scientific knowledge and scrapping costly subscription fees.

Recently, however, the industry’s biggest players merely replaced it with a barrier to publication by introducing costly Article Processing Charges (APCs) and “big deals” signed between top commercial publishers and academic institutions or national library consortia. 

As a result, small and middle-sized open-access publishers, which have, ironically, been the ones to lead the change and transition to OA by default and oppose the large commercial publishers’ agenda, were effectively pushed out of the scene. Further, we are currently witnessing a situation where OA funds are mostly going to the ones who used to oppose OA.

So, we strongly support measures that ensure an inclusive and FAIR competition, which could in turn prompt quality, sustainability and reasonable pricing in scholarly publishing. In our opinion, an environment like this would actually foster equality and equity amongst all publishers, either small, large, non-profit, commercial, institutional or society-based. 

One of the main points of the conclusions is a recommendation for a general use of the Diamond OA model, where no charges apply to either researchers or readers. While we fully support the Diamond OA model, we wish to stress on the fact that considerable concerns about the sustainability of existing Diamond OA models remain.

On the one hand, there are OA agreements (also known as read-and-publish, publish-and-read, transformative agreements etc.), typically signed between top publishers and top research institutions/consortia. This OA model is often mistakenly referred to as “Diamond OA”, since authors affiliated with those institutions are not concerned with providing the APC payment – either by paying themselves or applying for funding. Instead, the APCs are paid centrally. Most often, however, journals published by those publishers are still directly charging authors who are not members of the signed institutions with, in our opinion, excessive APCs. Even if those APCs are covered by a signed institution, these are still considerable funds that are being navigated away from actual research work. 

On the other hand, there are independent researchers, in addition to smaller or underfunded institutions, typically – yet far from exclusively – located in the developing world, who are effectively being discriminated against. 

In conclusion, this type of contracts are shutting away smaller actors from across academia just like they used to be under the subscription-based model. Hereby, we wish to express our full agreement with the Council of the European Union’s conclusion, that “it is essential to avoid situations where researchers are limited in their choice of publication channels due to financial capacities rather than quality criteria”.

There are also several alternative OA models designed to lessen the burden of publication costs for both individual researchers, libraries and journal owners. However, each comes with its own drawbacks. Here – we believe – is where the freedom of choice is perhaps most needed, in order to keep researchers’ and publishers’  best interests at heart. 

One of those alternatives is open-source publishing platforms, which – by design – are well-positioned to deliver actual Diamond OA for journals, while maintaining independence from commercial publishers. However, the operational model of this type of publishing and hosting platforms would most often only provide a basic infrastructure for editors to publish and preserve content. As a result, the model might require extra staff and know-how, while remaining prone to human errors. Additionally, a basic technological infrastructure could impede the FAIRness of the published output, which demands advanced and automated workflows to appropriately format, tag semantically and export scientific outputs promptly after publication.

Similarly, large funders and national consortia have put their own admirable efforts to step up and provide another option for authors of research and their institutions. Here, available funds are allocated to in-house Diamond OA publishing platforms that have originally been designed according to the policies and requirements of the respective funding programme or state. However, this type of support – while covering a large group of authors (e.g. based in a certain country, funded under a particular programme, and/or working in a specific research field) – still leaves many behind, including multinational or transdisciplinary teams. Additionally, due to the focus on ‘mass supply’, most of these OA publishing platforms have so far been unable to match their target user base with the appropriate scale of services and support.

What we have devised and developed at Pensoft with the aim to contribute to the pool of available choices is an OA publishing model, whose aim is to balance cost affordability, functionality, reliability, transparency and long-term sustainability. 

To do so, we work with journal owners, institutions and societies to create their own business and operational model for their journals that matches two key demands of the community: (1) free to read and free to publish OA model, and, (2) services and infrastructure suited for Diamond OA at a much lower cost, compared to those offered by major commercial publishers.

In our opinion, independent small publishers differentiate from both large commercial publishers and publicly funded providers by relying to a greater extent on innovative technology and close employee collaboration.

As a result, they are capable of delivering significantly more customisable solutions – including complete packages of automated and human-provided services – and, ultimately, achieving considerably lower-cost publishing solutions. Likewise, they might be better suited to provide much more flexible business models, so that libraries and journal owners can easily support (subsets of or all) authors to the best of their capabilities.

While we realise that there is no faultless way to high-quality, transparent, open and equitable scholarly publishing, we are firm supporters of an environment, where healthy competition prompts the continuous invention and evolution of tools and workflows

Our own motivation to invest in scholarly publishing technology and its continuous refinement and advancement, coupled with a number of in-house and manually provided services, which is reflected in our APC policies, aligns with the Council’s statement that “scientific practices for ensuring reproducibility, transparency, sharing, rigour and collaboration are important means of achieving a publishing system responsive to the challenges of democratic, modern and digitalised societies.”

Our thinking is that – much like in any other industry – what drives innovation and revolutionary technologies is competition. To remain healthy and even self-policing, however, this competition needs to embrace transparency, equity and inclusivity.

Last, but not least, researchers need to have the freedom to choose from plenty of options when deciding where and how to publish their work!

Beware of scientific scams! Tips to avoid predatory publishing in biological journals

Predatory publishing has been growing exponentially, with severe consequences for society and the environment.

Guest blog post by Cássio Cardoso Pereira, Gabriela França Fernandes, and Walisson Kenedy Siqueira

We are bombarded day and night with slot-machine invitations from journals, books, and events such as congresses and lectures. Predatory publishing has reached alarming levels in biology, which is why we published an editorial in the journal Neotropical Biology and Conservation to alert the community, show the modus operandi of these publishers, and pass on good practices so that researchers, especially beginners, can escape this trap.

Piggybacking on the open access movement, numerous predatory publishers have emerged in search of easy profits. These cybercriminals take advantage of the publish-or-perish culture without providing any information about their peer-review protocols, concerned not with the scientific, bibliographic, or ethical aspects of publishing, but with the money received from authors.

The number of predatory publishers has grown exponentially in recent years and spread across all areas of knowledge, including biology. It is a common practice of these journals, often with an equally fake editorial staff, to send electronic invitations to potential authors to publish articles. These invitations are often facilitated by initial screenings of the emails of corresponding authors available on the internet. The emailed invitations from the supposed editors often stress that the author’s work is sound and, since it has already gone through the scrutiny of the editorial board, requires only the payment of a fee to publish it, with no need for further peer review.

Invitations to join the editorial board of these journals are also frequent, mostly intended to take advantage of the scientists’ prestige. Instead of editing articles, these invited editors are used as poster boys, i.e., they have their names published on the journal’s website, thus attracting unsuspecting authors to submit their manuscripts.

These journals are generally not included in the directory of open access journals (DOAJ) and are not indexed in the main bibliometric databases, such as Google Scholar, SciELO, Scopus, and Web of Science, for the simple reason that they do not meet their inclusion criteria. The websites of these journals often have little information about the editorial board, have a fake International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), lack transparency regarding their scope, provide no indication of a policy of retraction, have no transparency regarding copyright transfer, and provide very vague contact information, often omitting the address of the journal’s office.

In addition to papers, there are also invitations to publish books and book chapters with fake International Standard Book Numbers and dubious editorial boards. There is also a flood of invitations to predatory meetings, such as online conferences, symposia, workshops, and lectures. These often have websites that are equally confusing and never linked to a university or a postgraduate program. Above all, one should consult advisors, supervisors, or senior colleagues about the invitation and the sender’s academic reputation. In any case, one must pay attention not only to the citation metrics but also, mainly, to their editorial board, ISSN, ISBN, contact information, and relationships with recognized institutions.

When we analyze the impacts of predatory publishing on the scientific community, the worst problems are:

  • the dissemination of erroneous information about scientific problems of interest
  • the facilitation of plagiarism
  • the waste of public resources intended for publication
  • the appointment of researchers at universities and research institutes based on curricula full of doubtful publications, generating negative cascading effects that undermine higher education as a whole.

The damage done to society can be even worse. Governments, large companies, and decision-makers can be misled by false information, resulting in attitudes that undermine responses to major human problems such as climate change, biodiversity, and pandemics.

Efforts to fight predatory publishers require collaboration and support at higher levels. Governments need to create regulatory agencies that carefully and systematically evaluate the activities carried out by scientific journals. Science funding agencies should require that publication fees be paid only to publishers that adhere to an internationally recognized set of transparency and ethical rules. We need to discuss our values and incentives in the academic community, so we can start prioritizing quality over quantity. This would provide a reference point for research, help design coherent interventions, and improve information and public policy in favor of society and the environment.

Reference:

Pereira CC, Mello MAR, Negreiros D, Figueiredo JCG, Kenedy-Siqueira W, Maia LR, Fernandes S, Fernandes GFC, Ponce de Leon A, Ashworth L, Oki Y, de Castro GC, Aguilar R, Fearnside PM, Fernandes GW (2023) Beware of scientific scams! Hints to avoid predatory publishing in biological journals. Neotropical Biology and Conservation 18(2): 97-105. https://doi.org/10.3897/neotropical.18.e108887

Eye for Detail: Papers in Pensoft journals sport a new look

As behaviours and needs of readers change, we strive to keep up with the times. Let’s run through what & why has changed to the PDF format.

Readers at some of the journals published by Pensoft, who have downloaded/printed a publication or ordered a physical copy of a journal issue over the last few weeks, might be in for a surprise concerning the layout of the PDF format of the articles. 

Research papers published in ZooKeys demonstrating the former (left) and the current (right) article layout seen in the PDF format. 

Even though it’s been years since online publishing has become the norm in how we are consuming information – including scientific publications – we understand that academia is still very much fond of traditional, often paper-based, article layout format: the one you use when accessing a PDF file or a print copy, rather than directly scrolling down through the HTML version of the article. 

Even if today large orders of printed volumes from overseas are the exception, rather than the rule, we know we have readers of ours who regularly print manuscripts at home or savе them on their devices. Trends like this have already led to many journals first abandoning the physical- for digital-first, then transitioning to digital-only publication format.

Meanwhile, it is true that needs and demands have fundamentally changed in recent times. 

As we speak, readers are accessing PDF files from much higher-quality desktops, in order to skim through as much content as possible. 

In the meantime, authors are relying on greater-quality cameras to document their discoveries, while using advanced computational tools capable of generating and analysing extra layers of precise data. While producing more exhaustive research, however, it is also of key importance that their manuscripts are processed and published as rapidly as possible.

So, let’s run through the updates and give you our reasoning for their added value to readers and authors.

Revised opening page

One of the major changes is the one to the format of the first page. By leaving some blank space on the left, we found a dedicated place for important article metadata, i.e. academic editor, date of manuscript submission / acceptance / publication, citation details and licence. As a result, we “cleaned up” the upper part of the page, so that it can better highlight the authors and their affiliations. 

Bottom line: The new layout provides a better structure to the opening page to let readers find key article metadata at a glance. 

Expand as much – or as little – as comfortable

As you might know, journals published by Pensoft have been coming in different formats and sizes. Now, we have introduced the standard A4 page size, where the text is laid in a single column that has been slightly indented to the right, as seen above. Whenever a figure or a table is used in a manuscript, however, it is expanded onto the whole width of the page.

Before giving our reasons why, let’s see what were the specific problems that we address.

Case study 1

Some of our signature journals, including ZooKeys, PhytoKeys and MycoKeys, have become quite recognisable with their smaller-than-average B5 format, widely appreciated by people who would often be seen carrying around a copy during a conference or an international flight.

However, in recent times, authors began to embrace good practices in research like open sharing of data and code, which resulted in larger and more complex tables. Similarly, their pocket-sized cameras would capture much higher-resolution photos capable of revealing otherwise minute morphological characters. Smaller page size would also mean that often there would be pages between an in-text reference of a figure or a table and the visual itself.

So, here we faced an obvious question: shall we deprive their readers from all those detailed insights into the published studies?

Case study 2

Meanwhile, other journals, such as Herpetozoa, Zoosystematics and Evolution and Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift, had long been operating in A4 size, thereby providing their readers with a full view of the figures in their publications. 

Yet, the A4 format brought up another issue: the lines were too long for the eye comfort of their readers. 

What they did was organise their pages into two-column format. While this sounds like a good and quite obvious decision, the format – best known from print newspapers – is pretty inconvenient when accessed digitally. Since the readers would like to zoom in on the PDF page or simply access the article on mobile, they will need to scroll up and down several times per page. 

In addition, the production of a two-column text is technologically more challenging, which results in extra production time.

Bottom line: The new layout allows journals to not sacrifice image quality for text readability and vice versa. As a bonus, authors enjoy faster publication for their papers.

Simplified font

If you have a closer look at the PDF file, you would notice that print-ready papers have also switched to a more simplistic – yet easier to the eye – font. Again, the update corresponds to today’s digital-native user behaviour, where readers often access PDF files from devices of various resolutions and skim through the text, as opposed to studying its content in detail.

In fact, the change is hardly new, since the same font has long been utilised for the webpages (HTML format) of the publications across all journals.

Bottom line: The slightly rounder and simplified font prompts readability, thereby allowing for faster and increased consumption of content. 

What’s the catch? How about characters and APCs?

While we have been receiving a lot of positive feedback from editors, authors and readers, there has been a concern that the updates would increase the publication charges, wherever these are estimated based on page numbers.

Having calculated the lines and characters in the new layout format, we would like to assure you that there is no increase in the numbers of characters or words between the former and current layout formats. In fact, due to the additional number of lines fitting in an A4 page as opposed to B5, authors might be even up for a deal.

________

* At the time of the writing, the new paper layout has not been rolled out at all journals published by Pensoft. However, most of the editorial boards have already confirmed they would like to incorporate the update.

________

For news from & about Pensoft and our journal portfolio, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

Pensoft among the first 27 publishers to share prices & services via the Journal Comparison Service by Plan S

All journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.

In support of transparency and openness in scholarly publishing and academia, the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft joined the Journal Comparison Service (JCS) initiative by cOAlition S, an alliance of national funders and charitable bodies working to increase the volume of free-to-read research. 

As a result, all journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.

The JCS was launched to aid libraries and library consortia – the ones negotiating and participating in Open Access agreements with publishers – by providing them with everything they need to know in order to determine whether the prices charged by a certain journal are fair and corresponding to the quality of the service. 

According to cOAlition S, an increasing number of libraries and library consortia from Europe, Africa, North America, and Australia have registered with the JCS over the past year since the launch of the portal in September 2021.

While access to the JCS is only open to librarians, individual researchers may also make use of the data provided by the participating publishers and their journals. 

This is possible through an integration with the Journal Checker Tool, where researchers can simply enter the name of the journal of interest, their funder and affiliation (if applicable) to check whether the scholarly outlet complies with the Open Access policy of the author’s funder. A full list of all academic titles that provide data to the JCS is also publicly available. By being on the list means a journal and its publisher do not only support cOAlition S, but they also demonstrate that they stand for openness and transparency in scholarly publishing.

“We are delighted that Pensoft, along with a number of other publishers, have shared their price and service data through the Journal Comparison Service. Not only are such publishers demonstrating their commitment to open business models and cultures but are also helping to build understanding and trust within the research community.”

said Robert Kiley, Head of Strategy at cOAlition S. 

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About cOAlition S:

On 4 September 2018, a group of national research funding organisations, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (ERC), announced the launch of cOAlition S, an initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality. It is built around Plan S, which consists of one target and 10 principles. Read more on the cOAlition S website.

About Plan S:

Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funding and performing organisations. Plan S requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms. Read more on the cOAlition S website.

Celebrating excellence in plant systematics research: Phytokeys’ 200th issue

For almost 12 years now, PhytoKeys has been providing high-quality, peer-reviewed resources on plant taxonomy, phylogeny, biogeography and evolution, freely available open access.

PhytoKeys, Pensoft’s open-access, peer-reviewed botany systematics journal, has been around for over a decade. Since its launch in 2010, it has published almost 30,000 pages in more than 1,200 works. As PhytoKeys hits the milestone of its 200th issue – which presented a monograph of wild and cultivated chili peppers – there’s plenty to look back to.

For almost 12 years now, PhytoKeys has been providing high-quality, peer-reviewed resources on plant taxonomy, phylogeny, biogeography and evolution, freely available open access.

As our flagship botany journal, PhytoKeys is part of our concerted effort to help advance taxonomic studies. The more we know about biodiversity, the better we are equipped to protect it.

This is why, in a time when so many species are getting wiped out from the face of the Earth before we even become aware of their existence, it is truly exciting that we can sometimes be the bearer of good news.

Take the story of Gasteranthus extinctus from Ecuador doesn’t its name sound a lot like extinct to you? That’s because the scientists named it based on specimens collected some 15 years earlier. So, they suspected that during the time in between, the species had already become extinct.

Yet, this is a happy-ending story: in a surprising turn of events, the plant was rediscovered 40 years after its last sighting. Gasteranthus extinctus is the hopeful message that we all needed: there’s still so much we can do to protect biodiversity.

Long believed to have gone extinct, Gasteranthus extinctus was found growing next to a waterfall at Bosque y Cascada Las Rocas, a private reserve in coastal Ecuador containing a large population of the endangered plant. Photo by Riley Fortier.

Over the time, we saw some ground-breaking botany research. We welcomed some record-breaking new plant species, such as the 3.6-meter-tall begonia, and the smallest Rafflesia that measures around 10 cm in diameter.

We witnessed the discoveries of some truly beautiful flowers.

Some of them may have looked like they had a demon’s head hiding in them.

We helped unveil some taxonomic mysteries – like the bamboo fossil that wasn’t a bamboo, or the 30-meter new species of tree that was “hiding in plain sight”.

Then there was the overnight celebrity: the first pitcher plant to form underground insect traps.

Published less than two months ago, Nepenthes pudica broke all kinds of popularity records at PhytoKeys: it became the journal’s all-time most popular work, with thousands of shares on social media, more than 70 news outlets covering its story, and upward of 70,000 views on YouTube.

Publishing in PhytoKeys is always a pleasure. I appreciate the quick but rigorous peer review process and reasonably short time from initial submission to the final publication.

says Martin Dančák of Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic, lead author of the Nepenthes study.

Every week, PhytoKeys publishes dozens of pages of quality botany research. Every week, we’re amazed at the discoveries made by botanists around the world. In a field that is so rapidly evolving, and with so much remaining to be unveiled, the future sure seems promising!

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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.

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Museum of New Zealand’s journal Tūhinga moves to Pensoft’s ARPHA Publishing Platform

Having decided to turn Tūhinga “into a 21st-century”, digital-native diamond open-access journal, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa signed with scholarly publisher and technology provider Pensoft and its publishing platform ARPHA. As part of their agreement, not only is the journal to make its future content easy to read and discover by readers and computer algorithms, but will also do so for its legacy content.

Having decided to turn Tūhinga “into a 21st-century”, digital-native diamond open-access journal, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa signed with scholarly publisher and technology provider Pensoft and its publishing platform ARPHA. As part of the agreement, not only is the journal to make its future content easy to read and discover by readers and computer algorithms, but will also do so for its legacy publications previously available solely in print. 

Tūhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is the successor of the Museum of New Zealand Records, the National Museum of New Zealand Records, and the Dominion Museum Records in Ethnology. Together, the outlets have acquired a nearly two century-worth of scientific knowledge provided by the museum’s curators, collection managers, and research associates across disciplines, from archaeology to zoology.

The renovated Tūhinga is to utilise the whole package of signature services provided by the platform, including ARPHA’s fast-track, end-to-end publishing system, which benefits readers, authors, reviewers and editors alike. 

This means that each submitted manuscript is to be carried through the review, editing, publication, dissemination and archiving stages without leaving the platform’s collaboration-centred online environment. The articles themselves are to be openly available in PDF, machine-readable JATS XML formats, and semantically enriched HTML for better reader experience. Thus, the journal’s articles will be as easy to discover, access, reuse and cite as possible. Once published, the content is to be indexed and archived instantaneously and its underlying data exported to relevant specialised databases. Simultaneously, a suite of various metrics is to be enabled to facilitate tracking the usage of articles and sub-article elements – like figures and tables – in real time.

The journal’s legacy content is to also become machine-discoverable and more user-friendly. Each of these papers will also be assigned with DOI and registered at CrossRef, while their metadata will be indexed at relevant databases. On the new journal website, they will be displayed as embedded PDF documents, while the reader will be able to do a full-text search of the article’s content.

Tūhinga welcomes original collections-based research in the natural sciences and humanities, including museological research, where its multidisciplinarity reflects the breadth and range of museum-based scholarship. The journal focuses primarily on New Zealand and the Pacific, but all contributions are considered. Having opted for a Diamond Open Access policy, the journal is to charge neither its readers, nor the authors.

“It’s a great honour to sign with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and provide our publishing services to Tūhinga. Particularly, we take pride in letting the whole wide world straight into the holdings of Te Papa and the knowledge they have prompted in the distant past: something that would not typically be possible had they remained only on paper,”

says Prof. Dr Lyubomir Penev, founder and CEO at ARPHA and Pensoft.

The journal Biosystematics and Ecology moves to ARPHA Platform

The scholarly publisher and technology provider Pensoft and its self-developed publishing platform ARPHA welcome Biosystematics and Ecology – a journal by the Austrian Academy of Sciences – to its growing open-access scholarly portfolio. By moving to ARPHA, Biosystematics and Ecology now enjoys a long list of high-tech perks, which dramatically enhance the entire publishing process, from submission to publication, distribution and archiving.

The Austrian Academy of Sciences’ journal Biosystematics and Ecology now boasts an improved publishing infrastructure after moving to the technologically advanced ARPHA Platform and signing with publisher and technology provider Pensoft. The publisher, well-established in the domain of biodiversity-themed journals, is eager to welcome this latest addition to its growing open-access portfolio.

Biosystematics and Ecology is a continuation and replaces the established print-only Biosystematics and Ecology Series of the Austrian Academy of Sciences’s Commission for Interdisciplinary Ecological Studies. It publishes research focused on biodiversity in Central Europe and around the world, a domain of rapidly growing importance as а global biodiversity crisis is looming. A great advantage of Biosystematics and Ecology, in contrast to its predecessor, is the ability to simply update existing checklists and therefore to account for new scientific findings about taxonomic groups or regions. 

The peer-reviewed outlet includes contributions on a wide range of ecology and biosystematics topics, aiming to provide biodiversity data, such as catalogi, checklists and interdisciplinary research to the scientific community, while offering the maximum in accessibility, usability, and transparency. The journal is currently indexed in Crossref and archived in CLOCKSS, Portico and Zenodo.

Having already acquired its own glossy and user-friendly website provided by ARPHA, the journal also takes advantage of the platform’s signature fast-track publishing system, which offers an end-to-end publishing solution from submission to publication, distribution and archiving. The platform offers a synergic online space for authoring, reviewing, editing, production and archiving, ensuring a seamlessly integrated workflow at every step of the publishing process.

Thanks to the financial support of the Academy, Biosystematics and Ecology will publish under Diamond Open Access, which means that it is free to read and publish. Opting for ARPHA’s white-label publishing solution, the journal is published under the Academy’s branding and imprint, while benefiting from all signature high-tech features by ARPHA.

Biosystematics and Ecology also makes use of ARPHA Preprints, another platform developed by Pensoft, where authors can post a preprint in a matter of seconds upon submitting a manuscript to the journal. Once the associated manuscript gets published, the preprint is conveniently linked to the formal paper, displaying its citation details.

ARPHA’s easy-to-use, open-access publishing platform offers high-end functionalities such as diverse paper formats (PDF, machine-readable JATS XML, and semantically enriched HTML), automated data export to aggregators, web-service integrations with major global indexing databases, advanced semantics publishing, and automated email notifications and reminders. Features like these make it easy for both humans and machines all over the world to discover, access, cite, and reuse published research.