Measuring the extent and dynamics of the global biodiversity crisis is a challenging task that demands rapid, reliable and repeatable biodiversity monitoring data. Such data is essential for policymakers to be able to assess policy options effectively and accurately. To achieve this, however, there is a need to enhance the integration of biodiversity data from various sources, including citizen scientists, museums, herbaria, and researchers.
B-Cubed (Biodiversity Building Blocks for policy) hopes to tackle this challenge by reimagining the process of biodiversity monitoring, making it more adaptable and responsive.
B-Cubed’s approach rests on six pillars:
Improved alignment between policy and biodiversity data. Working closely with existing biodiversity initiatives to identify and meet policy needs.
Evidence base. Leveraging data cubes to standardise access to biodiversity data using the Essential Biodiversity Variables framework. These cubes are the basis for models and indicators of biodiversity.
Cloud computing environment. Providing users with access to the models in real-time and on demand.
Automated workflows. Developing exemplary automated workflows for modelling using biodiversity data cubes and for calculating change indicators.
Case studies. Demonstrating the effectiveness of B-Cubed’s tools.
Capacity building. Ensuring that the solutions meet openness standards and training end-users to employ them.
Harnessing its experience in the communication, dissemination and exploitation of numerous EU projects, Pensoft focuses on maximising B-Cubed’s impact and ensuring the adoption and long-term legacy of its results. This encompasses a wide array of activities, ranging all the way from building the project’s visual and online presence to translating its results into policy recommendations. Pensoft also oversees B-Cubed’s data management by developing a Data Management Plan which ensures the implementation of the FAIR data principles and maximises the access to and re-use of the project’s research outputs.
Today, we are thrilled to share with you the celebration of a remarkable milestone in our journey. In July, we marked our 15th birthday – a decade and a half of fostering the free exchange of ideas, data, and knowledge in the vast realm of zoology.
We look back on this incredible journey with pride and appreciation for the countless researchers, authors, reviewers, and supporters who have helped make this dream a reality. From the very inception, our goal has been to create a platform where zoological discoveries can shine brightly, accessible to all who share a passion for the wonders of the animal kingdom.
ZooKeys was born out of our collective desire to push the boundaries of scientific publishing, to embrace innovation, and to provide a space where the brightest minds in zoology could come together. Over the years, we have not only achieved this but, thanks to our publisher Pensoft, have also become pioneers in implementing cutting-edge technologies to enhance the way knowledge is shared and absorbed.
ZooKeys was the first of Pensoft’s open-access journals, set up to accelerate research and free information exchange in taxonomy, phylogeny, biogeography and evolution of animals. Starting as a taxonomic journal, it quickly expanded to other zoology-related sciences, such as ecology, molecular biology, genomics, evolutionary biology, palaeontology, behavioural science, bioinformatics etc… The journal has been thriving since its inception and is currently considered as one of the most prolific and liked Open Access journals in zoology.
Erwin T, Stoev P, Penev L (2018) ZooKeys anniversary: 10 years of leadership toward open-access publishing of zoological data and establishment at Pensoft of like-minded sister journals across the biodiversity spectrum. ZooKeys 770: 1-8. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.770.28105
One of our proudest achievements was being the first taxonomic journal to introduce semantic tagging and content enhancements, revolutionizing the way information is presented and accessed. This endeavor, which began with our 50th issue in 2010, marked a turning point in scholarly publishing.
As of today, we’ve published more than 180,000 pages of research in almost 7,000 articles that have amassed more than 3 million views. Here is a Top 5 of our most popular articles ever:
Helgen K, Pinto M, Kays R, Helgen L, Tsuchiya M, Quinn A, Wilson D, Maldonado J (2013) Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito. ZooKeys 324: 1-83. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.324.5827, with 80,500 views,
Bousquet Y (2016) Litteratura Coleopterologica (1758–1900): a guide to selected books related to the taxonomy of Coleoptera with publication dates and notes. ZooKeys 583: 1-776. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.583.7084 with 69,543 views,
Ledford J, Griswold C, Audisio T (2012) An extraordinary new family of spiders from caves in the Pacific Northwest (Araneae, Trogloraptoridae, new family). ZooKeys 215: 77-102. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.215.3547 with 65,446 views,
Ibrahim N, Sereno PC, Varricchio DJ, Martill DM, Dutheil DB, Unwin DM, Baidder L, Larsson HCE, Zouhri S, Kaoukaya A (2020) Geology and paleontology of the Upper Cretaceous Kem Kem Group of eastern Morocco. ZooKeys 928: 1-216. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.928.47517 with 64,456 views,
Bouchard P, Bousquet Y, Davies A, Alonso-Zarazaga M, Lawrence J, Lyal C, Newton A, Reid C, Schmitt M, Slipinski A, Smith A (2011) Family-Group Names In Coleoptera (Insecta). ZooKeys 88: 1-972. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.88.807 with 63,524 views.
Our journey would have been incomplete without you – our avid readers and supporters. Your hunger for knowledge, your curiosity, and your unwavering support have been the wind beneath our wings, motivating us to do better, and reinforcing the importance of what we do. As we celebrate our 15th birthday, we extend our deepest gratitude to each one of you who has been a part of our history.
Looking ahead, the future of ZooKeys looks as bright as ever. We are committed to continuing our legacy of innovation, collaboration, and accessibility. Our goal remains steadfast – to be a beacon of knowledge, a platform that fosters discoveries, and a source of inspiration for the next generation of zoological minds.
As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, we are filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the remarkable achievements we have collectively made. Thank you for being a part of this incredible journey. Here’s to the next 15 years and beyond, as we continue to explore, discover, and celebrate the extraordinary diversity of life on Earth.
Today, 16 September 2023, we are celebrating our tenth anniversary: an important milestone that has prompted us to reflect on the incredible journey thatBiodiversity Data Journal (BDJ) has been through.
From the very beginning, our mission was clear: to revolutionise the way biodiversity data is shared, accessed, and harnessed. This journey has been one of innovation, collaboration, and a relentless commitment to making biodiversity data FAIR – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.
Over the past 10 years, BDJ, under the auspices of our esteemed publisher Pensoft, has emerged as a trailblazing force in biodiversity science. Our open-access platform has empowered researchers from around the world to publish comprehensive papers that seamlessly blend text with morphological descriptions, occurrences, data tables, and more. This holistic approach has enriched the depth of research articles and contributed to the creation of an interconnected web of biodiversity information.
In addition, by utilising ARPHA Writing Tool and ARPHA Platform as our entirely online manuscript authoring and submission interface, we have simplified the integration of structured data and narrative, reinforcing our commitment to simplifying the research process.
One of our most significant achievements is democratising access to biodiversity data. By dismantling access barriers, we have catalysed the emergence of novel research directions, equipping scientists with the tools to combat critical global challenges such as biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and climate fluctuations.
We firmly believe that data should be openly accessible to all, fostering collaboration and accelerating scientific discovery. By upholding the FAIR principles, we ensure that the datasets accompanying our articles are not only discoverable and accessible, but also easy to integrate and reusable across diverse fields.
As we reflect on the past decade, we are invigorated by the boundless prospects on the horizon. We will continue working on to steer the global research community towards a future where biodiversity data is open, accessible, and harnessed to tackle global challenges.
Ten years of biodiversity research
To celebrate our anniversary, we have curated some of our most interesting and memorable BDJ studies from the past decade.
Recently, news outlets were quick to cover a new species of ‘snug’ published in our journal.
This Golden Retriever trained to monitor hermit beetle larvae proved once again the incredible capabilities of our canine friends.
Who could forget this tiny fly named after the former Governor of California?
Or this snail named after climate activist Greta Thunberg?
New discoveries are always exciting, but some of our favourite research focuses on formerly lost species, back where they belong.
Like the griffon vulture, successfully reintroduced to Bulgaria after fifty years.
Citizen science has shown time and time again that it holds an important position in biodiversity research.
This group, for example, who found a beetle the size of a pinhead in Borneo.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our authors, reviewers, readers, and the entire biodiversity science community for being integral parts of this transformative journey. Together, we have redefined scientific communication, and we will continue to push the boundaries of knowledge.
As an expert in science communication, dissemination and exploitation, Pensoft joins the Horizon-funded project TRANSPATH to identify leverage points and interventions for triggering transformative changes at consumer, producer and organisational levels.
The magnitude of biodiversity loss and climate crisis has grown exponentially in recent years, which will inevitably lead to serious consequences at a global scale. Although reversing the degradation of ecosystems and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are top priorities for the European Union, science and policy communities are united in the belief that conventional policies alone are not enough to halt biodiversity loss or mitigate climate change.
In order to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, whilst simultaneously reshaping people’s relations with nature, we need transformative changes in our economies and societies urgently.
TRANSPATH (short for TRANSformative PATHways for synergising just biodiversity and climate actions) – a new European Union-funded project, plans to satisfy this need by accelerating diverse transformative pathways towards biodiversity-positive and climate-proofed societies, with sensitivity to social-cultural contexts and rights.
TRANSPATH will identify leverage points and interventions for triggering transformative changes at consumer, producer and organisational levels. A research team, consisting of leading academics, science-policy experts, and early-career professionals, will directly engage with diverse stakeholders, who affect and are affected by trade regimes and associated ‘greening’ mechanisms.
As a leader of WP5: Dissemination, outreach and catalysing transformative pathways, Pensoft is responsible for providinga dissemination and communication strategy, as well as taking care of the project branding and website. In addition, the Pensoft team is to organise joint activities with other projects or initiatives on transformative change and related topics.
Funded by the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, TRANSPATH was launched on 1st November 2022 and will be running until October 2026. The official kick-off of the project took place online and was followed by an in-person kick-off meeting of all consortium members on the 2nd and 3rd February 2023 in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
For the next four years TRANSPATH will be focussing on the design and integrated assessment of a suite of transformative pathways that hold potential to accelerate shifts in unsustainable patterns of extraction, production, consumption and trade. The project’s mission will be achieved by four objectives:
Set up a Policy Board and Science-policy-practitioner Labs at multiple scales to engage and jointly deliberate on implications of diverse visions and pathways of change.
Identify and characterise leverage points for diverse contexts that lead to positive synergies between biodiversity, climate and trade domains.
Integrate and customise European and global pathways by considering coupled biodiversity-climate actions and critical leverage points.
Identify and test alternative interventions at global and European scales that can trigger transformative change at the level of consumers, producers and organisations.
TRANSPATH will bring together and advance several strands of recent research, which hold potential for triggering and accelerating transformative changes that can restrain biodiversity loss and climate change.
The project will draw on diverse contexts in Eastern and Western Europe, Africa and Latin America, to engage with policy makers and practitioners, individuals, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and multinational corporations.
In addition, policy packages and other interventions will be designed to facilitate the emergence of leverage points at different scales of action in ways that change the decision-making framework of everyday choices.
These interventions take into account the synergies and trade-offs of actions across multiple individuals and locations, as well as the role of incentives and political obstacles to implementation.
The EU project will provide a suite of Transformative Pathways along with a Toolbox of Transformative Interventions to trigger and enable these pathways. The Transformative Navigation Toolkit assists practitioners in enabling and navigating these pathways, acknowledging that determining what constitutes a ‘transformative pathway’ is also a product of an iterative and adaptive process that emerges and evolves over time.
The TRANSPATH project brings together leading academics, science-policy experts, and young professionals from different social-cultural origins across Eastern and Western Europe, Africa and Latin America. Represented by nine countries and twelve nationalities, the consortium comprises a diverse range of scientific disciplines in environments, economics, and social sciences.
Dedicated to ensuring sufficient engagement from local to global levels in this project, the experts are focused on integrated and inclusive deliberation that is essential for identifying, legitimising, and navigating transformative pathways.
BiCIKL is dedicated to building a new community of key research infrastructures, researchers and citizen scientists by using linked FAIR biodiversity data at all stages of the research lifecycle, from specimens through sequencing, imaging, identification of taxa, etc. to final publication in novel, re-usable, human-readable and machine-interpretable scholarly articles.
Achieving a culture change in how biodiversity data are being identified, linked, integrated and re-used is the mission of the BiCIKL consortium. By doing so, BiCIKL is to help increase the transparency, trustworthiness and efficiency of the entire research ecosystem.
The new article collection welcomes taxonomic and other biodiversity-related research articles, data papers, software descriptions,and methodological/theoretical papers. These should demonstrate the advantages and novel approaches in accessing and (re-)using linked biodiversity data.
To be eligible for the collection, a manuscript must comply with at least two of the conditions listed below. In the submission form, the author needs tospecify the condition(s) applicable to the manuscript. The author should provide the explanation in a cover letter, using the Notes to the editor field.
All submissions must abide by the community-agreed standards for terms, ontologies and vocabularies used in biodiversity informatics.
Conditions for publication in the article collection:
The authors are expected to use explicit Globally Unique Persistent and Resolvable Identifiers (GUPRI) or other persistent identifiers (PIDs), where such are available, for the different types of data they use and/or cite in the manuscripts (specimens IDs, sequence accession numbers, taxon name and taxon treatment IDs, image IDs, etc.)
Global taxon reviews in the form of “cyber-catalogues” are welcome if they contain links of the key data elements (specimens, sequences, taxon treatments, images, literature references, etc.) to their respective records in external repositories. Taxon names in the text should not be hyperlinked. Instead, under each taxon name in the catalogue, the authors should add external links to, for example, Catalogue of Life, nomenclators (e.g. IPNI, MycoBank, Index Fungorum, ZooBank), taxon treatments in Plazi’s TreatmentBank or other relevant trusted resources.
Taxonomic papers (e.g. descriptions of new species or revisions) must contain persistent identifiers for the holotype, paratypes and at least most of the specimens used in the study.
Specimen records that are used for new taxon descriptions or taxonomic revisions and are associated with a particular Barcode Identification Number (BIN) or Species Hypothesis (SH) should be imported directly from BOLD or PlutoF, respectively, via the ARPHA Writing Tool data-import plugin.
More generally, individual specimen records used for various purposes in taxonomic descriptions and inventories should be imported directly into the manuscript from GBIF, iDigBio, or BOLD via the ARPHA Writing Tool data-import plugin.
In-text citations of taxon treatments from Plazi’s TreatmentBank are highly welcome in any taxonomic revision or catalogue. The in-text citations should be hyperlinked to the original treatment data at TreatmentBank.
Hyperlinking other terms of importance in the article text to their original external data sources or external vocabularies is encouraged.
Tables that list gene accession numbers, specimens and taxon names, should conform to the Biodiversity Data Journal’s linked data tables guidelines.
Theoretical or methodological papers on linking FAIR biodiversity data are eligible for the BiCIKL collection if they provide real examples and use cases.
Data papers or software descriptions are eligible if they use linked data from the BiCIKL’s partnering research infrastructures, or describe tools and services that facilitate access to and linking between FAIR biodiversity data.
Articles that contain nanopublications created or added during the authoring process in Biodiversity Data Journal. A nanopublication is a scientifically meaningful assertion about anything that can be uniquely identified and attributed to its author and serve to communicate a single statement, for example biotic relationship between taxa, or habitat preference of a taxon. The in-built workflow ensures the linkage and its persistence, while the information is simultaneously human-readable and machine-interpretable.
Manuscripts that contain or describe any other novel idea or feature related to linked or semantically enhanced biodiversity data will be considered too.
We recommend authors to get acquainted with these two papers before they decide to submit a manuscript to the collection:
Here are several examples of research questions that might be explored using semantically enriched and linked biodiversity data:
(1) How does linking taxon names or Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) to related external data (e.g. specimen records, sequences, distributions, ecological & bionomic traits, images) contribute to a better understanding of the functions and regional/local processes within faunas/floras/mycotas or biotic communities?
(2) How could the production and publication of taxon descriptions and inventories – including those based mostly on genomic and barcoding data – be streamlined?
(3) How could general conclusions, assertions and citations in biodiversity articles be expressed in formal, machine-actionable language, either to update prior work or express new facts (e.g. via nanopublications)?
(4) How could research data and narratives be re-used to support more extensive and data-rich studies?
(5) Are there other taxon- or topic-specific research questions that would benefit from richer, semantically enhanced FAIR biodiversity data?
All articles will need to acknowledge the BiCIKL project, Grant No 101007492 in the Acknowledgements section.
* The publication fee (APC) is waived for standard-sized manuscripts (up to 40,000 characters, including spaces) normally charged by BDJ at € 650. Authors of larger manuscripts will need to cover the surplus charge (€10 for each 1,000 characters above 40,000). See more about the APC policy at Biodiversity Data Journal, or contact the journal editorial team at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the BiCIKL Project on Twitter and Facebook.Join the conservation on via #BiCIKL_H2020.
Ten years ago, Dr Virginia Andrews-Goff was riding the bowsprit of a six-metre boat, as a 30-metre, 120-tonne Antarctic blue whale surfaced alongside.
That day in the Southern Ocean, she became the first and, so far, the only person, to deploy satellite tags on two of these critically endangered and rarely sighted giants.
At the time, her success added weight to a case in the United Nations International Court of Justice, demonstrating that scientific research on whales could be conducted without killing them.
Dr Andrews-Goff and her colleagues at the Australian Antarctic Division have now published the two satellite tracks generated by that 2013 work, in the open-access Biodiversity Data Journal.
The tracks give an insight into the animals’ movement and behaviour on their feeding grounds, and illustrate the significant logistical challenges needed to successfully locate, tag, and track Antarctic blue whales.
“This is a unique data set that was incredibly challenging to get, and, unfortunately, for 10 years no-one has been able to generate more data,” Dr Andrews-Goff said.
“We know very little about the movement and distribution of Antarctic blue whales, where they migrate, where they forage and breed, and we don’t understand the threats they might face as they recover from whaling.”
Part of the issue is that the animals are incredibly difficult to find. Commercial whaling in the 1960s and ‘70s killed about 290,000 Antarctic blue whales, accounting for 90% of the population. By the late 1990s, the world’s population of Antarctic blue whales was estimated at 2280 animals.
Back in 2013, the research team used novel acoustic tracking techniques to detect blue whale calls and hone in on their location from up to 1000 kilometres away. Once the whales were in sight (in two separate locations), an expert crew manoeuvred close to their fast-moving targets.
The satellite tags showed that the whales travelled 1390 kilometres in 13 days and 5550 kilometres in 74 days, with an average distance of more than 100 kilometres per day.
“The two whales did entirely different things, but what became obvious is that these animals can travel really quickly,” Dr Andrews-Goff said.
“If you consider how far and fast these animals moved, protecting the broader population against potential threats will be tricky because they could potentially circumnavigate Antarctica within a single feeding season.”
Since the tracks were obtained, new analytical methods have added some behavioural context to the data.
Two movement rates were observed – a faster ‘in transit’ speed averaging 4.2 km/hr and a slower speed of 2.5 km/hr, thought to correspond with searching or foraging.
“It looks like the whales might hang around in one area to feed and then move quickly to another area and hang around there for another feed,” Dr Andrews-Goff said.
“There may be certain areas that are better feeding grounds than others. From a management perspective, it would be good to understand what is it that makes these areas important?”
Even at a sample size of two, Dr Andrews-Goff said the satellite tracks will assist the International Whaling Commission’s management of Antarctic blue whales, by providing initial insights into blue whale foraging ecology, habitat preferences, distribution, movement rates, and feeding. These will inform an in-depth assessment of Antarctic blue whales due to begin in 2024.
Andrews-Goff V, Bell EM, Miller BS, Wotherspoon SJ, Double MC (2022). Satellite tag derived data from two Antarctic blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia) tagged in the east Antarctic sector of the Southern Ocean. Biodviersity Data Journal 10: e94228 https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.10.e94228
Conditions of Use – strictly non-commercial, once only, no archive + no sales The Australian Antarctic Division welcomes your interest in Australia’s Antarctic Program. The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Antarctic Division of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (Commonwealth), hereby consents to you publishing each item of material listed below ONCE ONLY on a non-commercial, royalty-free and non-exclusive basis. Where material is published in a printed or electronic format (including on the internet), you are requested to acknowledge the photographer or videographer as listed below. If used on social media please tag the Australian Antarctic Division @AusAntarctic #AusAntarctic
This Consent does not entitle you to use the material specified below in any future article, feature or broadcast without further specific prior written permission of the Commonwealth or to adapt, modify, exploit or sublicense the material specified below in any way. By using this material, you agree to the terms of this Consent.
All journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.
In support of transparency and openness in scholarly publishing and academia, the scientific publisher and technology provider Pensoft joined the Journal Comparison Service (JCS) initiative by cOAlition S, an alliance of national funders and charitable bodies working to increase the volume of free-to-read research.
As a result, all journals published by Pensoft – each using the publisher’s self-developed ARPHA Platform – provide extensive and transparent information about their costs and services in line with the Plan S principles.
The JCS was launched to aid libraries and library consortia – the ones negotiating and participating in Open Access agreements with publishers – by providing them with everything they need to know in order to determine whether the prices charged by a certain journal are fair and corresponding to the quality of the service.
According to cOAlition S, an increasing number of libraries and library consortia from Europe, Africa, North America, and Australia have registered with the JCS over the past year since the launch of the portal in September 2021.
While access to the JCS is only open to librarians, individual researchers may also make use of the data provided by the participating publishers and their journals.
This is possible through an integration with the Journal Checker Tool, where researchers can simply enter the name of the journal of interest, their funder and affiliation (if applicable) to check whether the scholarly outlet complies with the Open Access policy of the author’s funder. A full list of all academic titles that provide data to the JCS is also publicly available. By being on the list means a journal and its publisher do not only support cOAlition S, but they also demonstrate that they stand for openness and transparency in scholarly publishing.
“We are delighted that Pensoft, along with a number of other publishers, have shared their price and service data through the Journal Comparison Service. Not only are such publishers demonstrating their commitment to open business models and cultures but are also helping to build understanding and trust within the research community.”
said Robert Kiley, Head of Strategy at cOAlition S.
About cOAlition S:
On 4 September 2018, a group of national research funding organisations, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council (ERC), announced the launch of cOAlition S, an initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications a reality. It is built around Plan S, which consists of one target and 10 principles. Read more on the cOAlition S website.
About Plan S:
Plan S is an initiative for Open Access publishing that was launched in September 2018. The plan is supported by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funding and performing organisations. Plan S requires that, from 2021, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms. Read more on the cOAlition S website.
In a world first, the Natural History Museum, London, has collaborated with economic consultants, Frontier Economics Ltd, to explore the economic and societal value of digitising natural history collections and concluded that digitisation has the potential to see a seven to tenfold return on investment. Whilst significant progress is already being made at the Museum, additional investment is needed in order to unlock the full potential of the Museum’s vast collections – more than 80 million objects. The project’s report is published in the open science scientific journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO Journal).
The societal benefits of digitising natural history collections extends to global advancements in food security, biodiversity conservation, medicine discovery, minerals exploration, and beyond. Brand new, rigorous economic report predicts investing in digitising natural history museum collections could also result in a tenfold return. The Natural History Museum, London, has so far made over 4.9 million digitised specimens available freely online – over 28 billion records have been downloaded over 429,000 download events over the past six years.
Digitisation at the Natural History Museum, London
Digitisation is the process of creating and sharing the data associated with Museum specimens. To digitise a specimen, all its related information is added to an online database. This typically includes where and when it was collected and who found it, and can include photographs, scans and other molecular data if available. Natural history collections are a unique record of biodiversity dating back hundreds of years, and geodiversity dating back millennia. Creating and sharing data this way enables science that would have otherwise been impossible, and we accelerate the rate at which important discoveries are made from our collections.
The Natural History Museum’s collection of 80 million items is one of the largest and most historically and geographically diverse in the world. By unlocking the collection online, the Museum provides free and open access for global researchers, scientists, artists and more. Since 2015, the Museum has made 4.9 million specimens available on the Museum’s Data Portal, which have seen more than 28 billion downloads over 427,000 download events.
This means the Museum has digitised about 6% of its collections to date. Because digitisation is expensive, costing tens of millions of pounds, it is difficult to make a case for further investment without better understanding the value of this digitisation and its benefits.
In 2021, the Museum decided to explore the economic impacts of collections data in more depth, and commissioned Frontier Economics to undertake modelling, resulting in this project report, now made publicly available in the open-science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO Journal), and confirming benefits in excess of £2 billion over 30 years. While the methods in this report are relevant to collections globally, this modelling focuses on benefits to the UK, and is intended to support the Museum’s own digitisation work, as well as a current scoping study funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council about the case for digitising all UK natural science collections as a research infrastructure.
How digitisation impacts scientific research?
The data from museum collections accelerates scientific research, which in turn creates benefits for society and the economy across a wide range of sectors. Frontier Economics Ltd have looked at the impact of collections data in five of these sectors: biodiversity conservation, invasive species, medicines discovery, agricultural research and development and mineral exploration.
The new analyses attempt to estimate the economic value of these benefits using a range of approaches, with the results in broad agreement that the benefits of digitisation are at least ten times greater than the costs. This represents a compelling case for investment in museum digital infrastructure without which the many benefits will not be realised.
Other benefits could include improvements to the resilience of agricultural crops by better understanding their wild relatives, research into invasive species which can cause significant damage to ecosystems and crops, and improving the accuracy of mining.
Finally, there are other impacts that such work could have on how science is conducted itself. The very act of digitising specimens means that researchers anywhere on the planet can access these collections, saving time and money that may have been spent as scientists travelled to see specific objects.
Popov D, Roychoudhury P, Hardy H, Livermore L, Norris K (2021) The Value of Digitising Natural History Collections. Research Ideas and Outcomes 7: e78844. https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.7.e78844
Blog post by Dr. Marco Cirillo, Heart Failure Surgery Unit Director at the Cardiovascular Department in Poliambulanza Foundation Hospital (Brescia, Italy)
“Good morning, madam,” said the doctor greeting the patient who was entering his office.
“Good morning, Doctor,” she replied.
“So, how are you?” he asked her, motioning for her to sit in one of the two chairs in front of his desk.
“Well, it’s not bad.”
The doctor looked at her carefully.
“So, this first dose of chemo… Did you tolerate it well, right?”
“Yes, Doctor. I passed it…”
“Troubles? Nausea? Vomiting? Other problems?”
“No, Doctor. Nothing,” she replied.
The doctor continued to watch her carefully. After her last answer he got up and went to sit next to her in the other chair that was in front of his desk. He took her hand and asked her again:
“So, madam: how are you?“
The patient shook his hand as if in silent thanks.
“Doctor, you are a good doctor.”
“I’m here to understand what you need, madam, what can I do for you.”
The patient thought a little longer before speaking.
“So, Doctor: the chemo didn’t bother me much, maybe because it’s the first one. Except that… In short, what was difficult was waiting together with the others, all talking about their tumor, where they have it, what chemo they are at, what happened to them, then the hairless ones with the turban on their heads, and how much hemoglobin you have, and what your husband said, and if they recognized you without hair…”
“I understand, madam. But it’s also a way to exorcise it, isn’t it? A way to share this bad experience, to not feel alone…”
She looked him directly in the eyes.
“Doctor, we are not all the same. These things bother me. Seeing how I will be in a month scares me. It doesn’t solace me to know that someone is sicker than me. And knowing that someone is better terrifies me…”
The doctor nodded his head.
“I don’t want to think about my illness and when I come here, I necessarily think about it. I have to think about it. At home I do many things, I see many people, I may not think about it. But when I come here… Then for days I see these scenes in front of me, as if I’ve never left… Believe me, I do not simply ignore the disease, I know what I have and what awaits me. But if I could, I would avoid everything in between, between me and my illness. Do you understand?“
“Of course, madam. I understand. For others it is the same thing.”
They went silent for a while.
Then, the doctor said:
“If you had a choice, ma’am, what would you want? What would make you bear it all better?”
She answered immediately, as if she had the answer ready.
“If I could, I would like to fall asleep and wake up when it’s all over! Don’t see the others, don’t even see the hospital, don’t hear what the nurses say, don’t see the drip, don’t feel the needle entering, don’t see the drop of poison that I have to let into my body to try to survive… Don’t feel the time passing so slowly, as slow as the drop of the drip, a time ‘lost’ that is part of the little time I still have left… I am forced to hope that this time will pass quickly, but at the same time I know that it is not convenient for me to pass quickly, because even this time of treatment is taken away from my life. From what remains of it…“
The doctor released her hand and leaned back in his chair.
The lady asked him:
“Did I say something wrong?”
“No, madam, on the contrary,” said the doctor. “You told me something wonderful.”
“Ah, really? It sounds trivial to me…”
“No, what a patient says when he talks about himself and his illness is never trivial. You gave me a very good idea, madam.”
“Sure! What you ask can be done.”
“I can set up a study in which to administer chemo during sleep and analyze the results,” the doctor said, then corrected himself by translating his words into more direct language. “Sorry: I can make you sleep during the treatment, maybe set the treatment during night, so it doesn’t alter your days. And then you will wake up when it’s all over. That wouldn’t prevent some side effects…”
“…but it would prevent me from living consciously at the time of treatment,” the patient completed.
“Sure,” the doctor confirmed.
“Like the Sleeping Beauty…” the patient said. “You know the tale, don’t you?”
“Sure, who doesn’t know it.”
“The fairy godmothers cannot avoid the evil witch’s curse, so they make her fall asleep instead of die. Waiting for a solution,” the patient sighed deeply. “So, Doctor, if you can eliminate the evil that hangs over me, do it. Otherwise, let me sleep before the spinning wheel stings me.”
The doctor looked at her with a grateful look. He had always felt that not only did he do something for the patients every day, but the patients also did something for him every day.
“Would you do this for me, Doctor?”
The doctor smiled.
“Of course, ma’am. For you and for all the people who want it. Just give me some time to organize this.”
“Take your time” the lady said enthusiastically, but soon after she added with a wink: “No, on the contrary: hurry up, I wouldn’t want to waste any more time…”
This project aims to extend the concept of “care” by approaching the patient and his/her needs: it is not the patient who has to adapt to the hospital’s schemes, its timing, its protocols, but it is the hospital that must serve the patients, to “take care” after their problem in its multidimensionality.
The disease derails the life of the patient in a decisive way. We must as far as possible try to “sew in” the disease element into their everyday life, if we want them to experience it as something that is part of normal life. This can make them tolerate it better and perhaps improve the chances of overcoming it.
Certainly, there are some practical limitations related to this study. Arranging the administration during sleep requires many “beds”; it requires specialized nursing staff; if it is carried at home, it also needs allocating specialists for home visits.
It is true, however, that home care for cancer patients is already very common in advanced healthcare systems. Economic investment and funding of cancer research and treatment remain at the top, along with cardiovascular diseases, in all healthcare systems.
Cancer Centers nowadays abound around the world and are increasing in numbers. Comprehensive Cancer Centers, which are the largest in America, carry out transdisciplinary research, recognizing the importance of integrating different knowledge together for more effective treatment. The assistance and therapeutic network, the shared protocols, the sector research in Oncology already boast a very high level today. The coordination between centers makes use of all that assistance know-how. If I have to think of a medical field in which research, assistance, network of knowledge and uniformity of treatment are the most coordinated and efficient, this field is undoubtedly the oncology one.
Eligible submissions enjoy a 50% discount off APCs in 2021
Since its launch in 2015, RIO Journal has been mapping its articles to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. The articles published so far span the entire research cycle, a broad range of research fields and all SDGs, which can also be used as a search filter. However, the distribution of RIO articles across SDGs is uneven, as detailed in a recent editorial: for instance, more than 100 articles addressed SDG9 (Industry, innovation & infrastructure), while only one publication has been mapped to SDG1 (No poverty) so far.
Even though there might be logical explanations for this phenomenon, including funding biases or specific scholarly communication tendencies in some research fields, RIO’s team remains dedicated to its role as a harbinger of innovative open science practices and socially engaged research, and is eager to support the open publication of research on all SDGs.
So, RIO Journal is now inviting research outcomes – early, interim or final – addressing the four least represented SDGs in RIO’s content to date (with the current number indicated in parentheses):
The call will remain open until the end of 2021, where all accepted papers will enjoy a 50% discount on their publication charges (APCs), regardless of how many contributions RIO receives in the meantime. Eligible submissions encompass all article types generally accepted in RIO, as long as the journal’s editorial team confirms that they belong to the assigned SDG category.
As also highlighted in the editorial, RIO is currently experimenting with a more fine-grained mapping of its publications to the individual targets under each SDG. This was piloted with SDG 14 (Life below water). For instance, Target 14.a (Marine Biodiversity contributes to Economic Development of small/developing nations) is currently covered by 17 RIO articles. If you would like to get involved with mapping RIO articles to the Targets under other SDGs, please get in touch.
You can find more about RIO’s rationale behind introducing the SDGs mapping in the latest editorial or in this earlier blog post.