The dynamic open-science project collection of BiCIKL, titled “Towards interlinked FAIR biodiversity knowledge: The BiCIKL perspective” (doi: 10.3897/rio.coll.105), continues to grow, as the project progresses into its third year and its results accumulate ever so exponentially.
Following the publication of three important BiCIKL deliverables: the project’s Data Management Plan, its Visual identity package and a report, describing the newly built workﬂow and tools for data extraction, conversion and indexing and the user applications from OpenBiodiv, there are currently 30 research outcomes in the BiCIKL collection that have been shared publicly to the world, rather than merely submitted to the European Commission.
Shortly after the BiCIKL project started in 2021, a project-branded collection was launched in the open-science scholarly journal Research Ideas and Outcomes(RIO). There, the partners have been publishing – and thus preserving – conclusive research papers, as well as early and interim scientific outputs.
The publications so far also include the BiCIKL grant proposal, which earned the support of the European Commission in 2021; conference abstracts, submitted by the partners to two consecutive TDWG conferences; a project report that summarises recommendations on interoperability among infrastructures, as concluded from a hackathon organised by BiCIKL; and two Guidelines papers, aiming to trigger a culture change in the way data is shared, used and reused in the biodiversity field.
At the time of writing, the top three of the most read papers in the BiCIKL collection is completed by the grant proposal and the second Guidelines paper, where the partners – based on their extensive and versatile experience – present recommendations about the use of annotations and persistent identifiers in taxonomy and biodiversity publishing.
What one might find quite odd when browsing the BiCIKL collection is that each publication is marked with its own publication source, even though all contributions are clearly already accessible from RIO Journal.
This is because one of the unique features of RIOallows for consortia to use their project collection as a one-stop access point for all scientific results, regardless of their publication venue, by means of linking to the original source via metadata. Additionally, projects may also upload their documents in their original format and layout, thanks to the integration between RIO and ARPHA Preprints. This is in fact how BiCIKL chose to share their latest deliverables using the very same files they submitted to the Commission.
“In line with the mission of BiCIKL and our consortium’s dedication to FAIRness in science, we wanted to keep our project’s progress and results fully transparent and easily accessible and reusable to anyone, anywhere,”
explains Prof Lyubomir Penev, BiCIKL’s Project Coordinator and founder and CEO of Pensoft.
“This is why we opted to collate the outcomes of BiCIKL in one place – starting from the grant proposal itself, and then progressively adding workshop reports, recommendations, research papers and what not. By the time BiCIKL concludes, not only will we be ready to refer back to any step along the way that we have just walked together, but also rest assured that what we have achieved and learnt remains at the fingertips of those we have done it for and those who come after them,” he adds.
In the meantime, the EU also aims to protect biodiversity and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, while using natural resources to mitigate climate change.
ForestPaths – a recently started Horizon Europe project will help meet Europe’s climate and biodiversity targets by providing clear policy options that enable European forests and the forest-based sector to contribute to climate change mitigation, while conserving their biodiversity and sustaining the services they provide to people.
As an experienced science communicator, Pensoft is dedicated to maximising ForestPaths’ impact. The team will do so by means of tailored communication, dissemination and exploitation strategies aimed at sharing the project’s results with relevant stakeholder groups.
Furthermore, Pensoft is tasked with the development and long-term maintenance of the CANOPY platform, whose aim is to support policymakers and national and regional authorities by granting them access to the knowledge and scientific evidence acquired within ForestPaths long after the project is finalised.
Building on these options, the project will collaborate with policymakers and key authorities through a series of Policy labs, where the partners will co-design policy pathways, which will then be analysed with next-generation integrated assessment techniques.
Lastly, ForestPaths will apply this framework for an all-round assessment of the climate mitigation potential of European forests and the forest-based sector.
The ForestPaths legacy
ForestPaths’ policy pathways – as well as their supporting information and evidence – will be made openly available through the project’s policy-support platform CANOPY, hosted on the ForestPaths website.
The platform, whose launch is scheduled for 2026, will feature an interactive policy analysis tool explaining the policy pathways and showcasing their implications, as well as providing detailed assessment results and policy recommendations in an easily accessible manner. Its long-term mission is to become the go-to place for easily accessible assessment results and policy recommendations.
“We are excited to be doing our part for Europe’s fight for climate neutrality by extending ForestPaths reach to policy, industry and society at large! As an open-access scientific publisher engaged in about 50 environmental research projects, Pensoft echoes ForestPaths’ aim to support the EU’s climate neutrality transition through what we are sure will be a prolific international research collaboration,” says ForestPaths’ WP7 leader Anna Sapundzhieva.
The purpose of this call is to solicit, select and implement four to six biodiversity data-related scientific projects that will make use of the added value services developed by the leading Research Infrastructures that make the BiCIKL project.
The BiCIKL project invites submissions of Expression of Interest (EoI) to the First BiCIKL Open Call for projects. The purpose of this call is to solicit, select and implement four to six biodiversity data-related scientific projects that will make use of the added value services developed by the leading Research Infrastructures that make the BiCIKL project.
By opening this call, BiCIKL aims to better understand how it could support scientific questions that arise from across the biodiversity world in the future, while addressing specific scientific or technical biodiversity data challenges presented by the applicants.
The BiCIKL project – a Horizon 2020-funded project involving 14 European institutions, representing major global players in biodiversity research and natural history, and coordinated by Pensoft – establishes a European starting community of key research infrastructures, researchers, citizen scientists and other biodiversity and life sciences stakeholders based on open science practices through access to data, tools and services.
Since its early days, RIO has enjoyed quite positive reactions from the open-minded academic community for its innovative approach to Open Science in practice: it provides a niche that had long been missing, namely the publication of early, intermediate and generally unconventional research outcomes from all around the research cycle (e.g. grant proposals, data management plans, project deliverables, reports, policy briefs, conference materials) in a cross-disciplinary scientific journal. In fact, several months after its launch, in 2016, the journal was acknowledged with the SPARC Innovator Award.
‘Alternative’ research publications
In times when posting a preprint was seen as a novel and rather bold practice across many fields, RIO facilitated much deeper dives into the research process, in order to unveil scientific knowledge and the process by which it is gathered, well before any final conclusions have been drawn. Long story short, to date, RIO has published 33 Research Ideas, 78 Grant Proposals, 16 Data Management Plans, 33 Workshop Reports and 5 PhD Project Plans, in addition to plenty of other early, interim and final non-traditional research outcomes, as well as conventional articles. Over time, RIO has kept adding additional article types to its list of publication types, with a few more expected in the near future.
What’s more, over the years, we’ve already observed how papers published in RIO successfully followed up on the continuity of the research process. For example, the Grant Proposal for the “Exploring the opportunities and challenges of implementing open research strategies within development institutions” project, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), was followed by the project’s Data Management Plan a year later.
Five years later, the figures reflecting the usage and engagement with the content published in RIO are evidently supportive of the value of having non-final and unconventional academic publications. For instance, the Grant Proposal for the COST ActionDNAqua-Net, a still ongoing project dedicated to the development of novel genetic tools for bioassessment and monitoring of aquatic ecosystems, is the article with the most total views in RIO’s publication record to date. In the category of sub-article elements, whose usage is also tracked at the journal, the most viewed figure belongs to a Project Report and illustrates a sample code meant to be used in future neuroimaging studies. Similarly, the most viewed table ever published in RIO is part of a Workshop Report that summarises ASAPbio‘s third workshop, dedicated to the technical aspects of services related to the promotion of preprints in the biomedical and other life science communities.
Response to societal challenges
A unique and defining staple for RIO since the very beginning has also been the pronounced engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as formulated by the United Nations right around the time of RIO’s launch. In order to highlight the societal impact of published research, RIO lets authors map their articles to the SDGs relevant to their paper. Once published, the article displays the associated badge(s) next to its title. Readers of the journal can even search RIO’s content by SDG, in the same way they would filter articles by subject, publication types, date or funding agency. Next on the list for RIO is to add another level of granularity to the SDGs mapping. The practice has already been piloted by mapping relevant RIO articles to the ten targets under SDG14 (Life below water).
Taking transparency, responsibility and collaboration in academia and scholarly publishing up another notch, RIO requires for reviews to be publicly available. In addition, the journal supports post-publication reviews, where peers are free to post their review anytime. In turn, RIO registers each review with its own DOI via CrossRef, in order to recognise the valuable input and let the reviewers easily refer to their contributions. A fine example is a Review Article exploring the biodiversity-related issues and challenges across Southeast Asia, which currently has a total of three public peer reviews, one of which is provided two years after the publication of the paper.
Public, transparent and perpetual peer review, pre- and/or post-publication
What’s more striking about peer review at RIO, however, is that it is not always mandatory. Given that the journal publishes many article types that have already been scrutinised by a legitimate authority – for instance, Grant Proposals that have previously been evaluated by a funder or defended PhD Theses – it only makes sense to avoid withholding these publications and duplicating associated evaluation efforts. On such occasions, all an author needs to do is provide a statement about the review status of their paper, which will be made public alongside the article.
On the other hand, where the article type of a manuscript requires pre-publication review, to avoid potential delays caused by the review process and editorial decisions, RIO encourages the authors to post their pre-review manuscript as a preprint on the recently launched ARPHA Preprints platform, subject to a quick editorial screening, which would only take a few days.
Further, RIO has now abandoned the practice of burdening the journal’s editors with the time-consuming task of finding reviewers, and instead requiring the submitting author to invite suitable reviewers upon submission, who are then immediately and automatically invited by the system. While significantly expediting the editorial work on a manuscript, this practice doesn’t compromise the quality of peer review in the slightest, since the reviews go public, while the final decision about the acceptance of the paper lies with the editor, who is also overlooking the process and able to intervene and invite additional reviewers anytime, if necessary.
Project-driven knowledge hub
The most significant novelty at RIO, however, is perhaps the newly assumed role of the journal as “a project-driven knowledge hub“, targeting specifically the needs of research projects, conference organisers and institutions. For them, RIO provides a one-stop source for the outputs of their scientists, in order to comply with the requirements of their funders or management, or simply to facilitate the discoverability, reusability and citability of their academic outputs and to highlight their interconnectedness.
Unlike typical permanent article collections, already widely used in scholarly publishing, with RIO, collection owners can take advantage of the unique opportunity to add a wide range of research outputs, including such published elsewhere, in order to provide even greater context to the assembled research outputs in their project- or institution-branded article collection (see the Horizon 2020 Project Path2Integrity‘s project collection as an example).
For example, a project coordinator could open a collection under the brand of the project, and start by publishing the Grant Proposal, followed shortly by Data and Software Management Plans and Workshop Reports. Thus, even at this early point in the project’s development, the funder – and with them everyone else – would already have strong evidence of the project’s dedication to transparency and active science communication. Later on, the project’s participants would all be able to easily add to the project’s collection by either submitting their diverse research outputs straight to RIO and having it accepted by the collection lead editor, or providing metadata and link to their publication from elsewhere, even preprints. If the document is published outside of RIO, its metadata, i.e. author names and affiliations, article title and publication date, show up in the collection, while a click on the item will lead to the original publication. As the project progresses, the team behind it could add more and more outputs (e.g. Project Reports, Guidelines and Policy Briefs), continuously updating the public and the relevant stakeholders about the development of their work. Eventually, the collection will be able to provide a comprehensive and fully transparent report of the project from start to finish.
Hence, as a forward-looking, open science-driven journalResearch Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) took it as its own responsibility to encourage scientific project teams, conference organisers and research institutions to bring together unconventional research outputs (e.g. grant proposals, data management plans, project deliverables, policy briefs, conference materials) as well as traditional (e.g. research or review papers, monographs, etc.), including such published elsewhere. To do so, RIO now provides the platform ready to be used as a research knowledge hub, where published outcomes are preserved permanently and easier to share, disseminate, reference and reuse.
Hence, RIO stepped up its game by turning permanent article collections into a one-stop source of diverse research items, where project coordinators, conference organisers or research institutions can not only publish early, interim and conclusive research items as they emerge within a research project, a series of events or the continuous scientific efforts at their lab, but also link relevant publications (i.e. preprints, articles or other documents, published elsewhere) available elsewhere through their metadata. As a result, they will receive a one-stop source under their own branding for every piece of scientific contribution ready to present to funding bodies or prospective collaborators and future research teams.
Apart from bringing contextually linked research outcomes together, thus prompting findability, readership and citability en masse, RIO’s approach to collections ensures further accessibility by not only having RIO-published articles available in traditional PDF, semantically enriched HTML and minable XML format. The open-science journal has now made it possible for users to add to their collections preprints from ARPHA Preprints, as well as author-formatted PDFs (e.g. project deliverables, reports, policy briefs, etc.) and linked metadata to documents published elsewhere. Thanks to the integration of the journal with the general-purpose open-access repository Zenodo, all items in a collection are archived, and additionally indexed, disseminated and cited.
By focusing on article and preprint collections coming out from a research project, institution or conference, RIO provides a quite specific and unique combination of benefits to all actors of the research process: scientists, project coordinators, funders and institutions:
Project, institution or conference branding and promotion.
One-stop point for outputs of a research project, institution or conference.
Free publication of author-formatted project outputs (i.e. grant proposals, deliverables, reports, policy briefs, conference materials and others).
Inclusivity through adding articles, preprints and other documents published elsewhere as easy as entering the DOI number of the document.
Credit and recognition for the Collection and Guest editors, who take care to organise and manage the article collection.
Easier discoverability and usability of topically related studies to benefit both authors and readers.
Increased visibility of related papers in a collection, even when these might otherwise not have much exposure.
Simultaneous citation of multiple articles related to a certain subject.
Citation and referencing of the whole collection as a complete entity.
DOI and citation details for collections and individual articles.
How do project coordinators, funders and institutions benefit from a collection in RIO?
At the time a grant proposal is submitted to a research funder for evaluation, the team behind the proposed project has already put in considerable efforts, resulting in a unique idea with the potential to make a great stride towards the resolution of an outstanding problem in science, if only given the chance. However, too many of these ideas are bound to remain locked away in the archives of those funders, not because they are lacking in scientific value, but due to limited funds.
So, with its launch back in 2015, RIO Journal made it possible to publish and shed light on grant proposals and research ideas in general, similar early research outputs regardless of whether they are eventually funded or not, a novelty in scholarly publishing which earned RIO the SPARC Innovator Award Winner in 2016. To date, the journal has already published 75 grant proposals.
Then, imagine what a contribution to science it would make to bring together the whole continuum of knowledge and scientific work all the way from the grant proposal to data and software management plans, workshop reports, policy briefs and all interim and final deliverables produced within the span of the project!
On the other hand, funders are increasingly evaluating a prospective project’s impact based on its communication strategy. So, why not publish a grant proposal at the time of the submission of your proposal, in order to prove to the funding body that your project is serious about optimising its outreach to both the public and academia? Furthermore, by having an academic journal host any subsequent project deliverable, as a coordinator, you can rest assured that the communication activities of your project remain consistent and efficient.
In an excellent example of a project collection, the EU-funded ICEDIG (Innovation and Consolidation for Large Scale Digitisation of Natural Heritage), led by several major natural history institutions, including the Natural History Museum of London, Naturalis Biodiversity Center (the Netherlands), the French National Museum of Natural History and Helsinki University, brought together policy briefs, project reports, research articles and review papers, in order to provide a fantastic overview of their own research continuum. As a result, future researchers and various stakeholders can easily piece together the key components within the project, in order to learn from, recreate or even build on the experience of ICEDIG.
Similarly, conference organisers can make use of their own branded collections to overcome the ephemerality of presented research by collating virtually all valuable conference outputs, including abstracts, posters, presentations, datasets and full-text conference talks. For further convenience, a collection can be divided into subcollections, in order to organise the contribution by type or symposium. What particularly appeals to conference participants is the ARPHA Writing Tool, an intuitive collaborative online environment, which practically guides the user through each step: authoring, submission and pre-submission review, within a set of pre-designed, yet flexible templates available for each type of a conference output, thus sparing them the hassle to familiarise themselves with specific and perplexing formatting requirements
For institutions, RIO offers the opportunity to continuously provide evidence of the scholarly impact of their organisation. To better serve the needs of different labs or research teams, an institution can easily organise their outputs into various subcollections, and also customise their own article types, as well as the available usage tracking systems. Furthermore, by making use of the available pre-paid plans, institutions can support their researchers by covering fully or partially the publication charges at a discounted rate.
Find more information regarding the submission and review process, policies and pricing, visit RIO Journal’s website.