Centrally-managed collections & Peer review flexibility: what’s new at RIO

In 2015, Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) was launched to streamline dissemination of scientific knowledge throughout the research process, recognised to begin with the inception of a research idea, followed by the submission of a grant proposal and progressing to, for example, data / software management plans and mid-stage project reports, before concluding with the well-known research and review paper.

In order to really expedite and facilitate access to scientific knowledge, the hurdles for engagement with the process need to be minimized for readers, authors, reviewers and editors alike. RIO aims to lay the groundwork for constructive scientific feedback and dialogue that would then lead to the elaboration and refinement of the research work well in its early stage. 

Recently, RIO published its 300th article – about a software for analyzing time series data from a microclimate research site in the Alps – and at that occasion, the RIO team wrote an editorial summarizing how the articles published in RIO so far facilitate engagement with the respective research processes. One of the observations in this regard was that while providing access to the various stages of the research cycle is necessary for meaningful engagement, there is a need for the various outcomes to be packed together, so that we can provide a more complete context for individual published outcomes.

Read the new editorial celebrating RIO’s 5th anniversary and looking back on 300 publications.

RIO introduced updates to its article collection approach to evolve into a “project-driven knowledge hub”, where a project coordinator, research institution or conference organiser can create and centrally manage a collection under their own logo, so that authors can much more easily contribute. Further, research outputs published elsewhere – including preprints – are also allowed, so that the collection displays each part of the ‘puzzle’ within its context. In this case, the metadata of the paper, i.e. title, authors and publication date, are displayed in the article list within the collection, and link to the original source.

Apart from allowing the inclusion of the whole diversity of research outcomes published in RIO or elsewhere, what particularly appeals to projects, conferences and institutions is the simplicity of opening and managing a self-branded collection at RIO. All they need to do is pay a one-time fee to cover the setup and maintenance of the collection, whereas an option with an unlimited number of publications is also available. Then, authors can add their work – subject to approval by the collection’s editor and the journal’s editorial office – by either starting a new manuscript at RIO and then assigning it to an existing collection; pasting the DOI of a publication available from elsewhere; or posting an author-formatted PDF document to ARPHA Preprints, as it has been submitted to the external evaluator (e.g. funding agency). In the latter two cases, the authors are charged nothing, in order to support greater transparency and contextuality within the research process.

Buttons on RIO Journal’s homepage allow users to create a new collection or add a document to an existing collection by either submitting a new manuscript via RIO Journal or pasting a DOI link of a publication from elsewhere, thus allowing for the collection to link to the original source and display the article’s metadata, i.e. title, authors and publication date.

Find more information about how to edit a collection at RIO and the associated benefits and responsibilities on RIO’s website.

Another thing we have revised at RIO is the peer review policy and workflow, which are now further clarified and tailored to the specificity of each type of research outcome.

Having moved to entirely author-initiated peer review, where the system automatically invites reviewers suggested by the author upon submission of a paper, RIO has also clearly defined which article types are subject to mandatory pre-publication peer review or not (see the full list). In the latter case, RIO no longer prompts the invitation of reviewers. Within their collections, owners and guest editors can decide on the peer review mode, guided by RIO’s existing policies.

While pre-publication peer review is not always mandatory, all papers are subject to editorial evaluation and also remain available in perpetuity for post-submission review. In both cases, reviews are public and disclose the name of their author by default. 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. 

Both pre- and post-publication reviews at RIO are openly published alongside the paper and bear their own DOI. All papers in RIO remain available for post-publication review in perpetuity (see example).

For article types where peer review is mandatory (e.g. Research Idea, Review article, Research Article, Data Paper), authors are requested to invite a minimum of three suitable reviewers upon the submission of the paper, who are then 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 editor is still overlooking the process and able to invite additional reviewers anytime, if necessary. 

For article types where peer review is not mandatory (e.g. Grant Proposal, Data Management Plan, Project Report and various conference materials), 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. Given that such papers have usually already been scrutinised by a legitimate authority (e.g. funding agency or conference committee), it only makes sense to not withhold their publication and duplicate academic efforts.

By the time it is submitted to RIO, a Grant Proposal like this one has often already been assessed by a legitimate funder, so it only makes sense to not undergo the process again at RIO and thereby slowing down its public dissemination.

Additionally, where the article type of a manuscript requires pre-publication review, RIO encourages the authors to click a checkbox during the submission and post their pre-review manuscript as a preprint on ARPHA Preprints, subject to a quick editorial screening, which would only take a few days.


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Further reading:

RIO shifts gears to serve as project-driven knowledge hub

Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO Journal) upgrades its unique concept to appeal to scientific projects, conference organisers and research institutions

Over the last few years, we’ve been increasingly observing how major funders of research around the world, including the likes of the European Commission, Wellcome, U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) recognise the research cycle as a continuum, rather than scattered standalone conclusions and reports. 

Hence, as a forward-looking, open science-driven journal Research 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.

A permanent topical collection in RIO Journal may include a diverse range of both traditional and unconventional research outputs, as well as links to publications from outside the journal (see What can I publish on the journal’s website). 

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: 

  1. Project, institution or conference branding and promotion.
  2. One-stop point for outputs of a research project, institution or conference.
  3. Free publication of author-formatted project outputs (i.e. grant proposals, deliverables, reports, policy briefs, conference materials and others).
  4. Inclusivity through adding articles, preprints and other documents published elsewhere as easy as entering the DOI number of the document.
  5. Credit and recognition for the Collection and Guest editors, who take care to organise and manage the article collection.
  6. Easier discoverability and usability of topically related studies to benefit both authors and readers.
  7. Increased visibility of related papers in a collection, even when these might otherwise not have much exposure.
  8. Simultaneous citation of multiple articles related to a certain subject.
  9. Citation and referencing of the whole collection as a complete entity.
  10.  DOI and citation details for collections and individual articles.

Furthermore, RIO Journal maps all publications to the Sustainable Development Goals  (SDGs), in order to emphasise the real-world impact of each published contribution, by displaying the corresponding badge within the article list. 

Last, but not least, both collections and individual publications in RIO enjoy the variety of default and on-demand science communication services, provided by Pensoft.  

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.

Explore the ICEDIG Project Outcomes collection on RIO’s website.

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.

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Guidelines for scholarly publishing of biodiversity data from Pensoft and EU BON

While development and implementation of data publishing and sharing practices and tools have long been among the core activities of the academic publisher Pensoft, it is well-understood that as part of scholarly publishing, open data practices are also currently in transition, and hence, require a lot of collaborative and consistent efforts to establish.

Based on Pensoft’s experience, and elaborated and updated during the Framework Program 7 EU BON project, a new paper published in the EU BON dedicated collection in the open science journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO), outlines policies and guidelines for scholarly publishing of biodiversity and biodiversity-related data. Newly accumulated knowledge from large-scale international efforts, such as FORCE11 (Future of Research Communication and e-Scholarship), CODATA (The Committee on Data for Science and Technology), RDA (Research Data Alliance) and others, is also included in the Guidelines.

The present paper discusses some general concepts, including a definition of datasets, incentives to publish data and licences for data publishing. Furthermore, it defines and compares several routes for data publishing, namely: providing supplementary files to research articles; uploading them on specialised open data repositories, where they are linked to the research article; publishing standalone data papers; or making use of integrated narrative and data publishing through online import/download of data into/from manuscripts, such as the workflow provided by the Biodiversity Data Journal. Among the guidelines, there are also comprehensive instructions on preparation and peer review of data intended for publication.

Although currently available for journals using the developed by Pensoft journal publishing platform ARPHA, these strategies and guidelines could be of use for anyone interested in biodiversity data publishing.

Apart from paving the way for a whole new approach in data publishing, the present paper is also a fine example of science done in the open, having been published along with its two pre-submission public peer reviews. The reviews by Drs. Robert Mesibov and Florian Wetzel are both citable via their own Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs).


Original source:

Penev L, Mietchen D, Chavan V, Hagedorn G, Smith V, Shotton D, Ó Tuama É, Senderov V, Georgiev T, Stoev P, Groom Q, Remsen D, Edmunds S (2017) Strategies and guidelines for scholarly publishing of biodiversity data. Research Ideas and Outcomes 3: e12431. https://doi.org/10.3897/rio.3.e12431