RIO Journal 5 years on: over 300 published outcomes from all around the research cycle

Five years on, the Open Science-driven journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO) published an editorial that looks back on the 300 research ideas and research outcomes it has published so far.

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 Ideas78 Grant Proposals16 Data Management Plans33 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 Action DNAqua-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).

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). 

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.


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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:

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.