Opening-up the early stages of research – LSE blog about RIO

Research Ideas & Outcomes (RIO) is now featured on the LSE Blog and here is what we shared with them.

Few like to admit it, but the traditional process of research is immensely wasteful. Inefficiency occurs in every part of the research cycle, perhaps none more so than the research proposal stage. For example, nearly 90% of EU Horizon 2020 grant proposals were rejected. Many of these proposals are extremely good works, written by teams, over many months of work. Significant effort goes into crafting research proposals, yet as research outputs in themselves, they are hugely under-utilised. After the proposals are scored and either funded or not funded, typically via closed processes, what happens to these documents? Most stay hidden, never to be seen again, regardless of whether they were funded or not

What if we treated proposals like other outputs of the research cycle: like data, like software, like research articles? What if we published proposals in a journal, regardless of whether they were funded or not, to enable the citation of ideas not yet tested, to foster collaboration, to demonstrate the quality of proposed research, and to help others see what good proposals look like…

Launched yesterday, a new journal called Research Ideas & Outcomes (RIO) has been created specifically to enable and encourage the entire research cycle to be published, from start to finish, specifically including research proposals and ideas; the earliest stages that rarely get published (see the video below for more explanation).

Efficient publishing technology does away with the need for typesetting

The innovations provided by RIO journal do not stop there though. Another of the major features of the journal is its authoring, reviewing and publishing system called ARPHA for short. This system is a revolution in itself: if used fully, it eliminates the need for an outsourced typesetting process and all the associated errors that entails which frustrate authors and delay publication. It also speeds up the publishing process; no delay waiting for typesetters, and it reduces the cost of production as good typesetters charge a non-negligible sum per page.

I remember only too well getting manuscript proofs back from a different publisher and seeing that the typesetting process had converted the word ‘Phylomatic’ into ‘phlegmatic’ (see tweet above) – the latter word was not in any submitted author version! This error had been introduced by mistake during the shadowy typesetting process, something publishing companies typically keep very quiet about as it’s a remarkable inefficiency in the publishing process. Typesetting is arguably an anachronism and doesn’t need to exist if authors use tools that are specifically designed to produce structured academic outputs. Don’t take my word for this: memorably, Dr Kaveh Bazargan, who runs a high-quality, successful typesetting business (River Valley) stood-up at a conference in 2012 and said of typesetting: “It’s madness. I’m here to say I really shouldn’t be in business”.

Pensoft have cracked the authoring tools problem with a solid solution that has been successfully developed & tested with the Biodiversity Data Journal and shown to be a robust system. By combining the ARPHA publishing system, with a broad subject-scope, a philosophy of publishing the entire research cycle, and low cost open access publishing, I genuinely think RIO journal offers a distinctive and attractive option for authors, significantly better in production workflow than most other journals. Alongside Dr Daniel Mietchen, I am proud to be a founding editor of this visionary new journal.

Originally posted in the LSE Blog at:

3 Replies to “Opening-up the early stages of research – LSE blog about RIO”

  1. Kudos to the effort and I am happy to offer my services as subject editor!

    Despite that, I must say I am somewhat skeptical of specifically the proposals thrust of the journal. Sure, a vast portion of proposals do not get funded, which is a big inefficiency of the process. But, most unfunded proposals do get recycled at least in part, and if the authors feel this is likely (as I suspect often is the case), what would be their motivation to share their toil this openly? And what would prevent others from applying for money from essentially the same pot without properly attributing the source?

    I believe this is something that needs to be addressed and argued firmly for that part to receive significant uptake.

  2. Hi Toma,

    Thanks for the first comment on our blog! RIO Journal thoroughly encourages community discussion unlike many other publishers.

    To address your comments, here’s my personal thoughts on this matter:
    “what would be their motivation to share their toil this openly?”

    I think there a 101 different benefits to sharing proposals, both those that have been funded AND those that are not yet funded. Many are covered in Daniel Mietchen’s paper in PLOS Biology: The transformative nature of transparency in research funding

    I agree with you that many people will want to recycle their proposal for a different funder or funding round. This is very much part of the plan for RIO. RIO provides an excellent platform with which to get feedback on a proposal that will hopefully improve it, so it will get funded in future. Furthermore, especially if a proposal didn’t get funded it can be very useful to register your ideas – if somewhere else someone performs similar research before you got the chance to, at least you could pick up a citation for having published the idea first. Some say publishing proposals will help ‘scooping’ but rather I see it that scooping is a natural consequence of no-one telling each other what research they intend to do. The current system of secrecy thus inadvertently creates vast inefficiency as researchers from different parts of the world get funded to perform exactly the same research. This is why many funders are hugely excited about RIO Journal and we are exploring partnerships in this area. In the future, some funders may only fund proposals on the pre-condition that they are published-in-full from the day they are accepted from funding. This would create a much more efficient and transparent research system.

    Most researchers are honest people. If proposals or indeed other types of research output such as software, data or papers are substantially copied or used without appropriate citation then this is research misconduct. I trust the community to self-regulate on this matter, as we are used-to with software, data and papers. Research proposals are just another type of research output in this respect.

    We will be communicating this points and more(!) in the coming weeks and months before we open up for submissions.

    Thank you for you comment, and thank you for joining our editorial board!

    Ross Mounce,
    Founding Editor, RIO Journal

  3. Thanks Ross, I look forward to hearing more on this. It is indeed easy to see why funders would be interested in this, and push from them would certainly be a big deal.

    I do think there could be lower-barrier/”risk” situations for sharing (e.g. very specialized topic that few other people would even be able to pursue or a failed proposal that is not getting resubmitted) that it might be beneficial to highlight. I actually just got funded for three years for a very exciting and potentially high impact project, and the idea of publishing the proposal feels strange but perhaps not impossible.

    Mietschen’s article was not familiar to me, I will check it out!

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