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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Robot to find and connect medical scientists working on the same research via Open Data

Sharing research data or Open Science, aims to accelerate scientific discovery, which is of particular importance in the case of new medicines and treatments. A grant proposal by an international research team, led by Dr Chase C. Smith, MCPHS University, and submitted to the Open Science Prize, suggests development of what the authors call The SCience INtroDuction Robot, (SCINDR). The project’s proposal is available in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes (RIO).

Building on an open source electronic lab notebook (ELN) developed by the same team, the robot would discover and alert scientists from around the world who are working on similar molecules in real time. Finding each other and engaging in open and collaborative research could accelerate and enhance medical discoveries.

Already running and being constantly updated, the electronic lab notebook serves to store researchers’ open data in a machine-readable and openly accessible format. The next step before the scientists is to adapt the open source notebook to run SCINDR, as exemplified in their prototype.

“The above mentioned ELN is the perfect platform for the addition of SCINDR since it is already acting as a repository of open drug discovery information that can be mined by the robot,” explain the authors.

Once a researcher has their data stored on the ELN, or on any similar open database, for that matter, SCINDR would be able to detect if similar molecules, chemical reactions, biological assays or other features of importance in health research have been entered by someone else. If the robot identifies another scientist looking into similar features, it will suggest introducing the two to each other, so that they could start working together and combine their efforts and knowledge for the good of both science and the public.

Because of its ability to parse information and interests from around the globe, the authors liken SCINDR to online advertisements and music streaming services, which have long targeted certain content, based on a person’s writing, reading, listening habits or other search history.

“The potential for automatically connecting relevant people and/or matching people with commercial content currently dominates much of software development, yet the analogous idea of automatically connecting people who are working on similar science in real time does not exist,” stress the authors.

“This extraordinary fact arises in part because so few people work openly, meaning almost all the research taking place in laboratories around the world remains behind closed doors until publication (or in a minority of cases deposition to a preprint server), by which time the project may have ended and researchers have moved on or shelved a project.”

“As open science gathers pace, and as thousands of researchers start to use open records of their research, we will need a way to discover the most relevant collaborators, and encourage them to connect. SCINDR will solve this problem,” they conclude.

The system is intended to be tested initially by a community of researchers known as Open Source Malaria (OSM), a consortium funded to carry out drug discovery and development for new medicines for the treatment of malaria.


Original source:

Smith C, Todd M, Patiny L, Swain C, Southan C, Williamson A, Clark A (2016) SCINDR – The SCience INtroDuction Robot that will Connect Open Scientists. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9995. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9995

PostDoc Project Plan invites collaborators to study how plant lice cope with variability

While Climate change steadily takes its toll, promising to raise temperatures around the world by at least 1.5 °C within the next 100 years, organisms have already started defending their species’ existence in their own ways. Possibly, such is the case of plant lice, which evoked the curiosity of PhD student Jens Joschinski with their reproductive strategy, which shifts from sexual to asexual as the days grow shorter in the autumn.aphids

Entomologist Jens Joschinski, currently studying at the University of Würzburg, Germany, is interested in finding out to what extent this advanced reproductive strategy is affected by variable and unpredictable conditions. Do plant lice spread their risks to reduce their losses (like investors that buy hedge funds), or do they put all their eggs in one basket? If plant lice manage their risks, does this adaptation compromise fitness?

By formally publishing his research idea as a PostDoc Project Plant in the open access journal Research Ideas and Outcomes, he hopes to find fellow scientists to collaborate with, as well as a host institutions.

Plant lice reproduce asexually during summer, which means that the mother give live birth to offspring by cloning herself. Then, as the days become shorter, indicating the approaching winter, the plant lice begin to produce eggs, since only they tolerate low temperature and can overwinter. However, there is a transitional period when a fraction of the same species still produce asexual offspring, which is what made Jens Joschinski wonder if this is an intended evolutionary response to climate change.

In order to assess the link between variable climates and the transition to sexual offspring, the PhD student plans to study at least 12 plant lice clones from different environments across Europe, and induce reproductive switches under controlled laboratory conditions. Afterwards, he is to assess the fitness and the ‘cost’ of this microevolution phenomenon.

The PostDoc Project Plan is to build on Jens Joschinski’s research done as part of his doctoral thesis, which is to be submitted for publication later this year. Then, while also being trained in evolutionary biology, he concluded that the plant lice are active during the day, which explains why they suffer fitness constraints related to the shorter days.

“The intended methods leave room for collaborative side-projects beyond the study question (e.g. molecular control of photoperiodism, or sharing aphid lines from throughout Europe), so this article might be of interest to anyone working with aphids”, he points to his fellow entomologists. “In addition, I would be happy to receive feedback from experts in bet-hedging theory, phenotypic plasticity and photoperiodism.”


Original source:

Joschinski J (2016) Benefits and costs of aphid phenological bet-hedging strategies. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9580. doi: 10.3897/rio.2.e9580

Additional information:

Funding was provided by the German Research Foundation (DFG), collaborative research center SFB 1047 “Insect timing“.