January 23, 2014

The potential of the Biodiversity Data Journal

For the past few months a new and promising journal has been part of the family of journals under the umbrella of Pensoft Publishers. In the meantime other journals have been added to Pensoft portfolio and, beyond of this publisher, there are dozens of new journals being added every year. So what is news here?

Well, the Biodiversity Data Journal (BDJ) is not exactly your regular biodiversity/taxonomic journal. For one, it does not have upper or lower limit on the size of papers to be published there (more on that below). Another novelty is the online review system, the consolidation of all reviews in one single document (online), and other technical tricks that allow for a faster process of publication. When I write fast I mean much FASTER than a regular journal. There are other interesting features and capabilities (some already functional, others to be added in the near future) that make this journal very attractive. The reader is strongly recommended to check the Editorial that introduced the journal four months ago.

Personally, there are three things that specially attract me. First, the fact that there is no lower limit on the data to be published allows for new distribution records, new biological information, and similar data (stored in many natural history collections) to be published now in a much expedite way. Usually taxonomist would wait for a big monograph or review to add that kind of information. But, as it is well known, such big papers may take years (if not decades) to be prepared. And, in the meantime, the data is seating in the collections, unused, loosing value, and even risking to be lost (if, heaven forbids, the taxonomist dies before finishing his/her review). The BDJ can now help to solve at least part of this bottleneck.

The second thing that I like is the possibility of post-publication review of the papers (although I still have not seen any paper being reviewed that way, but hopefully it will happen soon). This will allow for the community to weight into the published papers, which will certainly help to improve the accuracy and quality of what has been published. We are still in the infancy of this kind of approach, but I can see the merits of this, and I am a strong supporter of the idea.

The third thing I like A LOT is the possibility of having dynamics catalogs and checklists. Again, this capability is not functional yet (as far as I know), but I am waiting with excitement for this to be fully operational. This would allow taxonomists to publish their views on particular groups, and those views can then be updated, refined and modified as time allows for gathering of more data to validate (or not) previous results. Combined with the capability of post-publication review mentioned above, this would allow for a much more "democratic" taxonomy.

Imagine for a second this scenario: One researcher publishes a checklist of species of a group, with her/his personal views on the limits/arrangement of that group. Another researcher, perhaps disagreeing with part of that classification, then goes online and criticizes the paper in situ. Succesive rounds of commentaries might follow, other researchers might join, and more arguments might be shared and discussed... at the end, people may still disagree (human nature being impossible to overcome!). But whoever approaches that particular group would find, in one site, a good deal of discussion and information as to form her/his own conclusions. [It would even be possible to publish competing list of species... Although I am not sure that the latest scenario would be nice, it would still provide the reader with alternatives to make informed decisions].

In this era of instant results, online sharing, and open scrutiny of anyone's work, it is great to have the possibility of publishing our taxonomic and biodiversity-related results in the way BDJ allows. 

In fact, I plan to move contents -that I had originally intended for this blog- as papers to be published in the BDJ instead. Because I believe that is a more efficient way of sharing information and promoting the study of wasps parasitizing caterpillars. Thus far I had been using this blog because I did not have better ways.

[I still plan to keep this blog going, but will slightly change its focus. For the future I will likely discus more topics and researches related to the ecology and biology of caterpillars and its parasitoids -instead of sharing new distribution data or pictures of wasp species, all of which will now be submitted to the BDJ for publication].

But, regardless of what I do with this blog in the near future, I would recommend to check the BDJ site. It surely represents an innovative effort and a great opportunity that I wish more would consider.

No comments:

Post a Comment