BioOne News

Volume 15, Issue 2
May 2021

Celebrating Earth Day 2021

April 22, 2021 marked the 51st anniversary of Earth Day, and for the second year in a row, we’ve curated a collection of articles addressing critical environmental themes like climate science, environmental security, air pollution, biodiversity conservation, and more.

BioOne partners with publishers all over the world to provide timely peer-reviewed research on a broad range of environmental and ecological sciences. For the scientists whose work appears in BioOne Complete, Earth Day is every day. We are proud to bring you the results of their work to “Restore our Earth,” which is the Earth Day theme this year.

All featured articles are freely available through June 30, 2021, with thanks to our participating publishers.

Twenty Years and Still Learning

Conceived in 1999, BioOne launched its first collection of 40 bioscience titles twenty years ago on April 2, 2001. The concept was transformative: BioOne created economies of scale for the publishers that contribute content and libraries that subscribe, with the goal to ensure sustainability for both. The entry price has been intentionally kept low to maximize access; meanwhile BioOne has returned over $58 million—an average of 65% of net revenue—to the publishing community.

To mark these two decades of service, I offer three lessons learned as BioOne has evolved and adapted to the social, economic, and technological forces that are transforming the scholarly communications ecosystem.

Analog or Digital

This story begins in the mists of time, when knights were valiant and paper was the coin of the realm. BioOne’s novel royalty-sharing model divided revenue from electronic subscriptions pro rata based on total pages and hits to those pages during the year. This money was regarded, however, as incremental to the sale of print journals. As the mists abruptly evaporated, it was clear by 2004 that subscribers and users not only preferred digital to analog, library budgets could no longer sustain both versions. Nor could BioOne’s incremental revenue replace the loss of print sales for its publishers.

The warning bells rang loudly as a few of the original journal cohort sought other publishing solutions. BioOne responded with a thorough review of its business model, devised a plan to raise subscription prices over a period of three years, and shared this news with its institutional subscribers. As a result, BioOne was able to return more money to its publishers without damaging its relationships with libraries.

Build or Buy

Since the advent of the Internet, scholarly publishers have grappled with whether to build or buy their technological services. There are advantages and disadvantages in either direction, which tend to vary with the prevailing technological trends.

Armed with $688K in “angel funding” from 123 library supporters and sponsors, BioOne launched on Allen Press’ proprietary platform. This system was designed with state-of-the-art SGML coding. Within four years, however, XML proved to be the more productive format to mark up text. This required retooling BioOne’s platform, plus a massive effort to recode all hosted content. As rapid changes in technology began to require increased investment, it soon became clear that working with a larger platform provider would be in BioOne’s best interest. In 2007, BioOne in partnership with Allen Press undertook a breathless year-long migration to Atypon System’s platform. This process benefitted from Portico’s generous assistance, and it afforded an opportunity to refine both BioOne’s mission and public image.

As publishing companies consolidated and costs continued to rise over time, BioOne once again considered its options. The time was right in 2018 to partner with the Society for Photonics and Optics (SPIE) that had invested in the “build” solution for its own purposes. In addition to achieving greater efficiencies, this move held for us a bonus: the opportunity to partner with a like-minded organization.

Churn and Retention

At the time BioOne began, the process of publishing on paper had not changed fundamentally since the 1440 invention of the printing press. In the three centuries following the creation of the scholarly subscription model in 1665, both producers and consumers gained a working knowledge of the scholarly publication enterprise. Financial profit was marginal, for the goal was primarily the distribution of scientific knowledge.

By the mid-1990s, commercial publishers had discovered lucrative profit margins in the scholarly market. Such relationships usually meant that the publisher lost control over many aspects of their publication. Thus, another impetus for creating BioOne was the need to provide an affordable means for bioscience publishers to retain control as they merged onto the very expensive digital highway.

Because BioOne was not designed to compete with for-profit options, some journals began to accept enticing offers from commercial publishers. Such churn came as a surprise and—frankly—a disappointment, for until this period publishers had tended to make only modest changes to their printing and distribution arrangements. Despite a bit of churn, we’re delighted to have welcomed many diverse titles to the BioOne community over the years. Now we number a proud 215 titles from 158 active publishers – quite a big club compared to our original 40.

Lessons Learned

Looking back, we’ve had many opportunities to learn similar lessons at each turn. As promised, here are BioOne’s three lessons:

  1. The primary lesson learned was to think as a for-profit, but behave as a not-for-profit. This practical duality has served us well as we’ve adjusted our business model and pricing. Being honest and transparent with our publishers and libraries–particularly when facing the fiscal realities of sustainable scholarly communications in the 21st century – has remained a core value.
  2. Offering our community a world-class platform looks quite different now than it did in 2001. Two platform migrations taught us to plan for 18 months of transition time, and to be prepared to invest in conversion and new standards. Budgeting for sleep is also highly recommended.
  3. Finally, we look carefully beyond current practices and expectations towards the unexpected. No crystal ball is needed, just the willingness to periodically question how we do things, so that we can continue to serve the biosciences community.

In the next edition of BioOne News, I will share lessons BioOne has learned in its many experiments with offering open access.



Announcing the 2021 BioOne Ambassador Award Winners

BioOne is proud to announce the winners of the 2021 BioOne Ambassador Award. These five early-career bioscience researchers successfully advanced through a rigorous competition with their peers. BioOne honors these scholars for their compelling communication of specialized biological research. BioOne Ambassador Award winners demonstrate a commitment to wide, accessible, and public dissemination of scientific research.

BioOne recognizes the following individuals (listed in alphabetical order by publishing society) for their clarity and creativity. Effective communication is fundamental to growing science literacy and ensuring access to scientific information for policy makers, citizen scientists, the interested public, and beyond.

Ana González

Dr. Ana González

“We can change the world by wisely choosing to drink shade-grown coffee”
Nominated by the American Ornithological Society

Connor M. Wood

Dr. Connor M. Wood

“From owls to ecosystems: using bioacoustics to address broad-scale conservation challenges”
Nominated by the American Ornithological Society

David Shiffman

Dr. David Shiffman

“How shark science’s past can and should shape the future”
Nominated by the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

Kimberly Boykin

Dr. Kimberly Boykin

“Bon appétit: New Diet Options for Snakes”
Nominated by the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians

Kaylee Byers

Dr. Kaylee Byers

“Location, Location, Location: Rats, Real Estate, and Public Health”
Nominated by the Wildlife Disease Association

The BioOne Ambassador Award spotlights rising scholars in the biological life sciences. BioOne invited active publishing partners to nominate an early career researcher who published in their journal during 2020. Eligible authors are either graduate students or those who have completed a Ph.D. or other graduate diploma within the past five years. BioOne then invited qualified nominees to submit a 750-word, plain-language essay, answering the question, “How does your research change the world?” This prompt challenged participants to communicate the real-world impact—and reverberations—of the research they do. Each winner receives a $1,000 award and wide dissemination of their research. BioOne is pleased to showcase this new generation of scholars. We encourage you to read their impactful work. Our hearty congratulations again to the 2021 award winners!

Librarians: Have you Scheduled your BioOne Complete Webinar?

A BioOne Complete webinar is a great way for librarians, consortia staff, or end users to get the most out of your organization’s subscription. With a session tailored to your user community, we can re-introduce you to our array of 200+ journals and highlight information for the research fields and curricula you support. To schedule a session for your group, please email Library Services. We will be happy to show you around BioOne Complete—from Agriculture to Zoology.

BioOne Complete Welcomes New Library Partners

BioOne CompleteBioOne is delighted to welcome the following institutions to the global community of more than 1,100 organizations who support their students, faculty, and researchers with access to BioOne Complete:

  • Association Française de Lichénologie, France
  • Instituto de Fomento Pesquero, Chile
  • Southern Maine Community College, USA
  • University of Montreal, Canada
    See the full list of institutions who subscribe to BioOne Complete.

BioOne is an innovative nonprofit collaborative and the leading content aggregator in the biological, ecological, and environmental sciences. More than 150 global scientific societies and nonprofit publishing organizations include their journals in BioOne’s flagship product, BioOne Complete, for the benefit of 3,500 accessing institutions and millions of researchers worldwide. Since 2001, BioOne has returned more than $68 million in royalty sharing back to its participants, with a commitment to share research more broadly, equitably, and sustainably.

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