Assessing Open Science Practices in Phytolith Research

Abstract:  Open science is an integral part of all scientific research, but the extent of open science practices in phytolith research is unknown. Phytolith analysis examines silica bodies that are initially formed within and between plant cells during the life of the plant but become deposited in sediments once the plant dies. The use of phytoliths in archaeobotanical and palaeoecological studies has been increasing in recent years resulting in an upsurge in publications. The aims of this article are to assess open science practices in phytolith research by reviewing data and metadata sharing, and open access, in a sample of journal articles containing primary phytolith data from 16 prominent archaeological and palaeoecological journals (341 articles). This study builds on similar studies conducted for zooarchaeology (Kansa et al. 2020) and macro-botanical remains (Lodwick 2019). This study shows that 53% of papers shared data in any format but only 4% of papers contained reusable data, 74% included some pictures of phytolith morphotypes for identification purposes, 69% had a fully described method, 47% used the International code for phytolith nomenclature (ICPN 1.0) and only 13% of articles were open access. Steps forward are then proposed, including planning for open projects, making more articles openly accessible and implementing the FAIR data principles, to use as a starting point for discussions in the wider phytolith and archaeological communities to develop guidelines for greater integration of open science practices.

 

Museum digitises five millionth specimen to unlock secrets of collection | Natural History Museum

“A naturally bright green stonefly has signalled full speed ahead for the Museum’s digitisation project, as it releases its five millionth specimen online.

As well as making the Museum’s specimens available online for anyone to access, the digitisation of these collections could contribute billions of pounds to the global economy….”

Dynamic visualisation of million?tip trees: The OneZoom project – Wong – – Methods in Ecology and Evolution – Wiley Online Library

Abstract:  

 

The complete tree of life is now available, but methods to visualise it are still needed to meet needs in research, teaching and science communication. Dynamic visualisation of million-tip trees requires many challenges in data synthesis, data handling and computer graphics to be overcome.
Our approach is to automate data processing, synthesise data from a wide range of available sources, then to feed these data to a client-side visualisation engine in parts. We develop a way to store the whole tree topology locally in a highly compressed form, then dynamically populate metadata such as text and images as the user explores.
The result is a seamless and smooth way to explore the complete tree of life, including images and metadata, even on relatively old mobile devices.
The underlying methods developed have applications that transcend tree of life visualisation. For the whole complete tree, we describe automated ID mappings between well known resources without resorting to taxonomic name resolution, automated methods to collate sets of public domain representative images for higher taxa, and an index to measure public interest of individual species.
The visualisation layout and the client user interface are both abstracted components of the codebase enabling other zoomable tree layouts to be swapped in, and supporting multiple applications including exhibition kiosks and digital art.
After 10 years of work, our tree of life explorer is now broadly complete, it has attracted nearly 1.5 million online users, and is backed by a novel long-term sustainability plan. We conclude our description of the OneZoom project by suggesting the next challenges that need to be solved in this field: extinct species and guided tours around the tree.”

“The Google Earth of Biology” – Visually Stunning Tree of All Known Life Unveiled Online

 

“The OneZoom explorer – available at onezoom.org – maps the connections between 2.2 million living species, the closest thing yet to a single view of all species known to science. The interactive tree of life allows users to zoom in to any species and explore its relationships with others, in a seamless visualisation on a single web page. The explorer also includes images of over 85,000 species, plus, where known, their vulnerability to extinction.

OneZoom was developed by Imperial College London biodiversity researcher Dr. James Rosindell and University of Oxford evolutionary biologist Dr. Yan Wong. In a paper published today in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Drs Wong and Rosindell present the result of over ten years of work, gradually creating what they regard as “the Google Earth of biology.” …”

Dr. Wong added: “It’s extraordinary how much research there is still to be done. Building the OneZoom tree of life was only possible through sophisticated methods to gather and combine existing data – it would have been impossible to curate all this by hand.”

WUR gives away CRISPR intellectual property licenses for free in fight against hunger – Reader Mode

“The ultimate aim of plant breeding has always been to make plants resistant to drought and diseases. That could help eliminate hunger around the world. This is no longer a distant thought, thanks to a technology called CRISPR-Cas. Today Wageningen University & Research (WUR) announces it will provide potential partners with free licenses to work on its patented CRISPR technology. The license must be applied to gene-editing of plants for non-profit applications….”

WUR gives away CRISPR intellectual property licenses for free in fight against hunger – Reader Mode

“The ultimate aim of plant breeding has always been to make plants resistant to drought and diseases. That could help eliminate hunger around the world. This is no longer a distant thought, thanks to a technology called CRISPR-Cas. Today Wageningen University & Research (WUR) announces it will provide potential partners with free licenses to work on its patented CRISPR technology. The license must be applied to gene-editing of plants for non-profit applications….”

Vegetation of planet Earth: Researchers publish unique database as open access

It’s a treasure trove of data: The global geodatabase of vegetation plots “sPlotOpen” is now freely accessible. It contains data on vegetation from 114 countries and from all climate zones on Earth. The database was compiled by an international team of researchers led by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Researchers around the world finally have a balanced, representative dataset of the Earth’s vegetation at their disposal, as the team reports in the journal Global Ecology & Biogeography.

Language extinction triggers the loss of unique medicinal knowledge | PNAS

Abstract:  The United Nations proclamation of 2022–2032 as the International Decade of Indigenous Languages aims to raise global awareness about their endangerment and importance for sustainable development. Indigenous languages contain the knowledge that communities have about their surrounding plants and the services they provide. The use of plants in medicine is a particularly relevant example of such ecosystem services. Here, we find that most medicinal knowledge is linguistically unique—i.e., known by a single language—and more strongly associated with threatened languages than with threatened plants. Each indigenous language is therefore a unique reservoir of medicinal knowledge—a Rosetta stone for unraveling and conserving nature’s contributions to people.

 

The Global Extinction of Languages Is Threatening a Vital Type of Human Knowledge

“As human languages are driven to extinction around the world, a verbal encyclopedia of medical knowledge is on the brink of being forgotten.

Among 12,495 medicinal uses for plants in indigenous communities, new research has found over 75 percent of those plants are each tied to just one local language. If these unique words trickle out of use, so too may the knowledge they contain….

Language extinction is a tragic phenomenon that’s been occurring worldwide, as languages spoken by precious few people are replaced by larger ones. Roughly one language ceases to be spoken every four months, and 3,054 languages are currently endangered around the world….

The vast majority of plant species in the study were found to have medical properties described in just one indigenous language, many of which are themselves endangered….

In North America, for instance, the authors found waning indigenous languages held 86 percent of all unique knowledge on plant medicine. In the northwest Amazon, on the other hand, 100 percent of medicinal plant knowledge is restricted to languages on the edge of extinction. …”

3 ways that preprints help researchers in agricultural and plant sciences – The CABI Blog

“The use of preprints (pre-peer reviewed versions of scholarly papers) has accelerated in the last few years with many researchers now sharing their latest work with the scientific community before or in parallel to publication with a journal. After a slower start compared to other research fields, adoption of preprints in the plant sciences and agriculture is growing well.

As part of this growing trend, CABI relaunched agriRxiv (pronounced agri-archive and previously known as AgriXiv) in 2020 as a platform for posting preprints. agriRxiv makes preprints across agriculture and allied sciences available to researchers and gives those who wish to share their papers online an opportunity to gain valuable feedback before submitting a final version to a journal and formal peer-review….”

Webinar ‘Preprints – Accelerating plant sciences and agriculture’

“The use of preprints has accelerated in the last few years with many researchers now sharing their latest work with the scientific community before or in parallel to publication with a journal. After a slower start compared to other research fields, adoption of preprints in the plant sciences and agriculture is growing well.

Why are researchers in plant and agricultural sciences posting preprints? What should you consider before you post a preprint? How does a preprint relate to a journal publication? In this webinar, we will discuss the outlook of preprints in plant sciences and agriculture, explore what can be learned from fields with a longer tradition of preprint use and hear from researchers who have successfully used preprints for the communication of their research.”

Inside An Effort To Put Millions Of Biological Specimens Online : Shots – Health News : NPR

“For scientists to pull out detailed information like that, however, they first have to know that a particular specimen even exists. In 2011, the National Science Foundation started handing out grants as part of a ten-year push to bring old-fashioned collections into the Internet age. One of the goals was to put specimen records online and into a searchable portal called iDigBio….

Now, as that program winds down, he and other experts are pondering what needs to happen over the next decade so that biological collections can continue to become more accessible. That’s why the NSF recently asked for some advice from an expert panel convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

One of its recommendations was simple: create a national registry of all collections, so experts know who’s got plants, microbes, or animals of interest.

The U.S. is thought to possess about 1,800 natural history collections, which is about a third of those that exist worldwide. In addition, the country has at least 2,800 “living stock” collections, such as microbe collections, which continually maintain living organisms for research….”

Access to biodiversity for food production: Reconciling open access digital sequence information with access and benefit sharing: Molecular Plant

“Over the last 40 years or so, a complex web of international legal agreements was developed that regulate the access, transfer, and use of plant genetic resources. These include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Nagoya Protocol, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (Figure 1). In developing these legal regimes, policy makers struggled to balance a number of conflicting demands. These included ensuring that access providers share in the benefits that arise from the use of their genetic resources; that users who value-add to genetic resources can protect their innovations via intellectual property; and, at the same time, that scientists and breeders have ongoing access to genetic resources. While there are problems with the existing regimes, they have reached an uneasy compromise of sorts….”

 

 

Access to biodiversity for food production: Reconciling open assess digital sequence information with access and benefit sharing – ScienceDirect

“Over the last forty years or so, a complex web of international legal agreements were developed that regulate the access, transfer, and use of plant genetic resources. These include the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Nagoya Protocol, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (Figure 1). In developing these legal regimes, policy makers struggled to balance a number of conflicting demands. These included ensuring that access providers share in the benefits that arise from the use of their genetic resources; that users who value-add to genetic resources can protect their innovations via intellectual property; and, at the same time, that scientists and breeders have ongoing access to genetic resources. While there are problems with the existing regimes, they have reached an uneasy compromise of sorts. In recent years, dramatic changes in the life sciences have threatened to undermine this complex and fragile balance (Unamba et al., 2015). These changes have been facilitated by new genomic technologies such as gene editing and synthetic biology (McDaniel and Weiss, 2005), by improved and cheaper sequencing technologies (Schaffer, 2007) which rapidly increased the availability of DNA sequence data, and advances in whole genome sequencing (Figure 1). Genomics is now a major source of data, rivalling big data disciplines like astronomy in the pace of data acquisition, storage, and analysis (Stephens et al., 2015). Open access international data repositories, such as GenBank, the DNA Databank of Japan, and European Molecular Biological Laboratory, that house a huge amount of DNA sequencerelated data (estimated at over 1.5 billion sequences) (WiLDSI , 2020) facilitate the sharing and use of digital sequence information (DSI) (Ad Hoc Technical Group on Digital Sequence Information 2015). The scientific value of public databases largely comes from the aggregation of data that allows scientists to identify patterns across the stored sequences (WiLDSI, 2020)….”