EGU Blogs

Green Tea and Velociraptors

New species of ‘river dolphin’ reveals their ancient marine origins

A new species of extinct dolphin closely related to modern Amazonian ‘river dolphins’, but which dwelled in ancient oceans, is helping to solve the mystery of how and when dolphins adapted for life away from the sea.

Freshwater dolphins are endangered, largely due to human activity. In modern ecosystems, only five or six species remain, and among these, the Yangtze ‘river dolphin’ was declared ‘functionally extinct’ in 2006.

These animals are truly remarkable, and show what scientists have interpreted as adaptations for helping to navigate the murky waters of the winding rivers they inhabit: broad, paddle-shaped flippers, and long narrow snouts – much longer than their modern, sea-dwelling cousins – and flexible necks for catching rapidly darting prey.

An artist's recreation of Isthminia panamensis feeding on a flatfish. Many features of this new species appear similar to today’s ocean dolphins, yet the new fossil species is more closely related to the living Amazon River dolphin. Image: Julia Molnar / Smithsonian Institution

An artist’s recreation of Isthminia panamensis feeding on a flatfish. Many features of this new species appear similar to today’s ocean dolphins, yet the new fossil species is more closely related to the living Amazon River dolphin. Image: Julia Molnar / Smithsonian Institution

Scientists from the Smithsonian discovered a new genus and species of extinct ‘river dolphin’, hailing from the Caribbean Coast of Panama 6 million years ago during a time known as the Miocene. Based on a skull and parts of the right flipper, they estimate it could grow to more than 9 feet in length, just slightly larger than its modern relatives. The new animal is named Isthminia panamensis, as a dedication to the people of the Republic of Panama, and the many scientists who’ve studied the biology and geology of the region.

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New open science competition through ARCS

The ARCS (Advancing Research Communication and Scholarship) have launched a new ‘open scholarship’ competition. The aim is simple: describe your ‘open science story’, and you could win $1000! In particular, the competition is aimed at finding success stories – how has practicing any form of open science helped you advance or enhance your career in some way?

All submissions will be published and archived with The Winnower, an open access platform, and assigned a DOI for free so it will become citeable.

To submit your open success story, simply click HERE. Use ARCS2015 as a keyword, so your submission is included in the project collection and considered for a prize. Articles must be submitted before October 5th to be considered for a prize.

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The rise of open research data

This was originally posted at:

As a junior researcher in the UK, it has given me great pleasure over the last few years to see the dramatic development of open access publishing. Most major research funders in the UK now require public access to published research articles in one form or another, and many other research intensive nations across the globe are following suit.

Along with this global increase in public access to papers, there has been a gear shift in demand for the availability of additional outputs of research, including code, videos, software, and raw data. One of the most recent steps in increasing access to these outputs has been the RECODE project for researchers in the EU, which seeks to develop an open data ecosystem through shifting research practices. With progress being made in the USA too, the wheels are truly in motion towards a global shift towards open access to all research outputs.

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New open access journal to publish entire research cycles

Say hello to Research Ideas & Outcomes (RIO), a new open access journal, formally open for business today! The new journal represents a useful addition to traditional publishing, in that it will publish research from all stages of the research cycle, across a broad suite of disciplines, from humanities to science.

RIO logo
Traditionally, journals accept articles that are the final product of the research continuum, typically long after the core work has been completed. RIO will publish ideas and outputs from all stages of the research cycle: proposals, experimental designs, data, software, research articles, project reports, policy briefs, project management plans and more.

The journal takes another step ahead with a collaborative platform that allows all ideas and outputs to be labelled with Impact Categories based upon UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and EU Societal Challenges. These categories provide social impact-based labelling to help funders, journalists and the wider public discover and finance relevant research as well as to foster interdisciplinary collaboration around societal challenges.

This new journal comes packed with technical innovation and unique features. The journal is published through ARPHA, the first publishing platform ever to support the full life cycle of a manuscript: from authoring to submission, public peer review, publication and dissemination, within a single, fully-integrated online collaborative environment. The new platform will also allow for RIO to offer one of the most transparent, open and public peer review processes, thus building trust in the reviewed outcomes.

These features come à la carte: RIO will offer flexible pricing where authors can choose exactly which publishing services fit their needs and budget. All its contents – including reviews and comments, data and code – will receive a persistent unique identifier, will be permanently archived and made available under open licenses without any access embargo. This is great for authors who generate a lot of digital research outputs, as they can get credit for more than just manuscripts at the end of the day.

RIO process

RIO journal publishes all stages of the research cycle – ideas, methods, data, software, and final results.

“RIO is not just about different kinds of submissions, though that is a crucial feature and certainly unique for publishing ongoing or even proposed research: it is also about linking those submissions together across the research cycle, about reducing the time from submission to publication, about collaborative authoring and reviewing, about mapping to societal challenges, about technical innovation, about enabling reuse and about giving authors more choice in what features they actually want from the journal.” said Dr. Daniel Mietchen, a founding editor of RIO.

“I’m proud to pioneer the first journal which can publish research from all stages of the research process,” said Prof. Lyubomir Penev, Co-Founder of RIO and Pensoft. “For the first time, researchers can get formal publication credit for previously ‘hidden’ parts of their work like written research proposals. We can publish all outputs in one journal; the same journal – RIO.”

This is a much more welcome advance than journals such as Science Advances or Heliyon, which offer very little to progress research or aid researchers compared to other open access venues. (views of the author, which are totally unbiased..)

RIO is scheduled to start accepting manuscripts in November 2015.