Impact Report 2021

Below follows a report on the uptake and impact of the Genetic Resources journal, which is part of a deliverable within the GenRes Bridge project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 817580. Based on usage statistics and a stakeholder survey it evaluates the success  of the journal and the relevance of its continuation after the end of the GenRes Bridge project and informs a sustainability plan which defines steps and responsibilities for the continuation of the journal. The report was registered as a deliverable and published online on 28 October 2021. 

Report on uptake and impact of the Genetic Resources journal

(by Sandra Goritschnig, IPGRI/ECPGR, Managing Editor of Genetic Resources and Denis Laloe, INRAE)

Introduction

Genetic Resources is a new online journal developed within the framework of the H2020 project GenRes Bridge (grant agreement 817580). GenRes Bridge aims at strengthening conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources (GR) by increasing collaborative efforts and widening capacities in plant, forest and animal domains. Establishment of a journal serving all GR domains was included in the project plan as a prime example of collaborative action between the three European GR networks, which should continue after the end of the project. It should be highlighted that the journal was intended not as a business opportunity but as a service to the varied stakeholders of the different GR domains, providing free open access publishing to a sector that often struggles with financial constraints, which may limit access to other journals.

Genetic Resources is inspired by the no longer existing Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter[1] and Animal Genetic Resources[2] journals and aims to fill the gap created by their discontinuation. Its scope and setup draw from the results of a survey conducted among stakeholders within the framework of the GenRes Bridge project[3].

Establishment of Genetic Resources

As task leader within the GenRes Bridge project, the ECPGR Secretariat has primarily been responsible for development of the journal, providing editorial support at all levels, with the managing editor coordinating the review process as well as production. Scientific officer Sandra Goritschnig was appointed Managing Editor in December 2019 and tasked with setting up the journal, its editorial board, structure, policies and website. Several GenRes Bridge project partners were involved in this work, having members on the journal editorial board (ECPGR, University of Birmingham, University of Padova) and providing general input in ongoing discussions (CGN, INRAE, ERFP, EFI).

The editorial board was established in December 2019 with experts from the animal and plant domains, including nominees from the European Networks as well as external members approached by the editorial office. The EUFORGEN network decided not to nominate experts for the editorial board, resulting in weaker editorial support for the forest genetic resources domain. The editorial board met online in January 2020 to discuss the scope and policies of the journal, reviewed author and reviewer guidelines and agreed on them as outlined on the journal website www.genresj.org. Additional editors for the animal domain have joined the board after the journal’s launch and new applications are accepted.

The journal website went public in February 2020 and has been accepting submissions since. The journal is using Open Journal Systems (OJS) for its submission management, an open-source platform that includes a submission system allowing efficient tracking through the review process as well as an attractive front page. It is hosted by Bioversity International, which is also the publisher of the journal on behalf of ECPGR. The journal is registered with ISSN (2708-3764) and member of Crossref for DOI registration. Typesetting and production of the journal galleys is achieved with an online software (www.typeset.io), which allows the professional rendering of articles with minimum personnel requirement.

Genetic Resources is indexed in Google scholar and Sciencegate and actively pursuing additional indexing options, most of which require a new journal being published for at least 12 months. The journal also intends to emphasize its social media presence, for example through taking over the @GenResBridge Twitter account after the project ends, thus enhancing its outreach.

Usage statistics of Genetic Resources

In its first thirteen months, Genetic Resources has published three regular issues, including 18 articles categorized as relevant for plant (11), animal (10) and forest (4) genetic resources. One special issue, the abstract book for the “International Congress on the Breeding of Sheep and Goats” (Bonn, Germany October 2020), was co-edited with Christian Gerlinger from the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food and published in February 2021[4]. Two articles for the upcoming 4th issue of the journal are already available on the journal website. 

As of 5 October 2021, the journal website had 234 registered users (including editors, authors, reviewers and readers). Of 39 manuscripts submitted to the journal eight had been rejected and 20 accepted for publication, with the remainder currently in the review process. The journal has received 82 reviews from subject experts, who have provided invaluable service to the community by providing their expertise to ensure consistent quality and scientific merit of the published articles. The average time for a reviewer to provide their assessment was 28 days and the average duration of 194 days from submission until publication is comparable to other journals in the field.

As of 5 October 2021, abstracts of articles published in Genetic Resources had been viewed 7,576 times, with a peak of views corresponding to the launch of the first issue, which contained a highlighted invited review by the Commission of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture at FAO[5], attracting the majority of traffic (Figure 1). PDF and HTML galleys of published articles were viewed more than 5,000 times in the past 13 months, with a steady increase over time, reflecting the increase in numbers of published articles. The most popular article with more than 900 total galley views was the invited review in the first issue and each article has been viewed on average 22 times per month, reflecting the interest of the GR community in research results published in Genetic Resources. Several articles have already been cited in the literature. The pdf of the special issue abstract book has been downloaded more than 1,000 times, highlighting the utility of this feature to promote the journal to diverse stakeholders.

Figure 1. Abstract views of all published articles in Genetic Resources over the first 13 months. Regular issues were published on 31.08.2020, 30.12.2020 and 30.06.2021; the special issue was published on 26.02.2021.

Survey on Uptake and Impact of Genetic Resources

To assess the impact of the new journal among genetic resources stakeholders, a survey was developed and shared with members of the plant, animal and forest genetic resources networks (ECPGR, ERFP and EUFORGEN) and advertised to the general public through the Genetic Resources website and social media. By 31 August 2021 the survey received 102 responses from 44 countries, covering most of Europe but also Asia, Africa and the Americas (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Origin of responses to the survey, per country. N = 102.

In order to group the stakeholders that can be reached by the journal, survey respondents were asked to identify their field of work and genetic resources domains of interest, with the possibility to provide multiple responses (Figure 3). The majority of respondents work in research and education, the main target group of a scientific journal, with the main areas of work being genebank curation and management, in situ conservation and breeding.Figure 3: Stakeholder and Genetic resource domain groups reached by the survey. Upset plots showing co-occurences of responses to two questions. Horizontal barcharts (bottom left) indicate the frequency of each response. The grid (bottom right) indicates combinations of responses, while the frequency of these combinations are depicted on the bar graph above. Responses to the questions A) “What field(s) or stakeholder group(s) are you working in?” and B) “Which genetic resources domains do you work in?” showed that a very diverse audience with a range of crosscutting interests was reached in the survey.

Half of the respondents (51) identified as principal investigators/professors and 22 as post-doctoral researchers, while 7 respondents declared not to work in research. The majority of respondents worked with agricultural plants, wild plants or generally on biodiversity for food and agriculture. However, the forest and animal domain are also strongly represented among respondents, as are researchers in ecosystems and agricultural production systems. Some researchers also work on aquatic (2), microbial (4) and invertebrate (2) diversity. The diversity of response combinations highlights the crosscutting nature of genetic resources conservation and management, as shown by the Upset plots in Figure 3. Upset plots are useful plots to visualize co-occuring variables in a bar chart[6].

The majority of respondents first found out about Genetic Resources through a notification from one of the GR networks (58) or through the link on the ECPGR (23) or GenRes Bridge websites (8). Word of mouth or online searches also attracted readers to the journal, while social media did not play an important role. 73% of respondents have read at least one article published in Genetic Resources, 18% have read four and more articles, and respondents generally considered that the journal covers its identified scope well, giving an average rating of 4.13 out of 5.

 

Figure 4: Topics on which respondents would like to read more about in Genetic Resources. Multiple answers were possible.

Readers’ interests in GR domains that should be covered more in the journal in general reflected the work background of the respondents, but responses showed that there is a wide variation in GR domains of interest. When considering what specific topics should be covered by publications in Genetic Resources, respondents expressed high interest in reading protocols, strategies and guidelines for collecting and conservation methods (>70%), assessments or reviews of genetic diversity (83.5%), reports on documentation, characterization and evaluation of genetic resources (~70%) as well as on a broader linkage of genetic resources and biodiversity (76.7%) (see Figure 4). Of lesser interest, but still supported by more than 50% of respondents, where reports on on-farm management, Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in practice and Ethnobotany. Respondents considered that socioeconomic and cultural/historical studies as well as reports on policies and regulations or on ecosystem services were least relevant for the journal with less than 50% expressing interest in reading on these topics in the journal.

Respondents were asked about their experience with the submission system and editorial workflow of the journal. 12,6% of respondents had submitted a manuscript to the journal, and 9,7% had an article published in Genetic Resources in 2020/2021 at the time of the survey. 67% indicated that they would consider submitting a manuscript to Genetic Resources within the next 12 months. 7,8% of respondents had been asked to review a manuscript for the journal, and half of them have done so in the past year. The fact that 68% of respondents indicated their willingness to review for the journal in the future highlights the support that the journal can receive from its stakeholders.

In general, respondents appreciated the professional layout of articles and journal website, as well as the submission system, although this could be further improved. The open access policies of the journal were highly appreciated by respondents. 41% of respondents considered the quality of articles published in the journal as good and ~50% thought that the journal is already covering significant gaps in genetic resources topics. Around 30% of respondents have recommended an article published in Genetic Resources to a colleague and 8,7% have already cited a published article in their work. Taken together, these numbers highlight that there is room for improvement and growth as it was considered by some respondents a bit too early in the existence of Genetic Resources to properly assess all these aspects.

We used a Multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) to study the association between the different responses to the questions of the survey. MCA summarizes a set of categorical variables (here the questions and their responses) into a small number of orthogonal variables called principal components. Graphical displays are used to summarize the proximities between the subjects and to show the associations between the responses of the different questions. The subjects are represented in two-dimensional graphical displays constructed using principal components as axes system. Responses are located at the centre of gravity of the corresponding respondents. Figure 5 shows the variations of the same factorial map, where respondents are grouped according to their responses to six different questions. Label colors go from green (good opinion responses) to red (bad opinion responses). The first component of MCA highlighted the consistency of respondents in their opinion of the journal. Respondents at the left of the map had in general a good opinion of the journal and were also more likely to consider submitting a manuscript within the next year or considered the continued support of the European genetic resources networks for the journal important. Conversely, respondents at the right of the map have an overall bad opinion of the journal, of its quality and of its importance (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Variations of the MCA factorial map (projection of the 102 respondents on the first principal component of the MCA). For each of the 6 questions, respondents are grouped and colored according to their responses to the different questions. Colors go from green (“good” answers) to red (“bad” answers). Questions asked were A) “The quality of the articles published in the journal is good ?” B) Would you consider submitting a manuscript for publication to the journal within the next 12 months? C) The Genetic Resources journal should remain fully open access (free to publish, free to read)? D) Genetic Resources journal should continue to cover all domains? E) The European genetic resources networks should continue publishing and supporting the Genetic Resources journal in the future. F) On a scale of 1 (not good) to 5 (very good), what is your overall rating of the Genetic Resources journal? The similar pattern of responses according to the questions shows correlation between overall rating of the journal and support for its continuation. MCA and corresponding plots have been realized with the R software ade4 and adegraphics packages[7].

When separating responses based on the respondent’s identified field of work (i.e. forestry, animals, plants or biodiversity), similar trends were observed in the general rating of the journal as well as the experience with the editorial workflow and willingness to contribute to reviewing for the journal. However, fewer respondents identifying as working in forestry had read articles published in the journal (62% have read at least one article, vs. ~70% for other domains) or thought it important that the journal continue to cover all domains (71,4% vs more than 90% for respondents from other domains). The continued support of the journal from the European GR networks was supported by 80% of respondents from the forestry sector, while more than 90% of respondents from other domains considered this aspect as important.

Going forward, 85% of respondents considered it important that the journal continue to cover all GR domains, and 95% supported the fully open access model (free to publish, free to read) of the journal. 90% of respondents considered it important that the European GR networks should continue publishing and supporting the journal and that it continues to be open to a global geographic scope.

Finally, respondents had the opportunity to provide free text comments on the journal. Among these, a clear recommendation to obtain a journal impact factor and appropriate indexing (e.g. in SCOPUS or Web of Science) were urgent priorities in order to establish the journal as a suitable publishing medium and attract high quality manuscripts. Respondents recommended to increase the number of published articles, including more reviews, opinion papers and practice-oriented papers. Being a joint effort of the different GR domains, it was also highlighted that publication of cross-cutting research could be of particular interest.

Conclusions and outlook

With the financial support of the GenRes Bridge project, the journal was launched and established as a suitable venue for publishing relevant research, methods, case studies as well as reviews and opinion papers. The journal provides a valuable service to a range of stakeholders from the different GR domains and offers free open access publishing to the community. Two articles have already been published and several manuscripts are currently in production for the upcoming 4th issue of the journal, due to be finalized in December 2021. During its first year of existence, the Genetic Resources journal has been able to attract interest from stakeholders of all domains and world regions. Extending the scope of the journal to other GR domains and areas (e.g. microbial and invertebrates or aquatic GR) is an objective of the journal in the long term, through collaboration with the respective communities. Building bridges between the different GR domains through publication of crosscutting research is another aspect that should be emphasized going forward.

It is clear that some aspects of journal management can be improved, and efforts should be undertaken to improve user friendliness of the website and submission system, shorten the time between manuscript submission and editorial decision, and to increase the reach and impact of the journal through indexing and promotion. Therefore, it will be beneficial to expand available expertise to address areas of improvement with the endorsement, support and contribution of all European GR networks.

 

[1] https://www.bioversityinternational.org/e-library/library-services/plant-genetic-resources-newsletter/

[2] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/animal-genetic-resources-resources-genetiques-animales-recursos-geneticos-animales

[3] https://www.genresj.org/index.php/grj/GenResBridge_survey

[4] Gerlinger, C., Verrier, E. and Goritschnig, S. eds (2021) International Congress on the Breeding of Sheep and Goats: Abstract book, Genetic Resources, 2(S1), pp. 1-114. doi: 10.46265/genresj.QULD1720

[5] Pilling et. al. (2020) Global status of genetic resources for food and agriculture: challenges and research needs, Genetic Resources, 1(1), pp. 4-16. doi: 10.46265/genresj.2020.1.4-16

[6] Nils Gehlenborg (2019). UpSetR: A More Scalable Alternative to Venn and Euler Diagrams for Visualizing Intersecting Sets. R package version 1.4.0. https://CRAN.R-project.org/package=UpSetR

[7] Thioulouse J, Dray S, Dufour A, Siberchicot A, Jombart T, Pavoine S (2018). Multivariate Analysis of Ecological Data with ade4. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-8850-1