Open season in biology

On Thursday my colleague alerted me to a new open access journal from the Company of Biologists called Biology Open. Today, after a four-day long weekend (thanks to the Royal Wedding and Mayday celebrations) one of the first emails I opened was an announcement about a new open access journal from the Royal Society called Open Biology. I thought I’d got confused or mis-remembered but after checking I can confirm that there are in fact two new journals launching with almost identical titles. There is a slight difference in addition to the word order: Biology Open is calling itself Biology Open (BiO).

You might think you have seen the title already, and you would be almost right. There is also The Open Biology Journal from the publishers Bentham Science (a rather less prestigious publishing house than the CoB or the RoySoc).

I naively wondered at first why we needed so many journals in the field of open biology but then I read the announcements a little more closely and realised that neither of the new journals (nor, indeed, the older Bentham Science journal) is devoted to “open biology”. Rather they are broad journals of biology that happen to be open access. It is the journal that is open rather than the biology. It´s a bit like the old days when people set up “The Internet Journal of XYZ”.

Open Biology will offer

rapid publication of research in cell biology, developmental and structural biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, immunology, microbiology and genetics.

Biology Open (BiO) will be publishing

original research across all aspects of the biological sciences including cell science, developmental biology and experimental biology.

So far, so similar. But whereas Biology Open (BiO) says it will focus on “the timely publication of sound research rather than that with perceived impact or importance”, Open Biology says that acceptance criteria will be “high quality, importance and originality”.

Librarian Charles Greenberg, author of the OpenBiomed blog, suggests that Biology Open (BiO) is in effect a PLoS ONE lookalike journal. Or perhaps a Biology Direct lookalike, though that BioMedCentral journal has not had such great success as the PLoS title so I don´t suppose anyone wants to look like it.

While I´m on the subject of new OA journals, here is another one. The Genetics Society of America have launched G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics, which aims

to meet the need for rapid review and publication of high-quality foundational research, particularly research that generates large-scale datasets such as genome maps, genome-wide association and QTL studies, mutant screens, advances in methods and technology, and more.

The biggest question in my mind is whether those pipe symbols (|) are a necessary part of the name. How will Endnote etc cope with this journal name? I can´t help wondering what is wrong with good, old-fashioned commas. It also reminds me a bit of Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics, which is often known as just plain Proteins, leading to some confusion about its proper title.

That´s enough wittering about journal names from me. I´m sure an enormous amount of thought and effort goes into coming up with names for new journals, but sometimes we librarians despair of the end results.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we move further from print to electronic resources to open research, and become more embedded in research workflows.
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13 Responses to Open season in biology

  1. cromercrox says:

    Neither journal says anything about Ecology or Evolution. Like, these aren’t part of Biology. Oh, I see, they have no MONEY. Silly me.

  2. Frank says:

    Henry – You are right, both are very cellular/molecular. The Company of Biologists has that focus too, despite their name, but one might expect the RoySoc to have a wider vision.

    • Frank says:

      Slight correction to my comment above. One of the Company of Biologists’ journals (J. Exp. Biol.) does in fact publish papers in ecology and evolution, so it is likely that Biology Open (BiO) will also cover these fields. I was guilty of projecting my own cellular/molecular focus onto CoB, mea culpa.

  3. Steve Caplan says:


    I was recently surprised to come across a scientific journal called “Genesis”. With your library expertise, I wanted to ask if there are parallel journals such as those derived from Hinduism or Islam, such as “Bagvadhgita”?

  4. Frank says:

    Steve – I can’t say I have noticed any other journal titles inspired by religious books. SIngle-word titles seem to have more power to them (Nature, Science, Cell, Immunity, Brain, Gut…) but I suppose we are running out of all the obvious choices so we get things like Genesis, Traffic and Silence.

  5. Not to mention the fact that there’s already a G3 journal.

  6. ricardipus says:

    Agree that the pipe symbol is a silly thing to try and use. Also the centre-dot (sorry, no idea what it’s properly called, “bullet list” symbol) which I occasionally see in product names, for example.

    The other thing that drives me nuts is publications with a title and a subtitle written below it, with no intervening punctuation, like:

    Examining Life
    The big book of life examination thingies

    I’ve never figured out how to properly write this in a one-line citation. Does one separate them with a period, a colon, a comma, a hyphen…?

  7. Frank says:

    Christina – oh dear, that is unfortunate! Genes and Geos are different silos, but it is still not helpful.

    Richard – Cataloguers will use a colon to separate the title and subtitle. I’m not sure about citation styles, but I’d be inclined to use the same convention.

  8. ricardipus says:

    …and in slightly related news, there is a huge stack of promotional bookmarks for G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics. Seems somebody around here is an Editor, so perhaps I should be less critical of its title. 😉

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