Update on publishing activities


I write to update you on our efforts related to publishing the Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists. The journal was founded in response to conversations that occurred on the SSB Council during 2015 – 2017 during my tenure as a council member. Essentially, the council was (and is) concerned with aspects of the commercial publishing industry, which manages to be extremely profitable at a large scale because it relies on the donated labor of scientists and academics. Essentially, these conversations indicated that many people on the council at this time (i) recognized that SSB needed to move towards open access publishing, (ii) had reservations about the article processing charges proposed by Oxford University Press, but (iii) also felt like we lacked the collective knowledge to think creatively about other options and the potential roles that SSB could play in this space. As part of my agreement to serve as Editor-in-Chief of Systematic Biology from 2018-2022, I proposed to explore options for starting a second journal for the society. It’s taken us a while to arrive at this point, but I’m happy to report that thanks to a lot of hard work from many people (see below), the Bulletin is fully operational. To date we have published 14 open access manuscripts in two volumes.

The Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists publishes manuscripts that advance our understanding of the Earth's biodiversity, with a special focus on investigations that describe how species are related (i.e., phylogenies, species trees, and networks), identified (i.e., species delimitation or taxonomic practice) or have evolved (e.g., phylogeography, biogeography, or phylogenetic comparative methods). BSSB also publishes manuscripts that advance the theory or methods used in data analysis or that contribute to our understanding of the social factors that influence our discipline (e.g., workshops, ). Unlike many journals, we do not have page limits on our publications, which makes it possible for us to publish monographs. All BSSB manuscripts are published under an Open Access Gold License (CCBY-4.0) because we believe that scientific research should be available to biologists everywhere and not hidden behind a paywall.

The Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists does not charge article processing fees or page charges. Society members can publish their research at no charge in the Bulletin, which has to be the best deal available for scientific publishing. Our only requirement for publication is that the manuscript goes through peer review and that the lead and senior authors provide proof of SSB membership upon manuscript acceptance. Financial support for the Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists is provided by the Society of Systematic Biologists. To date, approximately $26,600 have been used to pay the students who have worked of the BSSB, about $1450 have been spent on typesetting costs, and $400 have been used to purchase a large computer monitor. All editorial staff and reviewers have donated their time to the society to support our publishing effort.

Our publishing model is the result of a collaboration between the Society of Systematic Biologists and the Library Publishing Program at The Ohio State University. The library supports our web site, assigns DOIs and permanent URLs to published manuscripts, and serves as the interface with indexing services such as Web of Science and Google Scholar. All editorial work is handled by a small but dedicated team that consists of:

  • Our copy editor Dinah Ward, a recent OSU graduate who has been instrumental in developing editorial processes, manuscript layout, and copy editing protocols.
  • Our managing editor Shelby Moshier, an OSU graduate student who coordinates submissions, reviews, copy editing, and typesetting for all BSSB
  • Our experienced and dedicated team of Associate Editors as well as guest editors for special issues (e.g., Andrea Quattrini for our Species Delimitation special issue & George Tiley and Claudia Solis-Lemus for our Species Networks special issue).

At this point in our history, the Bulletin is working hard to improve our operations and increase the number of manuscripts that we publish. To do so, we need help from SSB members. How can you help?

  • As LaTex experts: We would like to develop a LaTex template for submissions to the Bulletin that could be used to replace the typesetting service that we currently employ. To do so, we need a LaTex expert to volunteer to help develop and implement this template. Volunteers can reach out to Shelby Moshier.
  • As Peer reviewers: Scientific publishing is only possible because scientists donate their time as peer reviewers. Everyone reading this newsletter has reviewed manuscripts, but the Bulletin is looking for people who are willing to provide thorough and helpful reviews in a timely manner. Volunteer reviewers can reach out to Shelby Moshier with a short note about expertise and interests.
  • As authors: Consider publishing your work in the Bulletin. While we’ve definitely had some growing pains related to our manuscript handling software and typesetting processes, we think that we’re largely past the problems that delayed publication of some of our current manuscripts. We can promise that we’ll work with editors and reviewers to help authors publish the best version of their research that is possible.
  • As special topic editors: To date we have been effective at publishing special issues (e.g., our Species Delimitation and Species Networks special issues). Rather than donating editorial efforts to journals which will then ask you to ask your authors for APCs, please consider acting as an editor for a special issue of the Bulletin. Proposals for special issues can be directed to Bryan Carstens.
  • As partners: The inaugural issue of the Bulletin was a product of the Modernizing Monography workshop that was funded by the National Science Foundation and organized by Meg Daly and Felipe Zapata. We would love to talk with workshop leaders about how the Bulletin can support your efforts. Please reach out to Bryan Carstens at eic.bssb@systematicbiologists.org  to discuss ideas.
  • As Editors: As we grow our operation, the Bulletin needs 2-4 additional editors. Potential editors can reach out to Shelby Moshier with a short note about expertise and interests.

The Society of Systematic Biologists view our publishing of the Bulletin as part of a broader initiative to broaden participation, for example we have worked to make society memberships available on sliding scales to lower financial barriers to participation, supported graduate student research, supported access to research via affordable Open Access options, and worked with other entities such as the Library Publishing Coalition to effect change in the publishing ecosystem. I strongly believe that scientific societies need to be more intentional in our relationship to the publishing industry and I am proud that SSB has been a leader in this endeavor. As individual scientists, publishing our research is essential to our professional careers and those of our mentees. However, we have a choice as to how we publish this work. Please be intentional about your participation in the publishing ecosystem, contribute your expertise as a reviewer or editor to journals that are affiliated with scientific societies, choose to publish your work in society journals, and be sure to mentor young scientists about the publishing ecosystem in order to increase awareness about issues related to scientific publishing.



Bryan C. Carstens

Founding Editor, Bulletin of the Society of Systematic Biologists