The principle of “publish or perish” that applies to researchers, academics and clinicians affords them acknowledgment for their efforts. However, the biobanking community often fades into obscurity because it does not receive the same recognition. Biobankers do not have a system that allows them to identify and trace their samples in scientific literature. Therefore, they cannot readily measure their impact. Napolitani et al. (2016) report on the first standard for citing bioresources, including biobanks, within journal articles.1
In 2011, within the Bioresource Research Impact Factor (BRIF) initiative, a BRIF and journal editors subgroup formed, with the goal of assessing the value and impact and promoting the sharing of bioresources. In 2013, as a result of discussions on open data sharing and the role of a new journal (the Open Journal of Bioresources, which will feature “marker papers” describing bioresources), the subgroup agreed on a standardized citation format. Using marker papers is already highly successful in other areas, such as bioinformatics, and creates a standard to allow traceability of bioresources. The standardized citation format became Citation of BioResources in journal Articles (CoBRA).
CoBRA defines sections of a journal article where the name and accurate details of a given bioresource/biobank are defined, and introduces a method for referencing the bioresource in a systematic way that will improve traceability of its use. Each individual bioresource used to perform a study should be mentioned in the material and methods section of a journal article, and should be cited as an individual reference. The following is an example for the Italian biobank BioBanca Istituzionale (BBI), a partner in the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure–European Research Infrastructure Consortium (BBMRI-ERIC) network:
BioBanca Istituzionale (BBI). Naples, Italy. BBMRIERIC. No. Access: 2; last: April 15, 2014. [BIORESOURCE]
Napolitani et al. report that using the CoBRA guidelines enables bibliographic databases such as Web of Science, which calculates impact factor for the Journal Citation Reports, to retrieve information needed for statistical analysis by biobankers. This in turn allows biobank activity to be tracked and valued. They suggest that CoBRA’s proposed citation system will increase biobank visibility and promote bioresource sharing.
1. Napolitani, F., et al. (2016) “Biobankers: Treat the poison of invisibility with CoBRA, a systematic way of citing bioresources in journal articles,” Biopreservation and Biobanking, 14(4) (pp. 350–352), doi: 10.1089/bio.2015.0105.