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ASABE, Virginia Tech Publishing Launch Biosystems Engineering Open Textbook

Monday, February 22, 2021
ASABE, Virginia Tech Publishing Launch  Biosystems Engineering Open Textbook

ASABE is pleased to announce the launch, with  Virginia Tech PublishingIntroduction to Biosystems Engineering, an open textbook for university-level introductory courses in biosystems engineering.

Written by an international team of authors, Introduction to Biosystems Engineering is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) and is available both in print and online. The online version is freely downloadable either as a complete work or as stand-alone chapters. In addition, a parallel resource in development, The Biosystems Engineering Digital Library (BEDL), will provide more teaching and learning resources instructors can use in the classroom.

The project received support from ASABE's Initiative Fund and Harold Pinches and Glenn Schwab Teaching Materials Fund, as well as from the editorial contributions of ASABE members across the globe. The organizational structure of the textbook follows the ASABE structure, with chapters based on the scope of ASABE's technical communities.

ASABE Director of Publications Joseph C. Walker says that Introduction to Biosystems Engineering will help define the profession and support the organization’s goal of raising the global prominence of the agricultural and biological engineering profession.

He further notes that is was important for ASABE to make this book freely available through open publishing.

“Making the text freely available will provide savings to the students and ensure wider usage, including in non-U.S. countries. With a broad user-base, open access, and ongoing development, the text will stay relevant to the profession and be widely used,” said Walker. “We look forward to the textbook possibly spurring other related projects and advancing the field of study.” 

ASABE Past President Mary Leigh Wolfe, Virginia Tech professor and former head of the biological systems engineering department, was one of the project’s initiators. She served as one of the four editors of the text along with Nick Holden and Enda Cummins, professors of biosystems and food engineering at University College Dublin, Ireland, and Jactone Ogejo, Virginia Tech associate professor of biological systems engineering. The four editors share a vision of open access and internalization of their discipline that ASABE and Virginia Tech Publishing have brought to fruition. 

Wolfe says this book is important because of its global perspective. “Having authors from around the world helps reinforce the relevance and global impact of our discipline,” she notes. “It is important for students to recognize both the differences and similarities of the focus areas of our discipline around the world.” 

Cummins and Ogejo  emphasize the importance of making the textbook freely available. 

“Education should have no bounds, including costs,” says Cummins. “An open textbook will ensure dissemination and equal opportunities for all interested parties to learn from this resource.” Ogejo agrees: “Access is key,” he says. “The availability and access to the internet globally to do business (commerce, trade, etc.) is on the rise. Leveraging these experiences to provide access to education materials for college students will provide a lot of benefit, especially to the economically disadvantaged communities.”

“Cost prevents many people from having access to current publications. Instead they often receive outdated materials,” adds Wolfe. 

The textbook is divided into six sections aligned with technical communities within biosystems engineering: energy systems; information technology, sensors, and control systems; machinery systems; natural resources and environmental systems; plant, animal, and facility systems; and processing systems. Within the sections, chapters focus on topics that can be covered in one week of class and include learning outcomes, key concepts, applications of concepts, and worked examples.

This is only the beginning. The editors see Introduction to Biosystems Engineering as a dynamic textbook that will grow and evolve over the next five years while simultaneously extending its global impact.

UCD's Holden says that in five years’ time, he would like to see two things happening. "Firstly, I would like to see another two volumes, 50 additional chapters, published and freely available online. This will make the resource hugely valuable for educators around the world,” he says. “Secondly, I would like to see topic-specific textbooks being written using the same structured approach. I think it will work very well for both edited compilations and authored textbooks, as it helps organize thinking and makes learning much easier.”