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Open and Shut?

I hesitate to mention this but Richard Poynder has posted an interview with me about PLoS ONE on his blog Open and Shut?

Richard is a freelance journalist who is very interested in the Open Access movement. He is also compiling a set of interviews with the leaders and thinkers behind open access called The Basement Interviews. These have featured people such as Lawrence Lessig, Vitek Tracz (founder of BioMed Central among other things), and most recently one of our founders Harold Varmus, from whom he heard about PLoS ONE.

Richard interviewed me by telephone and I’m quite distressed to discover how inelegantly I speak. Still Richard was asking some tough questions and I’m no politician.

  1. Hi Chris,

    For starters, I think PLoS ONE is a tremendously good idea, thanks for doing it. In the interview Richard presses you a bit on how you’ll get scientists to submit papers to PLoS ONE, but I was more curious about how you will build up a community of editors/reviewers/annotators? What is the incentive for scientists to take the time to provide this feedback?

    I’ll provide my personal bias: I think there would probably be enough scientists who would be sufficiently excited by scientific debate about an article (starting with the authors!) that it might get things off the ground. However, it would likely make a huge difference if you could build a more formal incentive into the system. Something along the lines of Slashdot ‘Karma’ ratings (e.g., associated with my PLoS ONE persona would be some sort of rating of my comments/annotations). If this was rigorous enough, maybe you could even get funding agencies/universities to consider it when making decisions. Since there seems to be only one sort of currency in science right now (published papers), it is tough to encourage scientists to spend their time on anything else.

    Also, if you build up this great interface for tagging, annotating, and discussing articles, have you considered opening it up to articles that are not published on PLoS ONE? This might be one way to “bootstrap” a community of editors before there is significant PLoS ONE content up on the site. You might have to start with only OA articles to allow the annotation tools to work, but that would still be a significant amount of substrate for people to get excited about commenting on.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jason Kelly

    Disclaimer: I’m involved in OpenWetWare so am already very excited about how the internet influences the way science operates, but I think my optimism about PLoS ONE is representative of the average scientist anyway 😉

  2. Hi Jason,

    I’ve got to admit I was wondering the same thing, particularly given the broad nature of PLoS ONE — everything from nuclear physics to cell biology under the same roof is going to (potentially) have a hard time getting the critical mass of people from all disciplines needed for good over-publication peer review and discussion. With PLoS having focused on biological and medical science so far, I suspect that these areas will have a reasonable representation in the beginning, but I’m not sure how easy or hard it will be to grow in, say, physics (my own background).

    One thing that I haven’t noticed anywhere is the requirements for signing up and commenting on PLoS ONE. Are you going to have to prove in some fashion that you’re a scientist? Given the open access theme, one would think everyone should be able to comment on papers, but is this going to lead to a deluge of bad posts (as can be found on a few of the blogs already out there dealing with things like evolution)?

    Either way, I also think PLoS ONE is a fantastic idea, and can’t wait to see it in action.

  3. Jason and Philip

    All these are things that we have thought about and while we can’t handle them at the launch of PLoS ONE we hope to implement them as soon as we can. I’ve posted a more coherent esponse to these and other matters arising as Week One Reactions.

  4. Who is a scientist? What qualification would be adequate?

    Let’s allow multiple methods. Let’s say one way would be to have authored an article in a peer reviewed publication. But another could be to have made one or several comments which have received kudos from others or from qualified others. And a third might be to have received an adequate score on some subject related test.

    In any case, it would be fairly easy for any reader to select which classes of qualified commenters they wish to read. I hope for one which allows ME to comment despite a lack of official status.


  5. Dick, there will certainly be a place for you in PLoS ONE.

    We aren’t intending to have any entry criteria for people who want to engage in discussions. We will want to know who you are and that you are a real person but more than that no.

    Dick’s ideas about defining users are great and we will be establishing a mechanism of rating for contributors to help users find the comments that will be useful to them. But after all, even patent clerks have useful things to say on occasion.

  6. Lately it seems I have had way too much opportunity to wax philosophic about the way made forward by the Highway of Light. And again, with the implementation of PloS ONE, there appear the opportunity to speak. Any program which bring the knowledge gained and makes it available to the street for me make a whole lot of sense. With each passing day my crew gets excited all over again about some new which has come down the Highway.
    And now, I wax a bit, then wain as today I, ‘Da Boss’, drew the short straw to clean up the shop so the crew catch the last of a 14’ day at the beach:
    Each day as we walk the byways and
    flash along the highways of light,
    there are those who are left
    standing, as the march to flight
    goes by some to stop and wonder
    at the enormous potential at what
    has been created.
    But others who are left, standing
    in a rut at the side of the road,
    a rut too soon to become an abyss.

    So Then? What to do?

    Have said before, too many times to count,
    yet shall say again, as often as need be,
    until there is clarity in the air:

    The time has come to put a fence at the top of the cliff
    instead of a net at the bottom:
    Thus giving a chance to build a bridge over the abyss.

    And I am reminded of a few lines from a very famous song, for PloS ONE is a movement if ever I saw one:

    ‘And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a
    study in black and white of my fingerprints. And the only reason I’m
    singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar
    situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a
    situation like that there’s only one thing you can do and that’s walk into
    the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say “Shrink, You can get
    anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant.”. And walk out. You know, if
    one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and
    they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony,
    they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them.
    And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in
    singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an
    organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said
    fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and
    walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.’ – Arlo Guthrie
    [©1966,1967 (Renewed) by Appleseed Music Inc. All Rights Reserved.]

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