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PLoS ONE blog chatter

As Liz mentioned in her first post here we have been utterly bowled over by the amount of Blog interest in our new project even before we officially announced it. That has been brilliant as we are taking much of our inspiration from the community activities of the web. We really want to put the community of scientists in as much control of PLoS ONE as we possibly can. Anyway, I thought that it would be good to give a quick run down of what has been said.

So I guess things kicked off not with a blog but with an Article in Wired, Free Radical, about one of our founders Harold Varmus. In that interview he let slip a very slight mention of PLoS ONE:

And this summer, Varmus and his colleagues will launch PLoS ONE, a paperless journal that will publish online any paper that evaluators deem “scientifically legitimate.” Each article will generate a thread for comment and review. Great papers will be recognized by the discussion they generate, and bad ones will fade away.

That was picked up on by a couple of bloggers. Ask Doctor Vector and peanutbutter liked the sound of it with some reservations. Peanutbutter gets the prize for the first use of a Star Trek reference when talking about PLoS ONE: Journals but not as we know it.

But it was Pedro over at Public Rambling and who dug a bit deeper and turned up a draft version of the PLoS ONE site.

Konrad at konrads considerations noticed as did Peter Suber on Open Access News; Deepak at business|bytes|genes|molecules; and Olivier at, who showed how good French is for slogans “Science 2.0: c’est parti.” Is just crying out to be on a T-shirt.

Glyn in OPEN… decided to give us some pretty ambitious aims:

The Public Library of Science has already played a crucial role in helping to bolster enormously the academic credentials of open access; with PLoS ONE it looks as if it is going to re-make scientific discourse entirely.

No pressure then!

By now we had announced PLoS ONE officially and The Chronicle of Higher Education raised the suggestion that Nature’s debate on peer review, which is currently on their website, was in some way a pre-emptive reaction to PLoS ONE’s announcement. That seems pretty unlikely to me as I am sure that Nature’s debate will have been in the pipeline for months at least. All the same I’m flattered and must get over there and get some comments posted.

By this point the bloggers (of which I guess I am now one) could make some more informed comments. The great thing was that most of them got the PLoS ONE concept pretty much spot on and liked it; Biotechnology Information Center News and Issues In Scholarly Communication even rechristened us; although PLoS ONE suggests that there is a PLoS Closed somewhere which just ain’t so.

We are being giving some pretty big expectations to live up to. Jamais at Open the Future has us aiming at nothing short of a revolution in science communication, while The Crafty Librarian thinks we are setting up a Scientific Wiki. We aren’t, or at least that isn’t what we are doing with PLoS ONE at launch. How we could use Wiki technology and philosophy in science is something I’d like to explore but there is enough to do with the PLoS ONE launch already.

There are plenty more blog entries mentioning PLoS ONE, check out Technorati if you want a more comprehensive list, basically though it has been really great to see how easily the idea of PLoS ONE has been understood and how much it seems to be liked. I guess that I now need to brace for the backlash. Most of what has so far been written about PLoS ONE has been exactly on the money so there is going to be a lot for us to talk about and this blog is where I hope to say most of it.

Right now I’ll close this entry by quoting Pierre at Things of Sorts who is clearly itching to write our next press release.

What happens when Web 2.0 meets scientific publishing? The answer is called PLoS ONE.

  1. Dear Chris

    We were given information about PLOS One by Catriona MacCallum, and are considering submitting a paper to it. Our main concerns are:

    a) Will papers accepted in PLOS One be considered as proper peer review papers? Firstly, is the short technical review sufficent to be considered “peer review”? And secondly, if the open access peer review is permanent, then do the papers become more like discussion papers rather than peer review papers?

    b) Following publication in PLOS One, is it anticipated that a selection of well received papers would migrate to a higher impact journal, like PLOS Biology etc? Will PLOS One always be considered as a repository for papers which were not selected by Editors to be sent to referees for jornals like PLOS Biology etc? Or is it envisaged that PLOS one will eventually fully replace the subjective editorial selection process and the high impact PLOS journals? (The result being that high impact becomes self regulating through PLOS One…)

    c) Will PLOS One be included in the ISI database as a peer review scientific journal? If it is not included, then other scientists will not be able to find the PLOS One papers and therefore it will have a lower impact.

    With best regards

    Mark Sutton and Trevor Blackall.

  2. Dear Mark and Trevor,

    It is great to know that you are considering submitting to PLoS ONE. It is also good that you have given me an excuse to answer these questions. You are not the only people to be asking them.

    First up, yes the pre-publication assessment of papers is definitely ‘peer-review’. Papers once submitted will be assigned to an academic editor who is familiar with the field covered by the paper. That editor will then make the decision as to whether the paper meets the editorial criteria of PLoS ONE. The editor might be able to do this based on his or her own knowledge, they might need to consult with other members of the editorial board, they might need to solicit formal reports from independent referees; basically as much or as little review as they need to make the decision on publication. The difference with PLoS ONE is not with the process but rather that the emphasis is placed more on objective technical issues than subjective selection.

    I’m not sure that I follow your second question. Scientific papers are always the subject of discussion. That discussion occurs in coffee rooms and conferences, it occurs in subsequent papers and in reviews. These discussion though are disconnected from the papers themselves. With PLoS ONE we hope to capture the discussions that are sparked by a paper and make them available to all readers. If that means that publications are permanent ‘discussion papers’ then that is making the literature more closely reflect the actual process of scientific advance.

    As far as PLoS ONE’s relationship with the other PLoS journals go it is an independent entity. PLoS ONE will receive submission and publish those that meet its editorial criteria. There is no question of PLoS ONE being some form of antechamber to the other journals. We will be providing ways for the community of readers to identify those papers that they feel are particularly important or influential but these are PLoS ONE papers and always will be.

    Equally papers are not going to be ‘handed down’ from the other PLoS journals. There are things that we can do to make submission of papers rejected by other PLoS journals easier than submitting elsewhere but that is no different from what happens right now within the PLoS family of journals (see for example PLoS Medicine’s editorial policies). Some papers will be submitted to PLoS ONE in this way but this is neither the only, nor the major route to submitting to PLoS ONE. PLoS ONE is an autonomous publication which exists in its own right, and exists in parallel with the traditional ‘hierarchy’ of journals.

    Will PLoS ONE eventually replace current journals? I guess that it might in time. I certainly feel that PLoS ONE’s publishing model has many advantages over the current system of journal publishing. I think that in a small number of years many journals will adopt the policies being pioneered by PLoS ONE. But if you are asking whether there is a plan to fold the other PLoS journals into PLoS ONE then the answer is a resounding ‘NO’.

    Better not to get me started on ISI and Impact Factors, suffice it to say that ISI is a law unto themselves and I can’t start to guess what they will do in regard to PLoS ONE, just as I can’t guess whether they would index any new journal. Quite honestly we can’t tell, and ISI won’t make up its mind until the journal is up and running in any case.

    What is more certain is that PLoS ONE papers will be archived in PubMed Central so between that and Google Scholar we think that PLoS ONE papers will be pretty visible no matter what ISI decides to do.

  3. Its really great that plos is sharing the opinion from their own point of view & also gives the chance for web publishers specially in science field web publishers to join the blog.Its really a benevolent step taken by world reputed website plos that will influence positively in science & technology world.

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