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Thursday, June 15, 2006

More on PLoS ONE

Richard Poynder, Open Access: Stage Two, Open and Shut, June 15, 2006. An interview with Chris Surridge, who moved from Nature to take the job of managing editor at PLoS ONE. Excerpt:

RP: ...[W]hy does the world need PLoS ONE?

CS: Because the system of disseminating scientific research has become extremely inefficient, and the concept of the journal has been eroded by the Internet....The Internet is providing us with all sorts of new tools for communicating science, so simply publishing journals, and distributing them electronically isnít using the full potential of the Web to make the dissemination of scientific information efficient and effective. It just isn't the best way to do it anymore....[Traditional journals] quickly run up against a boundary question: where, say, does biophysics end and biochemistry begins? You find yourself starting to have to make lots of unnecessary decisions about borders....The boundaries have effectively been imposed as a consequence of the way that journals work, and the way that universities are structured.

RP: So there is no need for such rigid boundaries?

CS: No. At least, not when publishing. Consider, for instance, if you were to have a study that compared the genomes of man and the great apes, looking at a cluster of genes that controls the development of the brain cells associated with language. Now what subject is that? Is it neuroscience? Is it evolution? Is it genetics? Is it genomics? Actually, it is all of these things, so you could classify it in any one of these subject areas....

RP: The criteria for accepting a paper, however, will be different will it not? The PLoS ONE press release, for instance, says that "subjective considerations like 'likely impact,' 'degree of advance,' or 'interest to a general reader' will not play a role in deciding whether an article should be published or not."

CS: That's right. Traditionally a lot of the work that goes into peer reviewing consists of asking questions like: "How significant is this? How surprising are the conclusions?" Essentially, these are subjective questions. A more objective question to ask would be: "Is this properly done science"....What is also different about PLoS ONE, by the way, is that we do not see peer review ending on publication of the paper....We believe that the more subjective questions about how a paper relates to other work, and where it fits into the whole corpus of scientific literature are still important questions ó but we feel that these can be better answered via an open peer review process that takes place after the paper has been published.