Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is PLOS One the future of scientific publishing?

I just read about PLOS One's new features through their relatively new blog, EveryOne. Although the new features are not really ground breaking they do provide a much improved layout and a new "Related Content" page. These changes show that One is dedicated to improving connectivity between peer-reviewed papers and commentary from comments, blogs, etc., giving me some hope that publishing may be changing (yet still at a snails pace).

So back to the question that is asked in the title of this post, "Is PLOS One the future of scientific publishing?", I am going to have to say a tentative "Yes". I think their basis of publishing papers not on novelty, but focusing peer-review on ensuring that the methods, and conclusions drawn from the results are scientifically sound, opens many doors for how scientists publish their findings. Currently, scientists compete for a limited space in a "high-impact" journal. In the majority of cases papers are not rejected because of their methods, results, and conclusions are not valid, but due to a better paper being submitted at the same time. This competition is justified, but in this current format has various drawbacks including:
  1. Importance of research is determined by a very small number of reviewers and usually a single editor has the final decision
  2. Significance or novelty of research is very subjective and can vary widely between reviewers
  3. Significance can change over time as future experiments confirm or depend on the results of the current research (including negative results)
  4. Not making the cut (i.e. rejection) results in a large waste of time as authors have to reformat, resubmit, and respond to new reviewers comments
The separation of the evaluation for competitiveness, novelty, significance, etc. versus scientific robustness helps reduce many of these problems. The largest hurdle to overcome using this model is to move from a journal impact factor to a paper impact factor measurement. Therefore, "signficant" papers are still valued and reconizable in PLOS One and other journals that will likely follow their publishing methods.

Personally, I have never published in PLOS One and by no means do I think PLOS One in its current form is the pinnacle of publishing. However, I do appreciate that they are trying to change the way science publishing is currently conducted.


Anonymous said...

Glad you like what you saw. Watch this space for more developments in the next few months.

Pete Binfield
Managing Editor, PLoS ONE

Sean said...

I just spent the last couple of days exploring PLOS. I put together a recent post based on their free articles. I did some research and found that the chief editor Philip E. Bourne has also started SciVee, which also has a lot of potential.