The Future of Scientific Publishing
What is the most exciting thing that can happen to a budding scientist? Two weeks ago my very first paper was published! If you happen to be interested in mouse models for metabolic diseases then check it out here.
Actually, what I really want to talk to you about is the journal in which it was published.
When my supervisor first told me that “we’ve been accepted in PLOS ONE”, I immediately started Googling. One of the first things I tried to find was PLOS ONE’s impact factor, which turned out to be an impressive 4.34. Impact factor is found by calculating the number of citations per article for a given time period. You can see the details for yourself on Wikipedia. So this means that PLOS ONE articles were on average sited 4.34 times per article.
As soon as I got over my excitement about the impact factor, I started thinking about why it might be so high. So let’s back up a step, and talk about why PLOS ONE is such an unusual journal.
PLOS = Public Library of Science
PLOS is a non-profit open-access scientific publishing project, which you can read more about here. They publish seven open-access peer-reviewed journals, the largest of which is PLOS ONE. What this means is that the articles are published online, are freely available and can be redistributed under Creative Commons. In general, this means that authors must pay for their work to be published.
The journal PLOS ONE has another interesting feature. Most journals will only publish papers which they deem to be novel and of great interest to the scientific community. In contrast,
“PLOS ONE will rigorously peer-review your submissions and publish all papers that are judged to be technically sound. Judgments about the importance of any particular paper are then made after publication by the readership (who are the most qualified to determine what is of interest to them).” (PLOS journal information)
So PLOS ONE will publish anything that is good science, without considering how important or popular it might be. Quite apart from the frustration that all scientists feel when their paper is rejected, I think that this attitude towards publishing is really what science is all about. All sound science should be available for everyone to access so that they can debate its importance and validity themselves. That is what peer-review is all about.
I think that PLOS is a step in the right direction for science publishing and is beautifully aligned with the scientific method. What do you think?
Buck NE, Dashnow H, Pitt JJ, Wood LR, Peters HL (2012) Development of Transgenic Mice Containing an Introduced Stop Codon on the Human Methylmalonyl-CoA Mutase Locus. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44974. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044974
“Open Access” http://www.plos.org/
“Seriously Nature” blogs.plos.org/plos/2011/01/welcome-nature-seriously-2/