Friday, December 22, 2006

Second Nature: PLoS One Picks Up Where Nature Left Off

The launch of the new PLoS ONE scholarly research portal looks like a big win for open access research content from a number of angles. PLoS ONE is posting research and will allow interactive review before and after publication for scientific articles via a very sophisticated publishing environment. The PLoS ONE platform applies many of the best practices of social media, providing ready access to comments posting and awareness of active discussions to draw in more active discussions. PLoS ONE will publish all papers that are judged to be rigorous and technically sound, and had already posted more an 100 papers by its launch - a remarkable number for a just-launched scholarly journal of any kind. By contrast Nature's recently shuttered open-review portal trial, which ran for around four months, attracted only 71 authors willing to post their work online and attracted 92 technical comments.

As we noted in our latest news analysis article one of the keys to successful social media products is a dedicated core of trusted contributors who will be able to ensure editorial success. PLoS ONE starts with a global editorial board of more than 200 scholars, ensuring a broad array of inputs for reviewing content. Some of the fears about having content rejected after having had it exposed to comments prior to publication may be relieved by the PLoS ONE policy that allows papers that have been already rejected by PLoS Biology and Medicine journals to be re-submitted via PLoS ONE. This is a potentially valuable feature, allowing research that may not have yet reached the highest levels of acceptance to mature through its exposure to comments from a broader audience.

PLoS ONE is finally opening the doors to the potential for fundamental changes in how scholarly research proves its worth. With an open exchange of ideas and commentary facilitated by technologies long available to the general public and a solid body of research and reviewers PLoS ONE holds out the potential to liberate the highest levels of scholarly innovation from the regimen of the printing press. Changing the way that research is paid for was a good first step for open access, but with the ability to eliminate artificial distribution bottlenecks that choke off natural conversations PLoS ONE may do for scholarly research what Wikipedia has done for reference materials - with much more integrity in the underlying editorial processes.
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