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Journal Clubs – think of the future!

The recent return of Journal Clubs on PLoS ONE has been quite a success so far. People are watching from outside and they like what they see.

The first Journal Club article, on microbial metagenomics, has already, in just one week, gathered 3 ratings, each accompanied with a short comment, one trackback (this will be the second) and 7 annotations and 4 discussions eliciting further 14 responses in the comment threads. The 12-comment-and-growing thread on the usefulness of the term ‘Prokaryote’ is quite exciting, showing that it is not so hard to comment on PLoS ONE after all, once you get over the initial reluctance. You should join in the conversation there right now!

If you encounter a technical problem, please contact the Webmaster so the glitch can be fixed promptly. For a brand-new software built in-house, TOPAZ is performing remarkably well, but glitches do sometimes happen. It is essential to report those to the Webmaster so the IT/Web team can fix them quickly and make the site better and better for all users as time goes on. Just like anything else in development, it needs feedback in order to improve over time. For the time being, I guess, compose in Notepad, WordPad or something similar before copying and pasting there. And thank you for your participation.

One thing to keep in mind is that a PLoS ONE article is not a blog post – the discussion is not over once the post goes off the front page. There is no such thing as going off the front page! The article is always there and the discussion can go on and on for years, reflecting the changes in understanding of the topic over longer periods of time.

Imagine if half a century ago there was Internet and there were Open Access journals with commenting capability like PLoS ONE. Now imagine if Watson and Crick published their paper on the DNA structure in such a journal. Now imagine logging in today and reading five decades of comments, ratings and annotations accumulated on the paper!!!! What a treasure-trove of information! You hire a new graduate student in molecular biology – or in history of science! – and the first assignment is to read all the commentary to that paper. There it is: all laid out – the complete history of molecular biology all in one spot, all the big names voicing their opinions, changing opinions over time, new papers getting published trackbacking back to the Watson-Crick paper and adding new information, debates flaring up and getting resolved, gossip now lost forever to history due to it being spoken at meetings, behind closed door or in hallways preserved forever for future students, historians and sociologists of science. What a fantastic resource to have!

Now imagine that every paper in history was like that (the first Darwin and Wallace letters to the Royal Society?!). Now realize that this is what you are doing by annotating PLoS ONE papers. It is not the matter so much of here-and-now as it is a contribution to a long-term assessment of the article, providing information to the future readers that you so wished someone left for you when you were reading other people’s papers in grad school and beyond. Which paper is good and which erroneous (and thus not to be, embarrassingly, cited approvingly) will not be a secret lab lore any more transmitted from advisor to student in the privacy of the office or lab, but out there for everyone to know. Every time you check out a paper that is new to you, you also get all the information on what others think about it. Isn’t that helpful, especially for students?

So, go forth and comment on papers in areas you are interested in. And if you are a member of a lab group, a graduate seminar, an honors class, or an AP Biology class, let me know if you would be interested in doing a Journal Club on one of the PLoS ONE papers in the future – a great exercise for you, nice exposure to your group, and a service to the scientific community of today and tomorrow.


  1. #1 Deepak
    October 10, 2007


    This is a great use of the PLoS One platform. Obviously, I agree with you. As Tim O’Reilly says, this is all about collective intelligence. The systems are only effective if a minimum number of people participate. My hope is that in due time we will cross that threshold

  2. #2 Dragoslav Gruji?i? GRUYA
    May 2, 2008

    Postovani i dragi Boro Zivkovicu,
    Slusao sam na Radio-Beogradu 2 emisiju u kojoj ste bili gost. Voleo bih da se vidimo dok ste jos u Beogradu. Veoma mi se svidelo sve sto ste govorili o sebi i o svojim aktivnostima u svetu oko nas. Ako zelite videti nesto o meni i o mojim aktivnostima u svetu oko nas, mozete pogledati na mojoj “crno na belo”, sto se tice interneta sasvim pocetnickoj, licnoj prezentaciji na http://users.net.yu/~gruya – tamo je postavljeno izdanje od 17. januara 08, a ovih dana ce biti zamenjeno izdanjem iz ovog beogradskog nam proleca 08. (ovo znacajno dopunjeno izdanje, finalizirao sam 25. aprila 08. i poslao grupi svojih prijatelja s molbom da mi upute eventualne primedbe, izmedju ostalog i o daktilografskim mi omaskama, pa bih ga mogao i vama poslati, ako mi se javite e-mail-om, na vasu e-mail adresu, kao “prikacment” (srpskoengleska rec za “Attachment” koja je meni spontano dosla kao “mikro shala” – evo sad nastade jos jedna takodje sasvim mala).
    Sa iskrenom prijateljskom zeljom da se sretnemo dok ste jos ovde u Beogradu pozdravlja Vas, kao jos jedan Vas potencijalni buduci prijatelj u Beogradu,

  3. #3 Dragoslav Gruji?i? GRUYA
    May 2, 2008

    Postovani i dragi Boro Zivkovicu,
    Malopre sam Vam se javio kratkom molbom, zeljom da se licno sretnemo dok ste u Beogradu. Sad Vam se javljam i sa svojom drugom beogradskom, yu, e-mail adresom I SA PODATKOM O MOM JEDINOM TELEFONSKOM BROJU U BEOGRADU – 3096367.
    U nadi da cemo se uskoro cuti i videti, srdacno Vas,