These last couple of days were very exciting here at PLoS. After months of preparation and hard work, PLoS presents the latest addition to its collection of top-notch scientific journals. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases went live yesterday at 6:42pm EDT. This journal will be
…the first open-access journal devoted to the world’s most neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), such as elephantiasis, river blindness, leprosy, hookworm, schistosomiasis, and African sleeping sickness. The journal publishes high-quality, peer-reviewed research on all scientific, medical, and public-health aspects of these forgotten diseases affecting the world’s forgotten people.
As Daniel Sarna notes, the Journal is truly international in nature – about half of the authors in the first issue are researchers living and working on the ground in developing countries, and the first papers have been authored by scientists from such countries as:
Mexico, Ghana, Cameroon, Thailand, Spain, the Netherlands, Bolivia, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Mali, the United States, the Philippines, Tanzania, Egypt, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Kenya, and China.
The potential for Open Access to make science more global and to help scientists all over the world communicate with each other on equal footing is something that is, both to me personally and to PLoS as an organization, one of the key motivators for doing our work every day. This sentiment is echoed by the inspiring Guest Commentary by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan:
Equity is a fundamental principle of health development. Access to life-saving and health-promoting interventions should not be denied for unjust reasons, including an inability to pay. The free availability of leading research articles will benefit decision-makers and diseases control managers worldwide. It will also motivate scientists, both in developing and developed countries.
Although these diseases have been overshadowed by better-known conditions, especially the “big three”–HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis–evidence collected in the past few years has revealed some astonishing facts about the NTDs. They are among the most common infections of the poor–an estimated 1.1 billion of the world’s 2.7 billion people living on less than US$2 per day are infected with one or more NTDs. When we combine the global disease burden of the most prevalent NTDs, the disability they cause rivals that of any of the big three. Moreover, the NTDs exert an equally important adverse impact on child development and education, worker productivity, and ultimately economic development. Chronic hookworm infection in childhood dramatically reduces future wage-earning capacity, and lymphatic filariasis erodes a significant component of India’s gross national product. The NTDs may also exacerbate and promote susceptibility to HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Bacterial, viral and fungal diseases will be highlighted, of course, but many of the most devastating and yet least understood tropical diseases are parasitic, caused by Protists or Invertebrate animals. Those organisms often have amazingly complex (and to a person with scientific curiousity absolutely fascinating) life cycles. They may have to go through several life-stages in several different hosts/vectors. The hosts and vectors themselves may have quite unusual natural histories as well. Regular readers of my blog know that I am fascinated by the way such diseases have to be addressed in a fully interdisciplinary manner: epidemiology, ecology, animal behavior, systematics, neuroscience, human and animal physiology, genetic/genomics, pharmacology and clinical trials. Only putting together all the pieces will let us understand some of these complex diseases and how to conquer them. And this new Journal will allow scientists from all these disciplines from around the world to place all of that research in one place for everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – to see for free.
Furthermore, the new journal is run on the TOPAZ software which allows the readers to use all the nifty tools of post-publication peer-review and discussion. All the articles in PLoS NTDs will allow you to post comments and annotations. You can give ratings. If you write a blog post about an article, you can send trackbacks (just like you can do on PLoS ONE and PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials).
Congratulations to all the members of the PLoS team who put in many months of hard work in putting this exciting new journal in place. So, go and take a look at the inaugural issue, subscribe to e-mail alerts and/or RSS feed and blog about the articles you find interesting in the future.