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Fossils! Fossils! Fossils!

You may be aware that PLoS ONE has started making Collections of papers in various areas of research. The older PLoS journals have been making collections for a long time. PLoS ONE is just starting. Last month we put together the first such collection – Stress-Induced Depression and Comorbidities: From Bench to Bedside.

Today, we are happy to unveil our second collection – the PLoS ONE Paleontology Collection!

It is important to keep in mind that there are two types of collections: the first type is a one-off, closed collection, often associated with a conference, where we ask for or are offered a whole set of manuscripts (10-20 papers) which are all submitted roughly at the same time, peer-reviewed in a normal fashion, then, if accepted, published roughly at the same time. Then, the collection is closed – there are no more additions to it.

The Paleontology Collection is different – it is an open collection. This means that all of our papers to date (PLoS ONE only, not other PLoS journals) that deal with fossils in any way, 26 of them so far, are included in the collection. Furthermore, all the future palaeo papers will be automatically added to the Collection as soon as they are published. Thus, such papers will always be placed together, prominently displayed and easy to find – just a single click is needed to get there.

We are hoping that the open style of this Collection will motivate people in the field to submit palaeo papers to us in the future.

A second note: as it’s my job to check all the user activity on PLoS ONE, I have noticed that palaeo folks are unusually willing to use the comments/notes/ratings tools. Several of our fossil papers already have quite a lot of comments, notes, ratings and/or trackbacks (you should go to this blog post to see the examples). So, I would like to use this occasion to try to urge people to register, login and post comments, notes or ratings on palaeo papers, or send trackbacks if their blogging platforms allow it (Blogger.com can’t do it). I think that the palaeo community can be an example to others for the good and vigorous use of these tools. So, if you blog about this new Collection (and I hope you will help us spread the word) I would appreciate it if you would also encourage your blog readers to start using these tools on our fossil papers.

Greg Laden immediatelly understood why Collections are so useful:

PLoS ONE is a veritable fire hose of OpenAccess research. Which is nice, but how do you browse a fire hose?

By using the PLoS ONE collections you can track your favorite topic or delve into the earlier literature or just browse around. And now, starting just moments ago, there is a PLoS collection on paleontology.

Andy adds:

Why should we care? Speaking selfishly, this will allow us to easily access all articles in our field. All future articles are automatically added to the collection. This means that if you don’t want to wade through all of the other contributions on the PLoS ONE list (although there are some very interesting ones!), you can just keep an eye on the paleontology collection for any and all exciting developments. In a broader sense, this collection will help paleontologists to reach an even broader audience.

And once again–take advantage of the comment, note, and rating features at PLoS ONE (as outlined in my previous post). It’s really a unique opportunity to interact with authors, make your thoughts known, and help science march onward. If you have that really cool piece of research, submit your manuscript!

Finally, a word or two on my own musings about this Collection. As these 26 papers were published over the past two years, I knew I personally liked them very much, but only now that they are all in one place I realized why: they are all incredibly inter-disciplinary! These papers are not just simple descriptions of new species. They tend to combine insights and techniques from several disciplines, e.g., comparative anatomy and molecular systematics, biogeography and physiology and more. These are kinds of papers that don’t readily find home in other, more specialized journals, except in Science and Nature. PLoS ONE is, almost by definition, a perfect place for publication of such works. And Open Access ensures that such papers are widely read, covered by media and blogs, and later, hopefully, more often cited than papers hidden behind pay-walls.

So, go ahead and enjoy – introducing the PLoS ONE Paleontology Collection!