Science Reporters Lament the Advent of PLoS ONE

The editors at Scientific American are taking note that the review process at PLoS ONE differs from that of traditional journals:

With the burden of proof off of the reviewers, we in the science press will have to be more vigilant than ever. We can’t rush to put stories out until we’ve focus-grouped findings with a number of experts in a study’s particular field. It will force us to become better reporters and to resist the urge to sensationalize and invoke hyperbole–which, while it may not move magazine units or generate hits, will make our service more noble.

The technical quality of the research published by PLoS ONE will not be any lower than that of other scientific journals. They are fairly clear that the content is always peer reviewed. What differs is the interactive nature of the journal and, as the SciAm editors point out, the fact that review is geared toward “technical rather than subjective concerns.” That means that the hype machine won’t be there to drive the press’s coverage of scientific research — it’s up the science writers and their editors to determine which articles are newsworthy.

The popular press needs to be more careful in reporting scientific results. Sensationalist news is misleading and often inaccurate. I’d hope they would apply these careful considerations to all research on which they report, not just that coming from PLoS ONE.


  1. #1 PhilipJ
    December 22, 2006

    I don’t know what they’re complaining about — it should be pretty obvious after a day or two of a new paper being published whether there is a lot of buzz around the results or analysis. If anything, I would have assumed it would make things easier.

  2. #2 Deepak
    December 23, 2006

    Should we start pointing the folks at Scientific American to the quality of research in “traditional” peer-reviewed journals? The quote above is rather self-righteous too. I can be self-righteous too. I would trust “us” the scientific community a lot more than “we” the scientific press anyway.

  3. #3 Brian
    December 23, 2006

    It should be obvious which papers are ground-breaking, but apparently it’s not. When’s the last time you saw a story in the popular press about some new development that didn’t come out of Science or Nature?

  4. #4 Jonathan Badger
    December 24, 2006

    When’s the last time you saw a story in the popular press about some new development that didn’t come out of Science or Nature?

    Actually, the popular press *has* accepted PLoS Biology — a more traditional (but still open access) journal put out by the same group as PLoS One. For example, the recent study published in PLoS Biology about cooperative hunting between groupers and eels was covered by the popular press.

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