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.