The Demise of PLoS?

I really like the PLoS journals. Their mission — to make research freely available — is totally awesome. And, on top of that, the journals publish very interesting research. PLoS Biology is a top notch journal, with papers on par with those in Science and Nature. And the specialty journals, like PLoS Genetics and PLoS Computational Biology, consistently have articles that I find quite attractive.

But the website is totally fucked. I can’t access most of the articles in PLoS Genetics. Thankfully, the articles are all mirrored on PubMed Central, but it’s a major pain to track those down after following a failed link to the PLoS Genetics site. If you can’t access the articles on a journal’s website, what good is the website?

Hopefully the problem will be fixed soon. It’s been going on for a the past few days. Will this be the demise of PLoS? If you can’t read the articles, the journal is useless.


  1. #1 Coturnix
    March 7, 2008

    Be patient. TOPAZ is being fixed after the recent migration. It will take a few days and the site will be better and faster than ever.

  2. #2 PA
    March 7, 2008

    It seems like if you are a mainly web-based journal, you’d make sure you had all the kinks worked out before taking the system live. I can only assume this is some sort of scalability issue that didn’t rear its head until there were sufficient numbers of user attempt to access the content?

    I doubt this is enough to cause the “demise” of the journal, but it’s inconvenient. To be fair, they seem to be working on it and I’m sure the web team is putting in long hours. This will probably end up being just a temporary headache for the users but a long-term learning experience for PLoS

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    March 7, 2008

    I find the glitches in the technology to be very annoying as well. However, when you look at what the site is trying to do (technically) it is pretty difficult.

    I like the fact that they are basing the system on an Open Source product, though I would have probably picked Zope over Topaz.

  4. #4 RPM
    March 7, 2008

    The features will be nice once the system is up and running. But shouldn’t they have waited for it to be fully functional before transitioning over to Topaz? Perhaps they could have beta tested the topaz platform before switching over.

    I find the tech side of plos puzzling. This is the worst problem I’ve had, but the original incarnation of plos one was lacking certain important items. For example, they didn’t feature an export citation feature at first. That’s one of the few features of an online journal that I find tremendously useful.

  5. #5 IP
    March 7, 2008

    Obviously you guys don’t have a clue about what it means to run a website. There is no such thing as working all the kinks in advance on such a huge project, given the fact that users play a major part in the process. Some bugs only present themselves when the system is pushed by a large number of users. This is not the demise of Plos!!! Give those guys some credit! The website is so sleek, user friendly and innovative to say the least. Once all the problems are fixed I hope you write something nice about those guys working on such a high-end non-profit undertaking!

  6. #6 Jonathan Eisen
    March 8, 2008

    I wanted to say – let’s not exaggerate the problems just draw in readers to the blog. But then I looked at my blog titles and my over the top posts. I think any time the servers and sites are slow or down, it is certainly annoying but it is clear this is a not a full scale disaster as RPM suggests.

    But this does bring up a big positive for PLoS and other journals that use broad Creative Commons licenses and deposit their material into various text archives like Pubmed Central. When PLoS website is having issues (again, certainly annoying, but not that common), you can still get the papers from a variety of sources. When many other journal’s websites are having issues, the papers will not be viewable anywhere. This is one of the reasons why “free” access on some journal’s website is very different than a broad CC license and deposition of papers in an archive.

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