PLoS 500

Yesterday, PLoS-ONE celebrated the publication of the 500th paper (and additional 13). Here are some quick stats:

1,411 submissions

513 published paper

360 member editorial board and growing

19 day average acceptance to publication

600+ post publication comments posted

I am assuming that the remaining 898 manuscripts are in various stages of the publication process: rejected, in review, in revision, or in the pipeline to appear on the site any day now.

The very first paper was published on December 20, 2006. The 500th paper is this one "Climate Change Cannot Explain the Upsurge of Tick-Borne Encephalitis in the Baltics", which is quite an interesting read (and I wonder if global warming denialists will try to misuse it in the near future).

Since I got the job with PLoS-ONE I've been asked some questions about it (even though I'm just an egg: I will start working a month from now) which reveal some misunderstandings about this journal. So I looked around the site and I asked some PLoS people trying to find the right answers.

First, the word ONE in its title suggests that this is meant to become the flagship journal in the PLoS stable and a direct competitor to Science and Nature. Sure, but that does not mean that the format and the publishing philosophy is the same as those two journals. ONE refers more to being the first (and so far unique) journal using the 21st century model of publishing, rather than to the ambition to reach the #1 spot on the Citation Index.

The hardcopy journals are limited by the size of their journal - how many papers can appear each week? Being entirely online, PLoS has no such space constraints. So PLoS-ONE does not seek only spectacular papers or revolutionary (thus potentially wrong) papers on topics with potentially wide interest. Everything that is well done and well written and passes the peer-review, no matter how specialized or obscure the field, will be accepted. As Chris Surrige, the managing editor of PLoS-ONE explained to me:

ONE certainly isn't meant to be Science or Nature. What we wanted with ONE was for it to be ONE place to contain all of science. Supremely broad and deep. We want to publish papers that could have been published in Science or Nature AND papers that would otherwise have been heading for the most specialist of specialist journals. PLoS ONE is supposed not to fit within the current hierachy of journals, it stands outside it as an alternative not to any journal in particular
but to ALL conventional journals.

This also means that papers from all areas of science are welcome (excepting, perhaps, meta-science papers, e.g., in history, sociology and philosophy of science). For now, most of the papers published so far are in the biology/genetics/medicine areas, which is understandable as the researchers in these areas are already familiar with the publishing philosophy of PLoS through its other journals. But PLoS-ONE is trying to expand its scope to all the other disciplines as well and is welcoming the brave, enterprenurial people who are willing to break the ice and submit the first manuscript in their area od study (and hopefully bring in other colleagues as well).

These and many other questions have already been discussed (and surely will be in the future) on the PLoS blog which should be your regular read (dig through the archives as well - there is some good and important stuff there). The instructions for submission of manuscripts are clear and detailed: it is fast and streamlined, but it is most definitely peer-review.

Anyway, my job will not be on the publication end of the process, but on the post-publication end - the post-publication peer-review of sorts. PLoS-ONE allows and encourages scientists and other educated readers to annotate the papers and to post comments/discussions on papers. You can read about those here and try it out in a neutral space (if you are still nervous about annotating/discussing a real paper) here. My goal, among others, will be to bring in more people to the site to discuss papers and to develop ways to make this activity worth people's time and effort (on top of being fun to do, as we bloggers already know). In this effort, I will occasionally use you - my readers - as my own focus group, asking for your feedback on changes and innovations we will try to implement in the future. Stay tuned. I'll explain more once I actually start working there.

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