Key New Species Discoveries of 2014

While there’s no denying the ongoing global extinction of animals, microbes and plants, the discovery of new species provides critical information into the puzzle of earth’s biodiversity and evolutionary history. Each year, thousands of new species are identified: 18,000 in the last year alone.

Fortunately it’s easy to stay current on the latest discoveries since an international committee of taxonomists selects the Top 10 most fascinating and important additions to the world’s diversity. The most remarkable from the last year were recently announced by the State University of New York (SUNY)-ESF International Institute for Species Exploration. These are key additions to life’s variety that enrich our world.

New-Species_3A slice of this story on species discovery, extinction and conservation played out on PLOS ONE, as scientists recognize the journal as a home for their outstanding research. This past year four research groups with discoveries in the Top 10 list chose to publish their findings in the journal.

  • A feathered dinosaur with birdlike features and a varied diet-analysis of existing specimens elucidated a new species of North American dinosaur described by the authors as “amazing in appearance even by dinosaurian standards.”
  • Two forms of mushroom-shaped animals that defy classification-perhaps an entirely new phylum discovered in the waters offshore of Australia so perplexing that the authors said “we don’t even know if they’re upside down.”
  • Unique reproductive practices by a frog that gives birth to live tadpoles-discovered in an area of Indonesia with a high deforestation rate prompting the author to emphasize it’s important to learn about these species “before it’s too late.”
  • A wasp that uses dead ants as a nest protection strategy- possible chemical cues guard against predators attacking wasp larvae, “a stunning strategy,” write the authors.

Each article on its own merit is highly viewed, shared and covered by the global media. Collectively, the articles have more than 200,000 views and 1,000 shares since publication.

Quentin Wheeler, president of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, calls out the internal fertilization in the frog reported in PLOS ONE as the “biologically most intriguing.” In a short video, he describes the list selection process, why we should care about new species, conservation, biomimicry and more.

The International Institute for Species Exploration at SUNY, on a mission to advance discovery and taxonomy and to inspire the next generation of species explorers, released the list this year to coincide with the birthday of biologist Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy.

Category: Assessment, In the News, Open Access, PLoS ONE, Publishing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

AMA Preview: The Physician “Brain Drain” from Sub-Saharan Africa to the US: Reasons, Consequences, Potential Solutions

For the 7-29 PLOS redditscience AMA go to http://plos.io/AMA16

A recent PLOS One research article, “Monitoring Sub-Saharan African Physician Migration and Recruitment Post-Adoption of the WHO Code of Practice: Temporal and Geographic Patterns in the United States,” examined how the migration of physicians from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States for work has led to a dire health worker shortage in the region.13717624625_cd5f3df570

While this “brain drain” has been ongoing for decades, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa demonstrated its highly damaging impact, as affected nations struggled to respond to the epidemic with weakened health systems and a limited health workforce.

To discuss context and  scope, as well as potential solutions to this crisis, Authors Akhenaten Benjamin Siankam Tankwanchi and Dr. Sten Vermund will be participating in this week’s ‘PLOS Science Wednesday’ redditscience ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA). They will be taking your questions about physician migration, brain drain, and its global health impacts on RedditScience at 1pm ET (10am PT) on Wed, July 29, 2015. You can register on redditscience in preparation for this upcoming AMA (or on the day of), so you’ll be able to add your questions and comments to the live conversation.

From the research article… Introduction:

  • The WHO database [83] indicates that there were a total of 103 physicians in Liberia in 2004, but only 51 physicians in 2008, a 50.5% total physician loss within four years. We do not have the most current counts of physicians available in Liberia because they have not been updated in the WHO database since 2008. But, we do know that the current Ebola epidemic has further depleted Liberia’s meager health workforce. The Ebola Situation Report of March 18, 2015 indicates that 180 out 372 health workers infected in Liberia have died from the Ebola virus disease [86].
  • We sought to monitor the post-WHO CoP [Global Code of Practice; 2010] migration of physicians originating from Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the region of greatest need, and recruited into the physician workforce of the US. We chose the US as the country with the largest global stock of IMGs in its workforce [4445]. We captured all SSA immigrant physicians in residency or licensed practice in the US three years post-adoption of the CoP. We then described their growth rates, location patterns, and projected numbers in 2015.
  •  Those monitored included 11,787 active and semi-retired SSA-origin physicians.

From the research article… Discussion:

  • Although comprising only 1.3% of the US physician workforce, SSA migrant physicians found in the December 2013 AMA Masterfile represent a significant loss for the health systems in the SSA region.
  • Compared to SSA countries, populous source countries with a tradition of medical migration like India, Pakistan, and the Philippines have much larger numbers of émigré physicians in doctor-receiving countries like the US, the UK, Canada, or Australia [44]. But, relative to the number of physicians remaining in the source countries, the SSA region as a whole has a much higher migration proportion, losing between 13.9% [44] and 28% [6] of its physicians.”

Why young SSA doctors leave or stay (from the research article):

  • The  primary motivations for young doctors to leave their home countries include: family reunifications (meeting/re-uniting with significant others in the United States); moving to the US to seek treatment for one’s child; better conditions of service and standards of living; cultural trends and ease of international travel; i.e. emigrating because one can.
  • As for reasons to remain in one’s home country the authors identified: place attachment, professional stability and relative comfort (e.g., “It is not all rosy here in Nigeria, but one cannot go on complaining that things are terrible”); risk aversion; and, inability to obtain travel visa.

Selected Q&A with lead author “Benjamin” Tankwanchi

(Asked by Sara Kassabian, PLOS Social Media Coordinator)

bbbPLOS: For a previous article, you interviewed fraternal twin brothers from Ghana who are both physicians, but chose to practice medicine in different settings. What were the factors that motivated one brother to stay in Ghana and practice medicine? What were the factors that motivated the other brother to come to the United States? Are some of their motivations to practice medicine at home or in another country generalizable to the broader group of physicians born in sub-Saharan Africa that make these choices?

AT: Yes, I interviewed two fraternal twins who are both Ghanaian-born and trained physicians with over 20 years of experience each. It must be said that these twins were raised together and accomplished almost everything together, including a mutual decision to turn down a highly selective scholarship to pursue engineering training in the UK. They instead sought admission into the medical school of their local university, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana.

They graduated in the early 1990’s and practiced in Accra (Ghana’s capital) until the late 1990’s when one of twins moved to Canada to re-unite with his family (wife and first child). He now lives in an affluent suburb of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area and works as a medical faculty at one of the medical schools in the region.  Interestingly, the other twin has decided to stay and practice in Ghana despite encouragements from his US-based twin brother to follow him to the US. What he explained to me was that he didn’t want to become “second-class citizen” in the United States and had no desire to go through the hassles of US residency admissions. When I asked if, at times, he didn’t have any regrets for his decision to stay in Ghana while his brother is practicing in much better conditions in the US and earning much more money, he observed:

“It’s a dilemma for most doctors when they have to choose to leave. As I speak to you now, there are chances I’ve received calls [voice messages] from many of my colleagues abroad begging me to go and take care of their relatives [here in Ghana]… A lot of people are running into me and wonder why I’m still here, especially when my brother is out there [in the US]. They just can’t understand.”

This story challenges both societal expectations and prominent migration theories. It is not because this Ghanaian physician is unaware of the income differential between his US-based twin brother and him that he decided to practice in Ghana. It is certainly not because he lacked opportunity to emigrate or did not possess a network or migration channel to the US that he decided to stay put in Ghana. In essence, he seemed fully aware of the potential financial benefits of migration, but also of the costs. Having graduated from medical school 20 years ago, and having completed specialization training in internal medicine locally, he saw no benefits of moving to the US. He appeared quite content about his decision to stay in Ghana despite the challenging conditions of service and inadequate remuneration. “There is no place like home,” he told me repeatedly.

While this was the only pair of twins I interviewed, they were not the only twins within my sample. I interviewed two additional twins, and they both reported that their twins have also migrated. Thus, I don’t think that the case study of this pair of fraternal twins is generalizable. However, the main migration and non-migration factors they cited fall within one of the following categories of factors/reasons reported by participating physicians of my sample.

PLOS: Ebola was a major focus of programming at the 68th World Health Assembly in May. How much did the global health community focus on the mass exodus of physicians born in West Africa who move to the United States to practice medicine? Has the discussion about health systems weakened by Ebola led to any substantial action to improve training and retaining health workers in country?

AT: Indeed, Ebola was a dominant topic at the 68th WHA, [although I did not attend] I am unaware of any discussions focusing exclusively on the physician brain drain from West Africa to the United States.

From my reading of WHO Strategic Response Plan to the Ebola outbreak, the priority with regard to workforce has been given to the rebuilding of short-term health workforce via emergency hiring, in-service workforce training, and timely payment of health workers.

Although the United States may be the main destination for migrant skilled health workers from developing countries, it is not the only or even the main destination for many West African migrant physicians. Most countries in West Africa, including Ebola-stricken Guinea, are French-speaking. So, many of their skilled health workers practicing abroad are likely found in France and other French-speaking Western nations like Belgium.

The focus cannot be on the United States alone, although it is the big ‘culprit.’

PLOS: Since the publication of your paper, has the detrimental role of the United States and other physician-receiving countries been acknowledged by global political leadership/WHO?

AT: The detrimental role of the United States and other major doctor-receiving countries has been recognized by WHO well before the publication of my papers. The strongest critique to date of the health workforce brain drain may be found in the seminal World Health Report 2006:

“When large numbers of doctors and nurses leave, the countries that financed their education lose a return on their investment and end up unwillingly providing the wealthy countries to which their health personnel have migrated with a kind of ‘perverse subsidy’. Financial loss is not the most damaging outcome, however. When a country has a fragile health system, the loss of its workforce can bring the whole system close to collapse and the consequences can be measured in lives lost. In these circumstances, the calculus of international migration shifts from brain drain or gain to ‘fatal flows’.”

………………………………………………………………………………

Do you have more questions about the African brain drain? “Benjamin” Tankwanchi and his colleague, Dr. Sten Vermund, will be taking your questions about physician migration, brain drain, and its global health impacts, on RedditScience July 29th at 1pm ET (10am PT) on redditscience!

For the 7-29 PLOS redditscience AMA go to http://plos.io/AMA16

 

 

 

 

 

Category: Publishing | 1 Comment

Publishing Initiatives at PLOS: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

In January 2015, we wrote about exciting developments at PLOS specifically designed to improve the author and community experience.   The changes begun at the end of 2014 included a redesign of our PDF layout into a clean, single column design, reconstructing many of our workflows, implementing continuous publication, and transitioning to a new composition vendor to convert accepted author manuscripts into XML and PDF formats used for online publication.  Now, six months later, we want to provide a status update on those projects and also let you know of still more initiatives planned for 2015-2016.

Single Column PDF Design

At the end of 2014 we introduced a new single column PDF design that enabled a more efficient composition process, while simultaneously improving readability on the variety of devices used by the research community.  From November to January PLOS rolled out the design across all seven of the PLOS journals.  During this time we received excellent feedback from our author and reader community that greatly helped fine tune the formatting rules used to automate the creation of the PDFs; many thanks to our community for the input.

New Workflows, New Vendors

While rolling out the PDF design, we simultaneously changed a number of workflows and vendors behind the scenes, including a successful transition to a new composition vendor, Apex CoVantage.  We firmly believed these actions would improve our quality assurance and typesetting processes, increase overall publishing efficiency across all seven of our journals, decrease time to publication, and ultimately provide a better experience for authors publishing in a PLOS journal.  After six months, we are seeing very clear signs of progress.  But progress did not come easily – or quickly.

Transition Performance

In January we noted that all of these changes – each one time sensitive and critical to improving the publication process – would affect our speed to publication and publication volumes in the short term. They did.  As we started publishing in 2015,  we saw the overall number of published items decrease in January and February (average per month of about 1,400) as compared to our normal monthly publication volume (2014 average per month of about 2,800).  By the end of June, however, we had published a total of 17,044 items, bringing our average per month back up to a bit more more than 2,800.

We predicted readers and authors might notice a slowdown.  They did. We sincerely apologize to those authors who experienced delays during this transition.  We gratefully acknowledge the patience of our community, and particularly our authors, during this period. We learned some important lessons which will help us minimize these kinds of problems in the future as we continue to improve our systems and processes.

Promising Preliminary Results

We also owe thanks to all our vendors for their patience and hard work.  The results we have started to see from this combined effort are quite exciting.  The predicted gains in speed, efficiency, and quality are now being realized. The backlogs that were created as we transitioned early in the year are all gone.  While it’s still early days, our preliminary data show a reduction in the time from acceptance to publication of 40-50% for three of our four community journals as compared to 2014 (April through June comparison).  The fourth journal, PLOS Computational Biology had a major workflow change, wherein we added a step for author proofs.  That initially resulted in some delays, but that timing has now recovered to 2014 levels.  PLOS ONE, because of its volume, has improved more slowly, but we are seeing steady progress.

Initial quality indications are also quite strong.  While it’s still a bit too soon for a full analysis, preliminary data indicate that the number of author requests for corrections coming in post-publication have dropped off by about 50%.

Throughout this time submissions from authors have remained strong across all seven of our journals.

Additional Changes to Come

We promised authors a tool to provide feedback and help with figure preparation, and currently that tool is actively being tested and refined and should be available sometime later this year.  Additional workflow changes are in the works that will help pave the way for author proofs for PLOS Pathogens, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, and PLOS Genetics in the coming months.

In addition, we continue to work on many improvements to our internal workflows and processes that will make them even more efficient. While many of these improvements are not visible to authors, they are helping us achieve a path to publication that’s as smooth and swift as possible.

Looking Farther Ahead

The PLOS mission is to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication. One area of publishing in desperate need of transformation involves the systems used for submission and peer review.  PLOS is currently hard at work designing and building a new manuscript authoring and submission system called ApertaTM. At its core this new PLOS editorial environment brings simplicity to the submission and peer review process by providing advanced task-management technology and a vastly improved user interface, which will enhance the publishing experience for our community of ​authors, editors, and reviewers. Stay tuned for more information on Aperta in the coming months.

PLOS remains committed to transparency in the publishing process, and we will continue to provide progress updates on our many exciting developments.  Thanks for your continued support of PLOS journals and the Open Access movement.

Category: Publishing | Leave a comment

Research Matters

Research Matters is a new article series in which active scientists speak directly about why basic research in their field matters. It bridges the gap between academic research and the public by explaining how diverse fundamental research assures real and compelling impact on public health, human knowledge and life.

The editorial and first articles in this series are from PLOS Pathogens Editors-in-Chief Kasturi Haldar and Grant McFadden, scientists whose basic research led them in unexpected directions. They provide vignettes of their respective careers, which they hope will encourage their colleagues to speak out in similar ways.

Grant McFadden with his grandson

Grant McFadden with his grandson

In The Curious Road from Basic Pathogen Research to Clinical Translation, Grant McFadden comments, the “take-home message is that the results of true fundamental research still remain virtually impossible to predict, despite what pundits or politicians might have you believe. . . To me, the single most important justification for fundamental research in biology remains this: Mother Nature is mysterious and magnificent but some of her secrets can still be revealed if we only allow curious minds to ask the right questions.”

Kasturi Haldar

Kasturi Haldar

In From Cell and Organismal Biology to Drugs, Kasturi Haldar argues that “investment in a broad range of basic research (because it is important to query scientific problems in many ways) enables collective preparedness for new translational challenges that defy political agendas and fearmongering for partisan gain”. She warns that “failure to do this will jeopardize future employment, training, and education at the university, college, and high school levels.”

Both urge that, with the growing din of anti-science sentiments, those who have been lucky enough to pursue fundamental research as a career now more than ever need to speak up. If the next generation of scientists is to lead the way to the transformative discoveries of the future, we all need to articulate more clearly to nonscientists why, in our modern world, basic research matters more than ever.

Follow the series as it evolves.

Image credit: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Flickr

Image credit: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Flickr

Category: PLoS Pathogens, Publishing, Science communication | Tagged , | Leave a comment

PLOS Appoints Veronique Kiermer as Executive Editor for PLOS Journals

PLOS announced today that after an extensive search, Dr. Veronique Kiermer has been appointed Executive Editor. Kiermer will be responsible for the editorial and content direction and vision for PLOS’ journals. Her appointment is effective July 20, 2015.

“The depth and breadth of Veronique’s global publishing experience will be a critically valued asset to our editorial and executive team,” said Elizabeth Marincola, Chief Executive Officer of PLOS. “PLOS is entering a new phase of innovation and we are grateful to have a leader of Veronique’s caliber join our organization at this exciting juncture in our history.”

“I am delighted to be joining PLOS. I have long admired PLOS for its leadership in transforming research communication,” said Kiermer. “The editorial group is well respected in the industry and I look forward to the opportunity to make a central contribution to PLOS’ continued transformation of scientific communication.”

Prior to joining PLOS, Kiermer was Director of Author and Reviewer Services for Nature Publishing Group (NPG), where she oversaw the Nature journals research integrity and editorial policies. She also focused on the author and reviewer experience across the publishing portfolio of NPG. She was the founding Chief Editor of Nature Methods and subsequently took on publishing responsibility for the title and other online products. In 2010, she became Executive Editor, NPG, overseeing editorial policies and editorial quality assurance for Nature and the Nature journals.

Kiermer obtained her PhD in molecular biology from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and performed her postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco. She will be based at PLOS’ San Francisco office.

Category: Publishing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fall Schedule of PLOS /r/science AMAs Announced

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PLOS Science Wednesday is a weekly science communication series featuring live, direct chats with PLOS authors on redditscience (/r/science), the popular online gathering place for researchers, students and others interested in science which has over 8 million registered members. The series provides a forum for PLOS authors to communicate their work and interact directly with fellow researchers and the public.

Upcoming PLOS /r/science AMAs by topic/author(s)/paper(s)/PLOS journal:

August 26  ANIMAL COGNITION; Corina Logan (University of Cambridge, UK) Modifying Aesop’s Fable Paradigm Change Crow Performances. Read the PLOS ONE article.

Sept 2 NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES; Caitlin Dunn (Carter Center, Emory University) and Kelly Callahan (Carter Center); Model Community-Directed Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) Interventions – Read the PLOS NTDs article, on one of the most successful and cost-effective public health programs ever launched.

Sept 9  GENETICS; Stuart K. Kim (Stanford University); Whole-Genome Sequencing of the World’s Oldest People. Read the PLOS ONE article.

Sept 16 PATHOGENS; Laura Pollitt (Univ of Edinburgh);                                       Mosquitoes Can Carry, and Deliver, a Double Dose of Malaria. Read the PLOS Pathogens article.

Sept 23 PALEO-ANTHROPOLOGY; David Frayer (Univ of Kansas); Evidence for Neandertal Jewelry: Modified White-Tailed Eagle Claws at Krapina. Read the PLOS ONE article.

Sept 30 GENETICS; Zhengquan Yu (China Agricultural Univ); Post-transcriptional Regulation of Keratinocyte Progenitor Cell Expansion, Differentiation and Hair Follicle Regression by miR-22. Read the PLOS Genetics article.

Oct 7 VERTEBRAE PALEONTOLOGY – Article/authors TBD

Oct 14 NEUROSCIENCE; Benjamin Inglis (UC Berkeley) and Jean-Baptiste Poline (UC Berkeley); Orthogonalization of Regressors in fMRI Models. Read the PLOS ONE article.

Oct 21 OPEN ACCESS WEEK – Articles/authors TBD

Oct 28 GLOBAL HEALTH – Water & Sanitation. Oliver Cumming (LSHTM) & TBD;  PLOS Medicine articles: Risk of Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes among Women Practicing Poor Sanitation in Rural India: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study & From Joint Thinking to Joint Action: A Call to Action on Improving Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Maternal and Newborn Health PENDING CONFIRMATION of additional authors and date.

Archived AMAs:

  • Climate Change Shortens Growing Seasons; Potential Human and Biotic Vulnerability. Camilo Mora, Iain Caldwell (University of Hawaii); 8/19 AMA archive. Read the PLOS Biology article.
  • Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”. James Hansen & colleagues (Columbia University); 8/12 AMA archive. Read the PLOS ONE article.
  • Patterns of Mass Mortality among Invertebrates on NE Pacific Coastline. Laura Jurgens (UC Davis); 8/5 AMA archive. Read the PLOS ONE article.
  • The Physician “Brain Drain” from Sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S.  Sten H. Vermund and A. B.S. Tankwanchi; 7/29 AMA archive. Read the PLOS ONE article.
  • Programmed Evolution – The Use of Microbes for Metabolic Engineering. Todd T. Eckdahl (Missouri Western State University);  7/22 AMA archiveRead the PLOS One article.
  • How birds assemble meaningful calls from individual phonemes (as humans do) – Sabrina Engesser, Andy Russell (Univ of Exeter), James Savage (Wageningen Univ, the Netherlands), Simon Townsend (Univ of Zurich). 7/15 AMA archive. Read the PLOS Biology article.
  • Threatened Preterm Labor and Spontaneous Preterm Birth: Gene Expression Profile. Yujing Jan Heng (Harvard Med School) 7/8 AMA archive. PLOS ONE article.
  • Riverboats, Mosquitoes and the Spread of Dengue in the Peruvian Amazon. Sarah Anne Guagliardo (Emory University) and Amy Morrison (UC Davis);  7/1 AMA archive. Read the PLOS NTDs article
  • Reversing Antibiotic Resistance. Miriam Barlow and Juan C. Meza (UC Merced Life Sciences); 6/24 AMA archive. Read the PLOS One article.
  • Rationale and Prospects for a Global R&D Fund to fight Ebola, Antibiotic Resistance & Neglected Diseases  Manica Balasegaram (Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign) and Bernard Pécoul (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative) 6/17/15 AMA archive; PLOS Medicine article.
  • Color As a Signal for Entraining the Mammalian Circadian Clock – Tim Brown (Univ of Manchester) 6/10/15 AMA archivePLOS Biology article..
  • Assessing Measles Transmission in the United States Following a Large Outbreak in California – Seth Blumberg (physician/scientist at UCSF) and Jennifer Zipprich (CA state epidemiologist) 6/3/15 AMA archive; PLOS Currents Outbreaks article
  • Why Publishing Everything Is More Effective than Selective Publishing of Statistically Significant Results – Jelte M. Wicherts – 5/27/15 AMA archive; PLOS ONE article
  • The Extent and Consequences of P-Hacking in Science – Megan Head – 5/20/15 AMA archive PLOS Biology article
  • Creating Computational Brain Models for Artificial Intelligence – Jeff Clune, Kai Olav Ellefsen, Jean-Baptiste Mouret – 5/13/15 AMA archive; PLOS Computational Biology article; video summary
  • Aquilops, the Smallest, Oldest Horned Dinosaur – Andrew Farke – 5/6/15 AMA archive; PLOS ONE article; author’s introductory PLOS Blogs post and the team story behind this paper
  • Open Labware: 3-D Printing Your Own Lab Equipment – Tom Baden and Andre Maia Chagas – 4/29/15 AMA archive; PLOS Biology article
  • Open Data Exchange Between Cancer Researchers – Andrew Beck – 4/22/15 AMA archive; PLOS Medicine article

How It Works

Questions may be posted ahead of and during the AMA and the authors answer on Wed 1–2pm ET. Archives are available for later reading, re-mixing or reuse. Please use the hashtag #PLOSredditAMA when discussing this series on Twitter. You can also download and use the reddit AMA app.

Future PLOS Science Wednesday AMAs will be posted to this page and announced on Twitter. Featured authors are selected by PLOS editors; PLOS authors or Academic Editors may nominate a PLOS article for this series by emailing plosreddit@plos.org with the article URL, author(s) and a lay summary (50-100 words) of the research.

Why is PLOS doing redditscience AMAs?

PLOS sees these author AMAs as enhancements to the journal articles on which they are based. They also function as in-depth archived community discussions on important and timely science topics, which are available in perpetuity on the redditscience subthread for all to read and re-purpose. On PLOS journal sites, each PLOS Science Wednesday AMA transcript is linked to the “Related Content” tabs at the top of their respective PLOS articles. We encourage other health and science communicators to take and reuse this content in whatever ways may assist your purposes.

You may also be interested in…

About:

Reddit logoreddit is one of the web’s oldest and largest open source communities, where registered members post links, comment and rate posted items in a wide variety of subject areas. As of March 2015, reddit received more than 6.6 billion page views and 151 million unique visitors. /r/science is a lively 8 million member “subreddit” within reddit. Each subreddit is independent and moderated by a team of volunteers.

2etoq0zjwxicokm1woge_biggerAs a nonprofit, Open Access publisher with a mission to lead a transformation in scientific communication, PLOS continuously seeks innovative ways to disseminate research and advance science. Initiatives such as PLOS Science Wednesday on redditscience reflect our commitment to expand the impact of research beyond publication, and enable broader community inclusion for commenting and review.

We encourage you to leave your thoughts on PLOS Science Wednesday AMAs and related issues in the comments below.

 

Category: Publishing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Recent Changes to the PLOS Journal Web Sites

PLOS has recently updated the navigation and layout of our guidelines and policy pages across all seven of our journal web sites. These changes were made to enhance user experience and make sure our content is as helpful as possible for our users.

Here is an example of the expanded menu structure showing a mockup from PLOS ONE with placeholder text:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an example of the updated page layout with a new side navigation menu and callout boxes showing a mockup from PLOS ONE with placeholder text:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are already familiar with the sites, you may notice that some pages appear in different places, so please take a look around and get in touch with us if you have any feedback or need any assistance.
Thank you for your support of PLOS and Open Access.

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Next Generation Science Communicators

Experience in presenting research findings and participating in the scientific dialogue are important aspects to the professional development of researchers early in their careers. Advancing scientific discovery relies on scientists at all career levels to clearly communicate their results, their rationale for working on a project and more.

To recognize their efforts and support their growth as science communicators, PLOS is offering up to ten travel awards to early career researchers to communicate their work at an upcoming conference. To be eligible researchers must have published with PLOS, be presenting work at a scientific conference, and currently be part of a graduate program or have received a graduate degree within the last five years.

If you are an early career researcher, we invite you to share your thoughts on what is the biggest hindrance for communicating science and what you or your peers can do to address this issue. Apply for a chance to win $500 to offset travel expenses associated with presenting work at a scientific conference taking place between August – December 2015.

The deadline for submission is June 30, 2015. For more information, visit the PLOS Early Career Travel Award Program Page or email us at travelawards@plos.org.

Category: In the News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ask our authors anything: new PLOS ‘AMA’ series debuts on redditscience

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PLOS, in conjunction with reddit, is pleased to announce the April 22 launch of ‘PLOS Science Wednesday’ a weekly Ask Me Anything (AMA) series featuring PLOS authors in live chats on redditscience (/r/science), the popular online gathering place for researchers, students and others interested in science.

For each PLOS Science Wednesday an expected audience of 10,000 (usually many more) /r/science members have the opportunity to chat directly with the featured PLOS author (or team), while anyone with an Internet connection is free to read along. Authors are available on an AMA for a full hour (1 to 2 pm ET) to answer posted questions and explain the science behind a research article or editorial recently published by a PLOS journal. Transcripts of these completed AMAs are then available to anyone for later reading, re-mixing, or reuse from the /r/science AMA archive.

PLOS created PLOS Science Wednesday to showcase new research while providing our authors a place to communicate their science and interact directly with fellow researchers and readers. Here’s a schedule of who’s up first on PLOS Science Wednesday AMAs, along with their topics and the PLOS journal article/editorial they’ll be talking about.

April 22: Andrew Beck — Open Data exchange between cancer researchers; PLOS Medicine, Open Access to Large Scale Datasets is Needed to Translate Knowledge of Cancer Heterogenity into Better Patient Outcomes – Click here, to read completed AMA transcript.

April 29: Tom Baden and Andre Maia Chagas — 3-D Printing your own lab equipment; PLOS Biology, Open Labware: 3-D Printing Your Own Lab Equipment — Click here to read completed AMA transcript.

May 6:  Andrew Farke Aquilops, the smallest, oldest horned dinosaur; PLOS ONE, A Ceratopsian Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western North America, and the Bigeography of Neoceratopsia; author’s blog posts introducing Aquilops and the team story behind this paper. Click here to read the completed AMA transcript.

May 13: Jeff Clune, Kai Olav Ellefsen, Jean-Baptiste Mouret — Creating computational brain models for artificial intelligencePLOS Computational Biology, Neural Modularity Helps Organisms Evolve to Learn New Skills without Forgetting Old Skills. Here is a video summary of this work by the authors. Click here to read the completed AMA PLOS Currents Outbreakstranscript.

May 20: Megan Head, “The Extent and Consequences of P-Hacking in Science PLOS Biology. Click here to read the completed AMA transcript.

May 27: Jelte M Wicherts; Why Publishing Everything Is More Effective than Selective Publishing of Statistically Significant Results.” PLOS ONE. Click here to read the completed AMA transcript.

Next up! June 3: Seth Blumberg, research scientist/physician UCSF & Jennifer Zipprich, epidemiologist with the Immunization Branch at the California Department of Public Health. Assessing Measles Transmission in the United States Following a Large Outbreak in California, PLOS Currents Outbreaks

(Other PLOS Science Wednesday redditscience AMA dates & authors will be announced shortly. Check The Official PLOS Blog and watch for #PLOSredditAMA Twitter notices)

Important details:

  • Anyone discussing a PLOS Science Wednesday AMA on Twitter is asked to use the hashtag #PLOSredditAMA with the author’s Twitter handle(s).
  • reddit has a downloadable AMA app (for asking questions and leaving comments during the AMA) available here.
  • PLOS editors select authors and papers for this series; authors (or Academic Editors) who wish to nominate an author/paper for a PLOS Science Wednesday AMA should send an email to plosreddit@plos.org with author’s name, article title, the PLOS journal the article appeared in and a lay summary (50-100 words) describing what the research is about.

Who’s Who:

Reddit logoreddit is one of the web’s oldest and largest open source communities, where registered members post links, comment and rate posted items in a wide variety of subject areas. As of March 2015, reddit received more than 6.6 billion page views and 151 million unique visitors. /r/science is a lively 8 million member “subreddit” within reddit. Each subreddit is independent and moderated by a team of volunteers.

2etoq0zjwxicokm1woge_bigger As a nonprofit, Open Access publisher with a mission to lead a transformation in scientific communication, PLOS continuously seeks innovative ways to disseminate research and advance science. Initiatives such as PLOS Science Wednesday on redditscience reflect our commitment to expand the impact of research beyond publication, and enable broader community inclusion for commenting and review.

We encourage you to leave your thoughts on PLOS Science Wednesday AMAs and related issues in the comments section, below.

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Category: Science communication | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

How Articles Get Noticed and Advance the Scientific Conversation

By Victoria Costello, PLOS Senior Social Media & Community Editor

The good news is you’ve published your manuscript! The bad news? With two million other new research articles likely to be published this year, you face steep competition for readers, downloads, citations and media attention — even if only 10% of those two million papers are in your discipline.

So, how can you get your paper noticed and advance the scientific conversation? 

One word: Tweet.

tweet-imagesA Tweet (n.) is an online communication of no more than 140 characters (often containing links), transmitted on the public “social network” known as Twitter. When you Tweet (v.), you enter a conversation of Twitter users.
 

In a PLOS BLOGS guest post, Gozde Ozakinci (@gozde786), a lecturer in health psychology at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, offered an exemplary use of Twitter in a research workflow.

I dip in and out during the day and each time I have a nugget of information that I find useful. I feel that with Twitter, my academic world expanded to include many colleagues I wouldn’t otherwise meet. … The information shared on Twitter is so much more current than you would find on journals or conferences.

Of course, Ozakinci and her Twitter-savvy colleagues are still the minority among academic researchers.

An odd coupling, with baggage

To most scientists, for whom an initial meeting with Twitter is the opposite of love at first sight, this conversation may as well be happening on another planet. At first glance, they find Twitter facile, a time suck, beneath them — and go no farther. Missing from this dismissive view is an understanding of Twitter as a neutral medium for communication (280 mil monthly users) that is quickly gaining currency among a leading edge of researchers who are exchanging science news and information, data files, feedback on articles, methods, tools, jobs, grants and more — across continents and disciplines.

If you are among the uninitiated, and have a research article coming out soon, how might you join them? A priori, if your goals are to exploit this medium for your own ends and advance the larger scientific conversation, some conventional wisdom must be jettisoned.

The first thing to let go of is the quaint idea that your science should speak for itself. Second is the fear, still rife among scientists, that the act of communicating research beyond institutional walls puts your reputation at risk for the “Sagan Effect;” or, in more current pop culture terms, that you’ll become the science equivalent of Kim Kardashian. A recent Google+ Hangout from SciFund Challenge, titled Using Social Media without Blowing up Your Scientific Career, offers testimonials from some real life scientists to challenge this outdated view.

By joining the scientific conversation on social media you’re not exactly breaking new ground. A 2015 PEW poll of AAAS members (scientists and others) found that 47% had used social media  to follow or discuss science. Going deeper, in an August 2014 Nature survey, some 60% of 2500 research scientists polled regularly visit Google Scholar (~60%) and ResearchGate (~40%); and, to a lesser extent, Google+, Academia.edu and Linked-in to post CVs and papers — essentially engaging in a one-way form of scholarly communication; talking, not necessarily listening.

Farther ahead on the social media curve is a 13% subset of the Nature group who are involved a two-way conversation with their scientific peers. These scientists describe their use of Twitter, in particular, as a platform to comment on and discuss research that is relevant to their field. Another term for this practice is “micro-blogging.”

If the end game is impact, the way there is engagement

Engagement between authors and readers of research articles comes in many forms,  characterized by rising levels of interaction. A potential range is illustrated in this figure from a PLOS ONE study looking at reader responses to 16 articles in the pain sciences disseminated using social media. As the authors point out, the collection of metrics for more complex levels of reader engagement (impact) is still in a nascent stage. For example, a measurement of the number of readers who apply a newly published research finding to clinical practice is currently not available, although it seems likely that a self-interested tech sector will meet this challenge, and meet it soon.

A 2013 study in PLOS ONE tracked the impact of social media on the dissemination of research articles, with 6 levels of  engagement identified between readers and the published research.

A 2013 study in PLOS ONE tracked the impact of social media on the dissemination of research articles, with 6 levels of engagement identified between readers and the published research.

What about my paper?

As a researcher looking for readers, your imperative is more basic. With many more of your peers going to social media to push out their latest work, the status quo of one-way science communication will no longer suffice. Even if all you’re after is readers for your article, it behooves you to use these newly available tools to stand out in a crowded field.

This is where micro-blogging, and Twitter, in particular, come in. Here are five tips to help you join the growing number of scientists and students who are leading their peers to the likely future of scientific communication.

11_Twitter tips_image

Tip 1. Get on Twitter and describe yourself in five words or less

To get started on Twitter you must choose a “handle” (user name) which sums you up — in 160 characters or less. This can actually be a very useful exercise. What makes your research contribution different from everyone else’s?

  • To create a pithy Twitter profile and find your peers, follow the model of cancer bioinformatics researcher, B.F. Francis Ouellette (@bffo), by coming up with three to five words to describe your work. Use key words; include methods, disciplines and related fields, institutions, journals, diseases or occupations that relate to your science.

profile

  • Add a photo of yourself or an avatar but save the pic of you kissing your pit bull, like your passion for artisan beers, for your Facebook or Instagram page. (Most scientists wisely keep their personal and professional social media accounts separate).

A PLOS Biology perspective provides an overview of what social media can do for scientists, with a comprehensive primer on how best to get started, including on Twitter.

Tip 2. Tweet the way you talk, not the way you lecture or write your science

If, like most scientists, you’re a collaborator at heart, use Twitter as a place to share your knowledge; mentor and be mentored; discuss and debate the merits of research. Make your Twitter “voice” reflect your real personality. Keep it casual.

back of the napkin

What should you tweet?

  • Recommend links to online content of interest. Say why you’ve singled out that research article or blog post for a mention.
  • Ask questions and flag concerns.
  • Offer deserved compliments and congratulations to your fellow researchers.

A word on word choices

To connect and thrive on Twitter, you must give up the jargon.

  • This tip also applies to the titles of your papers. Turn obtuse technical lingo into plain language, make it catchy, and many more of your peers will click through to read the paper – even those who would have perfectly understood the original title! Here, an author distilled the (not terrible, but terribly long) article title “The Shear Stress of Host Cell Invasion: Exploring the Role of Biomolecular Complexes,” into the tweet below. Got your attention faster, right?

tweet title

  • If your article contains a striking image or figure by all means tweet it too – and not just the cute animals. Even a virus can be a beautiful, especially to your fellow scientists. And, hot off the press, Twitter now allows posting of video clips.

Remember, your immediate goal is to acquire attention for a newly published article. Longer term, you’re after relevance in the ongoing scientific conversation. To track how well you’re doing at both, check out Article Level Metrics (ALMs), which measure impact in terms of views, downloads, comments, citations and media coverage for each of your articles.

Tip 3. Optimize your Twitter time with advanced tools

After finding and interacting with an initial group of your peers by following them, being followed back, tweeting and retweeting items of interest, you’re ready to try some more advanced community and conversation-building tools, including Twitter “lists” and “tweet chats.”

  • A Twitter list is an option on your profile settings which allows you to group together colleagues in one easily accessed virtual file. Then you can *Tweet to individuals on this list or turn the name you’ve given it into a “hashtag” such as #PLOSNeuro. For efficiency, track conversations among users of this hashtag using a multiple-Twitter stream monitoring app such as Tweetdeck.
  • Cross promote on your blog. If you maintain an individual blog, display your Twitter stream on its home page to facilitate comments and discussion in both places. (WordPress has a widget for this purpose).
  • A Tweet chat or Tweet up is a live, regularly-scheduled Twitter conversation typically used to discuss a single topic or paper. For a good model, visit #PubHT, a biweekly Twitter discussion group on public health issues, described in detail in group member Atif Kukaswadia’s (@Mr_Epid) blog post.

The more ambitious social media-minded researcher can try online curation tools – among them Storify.com and ImpactStory.com — to assemble tweets, which they can then post in blogs as topical science stories, conference reports or on altmetrics-based CVs.

Tip 4. Go where the scientific conversation goes 

Most authors would probably prefer that readers of research articles say whatever they have to say about their work in the comments section immediately below the article on the publisher’s website. And yet, as discussed above, this train has already left the station; like it or not, the conversation has moved.

In the view of Jonathan Eisen (@phyogenomics), a prolific blogger and tweeter and a long-time PLOS Biology Editorial Board member, formal comments sections will continue to lose any participation they once had.

“I guarantee there are more comments on Twitter about a PLOS paper,” he said.

To become a part of this fast-growing culture of decentralized assessment of scientific research, try using Twitter to share your (abbreviated ) feedback on new articles. Then add a link to the published article — which may or may not contain a longer version of your comment.

pmri conversation

Hopefully, Professor Eisen’s prediction isn’t yet a done deal and publishers, including PLOS, will fully rise to the challenge of making continuous assessment of the research a “no brainer” both on and off journal sites.

For its part, PLOS is facilitating scientist-to-scientist communication in discipline-specific communities. These dedicated PLOS pages are run by Community Editors external to PLOS, who are supported by staff and academic editors from the PLOS journals. Community editors crowdsource researcher feedback on previously published articles contained in PLOS Collections, and new research published by PLOS and other non-PLOS journals. This program began in 2014 with PLOS Neuroscience and PLOS Synthetic Biology, with others to be added in 2015. Critiques (comments) on research articles are posted in a community blog featuring original and syndicated posts, with blog posts amplified by real-time micro-blogging from Twitter lists posted on these same pages.

Meanwhile, the Twitter part of this larger scientific conversation is here to stay, no matter where it “lives.” For a model of how Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in and WordPress blogging can be integrated into an academic science work flow, particularly that of early career researchers and students, read this blog post from Stewart Barker, a 1st year PhD student in microbiology at The University of Sheffield.

Tip 5. Use Twitter to crowdsource your science as an information provider and recipient

We start from the premise that the scientific community can reliably be counted on to “root out the rubbish.” Rubbish in this context usually refers to bad science, or misleading interpretations of good research.

crowd source
In a similar vein, science-based Twitter networks are proving to be rich and reliable sources for rapidly offering and receiving highly specialized information – with questions and answers flowing from scientist to scientist and between scientists and science journalists. For an example of the latter,  journalist Seth Mnookin (@SethMnookin) describes crowdsourcing a complex genetics question while on a tight deadline, with help arriving just in time from UCLA geneticist Leonid Kruglayak (@leonidkruglayak).

SciComm ripple effects

The ongoing adoption of Twitter is having a measurable effect on individual scientists in terms of increased productivity and readership, even if the jury is still out on a correlation between Tweets and citations.

Beyond the individual benefits for scientists who incorporate Twitter into their research life cycles, altmetrics researcher (and coiner of the term) Jason Priem, writing in 2011, saw scientists interacting on Twitter as a “revolutionary form of scholarly communication,” one which could “transform centuries-old publishing practices into a much more efficient and organic vast registry of intellectual transactions.” 

“Registry” is an interesting choice of words in that it suggests a permanent record. Seemingly transient, the 140 characters you tweet today remain accessible far longer than you might think (Twitter has recognized the value customers place on the ability to recreate their tweeting histories and have made it possible to go back a full seven years – the entire lifetime of Twitter – to find up to 3200 tweets per user). There’s even talk of giving tweets their own Digital Object Identifiers or DOIs. Meanwhile, the Modern Language Association (MLA) provides a standard format for citing a single tweet in an academic manuscript.

Embrace the wider effects. Once you find your voice and engage with fellow scientists via online social networks, you will draw the attention of science journalists with direct access to an international online audience of readers you cannot reach on your own. Fortunately, your needs and theirs are symbiotic: science writers need research news and you can supply it. How likely they are to select your article, and how accurately they interpret the essence and significance of your findings, depend on how widely and clearly you communicate your science — after your research article is published.  This is where your institution’s Public Information Office (PIO) can play a pivotal role, especially if you stay involved by checking the press release for clarity and accuracy and by exploiting your own network for outreach.

In the view of many in the broad scientific community, your job doesn’t end there.

 In light of the recent PEW poll revealing large gaps between scientists’ and public views on critical scientific issues, many scientists are re-evaluating their individual responsibility to communicate directly with the general public. If, as UK Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport recently told a meeting of climate scientists, “Science isn’t finished until it’s communicated,” it follows that scientists’ use of large public social media platforms such as Twitter to explain their science will be increasingly considered a vital part of a researcher’s work flow.

How might the wider adoption of social media impact the entire scientific enterprise? Join the conversation and you’ll be among the first to find out.

A PLOS invitation: no time like the present

If you have an article coming out any time soon, this just may be a Goldilocks moment for you and your research team to take the plunge into Twitter.

egPzKiqc_400x400

To celebrate our recently passed milestone of reaching 70,000 Twitter followers (200K if we include all PLOS journals), PLOS has an invitation for you. If you’ll take a moment now to create your own Twitter account, then follow us @PLOS, we will strive to be among the first to follow you back.

And, while you’re choosing who else to follow, please consider the PLOS journals:

@PLOSONE

@PLOSMedicine

@PLOSBiology

@PLOSPathogens

@PLOSNTDs

@PLOSCompbiol

@PLOSGenetics

Thank you and we’ll see you on Twitter!

*Thanks to @sharmanedit for pointing out that it isn’t possible to “Tweet to a Twitter list” as this had read previously. Still useful as a Rolodex like file keeping system, I find.

 

Category: Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments