The wait is nearly over!

PLoS has always been a force for change with a revolutionary agenda. When Wired gave us a Rave Award they said that we aimed to “crack the spine of the science cartel”.

Since 2003, we’ve shown the world what high-quality open access journals can achieve. Now we’re ready to shake things up again and we’re involving the scientific community like never before.

Thanks to widespread media and blogosphere coverage, more scientists than we’d ever imagined are aware that we are about to launch PLoS ONE. That’s fine with us – in the words of Oscar Wilde “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about”.

As we are about to release the beta version of this site, we want to acknowledge the inherent challenges of the project and the philosophy that compels us to confront them.

We want to speed up scientific progress and believe that scientific debate is as important as the experimentation itself. PLoS ONE is a forum where research can be both published and discussed – we are launching it in beta so that the whole scientific community can help us to develop it further.

Everything about PLoS ONE is new: the platform, the software, the user interface, the production workflow, the peer-review strategy, the author experience – the development cycle has been intense in order to launch it as soon as possible.

Why did we put ourselves through this? So that we can launch PLoS ONE with its core web 2.0 features at the earliest opportunity. We invite the research community to give us feedback and help us to develop new features.

What makes the site beta? Not the content, which consists solely of quality, peer-reviewed research from hundreds of authors across a diverse range of scientific disciplines. Rather, it’s the tools and functionality surrounding these papers that will be continually refined and developed in response to user feedback.

Beta means that as soon as new functionality is ready, we will push it live. Users can then tell us what they think and what they want to see next, helping our developers to create a system that the scientific community owns and wants to use. It is this union of continually evolving user tools provided by the Topaz publishing platform and extensive content that will make PLoS ONE a success.

The beta release of PLoS ONE allows users to annotate articles and to participate in discussion threads. Our goal is to spark lively discussion online and we invite you to participate. Future updates will include user ratings for both papers and the comments made about them, personalized content alerts and much more.

So, what are the big unknowns in all of this? Where to begin!? We’ll be watching with interest to see how the platform and software hold up to the volume of users. There may be some bumps along the road if we exceed our expectations and so far this project has beaten our most optimistic predictions. Although we’ve tried to second-guess the ways our users will adopt the technology and the kind of features they will desire, we may need to adjust our thinking post launch. Only time will tell.

One thing is certain. First may not always be perfect, but sometimes, just sometimes, it brings rewards.

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