Letter to the Editor of Science, by Elizabeth Marincola

The following ‘letter to the editor’ was submitted to Science October 4, 2013 and was published on Sciencemag.org December 5, 2013.

_____________________________________________

John Bohannon’s News story “Who’s afraid of peer review?” (special section on Communication in Science, 4 October, p. 60) incriminates many Open Access (OA) journals. Our journal, PLOS ONE, was not implicated. It rejected the fraudulent paper promptly and for the right reasons, as Bohannon acknowledges. Still, the “study” was disappointing: It was not controlled, which would have required seeking to entrap a matched set of closed-access journals, yet it claims that a source of the problem is open access. It then concludes that profitability for OA journals is driven by volume, without acknowledging that the same is true for closed-access journals.  The issues raised by Bohannon’s exercise are not about open access journals; they are about science and technical publishing and the peer review processes used throughout the industry.

In the short term, all scientific publishers have a responsibility to reinforce and strengthen pre-publication review. We must improve the efficiency of peer review and continue to perform checks that uncover conflicts of interest, identify financial disclosures, confirm author affiliations, and ensure compliance with international standards of animal and human testing.

Even with these tools, peer review will never be flawless. As Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt points out, it is “time-honored” and “the gold standard” (Editorial, p. 13), but that doesn’t mean our methods of evaluation can’t and shouldn’t be improved. This is the real challenge. And this is why PLOS is working to transform scientific communication by developing better measures of scientific quality both before publication (currently traditional peer review) and after publication (currently the dreaded impact factor).

To this end, PLOS is developing Article Level Metrics (ALMs) that enable the scientific community itself to confer on a research contribution its credibility, relevance, and importance, independent of the journal in which it is published. Peer review at its best is a continual process of critique and assessment.

Elizabeth Marincola

Chief Executive Officer, The Public Library of Science, San Francisco, CA 94111, USA. E-mail: emarincola@plos.org
Category: Alt-Metrics, Open Access, Publishing | Leave a comment

Sign up today to have Amazon donate to PLOS

Now when you shop with Amazon, via AmazonSmile, 0.5% of eligible purchases can be donated to PLOS, at no cost to you.

PLOS will direct proceeds from this program to support authors who are unable to pay all or part of their publication fees.

Sign up today to help PLOS remove barriers to participation in Open Access publishing.

Remember: PLOS only benefits when you purchase through smile.amazon.com (not amazon.com). Initially you select “Public Library of Science” as your charitable organization and it should autoload on each visit.

Category: Publishing | Leave a comment

ANNOUNCING THE RECIPIENTS FOR THE ACCELERATING SCIENCE AWARD PROGRAM

The three award recipients for the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP)  were announced today in Washington, DC at the Open Access Week kickoff event hosted by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the World Bank. ASAP recognizes the use of scientific research, published through Open Access, that has led to innovations benefiting society. Major sponsors include the Wellcome Trust, PLOS and Google.

From left: Carlos Rossel of The World Bank, Robert Kiley of Wellcome Trust, Daniel Mietchen, Alex Kozak of Google, Nitika Pant Pai, Elizabeth Marincola of PLOS, Matt Todd, Heather Joseph of SPARC (click photo to view)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The award recipients, along with the challenges they address and their innovative approaches, include:

  • Global Collaboration to Fight Malaria (Matthew Todd, PhD):  At least one child dies of malaria every minute of every day, mainly in Africa and Asia. According to Matthew Todd, who leads the Open Source Malaria Consortium, given minimal financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments and a high degree of suffering among the affected communities, a large-scale and open collaborative research model provides a solution. Todd turned publicly available data into a global effort to help identify new anti-malaria drugs.  He did this by creating an open source collaboration involving scientists, college students and others from around the world. They use open online laboratory notebooks in which their experimental data is posted each day, enabling instant sharing and the ability to build on others’ findings in almost real time. 

“This recognition may help enlist more people into the collaborative effort to fight malaria,” said Dr. Matthew Todd. “If we succeed with these efforts, the approach could be extended to fighting other diseases – such as cancer.”

 

  • HIV Self-Test App Empowers Patients (Nitika Pant Pai, MD, MPH, PhD, Caroline Vadnais, Roni Deli-Houssein and Sushmita Shivkumar):  To increase awareness, knowledge and access to a convenient HIV screening option, and to expedite connections to treatment in nations hardest hit by the disease, Dr. Nitika Pant Pai and medical staff at McGill University and McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, developed a smartphone application as part of a self-testing strategy that synergized the Internet, an oral fluid–based self-test and a smartphone. This integrated approach included HIV education, an online test to determine HIV risk level, instructions to self-testing and interpreting the results, and confidential linkages and resources for referrals to trained counselors. The personalized smartphone application, developed on the basis of original research published in multiple Open Access journals, helps circumvent the social visibility associated with HIV testing in a healthcare facility. The application could alleviate fears of stigma and discrimination and make HIV detection simple, non-judgmental and confidential while empowering individuals with distilled scientific knowledge.

 

“Being an award recipient will help shine light on the fact that open access acts like a catalyst – by allowing unrestricted knowledge sharing – it exponentiates the power of knowledge to transform and impact lives beyond borders, boundaries, languages, and regions; facilitates creation of novel innovations, improved practices and policies,”  said Dr. Nitika Pant Pai. “With our synergistic innovation (application), we created a patient desired non-judgmental, private option that empowers proactive individuals to self-educate, stage, and seek linkages for HIV.”

 

  • Visualizing Complex Science (Daniel Mietchen, PhD, Raphael Wimmer and Nils Dagsson Moskopp): Many aspects critical to understanding science, experiments and the natural world are hard to convey using only words and diagrams. Good quality multimedia can help make that understanding easier. Daniel Mietchen and his group created the Open Access Media Importer (OAMI), a bot that can find and download supplementary multimedia files from reusably licensed Open Access research articles deposited in PubMed Central and uploads them to Wikimedia Commons, the media  repository used by the Wikipedias and their sister projects.  To date, the bot has uploaded more than 14,000 files that are being used in more than 200 English Wikipedia articles and many more in other languages that together garner about three million monthly views.

 

“We want people to play around with scientific materials and to engage with scientific processes,” said Dr. Daniel Mietchen. “Scientific research should play a more public role in our society, and open licenses greatly facilitate that. We are glad that the award highlights the value of reusing, revising, remixing and redistributing Open Access materials.”

OAs award recipients, these individuals and teams are being honored for addressing a real-world challenge by reusing previously published Open Access research to make a difference in science, medicine, business, technology or society as a whole.  Open Access is the free, immediate online availability of articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully as long as the author and the original source are properly attributed.

Photos and video interviews of the winning recipients and honorable mentions can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/asaptoolkit/ .  Additional information on ASAP can be found at http://asap.plos.org/

The ASAP program sponsors share a commitment to affect policy and public understanding to support the adoption of Open Access. They include the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Co-Action Publishing, Copernicus Publications, Creative Commons, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Doris Duke Charitable Trust, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), eLife, Hindawi, Health Research Alliance (HRA), Howard Hughes Medical Institute, ImpactStory, Jisc, Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, Mendeley, Microsoft Research, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), Research Councils UK (RCUK), Research Libraries UK (RLUK), Social Science Research Network (SSRN), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), SURF (Netherlands), the World Bank, and major sponsors Google, PLOS and the Wellcome Trust.

Category: Publishing | 1 Comment

Professor Grant McFadden Joins PLOS Pathogens as Joint Editor in Chief

PLOS is very pleased to announce that from October 7 2013, Professor Grant McFadden joined Professor Kasturi Haldar as joint Editor in Chief of PLOS Pathogens. Professor McFadden has been associated with PLOS Pathogens from its very beginning in 2005; he became deputy editor in October 2007.

Professor McFadden is based at the University of Florida where his work focuses on how viral pathogens interact with the host immune system.

Dr Virginia Barbour, Medicine Editorial Director for PLOS said “As Deputy Editor, Professor McFadden has been a tremendous advocate for PLOS Pathogens and has been core to developing PLOS Pathogens into the world class journal it is today. We are very pleased to now have him in this position of leadership with Professor Haldar and I Iook forward to working with him and Professor Haldar in the next stage of the journal’s development.”

Professor Haldar said “Grant functioned as a joint Editor in Chief, even as Deputy Editor, so I’m delighted we’ve formalized the situation. The Editorial Board and I would like to thank Grant for all he has done for PLOS Pathogens and look forward to his continuing leadership in the future.”

Category: Publishing | Leave a comment

Even more journals display ALMs!

In 2009, PLOS became the first (and remains the only) publisher to launch an open source Article-Level Metrics (ALM) app to help other publishers implement ALM on their journals. Now we are pleased to announce that two leading organizations are implementing ALMs using the PLOS open source app.

The Public Knowledge Project (PKP, provides software used by thousands of journals and hosting services to publishers like Co-Action Publishing) and Copernicus Publications (an innovative Open Access publisher) are both launching ALM programs based on the PLOS app.

ALM’s give publishers’ critical insight into the effectiveness of their programs, including highlighting articles that generate the most activity. Other publishers that have introduced ALMs include Biomed Central, eLife, Nature Publishing Group and PeerJ, among others.

Richard Cave, Director of IT for PLOS said “naturally PLOS is particularly gratified when ALMs spread to other journals because of the open source application that we built. PLOS welcomes all publishers who display ALMs because we believe in their power to transform the way research is assessed”.

Juan Pablo Alperin, who lead the development effort for PKP said “like PLOS, we believe that measuring article impact provides a deeper level of understanding about the influence of the work published in journals using our software. We encourage those using OJS systems to sign up for the free ALM service”.

Martin Rasmussen, managing director of Copernicus Publications added “we hope that more publishers will join this initiative and consider implementing it to enable direct comparison across journals”.

PLOS would like to extend a warm ALM welcome to these new journals; we hope these readers enjoy this new dimension to their service.

 

Category: Publishing | 4 Comments

PLOS ANNOUNCES FINALISTS FOR THE ACCELERATING SCIENCE AWARD PROGRAM

PLOS is pleased to announce the six finalists for the Accelerating Science Award Program (ASAP).  The program recognizes the use of scientific research, published through Open Access, that has led to innovations benefiting society. Major sponsors include the Wellcome Trust and Google. Three top awards of US$30,000 each will be announced on October 21 in Washington, DC at an Open Access Week kickoff event hosted by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the World Bank.

As award finalists, these individuals and teams are being honored for addressing a real-world challenge either by reusing previously published Open Access research or by creating a new repository of freely available research data to assist current and future collaborative research projects.  Open Access is the free, immediate online availability of articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully as long as the author and the original source are properly attributed.

“As these finalists illustrate, Open Access is good for science, good for business and good for the public, because it eliminates artificial constraints on the dissemination of research findings. This means that every student, every scientist and every citizen can benefit from any study published by Open Access done anywhere in the world,” said Elizabeth Marincola, Chief Executive Officer of PLOS. “The ASAP sponsors are proud to have received many worthy nominations. The six finalists embody the Open Access ethos by drawing on freely available research to create innovations that better society.”

The six finalists, along with the challenges they address and their innovative approaches, include:

  • HIV Self-Test Empowers Patients (Nitika Pant Pai, MD, MPH, PhD, Caroline Vadnais, Roni Deli-Houssein and Sushmita Shivkumar):  Worldwide it is estimated that as many as six in 10 HIV-infected individuals don’t know their HIV status and don’t seek testing. To increase awareness, knowledge and access to a convenient HIV screening option, and to expedite connections to treatment in nations hardest hit by the disease, Dr. Nitika Pant Pai and medical staff at McGill University and McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, developed a strategy based on the synergy of the Internet, an oral fluid–based self-test and a cell phone. This integrated approach included HIV education, an online test to determine HIV risk level, instructions for testing and interpreting the results, and confidential resources for referrals to trained counselors, support and healthcare workers. The tailored smartphone application, developed on the basis of original research published in multiple Open Access journals, helps circumvent the social visibility of testing in a healthcare facility. The application could alleviate fears of stigma and discrimination and make HIV detection simple and confidential.
  • Global Collaboration to Fight Malaria (Matthew Todd, PhD):  At least one child dies of malaria every minute of every day, mainly in Africa and Asia. According to Matthew Todd, who leads the Open Source Malaria Consortium in Sydney, Australia, given minimal financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments and a high degree of suffering among the affected communities, a large-scale collaborative research model provides a solution. Todd turned publicly available data into a global effort to help identify new anti-malaria drugs.  He did this by creating an open-source collaborative involving scientists, college students and others from around the world. They use open online laboratory notebooks in which their experimental data is posted each day, enabling instant sharing and the ability to build on others’ findings in almost real time.  Todd’s Malaria Consortium could provide a model for researchers collaboratively tackling other daunting medical challenges, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Smartphone Becomes Microscope (Saber Iftekhar Khan, Eva Schmid, PhD and Oliver Hoeller, PhD):  Science teachers often struggle to engage young students when their classroom experiences are limited to pre-prepared biological samples viewed through standard microscopes. Mr. Saber Khan, a middle school technology teacher, teamed up with University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco scientists Eva Schmid and Oliver Hoeller to develop a student-ready cell phone microscope, turning a clinical diagnostic tool into a portable device students and teachers could use as a mobile learning laboratory. To meet this challenge, Schmid and Hoeller drew on an Open Access article by global health researchers who’d invented the original cell phone microscope for use in remote clinical settings. With the adapted tool in hand, Khan’s middle school students collected and imaged samples in city parks, geotagged their locations and blogged about their results. Today, a traveling kit of cell phone microscopes has helped engage students from Hawaii to Austria.
  • Calculating Ecotourism Impact (Ralf Buckley, PhD, Guy Castley, PhD, Clare Morrison, PhD, Alexa Mossaz, Fernanda de Vasconcellos Pegas, Clay Alan Simpkins and Rochelle Steven): An obstacle hindering the efforts to make the case for ecotourism as a sound conservation policy is the lack of dollar value put on protected species by  policymakers and the public, especially in low- and middle income countries. Ralf Buckley and his team from the International Centre for Ecotourism Research in Queensland, Australia developed an innovative method for calculating the value of ecotourism for endangered animals, based on freely available data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Calculations applied by Buckley’s team to endangered mammals, birds and frogs across the world, were published in Open Access publications in order to help publicly funded nature preserves make the most of their resources to protect and expand protected areas.
  • Measuring and Understanding the Sea (Mark J. Costello, PhD):  At a time when research shows 20,000 land and sea species to be directly threatened with extinction, marine ecologists are concerned they haven’t inventoried a vast number of oceanic species. Without this hard data, scientific knowledge and the potential effectiveness of conservation efforts are diminished. Dr. Mark Costello manages the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), the largest real-time collaboration of species (taxonomic) experts and marine biologists in the world. Their work completed the naming of more than 200,000 known species, adding up to 2,000 new species every year. WoRMS is now the international standard for marine species nomenclature and is relied upon by a large number of institutions.  In addition, a collection of Open Access articles specifically utilized the WoRMs Register.
  • Visualizing Complex Science (Daniel Mietchen, PhD, Raphael Wimmer and Nils Dagsson Moskopp): Many aspects critical to understanding science, experiments and the natural world can only be described in words and diagrams  in a limited way. Good quality multimedia can help make that understanding easier. Daniel Mietchen and his group accessed articles in PubMed Central to help them create the Open Access Media Importer (OAMI), a bot that can scrape and download supplementary multimedia files from Open Access science articles, repositories and data stores.  The bot has uploaded more than 13,000 files to Wikimedia Commons and has been used in more than 135 English Wikipedia articles that together garnered more than three million views.

 

Photos and video interviews of the finalists can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/asaptoolkit/ . The six finalists will be narrowed down to three award recipients by an international committee composed of distinguished leaders in multiple fields, including:

  • Agnes Binagwaho, MD, Minister of Health, Rwanda and faculty member in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School
  • Helga Nowotny, PhD, President of the European Research Council (ERC) and professor emeritus of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich
  • Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media
  • Harold Varmus, MD, Nobel laureate, Co-founder of PLOS and the current Director of the National Cancer Institute

 

The ASAP program sponsors share a commitment to affect policy and public understanding to support the adoption of Open Access. They include the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Co-Action Publishing, Copernicus Publications, Creative Commons, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Doris Duke Charitable Trust, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), eLife, Hindawi, Health Research Alliance (HRA), Howard Hughes Medical Institute, ImpactStory, Jisc, Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, Mendeley, Microsoft Research, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), Research Councils UK (RCUK), Research Libraries UK (RLUK), Social Science Research Network (SSRN), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), SURF (Netherlands), the World Bank, and major sponsors Google, PLOS and the Wellcome Trust.

###

About the Public Library of Science

The Public Library of Science (PLOS) is a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization founded to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication. PLOS engages in outreach activities that promote Open Access and innovations in the communication of research. 2013 marks PLOS’s tenth anniversary as an Open Access publisher, reaching an international audience through immediate and free availability of research on the Internet. PLOS publishes a suite of journals: PLOS ONE, PLOS Biology, PLOS Medicine, PLOS Computational Biology, PLOS Genetics, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and PLOS Pathogens. PLOS ONE publishes research from more than 50 diverse scientific fields and is the largest peer-reviewed journal in the world.

 

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests. www.wellcome.ac.uk

 

Category: Publishing | Leave a comment

Stay Unique – PLOS introduces ORCID Identifiers

PLOS is pleased to announce the introduction of ORCID Identifiers to the people records in the manuscript submission system.

This update improves the accuracy of over 600,000 author and reviewer records. Matching researchers with their own work, and not that of someone else with the same or a similar name, is important because careers are built on these connections.

ORCID in PLOS Submission System

ORCID in PLOS submission system

After registering for an ORCID Identifier or inserting an existing one, Authors can build a professional profile by importing their work (articles, videos, conference abstracts) from the web or adding it manually.

Rebecca Bryant, Director of Community for ORCID said “ORCID is delighted to be working with PLOS.  Providing authors the opportunity to associate publications with their unique researcher identifier makes their work more discoverable and supports the open science goals of PLOS.”

Please update your EM information with an ORCID Identifier when submitting an article to PLOS.

Category: Publishing | 2 Comments

New data source added to PLOS ALM

We’re expanding the range of data sources in PLOS ALM to provide users with additional ways to evaluate the importance of research. F1000Prime recommendations now appear on 3000 highly influential PLOS articles (this number will grow as more articles are added).

Leading PLOS articles recommended by this new data source will feature the visual below, which includes a numerical score allocated to each review.

f1000-alm-tile

John Chodacki, Director of Product Management at PLOS said “Along with F1000Prime recommendations, researchers now have a diverse combination of metrics that more comprehensively evaluate the impact of an article.”

Increasing the range of PLOS ALM data sources helps tell a more complete story of how articles are used once they have been published – the F1000Prime metric is a new type in our suite, a qualitative recommendation, rather than a quantitative “share” or citation.

This valuable information can be shared with collaborators, institutions and funders to demonstrate the broader impact of research and helps guide readers to influential articles.

Category: Publishing | 2 Comments

PLOS journals sites win Interactive Media Award

As many of you will recall, in late 2012 all the PLOS journals were redesigned. Our updated sites, together with the web design agency, Digital Pulp, have been recognized with a Best in Class Award in the Interactive Media Awards (IMA) Nonprofit category.

IMA AwardTo qualify for an IMA, competing websites are scored on a 1- 100 scale using five specific criteria. Here’s a list of the different categories and our scores:

1. Content: 100
2. Feature Functionality: 99
3. Compliance & Compatibility: 95
4. Design: 94
5. Usability: 93

We’re delighted that our journals have achieved such a high standard of excellence in website design. We warmly congratulate Digital Pulp on their innovative approach to this project and thank all the PLOS staff involved for making this vision a reality.

Category: Publishing | Leave a comment

PLOS Journals now optimized for tablets

In December 2012 we redesigned all our journals, and although they’ve always worked on tablets, we’ve now tailored them to suit these devices as part of our continued roll-out of site enhancements to meet the needs of our community.

tablet-twoMany of the new site features we’ve introduced, such as more prominent figures and a figshare widget to visualize Supporting Information files, are ideally suited to the tablet’s touch interface. Improvements to content navigation are also supported by the addition of touch and swipe capability.

These tablet optimizations are just the beginning of our efforts to improve the mobile experience. Next we’ll be focusing on optimizing our journals for mobile phones. We will be replicating all the core features found on the main journal websites but enhancing them for use on the go. We’re currently working on features such as presenting content only when it is needed to improve loading speed on low bandwidth connections and simplifying the visual interface for small touch screens.

We’re proud to be self-funding these projects using revenue generated from our publishing business. It’s of prime importance for us as a non-profit that we give back to the researchers who publish with us and what better way to say thank you than with an improved tablet and mobile experience.

Category: Publishing | 2 Comments