Life after PLoS: From Journal Editor to Academia

Guest blog by Gavin Yamey, MD MA MRCP, Lead, Evidence to Policy Initiative (E2Pi), Global Health Group, San Francisco, USA.

Seven weeks ago, I left my job as Senior Editor at PLoS Medicine, and Consulting Editor at PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, to take up an academic post at the University of California San Francisco.

I now lead the San Francisco “hub” of a new global health policy project called E2Pi, the Evidence-to-Policy initiative; the hub is based in the Global Health Group (we also have a European hub, in Berlin).  E2Pi’s mission is to narrow the gap between evidence synthesis and practical policymaking, with the aim of supporting more informed decision-making in global health.  We have started providing evidence and policy support to donor governments and global health foundations.

In making the transition, I have learnt three things about PLoS Medicine and about open access more broadly.

First, authors appreciate the way in which an assigned professional editor at PLoS Medicine shepherds their paper through the peer review process, providing “continuity of care” for their paper.  I say this because many authors wrote to me after I had left PLoS, asking what would happen to their paper.  I reassured them, of course, that their paper would be in good hands, and that the rest of the editorial team had received a detailed handover from me about their paper.  Nevertheless I think these authors’ concern is a sign that authors value the high level of editorial involvement at PLoS Medicine.

Second, and I know this may sound a little obvious, but my move to academia has made me even more aware of how important the open access movement really is.  Now that I am at UCSF, I have access to a vast array of full text journals, all at the click of a mouse.  In fact, I simply log in to my account and go to a website called ‘PubMed@UCSF.’  From here, any PubMed search takes me to the full text version of any article.  I’ve never had this kind of access before, and it has changed my life.  At PLoS, our access to journals was restricted (we could not afford to pay the usual $30 fee to just read one research paper).  So I’m experiencing a flood of full text access after a drought.   Everyone on the planet should surely be given the same opportunity that I now have at UCSF.

Third,  it has been wonderful to realize how many PLoS papers get discussed at the very highest levels within the global health policy world.  For example, two of the most pressing issues in global health right now are the massive challenge of health systems strengthening (HSS) and the role of the “vertical” global health initiatives in helping or hindering HSS.  There are two PLoS Medicine papers that are now “doing the rounds” in global health, as they offer insight into this challenge.  The first is Bruno Marchal and colleagues’ paper, called Global Health Actors Claim To Support Health System Strengthening—Is This Reality or Rhetoric?, and the other is Gorik Ooms and colleagues paper, called Do We Need a World Health Insurance to Realise the Right to Health?” (which is being discussed together with Ooms and colleagues’ follow-up paper, in the BMC journal Globalization and Health).  PLoS regularly argues that open access maximizes the impact and reach of a paper, and I am now seeing this in action “from the other side.”

Competing interests: GY is a former editor at PLoS.  E2Pi is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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