Author: Patrick Polischuk

Research on the move – new mobile sites for PLOS journals

PLOS is pleased to announce new mobile websites for its suite of influential journals. The mobile journal experience has been optimized for easy browsing on small screens, with a simplified interface that highlights popular and newsworthy content. It features:

  • Prominent article titles and abstracts for quick browsing
  • Condensed article sections to make it easy to get to the right content
  • Flexible display options for search and browse results
  • Streamlined figure views with the option to open and zoom into full resolution figures

PLOS Mobile

As is sometimes necessary, this initial release does not include every bit of functionality you currently see on the full site. For example, while you can read article comments from your phone, posting new comments is not yet supported. We’ve worked hard to include those features researchers are most likely to utilize from a phone, and for content or functionality not yet optimized for phones we’ve provided links to corresponding pages on the full site.

All the articles that PLOS publishes have always been immediately free to access online, distribute and reuse; now they are available to readers wherever they roam. Let us know how you conduct research on the go!

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A new way to explore figures

We’re thrilled to announce another improvement to our journal websites at PLOS. Head over to your favorite article and open any figure to see our brand new figure lightbox that makes it easy to explore the details of very large figures. I recommend this fantastic article about thresher sharks.

You’ll notice that figures open to take advantage of your full browser window. If you use a large monitor, maximize your browser window to see the new lightbox in full effect.




For large, detailed figures you can now zoom in and pan around to study every data point or nuanced tail slap.




The full caption is still easily accessible in the lower right, while simple navigation options will help you quickly skim through a figure-heavy paper.




And to keep things snappy, the lightbox will initially load a smaller version of the figure while the full resolution image loads in the background. Once the larger version is fully loaded, it will automatically replace the smaller version, enabling the zoom and pan options mentioned above.

We’ve also added some new functionality to help you quickly assess whether an article is relevant to your research. When you’re browsing the PLOS ONE homepage, subject area browse pages, figure-based search results, or monthly issue pages, you can launch the figure lightbox for research articles without first loading the full article page. From there, you can toggle between an abstract view, the figure browser, or a reference view using the links in the upper right corner, enabling you to quickly judge whether an article is worth further reading.

We hope you find this to be helpful to your research process. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback–feel free to write us or leave your thoughts as a comment below.

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openfigs: Only the Raddest PLOS Figures

While working on new features for the PLOS journals we come across a lot of fantastic figures. We started collecting our favorites to share internally but soon realized that this figure collection could be enjoyed by anybody.

Head on over to to see some of the most beautiful, amusing, bizarre, meaningful, or otherwise excellent figures from PLOS papers. You can also keep up on Twitter by following @openfigs.

This isn’t an official PLOS tumblr by any means, but we hope you find it entertaining. Feel free to suggest figures to include via the submit link on the left of the openfigs site.

And as always, all figures are open access, which in most cases means they are distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License. This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Feel free to read, reuse, remix, and/or cite this research


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Turn It On: Current Awareness Tools

It’s always difficult to find the time to read all the research in your field, let alone time for the kind of serendipitous dabbling in other fields that may spark a novel idea or new research direction. And at a rate of two to three hundred newly published articles a day between our seven different journals, PLOS is publishing quite the stream of new research.

Keeping up with this volume of articles is daunting, if nigh impossible. And many of the traditional awareness mechanisms–like an eTOC (or electronic Table of Contents) for an entire journal delivered to your inbox–are simply inadequate if you’re trying to stay abreast of a journal that publishes research articles from all scientific disciplines, like PLOS ONE.

That’s why we’ve expanded our suite of current awareness tools to meet your particular needs and discovery preferences, including:

  1. eTOCs customizable by subject area - a weekly collection of new PLOS ONE content to skim, read, and study based on subject areas as narrow or broad as you want.
  2. Saved Search alerts – automatic notifications to alert you to newly published articles that fit your queries. Use all the power of search (simple and advanced) to create custom queries that precisely fit your needs and save them so that new content will automatically be delivered to your inbox on a weekly basis.
  3. eTOCs – a weekly list of all newly published articles for each journal.
  4. RSS feeds – real-time pipelines of newly published content fed into your preferred delivery mechanism. You can customize RSS feeds based on search results, subject areas, and ALMs.

The first three tools offer different ways you can get content delivered directly to your inbox. The fourth tool, RSS feeds, contain all the same functionality to select content using our powerful search tools, but also offer the flexibility to specify the delivery platform that best fits your workflow. Just hook your favorite PLOS RSS feeds directly into your preferred feed reader (Flipboard, Feedly, Skimr, etc.).

The fun doesn’t stop there. IFTTT is a new service, short for “if this then that,” that makes it easy to hook one online service up to another. IFTTT allows you to cook up recipes made up of triggers and actions. For example, you can set any RSS feed (a trigger) to perform an action, like sending a text message, updating your calendar, or placing a phone call whenever new content is piped into the feed. Other actions include saving content to Evernote or Instapaper, or posting content to Twitter, Facebook, or Blogger. You can even set a recipe to turn on a neon sign every time a new article is published via the WeMo Switch (no kidding!). IFTTT is endlessly customizable, allowing you to finely tailor new content alerts to your research workflows.




Explore, have fun, and be safe.  Let us know if you have adopted any of these tools.  We would love to hear stories about what works best for you.


Image credit: Jonas Dupuich and Patrick Polischuk
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The Beauty of Scientific Papers, The End of PDFs

There are endless new web technologies that academic journals should experiment with, yet they don’t all translate to the world of PDFs. Do we bound ahead, making richly interactive and accessible HTML articles while the PDF suffers? Should we support continued innovation on the PDF side?

We raise these questions in response to an appreciated mention of the PLOS journals in a post by Stefan Washietl over at Paperpile’s blog. Stefan takes a look at design trends in academic publishing and beautiful papers to come out of some of the most influential journals of the past 350 years.


Of course, it’s great to have both the PLOS article PDFs and HTML pages highlighted as beautiful examples, but we think there is plenty more work to be done. We’re working on a mobile-optimized version of our journals, new journal homepages, and we have a few tweaks and refinements to the article page coming down our development pipeline, all based on user feedback and reactions to our December 2012 redesign. And like Stefan, we’re excited to see new article viewers like eLife’s Lens and NCBI’s PubReader exploring new ways of interacting with research content on the web.

So in light of all these exciting developments on the web, we echo Stefan’s final question: “for how much longer will we print PDFs?” And toward that future, what do you think it will take for the community to completely abandon PDFs in favor of HTML articles?

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Introducing PLOS Tech

PLOS is now in its 10th year of striving to make science research available to the public. As a staff-written and -moderated blog, PLOS Tech seeks to share not only research, but the whats, hows, and whys of facilitating scholarly communication. This is possible through the wisdom and insights of our software development, web production, and product development teams—among many others.

Goals for PLOS Tech

  • Build a community around sharing insights, techniques, and tools for scholarly communication, especially for science.
  • Provide narratives, background information, and answers to questions about PLOS products.
  • Create an opportunity for deeper technical feedback from the wider scholarly community.

What is technology?

Our coverage of technology is inclusive, meaning everything from evaluation of software tools to practical use of theoretical frameworks, information process construction to best practices and clever efficiencies, vital discussion of trends and patterns to critical analysis of buzzwords and memes.

We aim to provide insight accessible to both the technical and the not-so-technical among us, and we encourage any and all feedback via the comment sections and the rest of the web.

Open Knowledge Meetup at PLOS SF 6/6 at 7pm

Coinciding with the launch of PLOS Tech, the bay area Open Knowledge community is invited for a casual meetup with a few lightning talks and targeted discussion in relevant topic areas. Join us at the SF Headquarters of PLOS, some snacks and beverages will be supplied. Will include updates on California state legislation on Open Access – AB 609 by PLOS, updates from OA at Berkeley by Angelica Tavella and Mitar Milutinovic, as well as a report back from Dario Amodei on the Vannevar series at Stanford.

Lightning talks so far:

* MacKenzie Smith, University Librarian, UC Davis
* Florie Charles, PhD Candidate, UCSF, and of Youreka Science
* Annalee Newitz, Journalist, Editor in Chief of io9
* Alexandre Hannud Abdo, Wikimedia Brazil, and Post-doctoral researcher, Universidade de São Paulo
* Christin Chong, Postdoc, UCSF and of
* Martin Fenner, of ORCID EU and PLOS, on “Markdown for Science”

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