Author: Bryan Ghosh

PLOS Biology in the Media

The holiday period was a rather busy time at PLOS Biology, with a number of our published articles receiving significant attention both in the news and in social media.  Below you’ll find a quick summary of the three articles that people have found the most fascinating, along with a run-down of some of the reaction that they’ve received.

Sesame Street helps to reveal patterns of neural development

On January 3rd, PLOS Biology published this article by Jessica Cantlon and Rosa Li, detailing a study in which brain scans of children who watched Sesame Street proved to be better indicators of intellectual development than the standard, less naturalistic tests normally used in fMRI scans.  In the study, the authors used fMRI to create ‘neural maps’ of the thought processes of children and adults who watched a 20-minute Sesame Street video, and found that they could better predict IQ scores from these than from similar scans taken using the traditional tests.

The article was accompanied by a synopsis written by Janelle Weaver, and provoked a great deal of interest in the media, such as from TIME Magazine and CNN Blogs.  The Huffington Post featured both an article and a blog about the paper; the latter focusing on how the study can further our understanding of children’s varied rates or learning.

Although the study does not advocate television, it does show that “neural patterns during an everyday activity are related to a person’s intellectual maturity,” explains Professor Cantlon. “It’s not the case that if you put a child in front of an educational TV program that nothing is happening—that the brain just sort of zones out. Instead, what we see is that the patterns of neural activity that children are showing are meaningful and related to their intellectual abilities.”

The factor that could influence future breast cancer treatment

On December 27th, PLOS Biology published a research article by a team of scientists led by Chris Ormandy, in which the authors showed that the transcription factor ELF5, which is found in all breast cells, may be responsible for increasing breast cancer cells’ resistance to anti-estrogen therapy.  The obvious implications for health care and cancer treatment meant that this paper was very widely received, with a Reuters article being picked up by the Huffington Post and NBC News among many others. It also gained particularly extensive coverage in Australia, including this broadcast on ABC Radio.

Disease burden links ecology to economic growth

The Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia are thought to have the greatest marine diversity on earth. Image: PLoS Biol 10(12): e1001457. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001457

Another article published December 27th, by Matthew Bonds et al., showed how vector-borne and parasitic diseases have substantial effects on economic development across the globe, and are major drivers of the latitudinal gradient in income.  In addition, and perhaps counter-intuitively, the burden of these diseases is predicted to rise as biodiversity falls.  It was also accompanied by a synopsis written by Jon Chase, and featured in news outlets such as NPR and the LA Times as well as being discussed heavily in social media.

Category: Biology, Cancer, Infectious disease, Neuroscience, News, PLOS Biology | Leave a comment

Open access: Delivering on its potential

This week, October 22-28, marks Open Access Week, a global event that brings various parties together to discuss, publicize and advocate for open access. On October 23, leading open access journal PLOS Biology publishes an editorial that aims to direct this year’s discussion towards the need to focus on the re-usability of, and not just access to, the research literature.

With the incredible rise in the number of open access research papers available online, it is now time to focus on ensuring that we can make the most out of that access, argues Cameron Neylon, Advocacy Director at PLOS and author of the editorial.

“If we are to exploit the potential that open access provides,” writes Neylon, “we must look beyond just making research findings accessible to ensuring that they are legally and technically available for re-use.” Many journals that currently claim to publish ‘open access’ research actually withhold rights such as re-use, particularly commercial re-use, under the terms of their license. This, says Neylon, is at odds with the idea of open access, and must be addressed if we are to make full use of open research. “Mere access is not enough to deliver on the promise of a truly network-enabled research communication system,” he says.

The scientific community is at a point where more research is accessible than ever before, and this is only going to continue growing as funders, policy-makers and institutions across the world are enacting their own open access initiatives. Being able to build upon this research, to gather data, and to refine results is key to scientific progress, and is the only way to ensure that science can advance at the speed of which it is now capable thanks to the growth of the Internet, the editorial explains.

There have already been many examples of how research can progress when resources and information are fully shareable and useable thanks to worldwide networks, and there can be countless more if a system is built that enables scientists to fully and easily build on each other’s work, argues Neylon. As he explains, “Making things accessible is a necessary step to make this happen, but it is not sufficient.”

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Category: Advocacy, Open access, PLOS Biology | 1 Comment