As you may be aware, PLoS ONE makes no determination as to the ‘degree of advance’ for any submission. Instead, we peer review submissions to decide whether they represent appropriately conducted, and appropriately reported, science and then (having decided that a submission is fit to join the scientific literature) we go ahead and publish it.
This procedure has originated from our belief that there are certain actions which are most appropriately conducted post-publication (as opposed to pre-publication) and determining the ‘degree of advance’ of a submission is one of those things which can only be done by the wider community, once the publication has joined the literature. Therefore, it was very gratifying to spot an article (published back in 2007) which appears to vindicate this approach from the point of view of highly cited authors. The article Rejecting highly cited papers: The views of scientists who encounter resistance to their discoveries from other scientists” by Campanario and Acedo found the following (from the abstract):
We studied the views of scientists who experience resistance to their new ideas by surveying a sample of 815 scientists who are authors of highly cited articles. The 132 responses (16.2%) received indicated that only 47 scientists (35.6%) had no problems with referees, editors, or other scientists. The most common causes of difficulty were rejection of the manuscript, and scepticism, ignorance, and incomprehension. The most common arguments given by referees against papers were that the findings were an insufficient advance to warrant publication, lacked practical impact, were based on a wrong hypothesis, or were based on a wrong concept. The strategies authors used to overcome resistance included obtaining help from someone to publish problematic papers, making changes in the text, and simple persistence. Despite difficulties, however, some respondents acknowledged the positive effect of peer review.
In our opinion, it is unacceptable that good scientific work is rejected simply because it lacks ‘insufficient advance’ or ‘practical impact’. We believe that all good science should be presented to the world as quickly as possible, and the wider scientific community should then be the ones who decide whether an article was important or not. This has been one of the major motivations behind our development of ‘article-level metrics’ (which provides transparent data on each article, for readers to make use of when forming their own opinion on the paper) and we hope to have some exciting announcements on this front in the next few weeks.
If you are a highly cited author (or aspire to become one) then we welcome your submissions!