Research Matters

Research Matters is a new article series in which active scientists speak directly about why basic research in their field matters. It bridges the gap between academic research and the public by explaining how diverse fundamental research assures real and compelling impact on public health, human knowledge and life.

The editorial and first articles in this series are from PLOS Pathogens Editors-in-Chief Kasturi Haldar and Grant McFadden, scientists whose basic research led them in unexpected directions. They provide vignettes of their respective careers, which they hope will encourage their colleagues to speak out in similar ways.

Grant McFadden with his grandson

Grant McFadden with his grandson

In The Curious Road from Basic Pathogen Research to Clinical Translation, Grant McFadden comments, the “take-home message is that the results of true fundamental research still remain virtually impossible to predict, despite what pundits or politicians might have you believe. . . To me, the single most important justification for fundamental research in biology remains this: Mother Nature is mysterious and magnificent but some of her secrets can still be revealed if we only allow curious minds to ask the right questions.”

Kasturi Haldar

Kasturi Haldar

In From Cell and Organismal Biology to Drugs, Kasturi Haldar argues that “investment in a broad range of basic research (because it is important to query scientific problems in many ways) enables collective preparedness for new translational challenges that defy political agendas and fearmongering for partisan gain”. She warns that “failure to do this will jeopardize future employment, training, and education at the university, college, and high school levels.”

Both urge that, with the growing din of anti-science sentiments, those who have been lucky enough to pursue fundamental research as a career now more than ever need to speak up. If the next generation of scientists is to lead the way to the transformative discoveries of the future, we all need to articulate more clearly to nonscientists why, in our modern world, basic research matters more than ever.

Follow the series as it evolves.

Image credit: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Flickr

Image credit: University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Flickr

Category: PLoS Pathogens, Publishing, Science communication | Tagged , | Leave a comment

PLOS Appoints Veronique Kiermer as Executive Editor for PLOS Journals

PLOS announced today that after an extensive search, Dr. Veronique Kiermer has been appointed Executive Editor. Kiermer will be responsible for the editorial and content direction and vision for PLOS’ journals. Her appointment is effective July 20, 2015.

“The depth and breadth of Veronique’s global publishing experience will be a critically valued asset to our editorial and executive team,” said Elizabeth Marincola, Chief Executive Officer of PLOS. “PLOS is entering a new phase of innovation and we are grateful to have a leader of Veronique’s caliber join our organization at this exciting juncture in our history.”

“I am delighted to be joining PLOS. I have long admired PLOS for its leadership in transforming research communication,” said Kiermer. “The editorial group is well respected in the industry and I look forward to the opportunity to make a central contribution to PLOS’ continued transformation of scientific communication.”

Prior to joining PLOS, Kiermer was Director of Author and Reviewer Services for Nature Publishing Group (NPG), where she oversaw the Nature journals research integrity and editorial policies. She also focused on the author and reviewer experience across the publishing portfolio of NPG. She was the founding Chief Editor of Nature Methods and subsequently took on publishing responsibility for the title and other online products. In 2010, she became Executive Editor, NPG, overseeing editorial policies and editorial quality assurance for Nature and the Nature journals.

Kiermer obtained her PhD in molecular biology from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, and performed her postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco. She will be based at PLOS’ San Francisco office.

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Full Summer Schedule of PLOS /r/science AMAs Announced

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PLOS Science Wednesday is a weekly science communication series featuring live, direct chats with PLOS authors on redditscience (/r/science), the popular online gathering place for researchers, students and others interested in science which has over 8 million registered members. The series provides a forum for PLOS authors to communicate their work and interact directly with fellow researchers and the public. As of June 10, this PLOS /r/science AMA series had received over 450,000 views and 1700 questions/comments.

Upcoming PLOS /r/science AMAs:

June 24  ANTIBIOTICS; Miriam Barlow and Juan C. Meza (UC Merced Life Sciences); Reversing Antibiotic Resistance. Read the PLOS One article.

July 1  NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES; Sarah Anne Guagliardo (Emory University) and Amy Morrison (UC Davis); Riverboats, Mosquitoes and the Spread of Dengue in the Peruvian Amazon. Read the PLOS NTDs article.

July 8  LABOR AND DELIVERY; Yujing Jan Heng (Mt. Sinai Hospital, Toronto CA); Threatened Preterm Labor and Spontaneous Preterm Birth: Gene Expression Profile. Read the PLOS ONE article.

July 22  SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY; Todd T. Eckdahl (Missouri Western State University); ‘Programmed Evolution’ – the Use of Microbes for Metabolic Engineering. Read the PLOS One article.

July 29 GLOBAL HEALTH; Sten H. Vermund and A. B.S. Tankwanchi; The Physician “Brain Drain” from Sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. Read the PLOS ONE article.

August 5  ECOLOGY; Laura Jurgens (UC Davis) Patterns of Mass Mortality among Invertebrates on NE Pacific Coastline. Read the PLOS ONE article.

August 12  CLIMATE CHANGE; James Hansen (Columbia University); Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”; Dr Hansen will discuss climate change research conducted since his influential 2013 PLOS ONE article, and current developments in climate science and policy.

August 19  CLIMATE CHANGE; Camilo Mora (University of Hawaii); Climate Change Shortens Growing Seasons; Potential Human and Biotic Vulnerability. Read the PLOS Biology article.

August 26  ANIMAL COGNITION; Corina Logan (University of Cambridge, UK) Modifying Aesop’s Fable Paradigm Change Crow Performances. Read the PLOS ONE article.

Sept 2 NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES; Caitlin Dunn (Carter Center, Emory University) and Kelly Callahan (Carter Center); Model Community-Directed Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) Interventions – Read the PLOS NTDs article, on one of the most successful and cost-effective public health programs ever launched.

Sept 9  GENETICS; Stuart K. Kim (Stanford University); Whole-Genome Sequencing of the World’s Oldest People. Read the PLOS ONE article.

Archived AMAs:

  • Rationale and Prospects for a Global R&D Fund to fight Ebola, Antibiotic Resistance & Neglected Diseases  Manica Balasegaram (Médecins Sans Frontières Access Campaign) and Bernard Pécoul (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative) 6/17/15 AMA archive; PLOS Medicine article.
  •  Color As a Signal for Entraining the Mammalian Circadian Clock – Tim Brown (Univ of Manchester) 6/10/15 AMA archivePLOS Biology article..
  • Assessing Measles Transmission in the United States Following a Large Outbreak in California – Seth Blumberg (physician/scientist at UCSF) and Jennifer Zipprich (CA state epidemiologist) 6/3/15 AMA archive; PLOS Currents Outbreaks article
  • Why Publishing Everything Is More Effective than Selective Publishing of Statistically Significant Results – Jelte M. Wicherts – 5/27/15 AMA archive; PLOS ONE article
  • The Extent and Consequences of P-Hacking in Science – Megan Head – 5/20/15 AMA archive PLOS Biology article
  • Creating Computational Brain Models for Artificial Intelligence – Jeff Clune, Kai Olav Ellefsen, Jean-Baptiste Mouret – 5/13/15 AMA archive; PLOS Computational Biology article; video summary
  • Aquilops, the Smallest, Oldest Horned Dinosaur – Andrew Farke – 5/6/15 AMA archive; PLOS ONE article; author’s introductory PLOS Blogs post and the team story behind this paper
  • Open Labware: 3-D Printing Your Own Lab Equipment – Tom Baden and Andre Maia Chagas – 4/29/15 AMA archive; PLOS Biology article
  • Open Data Exchange Between Cancer Researchers – Andrew Beck – 4/22/15 AMA archive; PLOS Medicine article

Previous PLOS Science Wednesday /r/science Updates:

June 5, 2015 — We’re pleased with the robust response we’ve received for this pilot PLOS science communication vehicle on redditscience. This community embrace of our authors engaging with their peers in a new venue adds evidence to the view that the scientific conversation has indeed expanded to social media; underscoring the importance for publishers and authors alike to go wherever and everywhere researchers are talking about important new research.

Participating PLOS authors have uniformly offered feedback on the high caliber of questions and comments posed during their AMAs. They also say they’ve had a great deal of fun doing them, while expressing some amazement at the sheer numbers involved in the conversations.

Upon hearing of the 74,000 page views for his May 13 AMA, computer scientist (PLOS Computational Biology author) Jeff Clune sent this message: “Wow… Normally when I give a talk it is to 20-80 people…at a conference perhaps a few hundred. The internet certainly changes the scale of things!”

More good news comes with efforts by the broader PLOS author community to pitch in. Given the impossibility of one author or team answering the 200+ questions typically posed by /r/science members in any given AMA, it’s extremely helpful when other researchers in the same field help out by answering one or more questions during the course of the AMA. Here, for example, is PLOS Computational Biology author Marcel Salathe tweeting his response to an AMA question, one of 432 posed, on the June 3 PLOS Currents AMA dealing with measles and vaccines.

PLOS sees these author AMAs as enhancements to the journal articles on which they are based. They also function as in-depth archived community discussions on important and timely science topics, which are available in perpetuity on the redditscience subthread for all to read and re-purpose. On PLOS journal sites, each PLOS Science Wednesday AMA transcript is linked to the “Related Content” tabs at the top of their respective PLOS articles. We encourage other health and science communicators to take and reuse this content in whatever ways may assist your purposes.

More details…

Questions may be posted ahead of and during the AMA and the authors answer on Wed 1–2pm ET. Archives are available for later reading, re-mixing or reuse. Please use the hashtag #PLOSredditAMA when discussing this series on Twitter. You can also download and use the reddit AMA app.

Future AMAs will be posted to this page and announced on Twitter. Featured authors are selected by PLOS editors; PLOS authors or Academic Editors may nominate a PLOS article for this series by emailing plosreddit@plos.org with the article URL, author(s) and a lay summary (50-100 words) of the research.

You may also be interested in…

About:

Reddit logoreddit is one of the web’s oldest and largest open source communities, where registered members post links, comment and rate posted items in a wide variety of subject areas. As of March 2015, reddit received more than 6.6 billion page views and 151 million unique visitors. /r/science is a lively 8 million member “subreddit” within reddit. Each subreddit is independent and moderated by a team of volunteers.

2etoq0zjwxicokm1woge_biggerAs a nonprofit, Open Access publisher with a mission to lead a transformation in scientific communication, PLOS continuously seeks innovative ways to disseminate research and advance science. Initiatives such as PLOS Science Wednesday on redditscience reflect our commitment to expand the impact of research beyond publication, and enable broader community inclusion for commenting and review.

We encourage you to leave your thoughts on PLOS Science Wednesday AMAs and related issues in the comments below.

 

Category: Publishing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Recent Changes to the PLOS Journal Web Sites

PLOS has recently updated the navigation and layout of our guidelines and policy pages across all seven of our journal web sites. These changes were made to enhance user experience and make sure our content is as helpful as possible for our users.

Here is an example of the expanded menu structure showing a mockup from PLOS ONE with placeholder text:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an example of the updated page layout with a new side navigation menu and callout boxes showing a mockup from PLOS ONE with placeholder text:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are already familiar with the sites, you may notice that some pages appear in different places, so please take a look around and get in touch with us if you have any feedback or need any assistance.
Thank you for your support of PLOS and Open Access.

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Next Generation Science Communicators

Experience in presenting research findings and participating in the scientific dialogue are important aspects to the professional development of researchers early in their careers. Advancing scientific discovery relies on scientists at all career levels to clearly communicate their results, their rationale for working on a project and more.

To recognize their efforts and support their growth as science communicators, PLOS is offering up to ten travel awards to early career researchers to communicate their work at an upcoming conference. To be eligible researchers must have published with PLOS, be presenting work at a scientific conference, and currently be part of a graduate program or have received a graduate degree within the last five years.

If you are an early career researcher, we invite you to share your thoughts on what is the biggest hindrance for communicating science and what you or your peers can do to address this issue. Apply for a chance to win $500 to offset travel expenses associated with presenting work at a scientific conference taking place between August – December 2015.

The deadline for submission is June 30, 2015. For more information, visit the PLOS Early Career Travel Award Program Page or email us at travelawards@plos.org.

Category: In the News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ask our authors anything: new PLOS ‘AMA’ series debuts on redditscience

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PLOS, in conjunction with reddit, is pleased to announce the April 22 launch of ‘PLOS Science Wednesday’ a weekly Ask Me Anything (AMA) series featuring PLOS authors in live chats on redditscience (/r/science), the popular online gathering place for researchers, students and others interested in science.

For each PLOS Science Wednesday an expected audience of 10,000 (usually many more) /r/science members have the opportunity to chat directly with the featured PLOS author (or team), while anyone with an Internet connection is free to read along. Authors are available on an AMA for a full hour (1 to 2 pm ET) to answer posted questions and explain the science behind a research article or editorial recently published by a PLOS journal. Transcripts of these completed AMAs are then available to anyone for later reading, re-mixing, or reuse from the /r/science AMA archive.

PLOS created PLOS Science Wednesday to showcase new research while providing our authors a place to communicate their science and interact directly with fellow researchers and readers. Here’s a schedule of who’s up first on PLOS Science Wednesday AMAs, along with their topics and the PLOS journal article/editorial they’ll be talking about.

April 22: Andrew Beck — Open Data exchange between cancer researchers; PLOS Medicine, Open Access to Large Scale Datasets is Needed to Translate Knowledge of Cancer Heterogenity into Better Patient Outcomes – Click here, to read completed AMA transcript.

April 29: Tom Baden and Andre Maia Chagas — 3-D Printing your own lab equipment; PLOS Biology, Open Labware: 3-D Printing Your Own Lab Equipment — Click here to read completed AMA transcript.

May 6:  Andrew Farke Aquilops, the smallest, oldest horned dinosaur; PLOS ONE, A Ceratopsian Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of Western North America, and the Bigeography of Neoceratopsia; author’s blog posts introducing Aquilops and the team story behind this paper. Click here to read the completed AMA transcript.

May 13: Jeff Clune, Kai Olav Ellefsen, Jean-Baptiste Mouret — Creating computational brain models for artificial intelligencePLOS Computational Biology, Neural Modularity Helps Organisms Evolve to Learn New Skills without Forgetting Old Skills. Here is a video summary of this work by the authors. Click here to read the completed AMA PLOS Currents Outbreakstranscript.

May 20: Megan Head, “The Extent and Consequences of P-Hacking in Science PLOS Biology. Click here to read the completed AMA transcript.

May 27: Jelte M Wicherts; Why Publishing Everything Is More Effective than Selective Publishing of Statistically Significant Results.” PLOS ONE. Click here to read the completed AMA transcript.

Next up! June 3: Seth Blumberg, research scientist/physician UCSF & Jennifer Zipprich, epidemiologist with the Immunization Branch at the California Department of Public Health. Assessing Measles Transmission in the United States Following a Large Outbreak in California, PLOS Currents Outbreaks

(Other PLOS Science Wednesday redditscience AMA dates & authors will be announced shortly. Check The Official PLOS Blog and watch for #PLOSredditAMA Twitter notices)

Important details:

  • Anyone discussing a PLOS Science Wednesday AMA on Twitter is asked to use the hashtag #PLOSredditAMA with the author’s Twitter handle(s).
  • reddit has a downloadable AMA app (for asking questions and leaving comments during the AMA) available here.
  • PLOS editors select authors and papers for this series; authors (or Academic Editors) who wish to nominate an author/paper for a PLOS Science Wednesday AMA should send an email to plosreddit@plos.org with author’s name, article title, the PLOS journal the article appeared in and a lay summary (50-100 words) describing what the research is about.

Who’s Who:

Reddit logoreddit is one of the web’s oldest and largest open source communities, where registered members post links, comment and rate posted items in a wide variety of subject areas. As of March 2015, reddit received more than 6.6 billion page views and 151 million unique visitors. /r/science is a lively 8 million member “subreddit” within reddit. Each subreddit is independent and moderated by a team of volunteers.

2etoq0zjwxicokm1woge_bigger As a nonprofit, Open Access publisher with a mission to lead a transformation in scientific communication, PLOS continuously seeks innovative ways to disseminate research and advance science. Initiatives such as PLOS Science Wednesday on redditscience reflect our commitment to expand the impact of research beyond publication, and enable broader community inclusion for commenting and review.

We encourage you to leave your thoughts on PLOS Science Wednesday AMAs and related issues in the comments section, below.

You may also be interested in…

  • Join the PLOS email list — get monthly updates with news of general interest to researchers and other PLOS readers.
  • About the PLOS journals — find out which journal is the right fit for your research.
  • ‘All good science deserves to be published’   how to submit to PLOS ONE.

 

Category: Science communication | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

How Articles Get Noticed and Advance the Scientific Conversation

By Victoria Costello, PLOS Senior Social Media & Community Editor

The good news is you’ve published your manuscript! The bad news? With two million other new research articles likely to be published this year, you face steep competition for readers, downloads, citations and media attention — even if only 10% of those two million papers are in your discipline.

So, how can you get your paper noticed and advance the scientific conversation? 

One word: Tweet.

tweet-imagesA Tweet (n.) is an online communication of no more than 140 characters (often containing links), transmitted on the public “social network” known as Twitter. When you Tweet (v.), you enter a conversation of Twitter users.
 

In a PLOS BLOGS guest post, Gozde Ozakinci (@gozde786), a lecturer in health psychology at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, offered an exemplary use of Twitter in a research workflow.

I dip in and out during the day and each time I have a nugget of information that I find useful. I feel that with Twitter, my academic world expanded to include many colleagues I wouldn’t otherwise meet. … The information shared on Twitter is so much more current than you would find on journals or conferences.

Of course, Ozakinci and her Twitter-savvy colleagues are still the minority among academic researchers.

An odd coupling, with baggage

To most scientists, for whom an initial meeting with Twitter is the opposite of love at first sight, this conversation may as well be happening on another planet. At first glance, they find Twitter facile, a time suck, beneath them — and go no farther. Missing from this dismissive view is an understanding of Twitter as a neutral medium for communication (280 mil monthly users) that is quickly gaining currency among a leading edge of researchers who are exchanging science news and information, data files, feedback on articles, methods, tools, jobs, grants and more — across continents and disciplines.

If you are among the uninitiated, and have a research article coming out soon, how might you join them? A priori, if your goals are to exploit this medium for your own ends and advance the larger scientific conversation, some conventional wisdom must be jettisoned.

The first thing to let go of is the quaint idea that your science should speak for itself. Second is the fear, still rife among scientists, that the act of communicating research beyond institutional walls puts your reputation at risk for the “Sagan Effect;” or, in more current pop culture terms, that you’ll become the science equivalent of Kim Kardashian. A recent Google+ Hangout from SciFund Challenge, titled Using Social Media without Blowing up Your Scientific Career, offers testimonials from some real life scientists to challenge this outdated view.

By joining the scientific conversation on social media you’re not exactly breaking new ground. A 2015 PEW poll of AAAS members (scientists and others) found that 47% had used social media  to follow or discuss science. Going deeper, in an August 2014 Nature survey, some 60% of 2500 research scientists polled regularly visit Google Scholar (~60%) and ResearchGate (~40%); and, to a lesser extent, Google+, Academia.edu and Linked-in to post CVs and papers — essentially engaging in a one-way form of scholarly communication; talking, not necessarily listening.

Farther ahead on the social media curve is a 13% subset of the Nature group who are involved a two-way conversation with their scientific peers. These scientists describe their use of Twitter, in particular, as a platform to comment on and discuss research that is relevant to their field. Another term for this practice is “micro-blogging.”

If the end game is impact, the way there is engagement

Engagement between authors and readers of research articles comes in many forms,  characterized by rising levels of interaction. A potential range is illustrated in this figure from a PLOS ONE study looking at reader responses to 16 articles in the pain sciences disseminated using social media. As the authors point out, the collection of metrics for more complex levels of reader engagement (impact) is still in a nascent stage. For example, a measurement of the number of readers who apply a newly published research finding to clinical practice is currently not available, although it seems likely that a self-interested tech sector will meet this challenge, and meet it soon.

A 2013 study in PLOS ONE tracked the impact of social media on the dissemination of research articles, with 6 levels of  engagement identified between readers and the published research.

A 2013 study in PLOS ONE tracked the impact of social media on the dissemination of research articles, with 6 levels of engagement identified between readers and the published research.

What about my paper?

As a researcher looking for readers, your imperative is more basic. With many more of your peers going to social media to push out their latest work, the status quo of one-way science communication will no longer suffice. Even if all you’re after is readers for your article, it behooves you to use these newly available tools to stand out in a crowded field.

This is where micro-blogging, and Twitter, in particular, come in. Here are five tips to help you join the growing number of scientists and students who are leading their peers to the likely future of scientific communication.

11_Twitter tips_image

Tip 1. Get on Twitter and describe yourself in five words or less

To get started on Twitter you must choose a “handle” (user name) which sums you up — in 160 characters or less. This can actually be a very useful exercise. What makes your research contribution different from everyone else’s?

  • To create a pithy Twitter profile and find your peers, follow the model of cancer bioinformatics researcher, B.F. Francis Ouellette (@bffo), by coming up with three to five words to describe your work. Use key words; include methods, disciplines and related fields, institutions, journals, diseases or occupations that relate to your science.

profile

  • Add a photo of yourself or an avatar but save the pic of you kissing your pit bull, like your passion for artisan beers, for your Facebook or Instagram page. (Most scientists wisely keep their personal and professional social media accounts separate).

A PLOS Biology perspective provides an overview of what social media can do for scientists, with a comprehensive primer on how best to get started, including on Twitter.

Tip 2. Tweet the way you talk, not the way you lecture or write your science

If, like most scientists, you’re a collaborator at heart, use Twitter as a place to share your knowledge; mentor and be mentored; discuss and debate the merits of research. Make your Twitter “voice” reflect your real personality. Keep it casual.

back of the napkin

What should you tweet?

  • Recommend links to online content of interest. Say why you’ve singled out that research article or blog post for a mention.
  • Ask questions and flag concerns.
  • Offer deserved compliments and congratulations to your fellow researchers.

A word on word choices

To connect and thrive on Twitter, you must give up the jargon.

  • This tip also applies to the titles of your papers. Turn obtuse technical lingo into plain language, make it catchy, and many more of your peers will click through to read the paper – even those who would have perfectly understood the original title! Here, an author distilled the (not terrible, but terribly long) article title “The Shear Stress of Host Cell Invasion: Exploring the Role of Biomolecular Complexes,” into the tweet below. Got your attention faster, right?

tweet title

  • If your article contains a striking image or figure by all means tweet it too – and not just the cute animals. Even a virus can be a beautiful, especially to your fellow scientists. And, hot off the press, Twitter now allows posting of video clips.

Remember, your immediate goal is to acquire attention for a newly published article. Longer term, you’re after relevance in the ongoing scientific conversation. To track how well you’re doing at both, check out Article Level Metrics (ALMs), which measure impact in terms of views, downloads, comments, citations and media coverage for each of your articles.

Tip 3. Optimize your Twitter time with advanced tools

After finding and interacting with an initial group of your peers by following them, being followed back, tweeting and retweeting items of interest, you’re ready to try some more advanced community and conversation-building tools, including Twitter “lists” and “tweet chats.”

  • A Twitter list is an option on your profile settings which allows you to group together colleagues in one easily accessed virtual file. Then you can *Tweet to individuals on this list or turn the name you’ve given it into a “hashtag” such as #PLOSNeuro. For efficiency, track conversations among users of this hashtag using a multiple-Twitter stream monitoring app such as Tweetdeck.
  • Cross promote on your blog. If you maintain an individual blog, display your Twitter stream on its home page to facilitate comments and discussion in both places. (WordPress has a widget for this purpose).
  • A Tweet chat or Tweet up is a live, regularly-scheduled Twitter conversation typically used to discuss a single topic or paper. For a good model, visit #PubHT, a biweekly Twitter discussion group on public health issues, described in detail in group member Atif Kukaswadia’s (@Mr_Epid) blog post.

The more ambitious social media-minded researcher can try online curation tools – among them Storify.com and ImpactStory.com — to assemble tweets, which they can then post in blogs as topical science stories, conference reports or on altmetrics-based CVs.

Tip 4. Go where the scientific conversation goes 

Most authors would probably prefer that readers of research articles say whatever they have to say about their work in the comments section immediately below the article on the publisher’s website. And yet, as discussed above, this train has already left the station; like it or not, the conversation has moved.

In the view of Jonathan Eisen (@phyogenomics), a prolific blogger and tweeter and a long-time PLOS Biology Editorial Board member, formal comments sections will continue to lose any participation they once had.

“I guarantee there are more comments on Twitter about a PLOS paper,” he said.

To become a part of this fast-growing culture of decentralized assessment of scientific research, try using Twitter to share your (abbreviated ) feedback on new articles. Then add a link to the published article — which may or may not contain a longer version of your comment.

pmri conversation

Hopefully, Professor Eisen’s prediction isn’t yet a done deal and publishers, including PLOS, will fully rise to the challenge of making continuous assessment of the research a “no brainer” both on and off journal sites.

For its part, PLOS is facilitating scientist-to-scientist communication in discipline-specific communities. These dedicated PLOS pages are run by Community Editors external to PLOS, who are supported by staff and academic editors from the PLOS journals. Community editors crowdsource researcher feedback on previously published articles contained in PLOS Collections, and new research published by PLOS and other non-PLOS journals. This program began in 2014 with PLOS Neuroscience and PLOS Synthetic Biology, with others to be added in 2015. Critiques (comments) on research articles are posted in a community blog featuring original and syndicated posts, with blog posts amplified by real-time micro-blogging from Twitter lists posted on these same pages.

Meanwhile, the Twitter part of this larger scientific conversation is here to stay, no matter where it “lives.” For a model of how Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in and WordPress blogging can be integrated into an academic science work flow, particularly that of early career researchers and students, read this blog post from Stewart Barker, a 1st year PhD student in microbiology at The University of Sheffield.

Tip 5. Use Twitter to crowdsource your science as an information provider and recipient

We start from the premise that the scientific community can reliably be counted on to “root out the rubbish.” Rubbish in this context usually refers to bad science, or misleading interpretations of good research.

crowd source
In a similar vein, science-based Twitter networks are proving to be rich and reliable sources for rapidly offering and receiving highly specialized information – with questions and answers flowing from scientist to scientist and between scientists and science journalists. For an example of the latter,  journalist Seth Mnookin (@SethMnookin) describes crowdsourcing a complex genetics question while on a tight deadline, with help arriving just in time from UCLA geneticist Leonid Kruglayak (@leonidkruglayak).

SciComm ripple effects

The ongoing adoption of Twitter is having a measurable effect on individual scientists in terms of increased productivity and readership, even if the jury is still out on a correlation between Tweets and citations.

Beyond the individual benefits for scientists who incorporate Twitter into their research life cycles, altmetrics researcher (and coiner of the term) Jason Priem, writing in 2011, saw scientists interacting on Twitter as a “revolutionary form of scholarly communication,” one which could “transform centuries-old publishing practices into a much more efficient and organic vast registry of intellectual transactions.” 

“Registry” is an interesting choice of words in that it suggests a permanent record. Seemingly transient, the 140 characters you tweet today remain accessible far longer than you might think (Twitter has recognized the value customers place on the ability to recreate their tweeting histories and have made it possible to go back a full seven years – the entire lifetime of Twitter – to find up to 3200 tweets per user). There’s even talk of giving tweets their own Digital Object Identifiers or DOIs. Meanwhile, the Modern Language Association (MLA) provides a standard format for citing a single tweet in an academic manuscript.

Embrace the wider effects. Once you find your voice and engage with fellow scientists via online social networks, you will draw the attention of science journalists with direct access to an international online audience of readers you cannot reach on your own. Fortunately, your needs and theirs are symbiotic: science writers need research news and you can supply it. How likely they are to select your article, and how accurately they interpret the essence and significance of your findings, depend on how widely and clearly you communicate your science — after your research article is published.  This is where your institution’s Public Information Office (PIO) can play a pivotal role, especially if you stay involved by checking the press release for clarity and accuracy and by exploiting your own network for outreach.

In the view of many in the broad scientific community, your job doesn’t end there.

 In light of the recent PEW poll revealing large gaps between scientists’ and public views on critical scientific issues, many scientists are re-evaluating their individual responsibility to communicate directly with the general public. If, as UK Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport recently told a meeting of climate scientists, “Science isn’t finished until it’s communicated,” it follows that scientists’ use of large public social media platforms such as Twitter to explain their science will be increasingly considered a vital part of a researcher’s work flow.

How might the wider adoption of social media impact the entire scientific enterprise? Join the conversation and you’ll be among the first to find out.

A PLOS invitation: no time like the present

If you have an article coming out any time soon, this just may be a Goldilocks moment for you and your research team to take the plunge into Twitter.

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To celebrate our recently passed milestone of reaching 70,000 Twitter followers (200K if we include all PLOS journals), PLOS has an invitation for you. If you’ll take a moment now to create your own Twitter account, then follow us @PLOS, we will strive to be among the first to follow you back.

And, while you’re choosing who else to follow, please consider the PLOS journals:

@PLOSONE

@PLOSMedicine

@PLOSBiology

@PLOSPathogens

@PLOSNTDs

@PLOSCompbiol

@PLOSGenetics

Thank you and we’ll see you on Twitter!

*Thanks to @sharmanedit for pointing out that it isn’t possible to “Tweet to a Twitter list” as this had read previously. Still useful as a Rolodex like file keeping system, I find.

 

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2014: By the Numbers

BLOG_Infographic_proof-16_02.18.2015PLOS enters its 12th year poised to deliver innovations that will make science publishing easier, faster and more satisfying. Thanks to everyone involved, we draw on a robust peer review community, high author satisfaction and global reach to be a leading Open Access publisher. At the core, though, it’s the articles that matter. In 2014 PLOS published more than 33,000.

In 2014, readers worldwide viewed approximately 11.6 million PLOS articles each month, published by authors from more than 200 countries with the assistance of nearly 7,000 academic editors and 90,000 reviewers.

Quality reporting by our authors in their research articles, deep dives into key topics by authors and editors in collections, thought-provoking perspectives by the community and discipline-specific channels for discussion bring readers to the approximately 135,000 articles published since 2003.

Click the image to view the full infographic.

 

 

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Researchers Changing the Way We Respond to Epidemics with Wikipedia and Twitter

“A global disease-forecasting system will change the way we respond to epidemics.”  Dr. Sara Del Valle, Los Alamos National Laboratory

The media and broad scientific community have taken note of a fast-growing segment of research known as digital epidemiology. Examples:

  • A system to forecast 28 days in advance where influenza will strike hardest based on localized Wikipedia searches
  • A basis for predicting which communities will see more cases of flu resulting from vaccination decisions as revealed by geographically-based Twitter sentiments.
map

Figure 1. Map generated by more than 250 million public tweets with high-resolution location information, March 2011 – January 2012. Inset shows greater Los Angeles area. Brightness of color corresponds to geographic density of tweets. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002616.g001

Described by PLOS Computational Biology Associate Editor Marcel Salathé as a “mix of exciting science, modern everyday technology and public health,” this interdisciplinary approach is developing just in time to meet increased demand for improved forecasting of infectious disease outbreaks before they reach epidemic or pandemic stages.

A significant driver for the quantitative and qualitative breakthroughs setting these papers apart from previous work in the field was the openness of the raw data underlying their findings and the source codes underlying their models, as well as the openness of the research processes and final publications.

PLOS journals and blogs actively cover this transformational research:

  • “Digital data sources, when harnessed appropriately, can provide local and timely information about disease and health dynamics in populations around the world,” write PLOS Computational Biology Editors in Editors Outlook: Digital Epidemiology, published 26 Jul 2012
  • “In the same way we check the weather each morning, individuals and public health officials can monitor disease incidence and plan for the future based on today’s forecast,” says Sara Del Valle, coauthor of the PLOS Computational Biology research article, Global Disease Monitoring and Forecasting with Wikipedia, published November 13, 2014

To receive email notices of new articles published by PLOS Computational Biology go here.

 

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Publishing Initiatives at PLOS: Improving the Author Experience

The last few months have brought exciting developments at PLOS, and we’ll be doing more in 2015 to make the publishing experience with PLOS even better. Today’s post will talk about just some of what is new now and due in the near term.  We will have much more coming as the year progresses.

We are implementing a number of exciting publishing-related changes aimed at improving the author and community experience. Specifically, these projects aim to reduce time to publication, reduce post-publication correction rates, and above all, provide our community greater access to scientific research – the reason PLOS exists.  Many of these projects will occur behind the scenes and will serve as the pillars of future initiatives, while others will be more visible to the community.

New PDF Design

One of these foundational projects began late last year, aimed at optimizing our production processes for speed and accuracy.  We have implemented a new, single column PDF design that will enable a more efficient composition process, while improving readability on the variety of devices used by the community.  This month, in order to streamline the editorial and production processes across all the journals, we added guidance and information to our author instructions. These new requirements set the foundation for more automated processes that will increase the speed with which PLOS makes published research available online.

New Composition Vendor

In addition we have been shifting workflows and vendors behind the scenes, including transitioning to a new composition vendor. These changes are focused on improving our quality assurance and typesetting processes, and increasing overall publishing efficiency across all seven of our journals.   Results that authors and readers will see in coming weeks and months include continuous publishing schedules for all journals (not just PLOS ONE), whereby papers are published as soon as they are ready; a new tool for authors that will actively assist them in preparing figures for submission; and the gradual introduction of an author proofing step for several journals later this year.

A Temporary Slow-Down for Long Term Gains 

These changes require that PLOS build out new and improved workflows and carefully develop new ways of handling the thousands of manuscripts received each month. In the short term, this will certainly affect our speed to publication and publication volumes. Readers and authors may notice this, but the end result will be gains in speed, efficiency, and quality that will be worth the delays during this transition.

While we work to achieve these ambitious goals, we appreciate the patience shown by our authors and our community.  We’re excited to carry on our mission to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication and thank our many supporters and contributors who make this work possible.

 


 

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