PLoS ONE published a paper today. This might not sound very unusual but today is Thursday and PLoS ONE papers are usually published on a Wednesday (or to be precise late Tuesday in time for Wednesday). This paper however is a special case.
The paper in question is this one:
Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Witmer LM, Whitlock JA, Maga A, et al (2007) Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1230. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001230
And shows a really nice fossil skull of a dinosaur that lived about 100 million years ago. The dinosaur had been known before but this new find shows the skull and particularly the teeth. It is the teeth that are particularly interesting; two straight rows making for a very wide flat mouth looking not unlike a pair of carpenters’ pincers. With these the creature likely cropped the ferns around it, head down like some ‘Mesozoic Cow’.
Strictly speaking the publication date on this paper is November the 21st but we are using what is known as Early Online Release (EOR, pronounced ‘eeyore’ like the depressive donkey in Winnie-the-Pooh) to set it live today, 10:30 Eastern Standard time.
Why have we done this?
Simple. At 10:30 EST the fossil skull is being unveiled as the centrepiece of an exhibition at National Geographic Gallery in Washington DC. There is also a lot of information about the find at the website of Project Exploration, the Chicago-based science education organization.
This is superb example of the power of Open Access publishing. This fossil will be seen by hundreds and thousands of people in Washington and at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, Oklahoma which will be the exhibition’s permanent home. Millions of people will read about the dinosaur in their newspapers throughout the World.
And because Paul Sereno and his colleagues chose to publish their work in a PLoS journal, every single one of those people will be able to read the detailed scientific description of their work first hand.