The story behind PLoS Medicine’s revised scope.

Last month we published an editorial outlining PLoS Medicine’s revised scope. The backstory to this began in September 2008, when the editorial team took time out to reflect on the first five years of PLoS Medicine, and considered what direction the journal should take in the future. The editors felt very strongly that there was a need to reconnect with the basic principles that underpinned PLoS Medicine from the outset, when, as we stated on our masthead “With the ultimate aim of improving human health, we encourage research and comment that address the global burden of disease”.

One question I was often asked when we started PLoS Medicine was “Why do we need another medical journal?” I replied then that the world didn’t need a new medical journal, but it did need an open-access medical journal. Over the past five years we have received an enormously diverse array of submissions from pretty much every branch and speciality of medicine – from the rarest diseases to the most common – and have published across a similarly wide spectrum

Such a broad remit was appropriate when there were few alternative open-access journals available to authors. Now, however, there several open-access alternatives, especially for papers that report findings closer to the basic sciences. Hence, we now feel we have the freedom to focus PLoS Medicine more closely on papers addressing the diseases and risk factors that cause the highest global burden – papers which we feel must be available open access.

And, we wanted to re-emphasise our interest in factors other than the simply biological that contribute to ill-health. This past year has seen many examples of how a turbulent climate, politics and economies in crisis and social pressures can affect health. We believe that all of these factors have a legitimate place in a medical journal. Just a few examples illustrate some of these issues: as well as those highlighted in our editorial, see the papers on tobacco control, a public health and human rights tool called the Dirty War Index, how the media portray suicide, and the association of paternal age on children’s cognitive abilities.

We’ll come back to more of these ideas in later posts but welcome feedback in the meantime.

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