There has been a great deal of community discussion in the last few days about a referee report that was sent to an author at PLOS ONE a few weeks ago. The report contained objectionable language, and the authors were … Continue reading
There has been a great deal of community discussion in the last few days about a referee report that was sent to an author at PLOS ONE a few weeks ago. The report contained objectionable language, and the authors were … Continue reading
We’ve all monkeyed around trying to sort out the ownership of published content. In the scientific community, copyright and its (mis)application in publishing has authors, publishers, and readers grappling with questions of what is legally possible, what is desirable, and … Continue reading
The post The Rights Stuff: Copyright, Scientific Debate, and Reuse appeared first on EveryONE.
In last week’s Nature and Science, the outcome of a meeting convened by NIH, Nature, and Science to discuss the issue of lack of reproducibility in the basic science research literature was published. This meeting, which brought together representatives from … Continue reading
Today PLOS ONE launches the Responding to Climate Change Collection. At its centre is a paper published last December, “Assessing ‘Dangerous Climate Change’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature” by James Hansen and colleagues. The paper presented a disruptive call to action on climate change through cohesive, unified steps to reduce fossil fuel emissions to pre-industrial era levels.
The publication was accompanied by a call for papers for the PLOS ONE Collection, focussing on research that examines the practicalities of reducing fossil fuel emissions; returning the Earth to a state of energy balance; and climate and conservation management strategies that counter the impact of climate change and preserve natural habitats. Areas covered in the call for papers include atmospheric chemistry, alternative energy research, geoengineering, science policy, behavioural psychology, and ecosystem and habitat conservation.
“Minimizing human-made climate change requires insight across a broad science and policy spectrum, and ready access to knowledge as understanding is gained. As an Open Access journal, PLOS ONE provides a vehicle to achieve that,” says Hansen.
The launch of the collection coincides with the publication of the first submission to the call. “Climate Exposure of US National Parks in a New Era of Change” by William B. Monahan and Nicholas A. Fisichelli of the U.S. National Park Service describes a variety of recent extreme climates in some of the nation’s most visited parks. Evaluation of data for 289 natural resource parks administered by the National Park Service shows that parks are overwhelmingly at the extreme warm end of historical temperature distributions. The authors call for intensive climate science education, and inclusion of the general public, in order to help steward parks and park resources in the face of the changing climate: “As climate shifts further outside of the historical range of variability, resistance strategies will likely become less effective and extremely difficult management decisions – with input from the public and stakeholder groups – will be required.”
The Collection also includes 8 related papers that have been published in PLOS ONE since the call was issued. The papers cover such diverse topics as stratospheric aerosol geoengineering, energy potential of bioenergy cropping systems and the impact of climate awareness on dietary choices of young adults in Finland.
The “Responding to Climate Change” Collection remains open for new submissions. Few areas can benefit as much from the force of Open Access as climate change research: the combination of public, scientific, and governmental interest with the mounting misinformation, unsubstantiated opinions, and unsourced data make public access to original, well-reported, and peer-reviewed climate change research of utmost importance.
PLOS ONE’s wide scope and broad publication criteria make it a perfect venue to publish and collate relevant articles in these vastly differing areas of research into one place. Our hope is that by encouraging and facilitating further research, replication, and sharing of both positive and negative results, this Collection will become a catalyst for continued climate research and policy formation.
Image 1: (clockwise from top left) Matt Rudge, Flickr.com; Vik Walker, Flickr.com; Vera Kratochvil, PublicDomainPictures.net; NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Image 2: Luca Galuzzi CC BY-SA 2.5 – www.galuzzi.it
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PLOS ONE publishes its 100,000th article – a pretty major milestone for a journal that has seen its fair share of momentous events, and a perfect opportunity to reflect on this journey.
PLOS ONE began seven and a half years ago. On the day of its launch – as has become the legend in the PLOS offices – there was an earthquake in the Bay Area, heralding the tremors that would be felt through the science world as a result of the disruptive innovation underway. PLOS ONE was an aspirational idea for PLOS from the very beginning: our founders always intended to launch a multi-disciplinary, broad-acceptance journal that would shake off the vestiges of the print tradition – no limits to the scope of research, number of pages, or potential growth.
And grow it did. After two years PLOS ONE had published over 4,000 articles, by four years it was the largest journal in the world, and now seven years after launch has published 100,000 articles. The revolutionary model of PLOS ONE has been emulated the world over: virtually every publisher now has its own equivalent “megajournal.”
PLOS ONE is now a major force in the scientific literature. The top 2% PLOS ONE papers (by number of views) have been collectively viewed nearly 39 million times, cited on Scopus over 80,000 times, bookmarked by Mendeley readers over 150,000 times, tweeted over 59,000 times, cited 2,800 times on Wikipedia, and recommended over 300 times on F1000 Prime.
The enduring value of PLOS ONE to the scientific process lies in the solid union between the three following factors: speed to publication, high standards of science, and unrestricted scope of research.
Speed to publication:
Faster time to publication was the founding principle of PLOS ONE. It doesn’t just entail going from submission to publication more quickly (although that is also important). It means dramatically reducing the time from an author’s decision to publish their findings to the time those results appear in public. That time is often years in the old system of review, where subjective opinions of significance and scope lead to unnecessary rejections and resubmission to different journals. With PLOS ONE, where scientific rigor alone is assessed, this time window shortens to a few months.
PLOS ONE instituted rigorous standards from the start. As the volume exponentially increased and the quality of the submissions became more variable, these checks became more important and more rigorous. For every paper the journal staff (over 100 strong, including 14 editors) now check each of the following before a manuscript is sent for review:
The care that we take in reporting and oversight is rooted in PLOS’ commitment to this editorial responsibility.
Because of these checks, every PLOS ONE citation on a researcher’s CV shows that their work has reached high standards of reporting and oversight – something that matters a great deal to funders and institutions as the need for reproducibility becomes increasingly a part of their overall mission. This is an area where we feel journals can take a lead: high standards of reporting are the best way for the scientific community to regain the trust of the public and politicians in the wake of the recent spate of failures in replicating high-profile discoveries.
So many of the delays in sharing results are a result of journals putting unnecessary restrictions on the scope of the research they are willing to publish. Journals often withhold the release of negative findings because they are likely to be cited less, and will therefore lower their impact factor. Or they exclude papers purely due to the application of disciplinary boundaries. In this digital age, with no space restrictions on what can be published, such artificial limits only impede the flow of information. At PLOS ONE, we have thrown out these notions and will consider vital research across all subject areas (even seemingly strange and multi-disciplinary).
A heartfelt 100k thank you
The impact of PLOS ONE on scientific publishing has been tremendous and revolutionary. The world of scientific communication is a different place because of it, and that is something PLOS and its entire community of collaborators should be proud of.
The extraordinary PLOS ONE Editorial Board, reviewers and authors – who believed in the PLOS mission to accelerate research communication and gave their own time to review, edit and revise manuscripts – were critical to this transformation and share in this milestone. To each and every one of them PLOS ONE is eternally grateful.
The article PLOS ONE publishes today from James Hansen and colleagues, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature” is extraordinary in many ways. From its diverse list of authors to the breadth of the analysis and the conclusions that emerge, the paper goes beyond the scope of a traditional research article by dismantling boundaries between disciplines and adding a moral dimension to the collective dialogue. Most significant for scientists and non-scientists alike is the paper’s prediction that current carbon emissions targets will prove too high to prevent long-lasting, irreversible damage to the planet. As a result, the authors say, cohesive, unified action is required – now — to reduce fossil fuel emissions to pre-Industrial Era levels.
The former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies is joined on this paper by seventeen high-profile academics with expertise across the climate research spectrum, from atmospheric science, earth science, and environmental science, to economics, global change, and public health, with the paper’s analysis reflecting all these topics. The authors assess climate impacts of global warming using ongoing observations and paleoclimate data. By calculating atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) as a function of fossil fuel emissions and examining the potential for reducing atmospheric CO2 through reforestation efforts and attempts to increase carbon in the soil, the authors re-evaluate fossil fuel emission reduction scenarios and conclude that an appropriate target is to keep global temperature within or close to the temperature range estimated for the Holocene, the interglacial period in which civilization first developed.
By accompanying their scientific analysis with an explicit call for action by governments, scientists, and average citizens, Hansen et al. go a large distance toward connecting the dots of current scientific and political discourse on climate change. They demonstrate why reductions delayed are far less meaningful than reductions now, how damaging the warming will be without these reductions, and the challenges presented by carbon extraction.
For PLOS ONE, which has in the past primarily published biomedical research, this paper represents a broadening in scope. As often happens at our journal, it comes about in response to a need from the scientific community—in this case, the need to publish fully peer-reviewed climate research in a high-profile venue, fully accessible to the entire world for free.
Few areas can benefit as much from the force of Open Access as climate change research: the combination of public, scientific, and governmental interest with the mounting misinformation, unsubstantiated opinions, and unsourced data make public access to original, well-reported, and peer-reviewed climate change research of utmost importance. We hope that this paper will be the first of many that deal with this rapidly growing area of multidisciplinary research.
Call for Papers
To facilitate this objective, we are drawing on the findings of Hansen et al. to announce a call for papers in a new PLOS ONE Collection entitled, ‘Responding to Climate Change.’ The Collection will incorporate the broad range of areas covered in Hansen et al.’s paper, with a particular focus on work aimed at reducing fossil fuel emissions and returning the Earth and its ecosystems to a state of energy balance.
Areas in the call for papers include,
– atmospheric chemistry
– alternative energy research
– science policy
– behavioural psychology
– economics of carbon trading
– ecosystem and habitat conservation
PLOS ONE’s wide subject matter scope and broad publication criteria make it a perfect venue to collate and curate relevant articles in these vastly differing areas of research into one place. Our hope, which we share with the Hansen and colleagues, is that by encouraging and facilitating further research, replication, and sharing of both positive and negative results, this Collection will become a catalyst for continued climate research and policy formation, and will, as the authors suggest, lead to an energy-conservative, habitable, and thriving climate that can be sustained for many generations to come.
Citation: Hansen J, Kharecha P, Sato M, Masson-Delmotte V, Ackerman F, et al. (2013) Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLoS ONE 8(12): e81648. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081648
Image Credits (clockwise from upper left): Shundong Bi, Jin Meng, Sarah McLean, Wenyu Wu, Xijun Ni, Jie Ye. PLOS ONE. January 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052625; Tom Schils. PLOS ONE. October 2012. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046639; George Sangster, Ben F. King, Philippe Verbelen, Colin R. Trainor. PLOS ONE. February 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053712; Thomas Vignaud. PLOS Biology. April 2011. 9(4)
PLOS is at SpotOn London (#solo13) again this year, taking part in workshops and panels on science communication tools, policy, and outreach. On Friday November 8, I’ll be joined by three PLOS authors and two independent science journalists for a science outreach workshop titled Public Health Links, Lost in Translation. With our moderator, science journalist Suzi Gage (@soozaphone) of the Sifting the Evidence blog on The Guardian, we will address weak links in the science communication “food chain” that contribute to falling vaccination rates, mainly in the UK, Europe, and the US.
For this session, I will be speaking as Editorial Director of PLOS ONE, the world’s largest scientific journal. But the debate around vaccination began before PLOS existed and it has gone on longer than I’ve been involved in science communication. Coming as I do from a background of ‘peddling the evidence,’ it disturbs me when I see evidence ignored in favour of quackery. But I also bring a personal perspective to this issue. As with climate change, it frustrates me that my own actions are not enough to safeguard my children against a threat to their health and safety. Although no vaccine is perfect, every time my children play with others who are intentionally un-vaccinated their risk of contracting preventable contagious diseases increases.
So it seems to me that the aim of this workshop will be to use our combined perspectives – and those of the science community members present – to discuss how we strengthen the links between evidence-based science and the public on vaccines. We aren’t the first and certainly won’t be the last meeting of scientists and science writers to take on this issue, but that doesn’t let us off the hook and excuse us for not trying.
Good and Bad News
The news on vaccines in the UK is not all bad. By summer of 2013, ninety per cent of two-year-old children had received their first dose of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine – the highest level for 13 years according to the Health Protection Agency. This uptake in MMR vaccinations has been a public reaction to widely-reported measles outbreaks in Europe and the UK – suggesting an appropriate public response to highly visible evidence. However, present MMR uptake is still short of the 95% rate that would establish a sufficient level for herd immunity, which would stop the spread of the disease in the community.
The Legacy of MMR
All of us continue to pay the price for the broken public trust that came from the Andrew Wakefield-MMR debacle of the mid-90s. Strong distrust concerning vaccine safety exists not only in rich and middle income countries, but also on the front lines of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, as my colleagues at PLOS Medicine have covered in depth.
The link between this widespread distrust and falling vaccination rates are clearly established:
New vaccinations for diseases such as HPV, and new approaches to old ones, e.g. targeting different populations to avert new outbreaks of influenza or shingles, increase the challenges for public health practitioners and advocates.
A More Honest System
In many ways, I don’t blame the public for being mistrustful of scientific research – the scientific community and mainstream media make it very hard for people to know what to believe. As Editorial Director of a large journal, I see the entire spectrum of misinterpretation of data. I see original datasets being over-interpreted by authors, in order to get published in top journals. I see journalists taking these papers and adding yet another layer of spin in order to sell them to the public. I see newspaper editors pushing the most shocking articles to the front pages to ensure maximum impact. It’s little wonder that the public are mistrustful.
At PLOS ONE, we are trying to deal with these challenges by encouraging honest reporting of data. By removing the question of ‘novelty’ and ‘impact’ from our review process, we aim to get authors to state simply what they’ve discovered without feeling they have to dress it up in layers of over-interpretation. That drug you’ve discovered kills some cells in a petri dish. Great! Is it a cure for cancer? No. So don’t say it is – we’ll still publish your paper!
We are also very careful about what we release to the press, and how the message is put out. Clearly we can’t stop journalists misinterpreting our papers, but we can at least give the science we publish a decent chance of being reported correctly.
Finally, we track press and blog coverage and add it to the comments of the papers. Combined with our Article-level Metrics, which display a whole array of reactions to the paper and usage statistics, readers can see whether high activity on a paper is a result of heavy media attention, or whether it’s from interest from other researchers.
Certainly the papers most covered in the press are among those that receive the most views, so if we are to affect public attitudes on vaccines or any other highly-charged public health or science issue, we are as dependent on the excellent work of our authors as we are on our colleagues in new and old media. Panelists at this Friday’s SpotOn London 13 workshop represent this wide spectrum. With each bio below, I’ve included some of the research or science writing that will inform our discussion.
Marc Baguelin PhD (@marcbaguelin) is a mathematical modeler working in the Immunisation department at the Health Protection Agency and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on models of influenza transmission, immunization, and control. Marc’s research has been published in the journals Vaccine, Biostatistics, and Emerging Infectious Disease. His latest study, Assessing Optimal Target Populations for Influenza Vaccination Programmes: An Evidence Synthesis and Modelling Study, published in PLOS Medicine, resulted in a change of UK health policy with an extension of the influenza vaccination programme to 2-16 year old children.
Tammy Boyce, PhD (@tamboyce) holds an honorary lecturing post with the Centre for Infection Prevention and Management, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London, and was a Research Fellow in Health, Risk, Science and Communication at the Cardiff School of Journalism. Tammy’s research has been published in Nature Reviews Immunology, and the British Journal of Healthcare Management. She was one of the first to examine public reception of media coverage and the impact the style of reporting has on public opinion and vaccination decisions. From this research, Tammy published the book Health, Risk and News: The MMR Vaccine and the Media (with Peter Lang, 2007). Her latest research article in PLOS ONE examines the role of the school nurse in addressing inequities in HPV vaccine uptake in the UK.
Stephan Lewandowsky PhD (@STWorg) is a cognitive scientist in the School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, UK. His research, published in Nature Climate Change, Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology, examines peoples’ memory and decision making with particular emphasis on how people respond to corrections of misinformation. His latest PLOS ONE research article, The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science,. studies how conspiracist thinking affects public attitudes towards scientific issues; as Hilda Bastain blogged: a “strong consensus around science can be seen as evidence that ‘they’re all in cahoots’… with vaccination, say, presenting yet more facts or another study could paradoxically confirm their rejection of science.”
Beth Skwarecki (@BethSkw) is an independent science journalist specializing in public health issues who writes for AAAS Science News, and DoubleXScience and blogs on the PLOS BLOGS Network. Recent posts have covered the HPV vaccine’s “image problem” and the role of Twitter in spreading misinformation on the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
Here is the entire Spot On London 2013 program, FYI. Keep in mind all sessions will be live streamed with the archives kept online thereafter for your viewing.
A common misconception of PLOS ONE is that just because we don’t consider perceived impact or novelty when deciding what to publish, doesn’t mean we don’t care about the impact of articles we publish. We of course understand that some papers are more impactful than others. That’s why we’re committed to developing new tools that realistically and unbiasedly evaluate how our papers shape their fields.
The number of citations an article collects offers one perspective on how the work has influenced its field, and is one of the many diverse measures that PLOS Article-Level Metrics provide to help the community measure article impact (others include usage and social sharing).
We recently plotted all citations to every PLOS ONE paper published in 2010 (thanks to our ALM guru Martin Fenner, and to Scopus for the data in the graph above)
The graph tells an interesting story about the range of papers published in PLOS ONE, showing that, from ground-breaking, highly-cited research to small studies that appeal to niche audiences, the journal really is for all of science. But another important thing that arose from this analysis was how much the variability in citations came from the range of subjects we publish. Fields like cell biology are huge and well-funded, with thousands of research groups around the world publishing tens of thousands of papers, while others such as ophthalmology are quite small, with only a few groups actively publishing research. All those extra cell biology papers mean lots of extra citations for the whole field, so papers in this area receive many more citations overall compared to ophthalmology, where only a few hundred papers are published each year.
The catch-all nature of journal metrics, such as the Impact Factor, means that PLOS ONE is considered a ‘top journal’ in the field of ophthalmology, as its Impact Factor is higher than any specialist journal in that field, whereas in the cell biology world we are ‘mid-level’. To address this discrepancy between fields, PLOS now includes relative metrics on all our papers, so readers can see the activity around a paper (just page views so far) relative to others in its field. As a result, you can see at the article level the impact of specific research on its field.
My feeling is that PLOS ONE has a wider citation distribution than most other journals, although I haven´t seen their data to say for certain (I would love for more journals to start displaying their full citation data!). But while it’s great to see a good number of PLOS ONE papers receiving very high numbers of citations, I think the more notable achievement is that we really are publishing all kinds of research, regardless of its estimated impact, and letting the community decide what is worthy of citation. With the usual flurry of Impact Factor announcements due to start any day now, it’s a good time to remember that it is the papers, not the journals they´re published in, that make the impact.
Graph: This is a kernel density estimation of citation distribution rather than actual numbers, hence the fact that it looks like some papers have received fewer than zero citations (credit Martin Fenner)
Today PLOS ONE launches a new peer review form. While this might not sound like much of an announcement, the fact that our reviewer board currently contains over 400,000 scientists, and grows by the hour, means that an awful lot of people will see this form over the coming months!
The purpose of the form is to better direct and streamline the review process by focusing on our specific publication criteria. The job of the PLOS ONE reviewer is not to decide whether the study represents a significant advance to the field, or whether additional experiments need to be performed to increase the impact, or whether it is suitable for a broad interest journal. The reviewer must simply ascertain whether the study has been performed correctly, and whether the data support the conclusions. So that’s what we ask reviewers in the form. The form also addresses some of our other criteria, like whether the manuscript adheres to data sharing standards and whether the manuscript is written in intelligible standard English. By limiting the focus of the reviewers in this way, we hope to reduce the burden that many reviewers feel, and (hopefully) speed up the time it takes to review.
We know that academics spend an enormous amount of time reviewing papers. But while it increases the workload of already busy people, the majority would agree that it is a vital part of the scientific process, and a necessary part of the job. The hardest part of a traditional review is making the recommendation on whether the study represents a significant enough advance to meet the journal’s criteria for acceptance, and this is the thing that most holds up the evaluation of manuscripts. Remove that part, and review should be quicker, less cumbersome and easier – but, and here’s the kicker, will have no discernible effect on the literature as a whole. Papers that are ‘right’ will always be published somewhere, but it may take a year to find that place due to the endless rejection cycle of most journals. So the innovation of PLOS ONE was to remove this step, and it was immensely successful. Now all we need to do is remind people of this fact when they submit their review. The form aims to do just that, and we believe it takes us a step closer to the ideal of publishing ‘right’ studies with minimal fuss and maximal efficiency.
We haven’t created too many check boxes, drop-down menus or word limits. There are just four required questions about whether the submission meets our criteria, and plenty of flexibility to let reviewers include specific comments as needed. You can read more about the specifics of the form here, and please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or feedback.
PLOS ONE is pleased to announce a collaboration with Science Exchange and figshare in a groundbreaking new project: The Reproducibility Initiative. The initiative aims to help scientists validate their research findings by providing a mechanism for blind, independent replication by experts from Science Exchange’s network of more than 1,000 providers at core facilities and contract research organizations.
Reproducibility, or the lack thereof, is a known issue in the scientific community, but few have the time or resources to fully address it. The Reproducibility Initiative is intended to encourage authors to validate their work by facilitating collaboration with an unbiased expert, and offering a Certificate of Reproducibility upon completion. This project will benefit stakeholders from across the research spectrum, including research scientists, drug companies, publishers, funders, and patient groups, all of whom agree that independent confirmation of results improves science and speeds discovery.
When PLOS ONE launched in 2006, a key objective was to publish those findings that historically did not make it into print: the negative results, the replication studies, the reanalyses of existing datasets. Although everyone knew these studies had value, journals would rarely publish them because they were not seen to be sufficiently important. PLOS ONE sought to become a venue for exactly these types of studies. As it happened, however, the submissions were not hugely forthcoming, although we have published a few. (One paper, for example, replicated a previous MRI study but used a higher resolution to confirm the findings, while another failed to replicate a famous psychology study from the nineties.) The Reproducibility Initiative harks back to this original objective, and may even open the doors to more papers whose sole purpose is to correct the literature.
The initiative brings together a number of scientific innovations to create a completely new research space. Science Exchange enables experiments to be performed objectively, free of the pressure to produce positive results that affects most scientists; PLOS ONE provides a formal publication venue that will publish the results of replication studies, even though they are not ‘novel’; and figshare provides a means of sharing raw data quickly and efficiently.
The Reproducibility Initiative is initially accepting 40-50 studies for validation. Scientists can submit their studies here. They will be selected on the basis of potential clinical impact and the scope of the experiments required. The organizers of the project hope that it will be the start of a more overarching system of validation by funders and patient groups, and that’s a sentiment we at PLOS ONE would certainly be happy to see replicated.