Exploring multiple facets of modern men’s health

2695540485_7fed1903e5_zJune is Men’s Health Month! This is a time to bring awareness to preventable health issues and encourage early detection of diseases affecting men. As we wind down from celebrating Father’s Day this past weekend, here are a few articles focusing on some important men’s health issues.

Lowering salt intake helps alleviate a number of health concerns, such as decreasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and stomach cancer. However, how easy is it to reduce your sodium intake without compromising taste, or your wallet?  In a recent study, researchers sought to determine how feasible a low-sodium, inexpensive and nutritious meal for men could be. The authors used cost and nutritional data to model and optimize familiar diets. In this analysis, they showed that it is possible to decrease sodium levels to well below the recommended maximum, proving that nutrition does not need to be compromised when preparing an enjoyable low-cost meal.

So what should men be consuming to help with disease prevention? Olive plant leaves (Olea europaea L.) have been used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes for centuries. In a PLOS ONE clinical trial published this year, researchers investigated the effects of olive polyphenols on insulin balance.  In this study, 46 male participants received either capsules of olive leaf extract or a placebo for 12 weeks.  Through their observations, the researchers found that olive leaf extract significantly improved two factors related to Type 2 Diabetes (insulin sensitivity and pancreatic ?-cell secretory capacity) in overweight, middle-aged men.

What about prostate health, you might ask? The Prostate Specific Antigen test, along with digital rectal examination is widely used for prostate cancer screening. PSA, which stands for Prostate Specific Antigen, is a glycoprotein secreted by epithelial cells of the prostate gland, and individuals with prostate cancer have a higher than normal amount of this compound in their systems. PSA levels can also change in response to external factors like surgery, though, so understanding these other forces is crucial for the test to be effective.  In a recent study, authors investigated whether bike riding affects PSA concentration in men. The researchers took blood samples from 129 male participants 60 minutes before a bike ride and 5 minutes after completion. They found that cycling caused their PSA to increase an average of 9.5% when measured within 5 minutes after completing the ride. Based on these findings, the authors suggest a 24–48 hour period of abstinence from cycling before a PSA test to avoid any false positive results.

These articles are just a taste of the published articles touching on men’s health; for more research visit PLOS ONE here.



Wilson N, Nghiem N, Foster RH (2013) The Feasibility of Achieving Low-Sodium Intake in Diets That Are Also Nutritious, Low-Cost, and Have Familiar Meal Components. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58539. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058539

de Bock M, Derraik JGB, Brennan CM, Biggs JB, Morgan PE, et al. (2013) Olive (Olea europaea L.) Leaf Polyphenols Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Middle-Aged Overweight Men: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial. PLoS ONE 8(3): e57622. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057622

Mejak SL, Bayliss J, Hanks SD (2013) Long Distance Bicycle Riding Causes Prostate-Specific Antigen to Increase in Men Aged 50 Years and Over. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56030. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056030

 Image Credit: on Flickr by Lindz Graham

More Fallout From Finch Folly: Springer Silliness

On Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 3:42 PM, Didier Pélaprat wrote on GOAL:

Springer, which defined itself some months ago as a “green publisher” in an advertisement meeting to which they invited us (they call that “information” meeting) and did not ask any embargo for institutional open repositories (there was only an embargo for the repositories of funders with a mandate), now changed its policy (they call this a “new wording“) with a 12-month embargo for all Open repositories.

This is now displayed in Sherpa/Romeo. It was stated that this new policy was settled “in reaction to the US, Europe and RCUK policy”.

I figured out that this would make some “buzz”, but for the moment I did not see any reaction. Did you hear of one?

No buzz, because the change is inconsequential:

Authors may self-archive the author?s accepted manuscript of their articles on their own websites. Authors may also deposit this version of the article in any repository, provided it is only made publicly available 12 months after official publication or later.”

1. There is no difference between the authors’ “own websites” and their own institution’s “repository.”

Authors’ websites are sectors of their own institution’s diskspace, and their institutional repository is a sector of their own institution’s diskspace. Way back in 2003 U. Southampton had already laid this nonsensical pseudo-legal distinction to rest pre-emptively by formally declaring their authors’ sector of their institutional repository their personal website:

3e. Copyright agreements may state that eprints can be archived on your personal homepage. As far as publishers are concerned, the EPrint Archive is a part of the Department’s infrastructure for your personal homepage.

2. As to institution-external OA repositories, many green publishers try to forbid them, but this too is futile nonsense: External repositories can simply link to the full-text in the institutional repository.

Indeed this has always been the main reason I have been strongly advocating for years that self-archiving mandates should always stipulate institutional deposit rather than institution-external deposit. (Springer or any publisher has delusions, however, if they think any of their pseudo-legal double-talk can get physicists who have been self-archiving directly in Arxiv for over two decades to change their ways!)

3. But, yes, Finch/RCUK’s persistence in its foolish, thoughtless and heedless policy is indeed having its perverse consequences, exactly as predicted, in the form of more and more of this formalistic FUD from publishers regarding Green OA embargoes.

Fortunately, HEFCE/REF has taken heed. If their proposed immediate-(institutional)-deposit mandate is adopted, not only is all this publisher FUD mooted, but it increases the likelihood that other OA mandates. too, will be upgraded to HEFCE’s date-stamped immediate-deposit as the mechanism for submitting articles to institutional research performance review or national research assessment.

4. If a publisher says you may self-archive without embargo if you do it voluntarily, but not if your funder requires you to do it: Do it, and, if ever asked, say, hand on heart, “I did it voluntarily.”

This ploy, which Springer too seems to have borrowed from Elsevier, consisting of pseudo-legal double-talk implying that
“you may deposit immediately if you needn’t, but not if you must” is pure FUD and can and should be completely ignored. (Any author foolish enough to be taken in by such double-talk deserves all the needless usage and impact losses they will get!)

If there’s to be “buzz,” let the facts and contingencies at least be got straight!

Off-line query from [identity removed]:

“This email expresses my current confusion about green open access and Springer. Forgive my concreteness, but I don?t ?get it.? I now self-archive my publications on sites such as ResearchGate and academia.edu.

“I simply don?t understand the Springer mandate! Can you refer me to some text somewhere which expresses all of this in really plain English?”

Springer says you can self-archive your final, refereed draft on your own website (which includes your institutional repository) immediately, without embargo.

Springer also says that in institution-external repositories you can only deposit it after a 12-month embargo.

This means, technically and formally, that ResearchGate or academia.edu can link to the full text in the institutional repository, but they cannot host the full text itself till after the 12-month embargo.

(In principle, RG/AE could also link to the Closed Access deposit during the embargo, thereby enhancing the scope of the institutional repository’s eprint-request Button.)

But the practical fact is that there’s nothing much that Springer or anyone can do about authors sharing their own papers before the embargo elapses through social sharing sites like RG or AE or others. Publishers’ only recourse is send individual take-down notices to RG/AE, with which RG/AE can duly comply — only to have the authors put them right back up again soon after.

OA is unstoppable, if authors want it, and they do. They’re all just being too slow about realizing it, and doing it (as the computer scientists and physicists saw and did 20 years ago, no questions asked).

That’s why the OA mandates are needed. And they’re coming…

Outsell Open Access Report: missing the main point or are governments really committed to throwing away taxpayer money?

The Outsell Open Access Report is an interesting development in itself – industry looking at open access as a market rather than as a threat, and some of the information in the report is very useful. However, this report misses the mark in two very essential ways. The information in the report per se makes clear that with open access it is possible to publish at a small fraction of current publishing costs. Also, in an online environment, professional commercial publishers simply are not needed anymore. This report suggests that there is not yet a single fully open access journal in the social sciences and humanities, when DOAJ lists over 1,800 journals under social sciences and humanities.

Current gold open access (immediate free access on publishing) is responsible for  10-12% of the world’s scholarly articles at about 2.2% of the total journal revenues, according to this report. The average open access article processing fee is reported at $950, less than a quarter of the $4,000 average for subscription journals. Taking these two calculations together, based on this report open access publishing is 4-5 times more cost-efficient than subscription publishing. However, this is just the commercial / professional sector. The Outsell report appears to be completely unaware of the substantial not-for-profit sector. For example, the report states that “”hybrid options support limited uptake markets, such as the social sciences and humanities, perhaps just until the market for a subject-specific “traditional” gold OA journal coalesces” p. 12 – presumably the authors are completely unaware of the well over 1,800 full open access journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals under Social Sciences.

Outsell predicts rising prices for open access article processing fees, when the reality is that scholars no longer need to rely on the commercial scholarly publishing sector at all. Publishing in the online environment just isn’t that hard, or expensive. Priorities for public funding in higher education should be funding the research per se, addressing the growing problem of lack of full-time faculty, and keeping costs down for students – not protecting the profit margins of a bloated industry that has yet to note that the costs of things like computer storage in recent years have been going down, not up.

Outsell suggests that other countries will follow the UK’s support for publisher profits approach. This is mad enough in the UK, where at least they have the excuse of protecting a positive balance in trade, but for every other country this is holding up innovation, increasing public costs, and shoring up a negative balance of trade.

Detailed quotes and comments

 “Drilling down to the journal market specifically, Outsell estimated that journal subscription revenue (which excludes society membership revenues) amounted to $6.0 billion in 2011, which makes open access 2.2% of this market for the most recent year in which we have built such an estimate” p. 8

Comment: In 2008, Outsell reported STM journal revenue at $8 billion – for details and citations, see chapters 2 and 5 of my dissertation. The $2 billion revenue discrepancy is not explained. I cannot afford the Outsell toll access reports. “

A 2012 paper published in BMC Medicine, the latest in an ongoing study by academics Mikael Laakso and Bo-Christer Björk, calculated that in 2011 the number of articles available in full, immediate open access journals encompassed 9% and 11% of all articles indexed in Scopus and Web of Knowledge, respectively. Hybrid articles added just under 1% of all articles to that total in both cases, meaning that the combination of gold and hybrid open access accounted for 10% or 12% of indexed articles, depending on the database”.

“Outsell sees three scenarios that could drive OA revenue as a higher proportion of total STM market revenue, stemming first and foremost from the ultimate behavior of funding bodies.” p. 13 Scenario 1 — New European Mandates Encourage Gold OA Scenario 2 — New Mandates Stimulate Green OA Scenario 3 — Mandates Accelerate in Non-European Research Centers: Suggests only Scenario 1 is likely.

 “We also anticipate that the average charge per article will slide upward with the launch of new, higher-value journals from strongly branded commercial and society publishers such as Elsevier, Wiley, and Nature”, p. 15 “

Outsell estimates that the average APC (distorted somewhat by discounts and waivers, but excluding membership revenues) was about $660 in 2011; in 2015, this will increase to roughly $950 due in part to the increased number of well-branded journal publishers offering OA options at higher price points”, p. 15

“also estimates that, based on Scenario 1, the revenue per subscription article will decrease by about $100, from $4,000 today to $3,900”. p. 16

LIS publisher Emerald: profit, not knowledge-sharing?

As sent to various lists, June 17, 2013. Update June 17 – comment from Issac Gilman inserted into the message for context. LIS publisher Emerald has introduced a 24-month embargo on authors whose institutions have open access mandates, according to Richard Poynder on Open and Shut: http://poynder.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/open-access-emeralds-green-starts-to.html This is a significant backtrack from what was a really good open access archiving policy. As of today, there are 146 titles listed under Library and Information Studies in the Directory of Open Access Journals, and most say Publication Fee – No: http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=subject&cpId=129&uiLanguage=en

Librarians, Emerald current and potential editors, authors, and reviewers, perhaps it is time to ditch this “it’s about the profit” publisher in favour of journals that prioritize sharing of our knowledge? If none of the current DOAJ titles fit your scholarly niche – why not start your own?

I heartily agree – that’s what we did! 🙂 says Isaac Gilman of the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication

(inserted in original text for context)


Heather G. Morrison The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

Thanks to Richard Poynder for this additional background:

Librarians have been here before: http://www.infotoday.com/it/nov02/poynder.htm. The library organisation ASLIB sold all its journals to Emerald, and then the organisation appears to have sold itself to Emerald, if I am reading this correctly: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/about/news/story.htm?id=2257

OpenAPIs for scientific instrumentation?

382119_573424529339454_1784469895_nAn interesting question from Dale Smith:  Are there OpenAPIs for remote sensing and monitoring of scientific instruments?  Dale pointed us at this very cool RSOE EDIS alert map as an example of what could be possible with distributed consumer-grade sensors that had OpenAPIs.   I can imagine a number of very cool things that could be done with distributed weather or earth motion sensors.  Are there software tools out there that make querying these sensors easy?

(One suggestion,  however, would be for the RSOE EDIS to look for a slightly less ominous-sounding motto).

Publisher Double Dealing on OA

This is a comment on Richard Poynder’s interview on Emerald’s “fading” Green OA policy.

Both the perverse effects of the UK’s Finch/RCUK policy and their antidote are as simple to describe and understand as they were to predict:

The Perverse Effects of the Finch/RCUK Policy: Besides being eager to cash in on the double-paid (subscription fees + Gold OA fees), double-dipped over-priced hybrid Gold bonanza that Finch/RCUK has foolishly dangled before their eyes, publishers like Emerald are also trying to hedge their bets and clinch the deal by adopting or extending Green OA embargoes to try to force authors to pick and pay for the hybrid Gold option instead of picking cost-free Green.

The Antidote to the Perverse Effects of the Finch/RCUK Policy: To remedy this, both funders and institutions need merely (1) distinguish deposit-date from the date that access to the deposit is made OA, (2) mandate immediate-deposit, and (3) implement the repository’s facilitated eprint request Button to tide over user needs during any OA embargo.

All funders and institutions can and should adopt the immediate-deposit mandate immediately. Together with the Button it moots embargoes (and once widely adopted, will ensure emargoes’ inevitable and deserved demise).

And as an insurance policy (and a fitting one, to counterbalance publishers’ insurance policy of prolonging Green embargoes to try to force authors to pay for hybrid Gold) funders and institutions should (4) designate date-stamped immediate-deposit as the sole mechanism for submitting published papers for annual performance review (e.g., the Liège policy) or for national research assessment (as HEFCE has proposed for REF).

As to the page that Emerald has borrowed from Elsevier, consisting of pseudo-legal double-talk implying that

you may deposit immediately if you needn’t, but not if you must

That is pure FUD and can and should be completely ignored. (Any author foolish enough to be taken in by such double-talk deserves all the needless usage and impact losses they will get!)

Ecology and Evolution Publishes Issue 3.6

ECE 3 6The latest issue of Ecology and Evolution is now live! Over 30 excellent articles free to read, download and share. The cover image is taken from ‘Ejaculate investment and attractiveness in the stalk-eyed fly, Diasemopsis meigenii by Elisabeth Harley et al. Below are some highlights from this issue:

purple_lock_open Belowground interactions shift the relative importance of direct and indirect genetic effects by Mark A. Genung, Joseph K. Bailey and Jennifer A. Schweitzer
Summary: Intraspecific genetic variation can affect decomposition, nutrient cycling, and interactions between plants and their associated belowground communities. However, the effects of genetic variation on ecosystems can also be indirect, meaning that genes in a focal plant may affect ecosystems by altering the phenotype of interacting (i.e., neighboring) individuals. We manipulated genotype identity, species identity, and the possibility of belowground interactions between neighboring Solidago plants. We hypothesized that, because our plants were nitrogen (N) limited, the most important interactions between focal and neighbor plants would occur belowground. More specifically, we hypothesized that the genotypic identity of a plant’s neighbor would have a larger effect on belowground biomass than on aboveground biomass, but only when neighboring plants were allowed to interact belowground.

purple_lock_open Reevaluation of a classic phylogeographic barrier: new techniques reveal the influence of microgeographic climate variation on population divergence by J. Angel Soto-Centeno, Lisa N. Barrow, Julie M. Allen and David L. Reed
Summary: We evaluated the mtDNA divergence and relationships within Geomys pinetis to assess the status of formerly recognized Geomys taxa. Additionally, we integrated new hypothesis-based tests in ecological niche models (ENM) to provide greater insight into causes for divergence and potential barriers to gene flow in Southeastern United States (Alabama, Florida, and Georgia). Our DNA sequence dataset confirmed and strongly supported two distinct lineages within G. pinetis occurring east and west of the ARD. Divergence date estimates showed that eastern and western lineages diverged about 1.37 Ma (1.9 Ma–830 ka). Predicted distributions from ENMs were consistent with molecular data and defined each population east and west of the ARD with little overlap. Niche identity and background similarity tests were statistically significant suggesting that ENMs from eastern and western lineages are not identical or more similar than expected based on random localities drawn from the environmental background.

purple_lock_open Patterns of ecological specialization among microbial populations in the Red Sea and diverse oligotrophic marine environments by Luke R. Thompson, Chris Field, Tamara Romanuk, David Kamanda Ngugi, Rania Siam, Hamza El Dorry and Ulrich Sting
Summary: Large swaths of the nutrient-poor surface ocean are dominated numerically by cyanobacteria (Prochlorococcus), cyanobacterial viruses (cyanophage), and alphaproteobacteria (SAR11). How these groups thrive in the diverse physicochemical environments of different oceanic regions remains poorly understood. Comparative metagenomics can reveal adaptive responses linked to ecosystem-specific selective pressures. The Red Sea is well-suited for studying adaptation of pelagic-microbes, with salinities, temperatures, and light levels at the extreme end for the surface ocean, and low nutrient concentrations, yet no metagenomic studies have been done there. The Red Sea (high salinity, high light, low N and P) compares favorably with the Mediterranean Sea (high salinity, low P), Sargasso Sea (low P), and North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (high light, low N). We quantified the relative abundance of genetic functions among Prochlorococcus, cyanophage, and SAR11 from these four regions. Gene frequencies indicate selection for phosphorus acquisition (Mediterranean/Sargasso), DNA repair and high-light responses (Red Sea/Pacific Prochlorococcus), and osmolyte C1 oxidation (Red Sea/Mediterranean SAR11). The unexpected connection between salinity-dependent osmolyte production and SAR11 C1 metabolism represents a potentially major coevolutionary adaptation and biogeochemical flux.

purple_lock_open Forecasting deforestation and carbon emissions in tropical developing countries facing demographic expansion: a case study in Madagascar by Ghislain Vieilledent, Clovis Grinand and Romuald Vaudry
Summary: Anthropogenic deforestation in tropical countries is responsible for a significant part of global carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. To plan efficient climate change mitigation programs (such as REDD+, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), reliable forecasts of deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions are necessary. Although population density has been recognized as a key factor in tropical deforestation, current methods of prediction do not allow the population explosion that is occurring in many tropical developing countries to be taken into account. Here, we propose an innovative approach using novel computational and statistical tools, including R/GRASS scripts and the new phcfM R package, to model the intensity and location of deforestation including the effect of population density. We used the model to forecast anthropogenic deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions in five large study areas in the humid and spiny-dry forests of Madagascar. Using our approach, we were able to demonstrate that the current rapid population growth in Madagascar (+3.39% per year) will significantly increase the intensity of deforestation by 2030 (up to +1.17% per year in densely populated areas).

Read other top articles in this issue >

Submit your paper to Ecology and Evolution here >

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PLOS ONE welcomes RIAT (Restoring Invisible and Abandoned Trials) Initiative

 Last week BMJ published an article proposing a new initiative aimed at solving an age-old problem in medical publishing: that of the perennial failure of investigators and sponsors to publish all of the results of all their trials, accurately and transparently. The BMJ paper ups the ante and invites independent, “restorative authors” to step in and take charge of unpublished or misreported trials. It’s not so much “publish and be damned” as “publish or be published”. Restorative authors can now use as their data source the documentation from a trial (often many thousands of pages of protocols, clinical study reports, and individual patient datasets or analysed datasets) obtained through freedom of information requests. The RIAT proposers (Peter Doshi, Kay Dickersin, David Healy, S Swaroop Vedula and Tom Jefferson) describe in their table 1 the many documents and datasets they have already obtained for a large number of trials, and which they’re willing to share. Doshi et al invite collaborators to their enterprise:

We call on others to join us, to contribute trial documents they have obtained from public sources that need publishing or republishing, and to help us with the writing. We need volunteers to act in place of those who should have but did not make trial reports visible and accessible.”

Understanding the world of trial documents.

Understanding the world of trial documents.

Image credit: Doshi et al, BMJ 2013;346:f2865 (Copyright CC BY-NC 3.0)

The initiative has already garnered support from our sister journal PLOS Medicine, which has co-signed an editorial announcing that they “commit to publishing restorative clinical trial submissions”. A detailed blog by PLOS Medicine editors discusses some of the hurdles that might need to be overcome for journals to publish restored trials by independent authors. For example, many “restored trials” may not have been originally registered in public trial registries, and restorative authors may have limited ability to establish whether the trials they are restoring were ethically conducted. Generally journals will only publish the results of trials which were publicly registered, and for which authors can take responsibility for ethical oversight and provide assurance to editors that their trial was carried out ethically. The PLOS Medicine editors invite feedback via their blog on these, and other issues.

The RIAT initiative is entirely concordant with PLOS ONE’s editorial aims and mission, which seeks to publish the results of all correctly reported, scientifically sound studies, irrespective of impact or the direction of results. PLOS ONE’s publication criteria do not discriminate against “negative results”, and the journal welcomes submission of re-analyses or replications of prior work, as well as analyses based on publicly available datasets. We do require that authors adhere to study-type-specific community standards for reporting, such as the CONSORT guidelines for reporting randomized trials (which has been adapted by the RIAT authors into a specific modification, the “RIATAR” tool for documenting the RIAT process).

Consequently, PLOS ONE now invites RIAT authors to consider submitting their “restored” trial reports to PLOS ONE for publication. These papers will be considered in the context of our existing publication criteria and editorial policies, although the editors are actively considering how the specific issues noted above in relation to trial registration and ethical integrity might best be interpreted. We ask RIAT authors to clearly identify when submitting (ideally in their cover letter) that they are responding to the RIAT initiative and are submitting a RIAT study. Authors should show that they have given the original triallists and sponsors an opportunity to publish their own study. They should do this by stating in their article methods section when they contacted the original triallists and sponsors, and by what date no response had been received. (If original triallists/sponsors have indicated they wish to restore their own trial, the RIAT proposal allows a “grace” period of a year, in which they should be allowed to publish without being scooped). We will also check Rapid Responses to the BMJ article to find out whether sponsors intend to restore their own trial. We also suggest that RIAT authors ensure they fully describe the methods that they have used to conduct RIAT, including the approaches to obtaining the datasets from the original trial, to reanalyze those data and through which they have come to their conclusions. This is particularly important if the trial has already been reported by the original triallists, and if RIAT authors are drawing different inferences based on a different approach to analysis. RIAT authors should take care to distinguish responsibility for the work they have done (in obtaining public data and conducting their reanalysis) from the work done by the original triallists (the conduct of the original trial), thereby establishing what authorship means in the context of a RIAT study.

Finally, the PLOS ONE editors have noted that PLOS ONE study is included in the list of clinical study reports amassed by the RIAT group (see Table 1, “Novartis FLUAD study, cited as reference 103 in the BMJ paper. PLOS ONE reference is given below). PLOS ONE is committed to correcting the publication record where necessary and therefore we will be in touch with the RIAT group to find out whether they can share with us any information on why this study is included in their list, and for what reasons a correction of the record may be needed. Quite separate from this, we also welcome any submission to PLOS ONE of a reanalysis of this trial from restorative authors, based on the clinical study reports that the RIAT group have obtained.

Banzhoff A, Gasparini R, Laghi-Pasini F, Staniscia T, Durando P, Montomoli E, et al. MF59-adjuvanted H5N1 vaccine induces immunologic memory and heterotypic antibody responses in non-elderly and elderly adults. PLoS One 2009;4:e4384

My conflict of interest declaration: I saw an earlier version of the RIAT article while it underwent peer review for BMJ, and provided some comments as part of the peer review process.


OpenScience poster


I’m giving a poster in a few days about openscience.org, and it has been a very long time since I’ve had to make a poster.  This one turned out quite text-heavy, but I wanted to make a few arguments that seemed difficult or impossible to translate into graphics.   A PDF (9.3 MB) of the draft is available by clicking the image on the right…

Comments and suggestions, as always, are quite welcome.

Peer Access vs. Public Access: OA Pragmatics vs. Ideology

The (shared) goal of open access advocates is presumably open access (OA), not abstractions.

If papers are made OA, it means they are freely accessible to everyone online: both peers and public. If not, not.

So the only problem is getting the papers to be made OA — and that means getting their authors (peers) to make them OA.

If all or most peers made their papers OA of their own accord, that would be it: The OA era would be upon us.

But most don?t make their papers OA ? for a large variety of reasons, all of them groundless, but nevertheless sufficient to have held back OA for over 20 years now.

The solution, fortunately, is known, and already being adopted, though not quickly or widely enough yet: OA has to be made mandatory. The peers have to be required by their funders and their institutions to provide OA.

The only other thing that is needed, then, is to persuade all research funders and institutions to mandate OA.

To do that, you have to give them a reason that is sufficient to convince funders, institutions and peers that all research needs to be made OA, hence that OA needs to be made mandatory.

So it all comes down to what is a sufficient reason for funders and institutions to mandate and peers to provide OA.

The public?s need for access is a reason for providing OA, to be sure, but not a sufficient reason. Fortunately, it need not be, because peer access is a sufficient reason, and peers are part of the public too, hence OA provides access to both peers and public.

So why all this empty shadow-boxing about ideology and elitism, when the only thing that matters is pragmatics?

What will successfully get all peers to provide OA? Telling them that it?s because the public has a burning need to read their papers is a joke, since they all know perfectly well that in most (not all!) fields of research hardly anyone needs or wants to read their papers. The few exceptions do not make it otherwise.

Nor do they need to. For making research accessible to all of its potential users (of which the overwhelming majority are of course peers), rather than just to subscribers, as now, is reason enough for funders and institutions to mandate OA, and for peers to provide it.

Anyone is free to say to funders and institutions who mandate OA primarily to ensure peer access: ?No, no, you must do it in order to ensure public, not just peer access access!?

But it?s a pointless exercise. And will not get OA provided for all of us sooner; it will just distract us from pragmatics in favor of ideology.

PLOS ONE – Measuring Article Impact

citation counts2

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)



Summer Service Update


It’s mid-June and here in the US and in many other parts of the world, academics are taking advantage of the sunshine and long days to spend time in the field, attend conferences or on a well-deserved holiday. As a result we find that many of our editorial board members and reviewers are away from their desks.  Therefore, authors may notice a slight delay in the review progress of papers submitted to PLOS ONE in the coming months.

We continue to aim for a swift evaluation of all submissions and will monitor the review progress as usual but we very much appreciate your patience during this time. Please see the links below for additional information on some common issues and feel free to contact us at plosone@plos.org if you need any further assistance.

From all of us at PLOS, have a great summer!


Image: Summer Smile… by Criss!