PLoS ONE Inspires Copies

Earlier this month I blogged about the announcement that PLoS ONE, an open access journal, has now become the largest peer-reviewed journal in the world (by number of published articles per year).
PLoS ONE has reached this milestone by adopting a revolutionary (as academic publishing goes) strategy of publishing any article that meets peer-reviewed standards for methodological soundness and rigor, but not for significance and impact. As Richard Smith, over at the BMJ Group blogs, points out… editors and reviewers at traditional journals “do badly” at predicting the originality and importance of articles anyway. It is best to let the readers decide the importance.
Relative importance of individual papers can be determined by “article-level metrics”, another innovation by PLoS. No longer do we need to rely on journal impact factors exclusively. The Internet allows numerous possibilities for determining impact of individual papers quite apart from the actual journal they are published in. Exclusivity of particular journals can no longer be sustained – indeed the main reason they have lasted this long is that the traditional system of tenure and promotion in the academy changes even slower than the system of scholarly publishing! Tenure committees generally continue to look mainly at impact factors still.
However, many of the traditional publishers seem to be seeing the writing on the wall and are now initiating new journal titles that are essentially copies of the PLoS ONE model. Peter Suber lists several of these new titles including Scientific Reports from the Nature Publishing Group (!).
Richard Smith ends his blog entry with this intriguing vision of the future:
“Long ago Ian Roberts and I imagined a world in which studies would not be published in journals but rather in databases. The job of journals would not be to spend resources peer reviewing and circulating studies to people who don’t read them but rather to pick out the few studies that matter and present critical appraisals of them to the right audience. Perhaps the proliferation of copies of PLoS ONE will bring that vision closer.”

3rd Anniversary of the NIH Public Access Policy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research. It requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the digital archive PubMed Central. (The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has a similar policy adopted January 1, 2008).
Reposting from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access Website:
“…April 7, 2011 will mark the 3rd Anniversary of the implementation of the policy opening up access to articles reporting on the results of NIH-funded research. The policy has shown tremendous signs of success. PubMed Central now contains more than 2 million full text articles reporting on the latest NIH-funded research, and nearly a *half a million* individuals access these articles each day.”
Heather Joseph, Executive Director at SPARC, is collecting stories on what your experience has been like with this policy. You can send stories directly to her: heather [at] arl [dot] org.

Assessing Quality of OA Journals

One of the enduring myths surrounding Open Access is that OA journals are somehow of lower quality. Indeed, there is no inherent reason why a journal would have lower standards simply because it is OA – and in fact my personal experience is that sometimes OA journals have more stringent peer review processes than Toll Access journals. There are quality control mechanisms in place among Open Access publishers: the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) will not include a new journal in its listings without vetting it for quality, and the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) also vets potential new members. You can be sure that any OA journal or publisher included in the DOAJ and the OASPA is legit. However, if it is a new publication, not yet included in these lists, how can you assess its quality?
Heather Morrison, over at the Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics blog, has put together a thoughtful post on this topic listing a number of indicators of quality in assessing new OA journals.

OA Journal now Largest Journal in World

PLoS ONE, an interactive open access journal for scientific and medical research, is now the largest peer-reviewed journal in the world (by number of published articles per year). See Heather Morrison’s charts comparing PLoS ONE (6,749 articles) to the next largest titles PHYS REV B (5782 articles) and APPL PHYS LETT (5449 articles).
As Peter Suber points out in this month’s SPARC Open Access Newsletter:
“Size isn’t quality. But a reputation for low quality would deter author submissions and function as a limit on size. When PLoS ONE launched in late 2006 and announced that it would review submissions for methodological soundness and rigor, but not for significance and impact, many OA skeptics and TA publishers predicted that it would become a warehouse for low quality. But that’s not what happened, in part because reviewing for soundness and rigor is a barrier against low quality. In fact, something else happened instead. Not only did PLoS ONE attract voluminous submissions, including breakthrough submissions. It attracted imitators from other publishers.”

Can wikis transform medical publishing?

The Canadian open access medical journal, Open Medicine, just announced a wiki version of a systematic review. See more about this interesting and innovative publishing experiment below.
From the press release:
OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 1—Today, Open Medicine ( is
pleased to announce the publication of a wiki version of a new
systematic review of second-line diabetes drugs. To the best of our
knowledge, Open Medicine is the only peer-reviewed medical journal using
wikis as a publishing platform. “Knowledge is dynamic and a wiki is a
publishing tool that truly reflects that,” says Anita Palepu, MD, editor
of Open Medicine. “Our hope is that this manuscript will evolve as our
knowledge evolves and, ultimately, be improved by contributions directly
from our readers to our authors.”
The systematic review is authored by a team of researchers affiliated
with the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH;
Prior to publication as a wiki, this systematic review was peer-reviewed
to ensure it satisfied Open Medicine’s editorial standards. Access to
the wiki version will not be limited to health experts, but readers must
register, state their affiliations and complete a competing-interests
statement before they can contribute. Changes will be monitored by the
journal’s staff and substantive edits will be brought to the attention
of the review authors.
Systematic reviews can become rapidly outdated as new research is
published. Providing authors and readers with an updated document offers
several advantages, yet biomedical publishers have rarely done so. The
advantages include:
1) Changes to a wiki are publicly available as soon as they are made,
2) Wikis create a centralized document for easy editing,
3) Readers can track the changes that have been made to a document,
provided a form of post-publication peer-review;
For a more thorough discussion of the potential role of wikis in
biomedical publishing, see “Medical research and social media: Can wikis
be used as a publishing platform in medicine?” an editorial by the
editors at Open Medicine published in 2009 when the journal first
piloted a wiki.
Citation: McIntosh, B., Cameron, C., Singh, S.R., Yu, C., Ahuja, T.,
Welton, N.J., and Dahl, M. (2011) Second-line therapy in patients with
type 2 diabetes inadequately controlled with metformin monotherapy: a
systematic review and mixed-treatment comparison meta-analysis Open Med
To access the wiki version of this article, visit: