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“Long ago Ian Roberts and I imagined a world in which studies would not be published in journals but rather in databases.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.”

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