Tuesday, February 17, 2009

PLoS ONE strikes again!

So far, 2009 has been a banner year for vertebrate paleontology in the open access journal PLoS ONE. First there was the fighting Triceratops paper, followed by the Maiacetus announcement. This week brings two more offerings of the archosaurian persuasion:

Claessens LPAM, O'Connor PM, Unwin DM (2009) Respiratory Evolution Facilitated the Origin of Pterosaur Flight and Aerial Gigantism. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4497. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004497

Martinez RN, Alcober OA (2009) A Basal Sauropodomorph (Dinosauria: Saurischia) from the Ischigualasto Formation (Triassic, Carnian) and the Early Evolution of Sauropodomorpha. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4397. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004397

I don't have time right now to blog these articles (and I really, really need to get that Slicer series finished!), but do have the following thoughts:
  • Is this string of papers a fluke, or is PLoS ONE becoming a more accepted, high-profile journal along the line of Science and Nature?
  • PLoS ONE offers the opportunity to post comments about the article (ostensibly for "post publication peer review"). Yet, this feature really hasn't been utilized much for many of the paleontological articles. Is it that the articles are just that good? Or are paleontologists shy about posting their thoughts on this sort of thing, and saving it instead for the peer reviewed literature? Or, are the papers just not worth commenting on? Or, do paleontologists have better things to do with their time?


Nick Gardner said...

Slicer series, yeaaaaaaaaah.

Jerry D. Harris said...

Is this string of papers a fluke

At least one more is in the pipeline -- hopefully shouldn't be more than another few weeks before emerging there! And in our case, we had no knowledge whatsoever of any of these other papers...perhaps not a fluke, but probably convergent recognition that open-access (plus ability to use color in figures without exorbitant charges!) is a good thing!

or is PLoS ONE becoming a more accepted, high-profile journal along the line of Science and Nature?

Well, I guess it's all in how you measure "high-profile." At least in terms of those abhorrent JCR rankings, PLoS ONE is most certainly NOT in the same category as Science or Nature -- in fact, it's not even a category -- it has no JCR ranking whatsoever, even though all the other PLoS journals do. This appears to specifically be the result of specific actions on the part of on the parts of PLoS ONE editors, which is fine by me, frankly. But for those in situations where JCR rankings are a factor in, say, tenure and rank-advancement considerations, the journal may well be very unattractive to a researcher seeking a publication venue.

PLoS ONE is also incomparable to Nature and Science in another way: it will publish anything that is methodologically sound, whereas the latter two journals still attempt to assess the "worth" of a submission's subject matter, and only "superior" product is actually accepted. (From my own experiences, the usual metric applied to "worth" by these journals is some vague concept of level of "interest and comprehensibility to the majority of their audience" (paraphrasing) -- as if all those obtuse papers on things cosmological and genetic that they regularly publish were readable by everyone.) Personally, I think that PLoS has a terrific strategy here -- publish everything and let the people with specific interests get and read only what they want -- I really hope this concept rapidly overtakes the old "we determine the hierarchy of scientific worthiness" attitude that Nature and Science have been foisting for too long...!

Mike Keesey said...

"PLoS ONE offers the opportunity to post comments about the article (ostensibly for "post publication peer review"). Yet, this feature really hasn't been utilized much for many of the paleontological articles."

I think perhaps people just aren't used to it. It's a terrific idea, and I hope it catches on. (I, for one, made a comment on the Panphagia paper, and I see that Randall Irmis did, too. His even has references.)

Raptor Lewis said...

I guess only time will tell. But, I don't think that qualifies as a fluke. Since when are so many scientific/Papers appearing on a science website a fluke? My best guess would be popularity, but, again, time will tell.

Andy said...

Fantastic discussion!!!

@Jerry--I think part of the lack of impact factor/ranking for PLoS ONE right now is that it is too new of a journal - maybe this will come to pass in another year or two? I would say, though, that the effective impact factor of PLoS ONE is greatly improved by the fact that it is freely available to anyone, regardless of society membership or library affiliation.

@Mike--It has been awesome to see the comments/notes on the Panphagia article! Let's hope they keep coming for some of the other papers. . .

220mya said...


I think one of the reasons PLoS One doesn't have an impact factor is that it doesn't issue articles in discrete "issues" (even PLoS Biology does this). Currently, this is one of the requirements of Thomson ISI to have a journal listed in Web of Science and get an impact factor.

AMNH Novitates is listed by Thomson, but they get around it by issuing a set of Novitates at the same time each month (or is it every two months?) - I guess this counts as an "issue".

John Hutchinson said...

Note that there is a growing movement, e.g. for the Research Assessment Exercise in the UK, to ignore impact factors more, and weight citations (by those other than the authors) more heavily. If this trend expands, expect open access to also, as it lends itself well toward maximizing citations.

Anonymous said...

PLoS one is by no means a high-profile journal. It is not even considered peer-reviewed due to peer-review limited to mainly the methods.

Andy said...

Umm. . .ok, Anonymous. As an academic editor at PLoS ONE, I am reasonably familiar with the process there, and also can reasonably say that the papers *are* peer-reviewed. And if media coverage is a measure of high-profile, I would still argue that PLoS ONE fits the bill (regular coverage in mainstream media, Science, Nature, etc.).

Anonymous said...

Plos One is likely to be a very significant journal in the future. After just a few years of publication it has racked up ~27,000 citations to its published articles in Web of Science (WoS). It publishes such a large number of articles, if it was included in WoS it's impact factor would be much lower than Science or Nature and lower than other Plos journals. In the SJR rankings Plos One was for 2008 calendar year 338th out of all journals in all fields. http://www.scimagojr.com/index.php Spectaclur for a new journal. Nature and Science easily rank higher than this new journal for now.