Friday, February 27, 2009

PLoS ONE's Paleontology Collection

As many of my posts over the past month have emphasized, the online open access journal PLoS ONE has been a hotbed of interesting papers relevant to paleontologists. Pterosaurs, Triceratops, whales, stromatolites, rodents and friends have been featured on the digital pages of this publication. Of course, the journal covers many other topics, too. So how is a paleontologist to find those papers immediately relevant to his or her research, among all of the other interesting papers on topics ranging from genetics to mathematics?

Enter PLoS ONE's Paleontology Collection. This is an open collection of articles--meaning that it is continually updated and augmented as new research is published in the journal. Everything the journal has ever published on paleontology is there! Right now, this includes a grand total of 26 articles, six of these in the first two months of 2009 alone. Contrast this a closed collection at PLoS ONE, which is a one-time conference proceedings or similar compendium of research.

Why should we care? Speaking selfishly, this will allow us to easily access all articles in our field. All future articles are automatically added to the collection. This means that if you don't want to wade through all of the other contributions on the PLoS ONE list (although there are some very interesting ones!), you can just keep an eye on the paleontology collection for any and all exciting developments. In a broader sense, this collection will help paleontologists to reach an even broader audience.

And once again--take advantage of the comment, note, and rating features at PLoS ONE (as outlined in my previous post). It's really a unique opportunity to interact with authors, make your thoughts known, and help science march onward. If you have that really cool piece of research, submit your manuscript!

To see what PLoS ONE has to say about the collection, point your browser here.

Image Credit: Mark P. Witton (see Witton and Naish, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002271)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Using the Comment, Note, and Rating Features at PLoS One

In my previous post, I highlighted some new articles from the online, open access journal PLoS ONE, and noted that the commenting feature at this journal is relatively unused for most articles. Some interesting discussion ensued on why this might be (among other issues). . .Mike Keesey suggested that maybe folks just aren't used to commenting in this format. Well then, let's do something about it!

Your Assignment:
  • If you haven't already, create a user account on the PLoS website. This will allow you to post notes, make comments, and rate articles.
  • Read an article that interests you on PLoS ONE (consider it part of your academic duty to keep on top of the recent literature), and make a substantive comment or note about something in the article. If you don't feel like making a specific comment (or if the article is so incredibly good as to not need comment), just rate the article.
  • Feel good about contributing to a scientific discussion!
How It Works
Notes are for comments on specific portions of an article. For instance, maybe you think a particular sentence is well said, or relates to a very specific point that you have in mind. In this case, a note is most appropriate.

Comments are for more general thoughts on a paper--is there something particularly good, bad, or ugly? Might you have suggestions for an interesting follow-up study? Is there just something you're wondering about that you'd like the author(s) to answer?

Finally, ratings are a chance to tell folks what you really think about the paper. PLoS has three categories in which you rate an article--insight, reliability, and style. These categories are unfortunately vague in their names, but the PLoS website provides a succinct explanation of what is meant by each. Essentially, the categories rate the "importance" or "thought-provokingness" of an article, solidness of the conclusions, and technical execution and presentation of the whole package.

My First Notes, Comments, and Ratings
To check out an example, see another new paper in vertebrate paleontology published by Bates et. al:

Bates KT, Manning PL, Hodgetts D, Sellers WI (2009) Estimating Mass Properties of Dinosaurs Using Laser Imaging and 3D Computer Modelling. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4532. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004532

I just finished some notes, comments, and a rating of the article. (no, I did not do this just for the purpose of the blog--the topic genuinely interests me!) It's easy! Science marches on.

What are you waiting for? Go try it for yourself!

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?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

One Velociraptor Per Child

If you follow the open source/open access movement at all, you're probably familiar with the "One Laptop Per Child" initiative. Well. . .now there is a movement that combines the open access aesthetic with paleontology:

One Velociraptor Per Child
(I promise a real post after this week is done!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Paleo Paper in PLoS ONE

If you haven't seen already, the past two weeks have been great for paleontology on the pages of PLoS ONE, a high-profile open access journal. Phil Gingerich and colleagues have just published a paper on Maiacetus, a new fossil whale from Pakistan. Other bloggers have done a much more thorough job than I could of presenting the work and its importance for understanding whale evolution, so I'll just link to them and the original article.

It is good to see more paleo papers taking the open access route!

Gingerich PD, ul-Haq M, von Koenigswald W, Sanders WJ, Smith BH, Zalmout IS. (2009) New Protocetid Whale from the Middle Eocene of Pakistan: Birth on Land, Precocial Development, and Sexual Dimorphism. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4366. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004366

Read about it at Laelaps, Not Exactly Rocket Science, A Blog Around the Clock, The Loom, and elsewhere.