Home Biology PLOS Biology at 20: Reflecting on the highway we’ve traveled

PLOS Biology at 20: Reflecting on the highway we’ve traveled

PLOS Biology at 20: Reflecting on the highway we’ve traveled


This text is a part of the PLOS Biology twentieth Anniversary Assortment.

This month, as we have a good time 20 years because the launch of PLOS Biology, we requested 3 editors who’ve led the journal to debate the thought behind its launch and the way it advanced all through their tenures. Hemai Parthasarathy, Managing Editor 2003–2007, Theodora Bloom, Chief Editor 2008–2014, and Emma Ganley, Chief Editor 2014–2019, share their experiences beneath.

The primary years: Hemai Parthasarathy

The Public Library of Science (then PLoS, now PLOS) was created to additional the mission of open-access publishing. The argument was easy: within the digital period, when the price of producing and sending one copy of a journal was infinitesimal, why may publication not be paid for up entrance, to launch the fruits of publicly funded analysis for the good thing about the world? We created PLOS Biology in service of that mission and of the scientific neighborhood.

PLOS Biology didn’t have a Chief Editor on the outset. PLOS was a startup and PLOS Biology was our first product, so it was all fingers on deck for that first challenge [1]. Not as a result of we believed anybody wanted one more journal, not to mention a so-called elite scientific journal, however as a result of the stark impediment to persuading scientists to publish open entry was the perceived lack of high-quality venues wherein to take action. Scientists repeatedly mentioned they merely couldn’t select any of the present open-access choices over the normal high-profile journals as a result of it might be profession suicide. Furthermore, proponents of the publishing establishment argued that paying publication charges up entrance was incompatible with excessive editorial requirements. To fulfill these challenges, your entire PLOS workforce—together with our founders—labored collectively to recruit the educational editorial board, solicit manuscript submissions, and make selections in regards to the course of, look, and really feel of the journal.

Twenty years is a very long time. Bear in mind, in case you can, a time earlier than Fb, Twitter (ahem, X), and Gmail. In science publishing, AAAS had a single journal, Science, whereas Nature Publishing Group and Cell Press had brief lists of titles one may simply memorize. None of them had been open entry. That’s the world into which we launched PLOS Biology. We opened our digital doorways with bated breath on October 13, 2003. It was as if we had spent months planning a celebration and now questioned if anybody would present up. We panicked when the servers crashed after which had been happy to report that it was the results of unexpectedly excessive visitors to our web site. We printed copies of the journal for distribution at conferences, and I nonetheless aspire to journey to Borneo to see the miniature elephants that graced our first cowl (Fig 1).

As soon as PLOS Biology was launched, the PLOS founding workforce shortly diversified our efforts and created a construction to permit us to scale and launch different journals. I took on the function of working PLOS Biology and employed in a workforce of editors devoted to only this journal. If I’m trustworthy, I didn’t actually care if PLOS Biology would exist in 20 years. In actual fact, I slightly hoped it might not, no less than in its unique incarnation. I hoped that peer-to-peer scientific communication would have moved on from transposing the 300+-year-old paper journal onto a digital platform. I imagined that the road between dataset and paper can be blurred and the strains between preprint, peer-review, and validation by the neighborhood would develop into equally blurred to extra truthfully mirror the method of scientific discovery and validation. As we had been launching PLOS Biology, we had been already engaged on PLOS ONE with these aspirations in thoughts. We felt that it was already unimaginable to maintain up with the scientific literature. Open entry provided a method for machines to assist us, which appears prescient now that giant language fashions and machine studying advances are galvanizing modifications in the way in which we scientists function, hopefully releasing us to be extra artistic [2].

I left scientific publishing greater than 15 years in the past to work with scientist entrepreneurs. Each startup founder I’ve supported has requested whether or not I may assist them get entry to subscription-based scientific publications, as soon as they had been now not related to a college. Insofar because the peer-reviewed, high-profile journal article continues to be valued, I’m proud that PLOS Biology nonetheless produces high-quality content material that’s freely obtainable to anybody with an web connection and has helped to catalyze a world wherein open-access publication is inevitable.

After half a decade: Theodora Bloom

I joined PLOS Biology as Chief Editor in February 2008. The world was within the midst of a world monetary disaster however PLOS was, in line with its i990 varieties, transferring from dependence on grants to incomes many of the income wanted to cowl its prices. At launch, PLOS Biology and PLOS Drugs had aimed to be status titles that may reassure authors who sometimes revealed in journals with one-word names and double-digit influence elements that open-access journals may ship the identical kind of kudos and recognition. However that made them costly to provide, rejecting a whole lot of analysis articles, and offering commentary and evaluation in assist of these articles that had been revealed. Key to the swap in PLOS’s fortunes, due to this fact, was the launch of PLOS ONE in 2006, which turned the primary profitable “mega journal” that aimed to publish all analysis that was sound, no matter editorial issues of influence and significance to the sphere. Earlier than becoming a member of PLOS, I had labored at BioMed Central, which had developed the thought of article processing cost (APC)-funded journals that targeted solely on the soundness of the analysis, however had subdivided them by topic space. So, as soon as once more, PLOS confirmed that by altering only one side of publishing, it was attainable to convey the neighborhood alongside a brand new path and reveal the feasibility of its method.

The PLOS Biology workforce of the 2000s had at its core a wonderful group {of professional} editors who had labored elsewhere in life sciences publishing earlier than PLOS, supported by very good administrative and manufacturing workers. But it surely was arduous to cowl the entire of biology with a small group of editors, even with the assistance of a big editorial board, so a call was taken to nominate Jonathan Eisen as Educational Editor in Chief, to behave as “a neighborhood consultant for the journal each inside and out of doors of PLOS.” On this function Jonathan—a prolific blogger, tweeter, and writer—was capable of anchor the editorial workforce within the tutorial neighborhood and supply invaluable outreach to assist unfold the phrase about PLOS and open entry [3].

By the 2010s, when PLOS Biology was celebrating its tenth anniversary, it may declare to be a mature journal and a part of an ecosystem of journals revealed by an more and more profitable nonprofit open-access writer. Questions had been raised publicly about whether or not authors at PLOS ONE ought to be “subsidizing” the price of rejections from PLOS Biology and PLOS Drugs. My recollection is that PLOS’s Board of Administrators additionally struggled with this notion, generally deciding that PLOS Biology must be self-sustaining and at different occasions accepting that it served a special function within the PLOS ecosystem. This wrestle was maybe exemplified by the feedback of PLOS Founder Mike Eisen on the anniversary get together, that the most effective factor PLOS Biology may do within the subsequent 10 years can be to stop to exist. That was a tough message to listen to for a workforce who had labored to provide a particular journal that met its unique objectives and continues to play a key half in PLOS’s fame and fortunes, in addition to serving authors and readers globally.

If I had been to look to the subsequent 20 years for PLOS Biology, my hope could be that it might develop into even much less targeted on the USA and western Europe, much more involved about fairness and the difficulties of the APC mannequin, and even higher at together with editors and authors from across the globe. It has come a good distance because the days when a convention name meant clustering round a polycom telephone with colleagues whose faces one by no means noticed. I sit up for seeing the way it develops subsequent.

Maturity and past: Emma Ganley

Having seen PLOS Biology throughout its infancy and teenage years in 2 completely different stints as Affiliate Editor and Senior Editor working with each Hemai and Theo, respectively, it was a dream and a privilege to take the baton as Chief Editor, initially with a co-chief, Christine Ferguson, after which solo. My five-year tenure as Chief was jam-packed, working with an unimaginable workforce {of professional} and tutorial editors, colleagues throughout PLOS, and naturally superb researchers (thanks to all concerned). There was by no means a boring day; it was a time of alternative for PLOS Biology to delve deeper into the function of innovator.

There was an rising focus within the analysis neighborhood on accountability and inside assessment, and extra “analysis into analysis.” The meta-research subject blossomed, however accessible publishing choices for ensuing research had been restricted, so we created a much-needed “Meta-Analysis Article” and added applicable consultants to our Editorial Board to accommodate these analysis efforts [4].

Addressing researchers’ ache factors was a common focus. Researchers wished to publish preliminary preliminary findings, strategies, and/or assets, and none of those match beneath our current Analysis Article rubric, and so “Brief Stories” and “Strategies and Assets” had been added [5]. One other publishing establishment that made no sense given issues in regards to the reproducibility of analysis was the fear round “scooping.” We determined to formalize a beforehand undocumented coverage to encourage confirmatory analysis. The place beforehand, being “scooped” was trigger for despair, our complementary analysis coverage acknowledged the worth of replication research and said that they’re welcome at PLOS Biology, acknowledging the significance of being second [6].

Throughout my tenure, cross-PLOS initiatives similar to a bidirectional linkage between journal submission and preprint posting at bioRxiv and the roll-out of open peer assessment had been launched. On PLOS Biology, we devised an method to publish manuscripts with contentious outcomes that reviewers and editors couldn’t agree on. After skilled assessment, rejection on account of competition made no sense; the authors wouldn’t get a greater assessment course of elsewhere, they must begin from scratch, including pointless delay, and the contentious challenge would stay. We began to publish these research with an Educational Editor’s notice and a Primer from one other skilled to contextualize the competition, deal with limitations, and rationalize the choice. Alongside open peer assessment, this clear publishing method [7] permits the scientific neighborhood to succeed in an knowledgeable resolution in regards to the analysis.

Our “journal” part additionally advanced, experimenting with new article sorts. Our in-house author and editor, Liza Gross, collaborated broadly and introduced collectively some extremely necessary public well being and conservation-relevant collections [8,9]. Earlier than transferring on to my subsequent gig, the groundwork for a number of different initiatives was in place, such because the launch “Preregistered Analysis Articles” and article sorts that may assist to redefine selectivity and what constitutes a publishable unit. With these efforts in place, I moved on from PLOS and now concentrate on guaranteeing entry to analysis strategies as an impartial analysis output at protocols.io.

Seeking to the longer term, I’m to see whether or not, how, and if the publishable unit is additional refined. Whereas efficiently switching from print to on-line, analysis publishing has clung to the identical article format that has existed because the 1600s. Maybe PLOS Biology can transfer in direction of extra modular publishing, with analysis questions, strategies, outcomes, knowledge, code, and interpretations obtainable as impartial however interlinked objects. I hope that PLOS Biology and PLOS can leverage know-how to proceed to innovate and discover prospects, pushing the needle for what is taken into account the norm.



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