Many of you may have seen a news piece from Associated Press writer Alicia Chang in the papers on Monday morning which talks about PLoS ONE. According to Google News it’s in at least 130 papers (I’ve linked to Wired News above) and is titled things like “Online journals challenge scientific peer review”, “Web journals threaten peer-review system” and “Online Science Journals Challenge Peer-Reviewed Counterparts”. Obviously there are a few things I would have written differently.
The article itself is a more balanced, talking about different approaches to peer-review that are made possible by the web. PLoS gets a lot of coverage which is great. It does give the impression though that PLoS ONE will in some way not be peer-reviewed properly.
That is a huge shame as the Editorial Board of PLoS ONE are working very hard to ensure that only valuable science gets accepted. This is peer-review, often using formal external referees, it just concentrates less on subjective matters than many other journals. Certainly I am disappointed (and that is English understatement) that it says “an editor gives them [submissions] just a cursory look“. That isn’t the case at all and is a slur on the hard working Editorial Board to suggest that is all they are doing.
Apart from that sentence (and the headline) the piece does a pretty good job of explaining the idea that subjective opinions as well as the detection of fraud and other misconduct are better handled by discussion of research in an open fashion and that this is achieveable through the web.
I’m quoted a couple of times but my favourite part of the article is the closing quotation from Linda Miller, Nature‘s U.S. executive editor: “If we don’t serve the community well, we will become irrelevant“. I don’t think that she intended to sound the death knell for traditional publishers but she is quite right: they, and we, need to provide scientists with what they need or face the consequences.