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PLOS Channels Provide Opportunity for Discovery, Exploration and Contextual Insights

Last month, the new PLOS Cholera Channel joined existing Veterans Disability & Rehabilitation Research, Tuberculosis and Open Source Toolkit Channels in providing distinct and cohesive scholarly homes for research communities. These innovative forums increase the visibility of curated, quality research and reliable news and commentary, bridging a gap in relevance that contributes to public misunderstanding of research.

The Channels Program launched with Veterans Disability & Rehabilitation Research (VDRR), and as Veterans Day in the US approaches it’s an opportunity to take a moment to relay the channels origin story, highlight the latest content and re-introduce the editors behind this program.

“It is imperative that scientists and consumers explore novel and innovative strategies to share research findings. Towards this end, as an editor of the PLOS Channel for Veterans Disability and Rehabilitation Research, I look forward to highlighting research aimed at helping Veterans with disability and/or chronic illness increase function and participation in daily life.”—Lisa Brenner, VDRR Channel Editor

For those intimately involved with the generation, use or reuse of research, channels provide a central information source for the latest developments, whether published in PLOS journals or elsewhere.

Beyond Traditional Journal and Editorial Boundaries

As global forums for research, news and discussion, all PLOS Channels deliver a similar contemporary layout for easy navigation and reading, developed with feedback from multiple audiences in mind: basic and clinical scientists, policymakers, science journalists, educators, students and patients. The Featured Research section pulls from PLOS and other Open Access article sources. A Related Content section contains news, occasional events and journal commentary that speak directly and with integrity to the channel topic. Although not peer reviewed, web articles and commentary in the Related Content section are selected by channel editors for the reliability of the source, relevance to the topic and when possible, to provide broad perspective on global issues from local journalists. PLOS hopes the mix of quality peer-reviewed research and exploratory journalistic content will help bridge current knowledge and communication gaps between scientists and the lay public.

Channel editors, selected either from existing PLOS Editorial Board members or recruited together with the channel focus, are an integral component of any given channel. Their expertise and ability to bring in supplementary material through commentary, blogs, news and more helps research communities and the public stay up to date with the latest advances, research trends and societal impact of work in the field of focus. To highlight their foundational work and dedication to this innovative effort in science communication, these editors are profiled at the bottom of the respective channel.

Stories of Channel Origins

Channels originate either from community demand or engaged editors or partners. VDRR provides a new home for the community formerly served by the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development (JRRD), no longer published by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. VDRR offers international researchers and practitioners a dedicated online space to share and read state-of-the-art research, information and resources to assist Veterans with chronic illness and disabilities worldwide. Meet the four editors on the Channels and Collections blog.

Editors of the Tuberculosis Channel exemplify the academic strength, community knowledge and dedication to science and medicine this position provides for each channel. The channel was proposed by Dr. Soumya Swaminathan during her tenure as Secretary, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, and Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. In October, Swaminathan was appointed Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organization in Geneva, the second-highest position at the health agency. Meet both TB Channel editors.

Born as the PLOS Open Source Toolkit: Hardware Collection, the Open Source Toolkit Channel builds on the success of the Collection and now includes peer-reviewed and web articles addressing software and its application. The dedication of this community to all aspects of open source in advancing science and medicine was a determining factor in transitioning this PLOS Collection to a PLOS Channel. Meet the two editors.

The recently launched Cholera Channel was proposed by Dr. Andrew Azman, Deputy Editor of PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases; he is joined as a channel editor by international experts in global health and infectious disease. Those engaged in the fight against cholera include academics, healthcare workers, policymakers, patients and civil society—all sharing a vision that collective action can stop cholera transmission and end cholera deaths through strengthened international collaboration and improved coordination. Meet the four editors on the Speaking of Medicine blog.

Supporting this community, until now with no specialist journal or centralized publication venue for their work, is key to PLOS Channels’ mission to serve as resources for research communities.

Current Editor’s Picks

Each Channel showcases an Editor’s Pick, updated regularly, to bring the latest research front and center to readers. On the VDRR Channel, the latest Editor’s Pick covers a study for early screening of Parkinson’s disease using voicing tasks and text-dependent speech options, published in PLOS ONE.

Editors of the Tuberculosis Channel focus on research that demonstrates an in vitro diagnostic test commonly used to accurately detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and rifampin resistance in high-incidence TB settings performs comparably in low TB-incidence settings. Editors of the Open Source Toolkit Channel chose to feature a PLOS Biology Community Page describing a tool for ethomics, the high-throughput approach to behavioral studies. “Ethoscopes: An open platform for high-throughput ethomics” originated as a preprint on bioRxiv and describes open source software and hardware solutions for monitoring animal behavior.

Currently the Cholera Channel highlights “Identification of burden hotspots and risk factors for cholera in India: An observational study” describing disease hotspots and risk factors for transmission. Using district-level data from the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program, the authors offer their open research results to policymakers for development of a cholera prevention and control roadmap.

From epidemiological studies using existing census data to translational research and innovations for behavioral studies of experimental model organisms, these diverse choices highlight channel editors’ broad perspective in curating content of interest for their scholarly communities.

A Focus on Cholera: PLOS’ Newest Channel

While universal access to safe water and appropriate sanitation is the key to cholera prevention, global progress towards these goals has been slow. The disease remains a global public health threat, with ongoing risk factors that include poor sanitation, lack of enough clean drinking water and poverty. The Cholera Channel features articles on applied and basic research related to the global fight against this disease and spans a range of topics with application to cholera prevention and control, including computational studies exploring the dynamics and spread of cholera; epidemiologic studies and translational science. Also covered is applied field research on the efficacy, effectiveness and impact of cholera control programs such as water and sanitation interventions and oral cholera vaccines.

PLOS aspires to put researchers back at the center of science communication, working in the best interests of all stakeholders—for the benefit of science and the public. Innovations such as the Channels Program, with collaboration from like-minded organizations, push the boundaries of scientific publishing beyond traditional journal, publisher and editorial constraints. Additional channels are currently in planning; bookmark or your Channel of interest and check back every two weeks for the latest research, news and developments.

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