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PLOS Update

In 2009, we launched PLOS Currents as an experimental platform for rapid communication of non-standard publications. A few communities embraced the experiment enthusiastically from the start, and the contributions of researchers who volunteered as editors and reviewers was fantastic. Over the years, we have seen important applications, for example, in small communities collaborating on rare diseases research in PLOS Currents Huntington Disease, and in rapid communication of preliminary results in the context of disease outbreaks in PLOS Currents Outbreaks. In particular, there was a surge of submissions during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the 2015-2016 Zika virus outbreak.

However, in recent years the technology supporting this platform has aged rapidly, the user experience has been subpar, and submissions have substantially decreased. We have undertaken a thorough review to understand these concerns, and to evaluate whether PLOS Currents was still meeting our original aims – and the needs of its communities. Our conclusion: it does not. Much has changed in the years since Currents’ launch and we think there are now better ways of serving the original aims. We have therefore made the difficult announcement to cease its publication.

From today, PLOS Currents will no longer accept new submissions. Authors who currently have a submission under review have been contacted with details on their options going forward. All PLOS Currents content will remain available, citable, indexed in PubMed and permanently archived on the PLOS Currents site and publicly archived in PubMed Central.

In assessing how PLOS Currents measured against its original vision we learned three major lessons and a new path forward:

  1. Despite the flexibility of the format and invitations to submit wide-ranging research (e.g., negative results, single experiments, research in progress, protocols, datasets, etc.), the majority of submissions to PLOS Currents were traditional research articles
  2. The platform which underlies PLOS Currents has not evolved as rapidly with the needs of the community it was meant to serve.
  3. A common thread has been the desire to publish rapidly, which was particularly obvious in the case of PLOS Currents Disasters and PLOS Currents Outbreaks. However, since PLOS Currents was launched new publishing tools have emerged that can facilitate the rapid sharing of work.

We have partnered with like-minded organizations to provide more adapted and specialized solutions. Today we offer the option for rapid dissemination across all of our journals through our recent partnership with the preprint server bioRxiv.  We have also partnered with other platforms that specialize in specific content types such as protocols.io, an open access repository for laboratory protocols, with customized features for protocols publication, execution, adaptation, and discussion. Through a series of preferred repositories that host specialist dataset and our close collaboration with Dryad and figshare, PLOS champions the sharing of data sets according to the FAIR principles.

We continue to seek partnerships to facilitate the dissemination of research outputs that do not conform to the traditional research article mold. Meanwhile, PLOS ONE has reinforced its commitment to continue to publish negative results and replication and confirmation studies.

To bring together all these features, we have built PLOS Channels, which integrate content from all PLOS titles, the wider literature, preprint servers, blogs, and the other content platforms types described above. Channel Editors curate this content to create a highly-valuable community resource, developed and maintained by communities for communities. By extending beyond a single title or platform for original content, we believe that Channels are well suited to build on the initial objectives of PLOS Currents.

For example, last year, we launched a Disease Forecasting & Surveillance Channel to which one of the Editors of PLOS Currents Outbreaks and a member of our Currents review board already contribute. In May, as the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo worsened, we rapidly launched an Ebola Channel to serve responders. When the WHO announced the end of the outbreak, we paused activity on the Channel but stand ready to activate it, or another channel, as researchers and clinicians mobilize to fight outbreaks as they occur. These are only two examples of the potential we see for Channels to support specific communities.

The initial objectives of PLOS Currents remain vibrantly alive at PLOS and we are enormously grateful to all the PLOS Currents Editors and Reviewers, past and present, who have made this experiment possible. We will continue to work with these communities to find new ways to facilitate communication of research that fit their specific needs.

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