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From Open Access to Open Science, PLOS Biology is Leading Change

 

From its launch in 2003, PLOS Biology quickly established itself as PLOS’ flagship journal in the life sciences–a model of Open Access and a catalyst for change in scholarly publishing as well as a leading publication for the life sciences. Today, we’re announcing the beginning of a new vision for the journal which builds upon its earlier successes and pushes boundaries even further to promote Open Science and excellence in publishing. 

We had considered holding back this announcement while so many of us are grappling with the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, we view it as our duty as publishers, now and in the long term, to accelerate the path to publication and increase transparent research practices. We believe the changes to the scope and new article types on PLOS Biology, outlined below, will help researchers in the life sciences rapidly share their early findings and preregister their studies, and may prove to be particularly useful in these difficult times.. 

To lead this new phase for PLOS Biology, we are also fortunate to welcome a talented and passionate new Editor-in-Chief, Nonia Pariente. Welcome, Nonia! 

 

Nonia Pariente, PLOS Biology Editor-in-Chief

“I’m very excited to take on this new role. PLOS Biology has a very strong reputation and an inspiring vision. I am passionate about broadening its reach to all of the Life Sciences communities and strengthening its position in the publishing landscape. All important advances in every area of biology should feel they have a home in PLOS Biology”.

— Nonia Pariente, PLOS Biology Editor-in-Chief

 

Pushing Boundaries in Service of Research

When the journal launched, Open Access was an experimental publishing option. PLOS Biology proved that being highly selective and Open Access were perfectly compatible, aligning all the benefits of immediate and global accessibility with impactful research. Our aim has always been to challenge the status quo in scientific communication in order to better meet researchers’ needs. With our past experience to guide us, PLOS Biology is setting up a framework for assessment and publication that better aligns with the process of scientific inquiry itself, including:

 

  • Redefined selectivity criteria which will emphasize the importance of the research question and the quality of its execution; 
  • A preregistration option offering peer review of the study design, with guaranteed publication of the final research article–regardless of the results–for accepted protocols;
  • Introduction of two linked article types, Discovery Reports and Update Articles, which enable researchers to report on ongoing work as their research develops and new information becomes available.

Combined with the existing criteria around openness of research data, a preprint deposition workflow, and the option for authors to publish their peer review history, these changes are part of PLOS’ larger goals to transform scientific communication in a way that empowers researchers to choose Open Science. 

 

Surfacing the importance of the entire research process, not just results

As we’ve reflected on more than fifteen years of experience at PLOS Biology, and considered the publishing landscape, we acknowledge that publishing in highly selective journals remains an imperative for many researchers. The typical criteria used to select articles, however, continue to focus on novelty and perceived importance of the research results. As such, they continue to nurture a perverse system of incentives in which it matters to be first and to have an exciting headline–much less to be right and to have results that stand robustly to the test of time. 

PLOS Biology has already started addressing this challenge by giving a premium to transparency and access to underlying data, methodology and reagents, to enhance reproducibility. By introducing its ‘scooping policy’ through which novelty is not a disqualifying criteria within six months of an initial report. By opening up its peer review process to give context to decisions, as well as publishing valuable studies with clearly stated caveats when the consensus among reviewers is unclear. And even by asking authors to remove speculative results to reduce the hype that they sometimes feel pressured to provide.

PLOS Biology will remain a selective journal–don’t take me wrong. But in its selection process, the journal now seeks to more systematically emphasize the importance of the research question and the quality of its approach and execution, before considering the importance of the results. 

The new preregistration workflow, in addition to all the benefits it offers for reducing bias in experimentation and reporting, is also meant to encourage researchers to undertake important and well-designed studies with uncertain outcomes instead of censoring their research ideas based on the odds of publication. 

The new linked article types will allow researchers to share their work more quickly, and to more effectively separate exploratory research during which they generate hypotheses (to be published as a Discovery Report) from its confirmatory phases, during which the hypothesis is further tested and new insights generated (to be linked as an Update Article). 

 

Welcome, Nonia Pariente!

Of course, none of this would be possible without a strong underlying editorial strategy. Joining our highly experienced team of staff editors, Nonia officially came on board earlier this month as Editor-in-Chief and is eager to get started on these new initiatives. 

 

“Since I started editing, and definitely as I have grown throughout my career as Chief Editor of Nature Microbiology and now as Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Biology, my goal has been to help science advance and to help scientists communicate their stories… I think what makes PLOS Biology and PLOS in general stand out is that it is an organization that was founded with the goal and drive to innovate the process of scientific publication for the benefit of scientists and scientific advance. Thinking outside the box is almost an obligation.”

 

Please take a moment to get to know Nonia through her introduction on the Biologue blog, and read more about her vision for PLOS Biology in her Editorial

The scope and importance of this work is really too big for one post, so our team will be providing more details over the next few weeks with updates to this space. These new article types are immediately available to submitting authors and you can find more details on our Journal Information page of our site. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions in the meantime at plosbiology@plos.org

 

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