Category Archives: Open Access

Open Access

PLoS ONE turns 1

I noticed today the the PLoS ONE blog is celebrating the first birthday of PLoS ONE. It sounds like things have been going pretty well for them since last August:

On 1st August last year, PLoS ONE opened its doors for submission and so we have decided to call today our official birthday.

Most importantly of all though, in the last year, or, at least, in the months from December 2006, we have published 695 pieces of original research. All of that research is, of course, Open Access and all of that research can be annotated by users, discussed by users and for the last few weeks rated by users.

This potential for interaction is unprecedented in any other scientific publication and it is being used to an extremely high standard.

You should go read the whole thing. They have three birthday wishes:

Whenever you write about a published paper, be it in a journal or on a blog, always provide a link to the freely available version of the paper if one exists.

Whenever you read a paper in PLoS ONE, always rate it before leaving.

And most importantly….

Whenever you write a scientific paper, always, always, always publish it Open Access.

I finally signed up today to get notices about articles in PLoS Computational Biology and PLoS Medicine. (Where’s PLoS Computational Medicine, hmm?)

PLoS Articles from JHU

I’m doing some research for an interview with a faculty member here at the Institute for Computational Medicine who has published an article in PLoS Computational Biology. Along the way, I found out that the Johns Hopkins University is a member of the PLoS consortium, and there’s even an automated page on their site that shows papers published in PLoS journals by Johns Hopkins authors. My quick manual count was about 75 papers since 2005.

It’s pretty clear that with 75 papers in two years from Johns Hopkins alone, PLoS is off to a great start. This can only mean good things for the future of open access publishing in the sciences.

Follow-up on PLoS ONE Ratings, from PLoS

I mentioned yesterday the new rating system/software launched by PLoS one. This was precipitated by an announcement on the software/technical side. Today they have an article on the PLoS blog about the new rating system, encouraging people to rate articles.

Here’s the intro from the post:

I’ve been waiting to write this Blog posting for a while and now I can. As from today PLoS ONE has a user rating system for its articles. All users can now rate articles in three subjective categories: Insight, Reliability and Style. We have made the tool, now we need you to come and use it.

User rating is a very common feature of websites these days, be it for movies, books, blog posts, pretty much anything. What user rating allows is a quick and easy survey of a communities opinion. Despite the obvious advantages to hard pressed scientists trying to get to grips with a vast literature this simple system hasn’t been much applied to scientific papers up to this point.

The major exception to this is probably Faculty of 1000, which has been providing ratings for papers for many years, but that is not based on the opinion of a whole community but only the thoughts of a select few.

So what will this new rating system look like? Well, if you go to any of the six hundred or so papers that PLoS ONE has so far published and look in the right had column you will see a little box containing five small stars. Those indicate the overall aggregate rating of the paper based on individual ‘votes’ from individual users.

What’s interesting about this is that it’s a little different from a citation index, the main way that articles are scored. You see, normally scientific articles are given a ranking or score based on how much they are cited in other articles. This is a pretty good idea, but it neglects sort of “terminal” articles — that is, articles that mark the end of most investigation into a particular niche. These articles may nonetheless be extremely interesting or useful, but never garner a large citation index. Furthermore, articles of interest to people in other fields, or even the general public, will never garner any indication of said interest or popularity under the conventional system. The occasional exception might be popular science articles inspired by new publications in Nature or Science.

With the emergence of an article rating system, that may change. People can read and rate articles without having to write an entire manuscript. People can leave comments on articles without drafting (and having accepted) an “official” editorial or response in a major academic journal. Things are getting a lot more interesting, and quickly.

As the title of the article suggests, Rate Early, Rate Often.

More open academics: Manuscriptorium

Historians have a bit of an advantage when it comes to open access to research material — so much of what they’re interested in is well out of copyright. To that end, Manuscriptorium is assembling digitized manuscripts and other research materials in a convenient and open-access library.

Their about page is very informative, describing the origins of the project. It seems to be run by the Czech government, and includes not only digital resources but metadata on meatspace records and artifacts as well.

I saw a sign on a reference librarian’s door the other day about spending hours of aimless internet searching versus 10 minutes with a reference librarian. It’s a decent point, and I was in the library that day to look at reference materials better than anything I could find online, but more and more of the resources and catalogs (real-world pointers) that we need to do research are becoming available online, and to everyone.