Friday, April 11, 2008

PLoS ONE’s strides at the Faculty-of-1000-Biology

The emergence of Open Access Publishing has brought into practice the long envisioned model of post publication peer review. The success of such models is largely spearheaded by the new technologies based on Web 2.0. For example, the multidisciplinary journal, PLoS ONE, launched in late 2006 has been successfully strengthening the spirit and mission of Open Access while harnessing the power of web technology; at the same time its hosted on a powerful TOPAZ platform for community based review, evaluation and dialogue. It makes a terrific resource when an open access journal combines the power of rating and evaluation in real time.
Another revolution of our time is the authoritative, post-publication benchmarking and rating of most impacting articles through services such as the Faculty of 1000. Faculty of 1000 Biology is a web based, authoritative, next generation literature awareness tool. Run by the Medicine reports Limited (UK), it is a revolutionary online research service that comprehensively and systematically highlights and reviews path-breaking papers based on the recommendations of a faculty of well over 2300 selected leading researchers ("Faculty Members"). This service is run by scientists for scientists and provides ‘a rapidly updated consensus map of the important papers and trends across biology’. F1000Medicine is the sister concern of F1000Biology run by medical academics and clinicians and is rapidly gaining popularity among medical doctors and paramedics.
I consider myself fortunate to have published in Open Access journals in both PLoSONE and BMC and to be associated in editorial capacities with PLoS ONE, F1000Medicine, F1000Biology and the BMC led journals, Annals of Clinical Microbiol Antimicrobials, Infect Agents Cancer, Acta Vet Scand and Gut Pathogens (to be launched soon). I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying open access publishing and witnessing the success and impact of the revolutionary evaluating services.
Since a few weeks I have been associated with PLoS ONE in a more dedicated capacity of a Section Editor (Microbiology and Genomics) and therefore, got further opportunity to look into how this journal is going from strength to strength in such a short time of not even two years? Well that was evident from the number of articles published and their quality. However, I was keen in seeing this from the lenses of giants! I did some analyses involving tools at F1000Biology to know how inclined are the opinion leaders in biological sciences about PLoSONE articles given that the Faculty Members of F1000 have been traditionally ‘jumping’ to articles from a few top tier journals such as Nature or Cell. Good to say, the trend is reversing, although slow. Here is how - I was very much pleased to note PLoS ONE’s visible impact; 55 of the1241 articles (4.4%) published in PLoS ONE in 2007 have been evaluated and recommended by the experts at F1000Biology. What this means in terms of impact? As a comparison I modeled PLoS ONE statistics alongside one highly established journal, Nature (the only journal with which PLoS ONE can be compared due to its multidisciplinary nature). A total of 349 articles out of 2892 (12%) published by Nature in 2007 were evaluated at F1000Biology. Seemingly, the difference in terms of number of articles evaluated looks large. However, as I mentioned, if we consider the current visible bias of F1000 faculty towards Nature journals and the publishing criteria (at Nature) linked to space (huge rejection rates due to subjective criteria), PLoS ONE stands distinctly tall given the fact that it is just born. Performances of all other titles were nowhere near. Other 66 Open Access titles (all BMC series + Genome Biology put together) from Biomed Central (4740 articles in 2007) could yield only 47 evaluations at F1000Biology (0.9%) during 2007. Given that BMC titles are also freely available, it is intriguing to know what makes PLoSONE so successful at F1000? In my perception - it is the high quality of the articles plus the ease with which they can be judged on face - PLoSONE sandbox makes it extremely simple for the evaluators to quickly pick the articles based on notes, referee’s comments, ratings, reader responses and community feedback etc.
The future is even brighter – more and more F1000 members are inclined to using open access articles for their benchmarking. It makes life easy. I remember, I once had almost begged for a reprint from an author of a beautiful review article on genome duplications (many authors do not respond to reprint requests in a reasonable time frame). I wanted to have it evaluated at F1000Medicine and the closed access article was costing me USD 60.00 (in India, this equals to a monthly rent for a 2 bedroom house!!) – how shame!
Finally, I do not know how useful will be these initial statistics on F1000 ratings; but, I am sure this could mean a good indicator for the prospective authors at PLoSONE (especially in the absence of any bibliometric index such as Impact Factor) to foresee its reputation and peer-acceptance that the journal has earned in a short time.

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