While the physics community has made first steps to combine the open-access papers on the arXiv with the blogosphere through the trackback mechanism, the Public Library of Science has launched a new online journal, PLoS One, where the option of an annotation and discussion of papers is built in right from beginning.
The Public Library of Science, PLoS (it is not related to the Proceedings of Science, POS, the SISSA-based open-access proceedings publication which has evolved from the proceedings section of the the Journal of High Energy Physics) was founded originally to provide open-access scientific journals, mainly in medicine and the life sciences, where something similar to the arXiv was not available. These journals are free to read for everyone, and peer-review and publication is paid for by fees of the authors of papers, and by donations.
This scheme also applies to PLoS One: Authors pay for the publication, and access to the journal is free for everyone. The special feature of PLoS One is that the reviewing process predating publication seems not to include an estimate of the relevance of the paper. The idea is to leave the judgement about the scientific merits of a paper to the readers, who are invited to leave annotations and comment in the paper, and (in a future stage) to rate it!
PloS One includes so far more than 100 papers, from Biochemistry (1 paper) over Diabetes and Endocrinology (6 papers) and Infectious Diseases (29 papers) to Virology (6 papers). From the current table of contents it is clear that the main focus is on medicine and biology, although there is even a section called physics. It's bemusing to see such a wide topic to be squeezed in one small division of the journal - the two papers are about The Sound Generated by Mid-Ocean Ridge Black Smoker Hydrothermal Vents and the Relationship between Thermodynamic Driving Force and One-Way Fluxes in Reversible Processes.
PLoS One promises to accelerate research, but to view and read the journal, a little patience will be a bonus, at least for the time being: The heavy use of CSS and advanced HTML (I guess) makes the rendering of the pages in the browser really slow.
However, I think this is an exciting experiment in scientific publishing, which will be very interesting to follow!
TAGS: PHYSICS, SCIENCE, PUBLISHING, WEB 2.0