Thursday, January 04, 2007

PLoS ONE: a new "interactive" scientific journal

The January 2007 edition of Physics World, the magazine of the British Institute of Physics, has several very interesting articles about the impact of the "Web 2.0" on publishing in physics. Topics discussed include the open access publishing models for physics journals, and "Talking physics in the social Web", about Blogs and Wikis in physics. This latter article cites a very nice quote by Sabine about the impression of the string theory debate that may emerge if blogs are the only source of information one relies on...

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!

Example of a Paper with annotations at PLoS ONE

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!

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  1. Also keep your eyes peeled over the coming months for a physics-specific open-access publishing platform - PhysMath Central, which will be tailored much more to physicists needs.


  2. This latter article cites a very nice quote by Sabine

    Ah, hum, yes. I think I've written more intelligent sentences. But I think it's the first time someone quotes me in a correct context! And the article is actually pretty interesting and well written....

    Yours too :-)

    More later. Have to pamper my jetlag. I should have read my own blog. Statistics don't lie: Newark is by far the worst airport I've ever had to get through customs. Best,


  3. btw, regarding the arxiv trackbacks: Did you notice that the arxiv lists trackbacks to our blog?

  4. The causal disconnect between two of you in the Penrose diagram is probably even more entertaining than this improved publishing technology. ;-)

  5. Hi Lubos :-)

    I guess you're the first who understood the picture! Indeed, indeed, long-distance relationships aren't always fun. I sketched the picture somewhere above the Atlantic ocean - But we're working on the information loss problem.

    Besides this, we're still not upgraded to the no-longer-beta version! I am getting kind of jealous of your blog, it seems to have some cool features.

    A nice weekend to all of you,


  6. Ah, finally, my cable provider brings again the internet in my living room - that didn't work since yesterday evening... And what do I see: I am just offline for one day and my wife has refurbished our virtual home ;-)...

    I recognize the new picture as one of those diagrams that are used to describe the causual strucutures and singularities of space-times, but I have to say I never invested time and thinking to really understand what they say. So, there may be a hidden meaning in the figure which I should decipher :-) ?

    To come back more to the topic of this thread: Is it actully possible to see somehow which posts on a blog are targets of a trackback from the arXiv?

    All the best, stefan

  7. glad you hear you're again causally connected :-) Yeah, I vaguely plan on writing something about Penrose Carter diagrams some time... Just briefly: the solid lines are the horizons, the wavy lines the singularities. The whole diagram is the (max. analytical extension of) the Schwarzschild solution. Best,'



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