Concept: Public Library of Science
Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC, contributes to our Tenth Anniversary PLOS Biology Collection by discussing how the Open Access movement has grown up.
Scientists are required to communicate science and research not only to other experts in the field, but also to scientists and experts from other fields, as well as to the public and policymakers. One fundamental suggestion when communicating with non-experts is to avoid professional jargon. However, because they are trained to speak with highly specialized language, avoiding jargon is difficult for scientists, and there is no standard to guide scientists in adjusting their messages. In this research project, we present the development and validation of the data produced by an up-to-date, scientist-friendly program for identifying jargon in popular written texts, based on a corpus of over 90 million words published in the BBC site during the years 2012-2015. The validation of results by the jargon identifier, the De-jargonizer, involved three mini studies: (1) comparison and correlation with existing frequency word lists in the literature; (2) a comparison with previous research on spoken language jargon use in TED transcripts of non-science lectures, TED transcripts of science lectures and transcripts of academic science lectures; and (3) a test of 5,000 pairs of published research abstracts and lay reader summaries describing the same article from the journals PLOS Computational Biology and PLOS Genetics. Validation procedures showed that the data classification of the De-jargonizer significantly correlates with existing frequency word lists, replicates similar jargon differences in previous studies on scientific versus general lectures, and identifies significant differences in jargon use between abstracts and lay summaries. As expected, more jargon was found in the academic abstracts than lay summaries; however, the percentage of jargon in the lay summaries exceeded the amount recommended for the public to understand the text. Thus, the De-jargonizer can help scientists identify problematic jargon when communicating science to non-experts, and be implemented by science communication instructors when evaluating the effectiveness and jargon use of participants in science communication workshops and programs.
A barrier to dissemination of research is that it depends on the end-user searching for or ‘pulling’ relevant knowledge from the literature base. Social media instead ‘pushes’ relevant knowledge straight to the end-user, via blogs and sites such as Facebook and Twitter. That social media is very effective at improving dissemination seems well accepted, but, remarkably, there is no evidence to support this claim. We aimed to quantify the impact of social media release on views and downloads of articles in the clinical pain sciences. Sixteen PLOS ONE articles were blogged and released via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and ResearchBlogging.org on one of two randomly selected dates. The other date served as a control. The primary outcomes were the rate of HTML views and PDF downloads of the article, over a seven-day period. The critical result was an increase in both outcome variables in the week after the blog post and social media release. The mean ± SD rate of HTML views in the week after the social media release was 18±18 per day, whereas the rate during the other three weeks was no more than 6±3 per day. The mean ± SD rate of PDF downloads in the week after the social media release was 4±4 per day, whereas the rate during the other three weeks was less than 1±1 per day (p<0.05 for all comparisons). However, none of the recognized measures of social media reach, engagement or virality related to either outcome variable, nor to citation count one year later (p>0.3 for all). We conclude that social media release of a research article in the clinical pain sciences increases the number of people who view or download that article, but conventional social media metrics are unrelated to the effect.
Mega-journals are a new kind of scholarly journal made possible by electronic publishing. They are open access (OA) and funded by charges, which authors pay for the publishing services. What distinguishes mega-journals from other OA journals is, in particular, a peer review focusing only on scientific trustworthiness. The journals can easily publish thousands of articles per year and there is no need to filter articles due to restricted slots in the publishing schedule. This study updates some earlier longitudinal studies of the evolution of mega-journals and their publication volumes. After very rapid growth in 2010-2013, the increase in overall article volumes has slowed down. Mega-journals are also increasingly dependent for sustained growth on Chinese authors, who now contribute 25% of all articles in such journals. There has also been an internal shift in market shares. PLOS ONE, which totally dominated mega-journal publishing in the early years, currently publishes around one-third of all articles. Scientific Reports has grown rapidly since 2014 and is now the biggest journal.
On 5th December 2012, a scientific article reviewing a change in the feeding behaviour of the European catfish, one of the largest freshwater fish, was published in the American scientific journal, PLOS ONE, an open access journal, which also allows the mass publication of pictures and videos. Within a few days following the publication of this article, it was relayed by numerous web sites and generated a media craze. In this paper, we analyse the circulation of this scientific information in the sphere of Web-based media during the two months following its publication, by revealing the citation mechanisms of the original article and the logic of the Internet users participating in its diffusion. In addition, since the circulation of its informational content travelled beyond linguistic and geographical boundaries, we chose to compare the citation modalities and intertextual relationships of documents in the three countries where the article spread the most widely, namely: France, the United States and Great Britain. Even though our study shows that the media circulation of scientific papers operates in a traditional way, the intertextual analysis underlines the grand variety of participants (such as journalists, non-scientists, fishermen, technology enthusiasts and Internet users) involved in the diffusion of this information, each of them mobilizing different intertextual strategies, according to their various targets. They all transformed, reformulated and appropriated the scientific information according to their own, unique interests. This study also emphasizes the importance of journalistic websites as opinion relays. They were the first diffusers involved in spreading the information but this role was rarely acknowledged by the Internet users - through citations, for example. In contrast, we observed that amateurs' communities (communities of practices and communities of interest of fishermen or of buzz fans), which only became involved in a second temporal phase of the spreading, preferred to build up their credibility through citations of the original article. Finally, this research helps to rethink the mechanisms of the circulation of scientific information in the Web-based media, highlighting both the variety and the inventiveness of the interactions between the academic and public spheres.
To mark our tenth Anniversary at PLOS Biology, we are launching a special, celebratory Tenth Anniversary PLOS Biology Collection which showcases 10 specially selected PLOS Biology research articles drawn from a decade of publishing excellent science. It also features newly commissioned articles, including thought-provoking pieces on the Open Access movement (past and present), on article-level metrics, and on the history of the Public Library of Science. Each research article highlighted in the collection is also accompanied by a PLOS Biologue blog post to extend the impact of these remarkable studies to the widest possible audience.
PLOS Biology announces a new article type, Open Highlights, which uses a recent research article to nucleate a short synthesis of up to ten related research articles from other PLOS journals and from the wider Open Access corpus.
The PLOS Medicine editors issue a call for papers for translational and clinical cancer research papers with strong potential to advance patient care, public policy, or clinical research agendas.
Aim. To determine the characteristics of megajournal authors, the nature of the manuscripts they are submitting to these journals, factors influencing their decision to publish in a megajournal, sources of funding for article processing charges (APCs) or other fees and their likelihood of submitting to a megajournal in the future. Methods. Web-based survey of 2,128 authors who recently published in BMJ Open, PeerJ, PLOS ONE or SAGE Open. Results. The response rate ranged from 26% for BMJ Open to 47% for SAGE Open. The authors were international, largely academics who had recently published in both subscription and Open Access (OA) journals. Across journals about 25% of the articles were preliminary findings and just under half were resubmissions of manuscripts rejected by other journals. Editors from other BMJ journals and perhaps to a lesser extent SAGE and PLOS journals appear to be encouraging authors to submit manuscripts that were rejected by the editor’s journals to a megajournal published by the same publisher. Quality of the journal and speed of the review process were important factors across all four journals. Impact factor was important for PLOS ONE authors but less so for BMJ Open authors, which also has an impact factor. The review criteria and the fact the journal was OA were other significant factors particularly important for PeerJ authors. The reputation of the publisher was an important factor for SAGE Open and BMJ Open. About half of PLOS ONE and around a third of BMJ Open and PeerJ authors used grant funding for publishing charges while only about 10% of SAGE Open used grant funding for publication charges. Around 60% of SAGE Open and 32% of PeerJ authors self-funded their publication fees however the fees are modest for these journals. The majority of authors from all 4 journals were pleased with their experience and indicated they were likely to submit to the same or similar journal in the future. Conclusions. Megajournals are drawing an international group of authors who tend to be experienced academics. They are choosing to publish in megajournals for a variety of reasons but most seem to value the quality of the journal and the speed of the review/publication process. Having a broad scope was not a key factor for most authors though being OA was important for PeerJ and SAGE Open authors. Most authors appeared pleased with the experience and indicated they are likely to submit future manuscripts to the same or similar megajournal which seems to suggest these journals will continue to grow in popularity.
The PLOS Medicine Editors support expanding the global benefits of clinical point-of-care information through open access and note challenges that may arise along the way.