Friday, August 21, 2009

PLoS Currents - rapid dissemination of knowledge

PLoS unveiled recently an initiative they call PLoS Currents. It is an experiment in rapid dissemination of research built on top of Google Knol. Essentially, a community of people dedicated to a specific topic, could use PLoS Currents to describe their ongoing work before it is submitted to a peer review journal. They have focused their initial efforts to Influenza research where the speed of dissemination of information might be crucial.

The content of this PLoS Currents: Influenza is not peer reviewed but is moderated by a panel of scientists that will strive to keep the content on topic. There is a FAQ explaining in more detail the initiative. These articles are archived, citable, they can be revised and they should not be considered as peer-reviewed publications. For this reason, PLoS encourages authors to eventually submit these works to a peer-reviewed journal. It remains to be seen how other publishers will react to submissions that are available in these rapid dissemination portals.

PLoS Currents vs Nature Precedings
This initiative is somewhat related to the preprint archives like Nature Precedings and arxive. The main differences seam to be a stronger emphasizes on community moderators and the use of 3rd party technology (Google Knol). The community moderators, which I assume are researchers working on Influenza could be decisive factor in ensuring that other researchers in the field at least know about the project. Using Google Knol lets PLoS focus on the community and hopefully help them get the technical support from Google to develop new tools are they are needed. However the website currently looks a little bit like a hack, which is the downside of using a 3rd party technology. For example, we can click the edit button and see options to change the main website .. although obviously the permissions do not allow us to save these changes.

I think it is an interesting experiment and hopefully more bio-related researchers will get comfortable with sharing and discussing ongoing research before publication. I still believe this would reduce wasteful overlaps.  As usual, I only fear that more of these experiments tend to fragment the required critical mass for such a community site to work.