Opening up influenza research with a new kind of journal

Today is the launch of a new type of online publication, a cross between website and a "real" journal, called PLoS Currents: Influenza. What is it? Well, it's a website for immediate publication of new findings about the influenza virus. Submissions are screened by a panel of moderators (I'm one of them) and if they are appropriate, we will publish them immediately - no delays - and they will be freely available for anyone to read. They will also be given a permanent, searching PubMed identification, just like a regular journal paper.

What's the difference between this and a regular journal? Well, first of all, submissions won't be thoroughly reviewed, which means they don't "count" as journal papers, but it also means you can publish them later in a peer-reviewed journal. The Public Library of Science has already bought into this model - they're sponsoring PLoS Currents, after all - and we expect other journals to do so also. So why publish, you might ask? That's easy: in a highly competitive field such as influenza research, different scientists are often racing to answer the same question. By publishing super-rapidly in PLoS Currents, you will get a citable, time-stamped reference that establishes your discovery, and most importantly, establishes when you made it.

The big win here, we hope, is that scientists will be empowered to announce their results to the world without worrying about being "scooped" - a common fear that leads to many results being kept secret for months while papers are prepared and revised. This in turn will speed up scientific progress overall, which is the real goal behind PLoS Currents.

Also, because we aren't looking for complete manuscripts (although those are fine too), we'll accept new observations, new data, and more speculative ideas (as long as they have some data to support them) in PLoS Currents.

We're also pioneering a new way to author papers, using the Google Knol software. After writing your contribution in Google Knol, submission will require little more than a few mouse clicks. To launch the journal, four of its moderators (with colleagues) have posted the first few contributions just these week. Check it out here.

If PLoS Currents: Influenza is successful, it will open the door to an almost unlimited set of new publications in virtually any scientific field. We chose influenza because, with the recent emergence of the new H1N1(A) pandemic flu strain, it became clear to many of us that waiting the typical 3-4 months (at best) for results to appear was just too slow. Similar delays occur in virtually every other area of biomedical research, and it's time we took fuller advantage of the web to speed things up.


  1. How is this different than publishing a working paper as part of a university press? At Stanford, we used to issue technical reports under the Computer Systems Lab for example. Doing so certainly did not preclude later publishing in a journal.

  2. One big difference is that everything in PLoS Currents will be given a permanent identifier and be indexed in PubMed. This is a big deal for people who publish in the biomedical literature (which includes basically everyone working on influenza), because most of us use PubMed all the time to find papers.

    A second difference is that the papers, once submitted, cannot be changed - just like regular journal papers (and unlike a university tech report). So they're a permanent record - even if they contain errors.

  3. If it's not in pubmed it doesn't exist.

  4. you could still find it with websearch,google

    or just make a database where people submit the URL of their paper , searchable with suitable keywords.
    With comments,discussion forum, possible reviews...

  5. Sure, you can "just make a database," but no one will use it without some kind of legitimate organization backing it.

  6. how do you find things these days ?
    You type suitable keywords or the title of a paper into google.
    Faster than going to some organization or journal (which ?)or pubmed

  7. Sure, you can do that. But the reliability can be close to zero.


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