When Journals Pounce

Big deal on the blogs last night.  Nature published an article on PLoS.  You can read lots about it from Coturnix, Drug Monkey, Razib, Greg Laden, and more.  The article is, as far as I can tell a rather scathing review on open-access publishing, stating that PLoS is not doing well finanacially, and that they are publishing lots of mediocre articles (in the PLoS journals of PLoS Medicine, PLoS Biology, PLoS Computational Biology, etc) in order to allow them to publish the “haute couture” of articles in PLoS ONE. 

I wouldn’t know one thing or another about PLoS’ financial status.  I can barely keep my own bills straight without looking at other people’s.  But I do know that there’s no shame to be had in publishing in one of PLoS’ “lower level” journals.  They’re pretty well respected in my department.  As for PLoS ONE, my own advisor told me just yesterday that she’d LOVE to have a PLoS ONE article.  Grad students in my department present PLoS ONE articles in Journal Clubs, and many of the respected people in my field send papers there. 

On the other hand, many respected people in my field send papers to Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Nature Reviews, etc.  I have a great deal of respect for Nature Publishing, and so I was really kind of upset to see them make a dig at a set of Journals that a) is really trying to get OA (open access, where people can get journal articles for free.  Normally, you have to pay for a subscription, and they are as much as $200/year for something like Science.  My personal views on this I may express another time) out there, and b) is new and still probably going through some growing pains.  Though they presented evidence and polls and statistics, they never actually presented any quotes or stats from PLoS itself, and though the article may have been written with no malice intended, it came across as a petty little dig, a big bully of a publishing group trying to take down something it sees as competition. 

And it’s not like they won’t benefit from this.  People may end up sending their articles to Nature publishing group when otherwise they might have given OA a chance.  I know that I am new to the science blogging (and publishing) world, but it just seems evil to me that some journals or publishing groups would write articles that reflect badly on others.  Honestly, if you’re a journal publishing mediocre science, we’ll catch on.  We aren’t stupid, some of us are, in fact, rocket scientists.  We’re very capable of figuring out which journals we want our stuff to go in (impact factors, anyone?) without journals trying to rate each other in a way that cannot possibly be unbiased.  I’m hoping that people will not take it too seriously, or perhaps, if they do want to take it serious, being true scientists, they will look up the facts for themselves. 

And now I’m off to Atlantic City!  Hopefully a post will get written before I go, but it’s looking like I’m in a major time crunch.  Happy 4th for all those who celebrate it!

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