Following a 3-month internship with PLOS Biology, postdoc Suzanne De Bruijn shares her thoughts on life as an editor-in-training and why postdocs should be given the opportunity to try alternative…
This post was written by our PLOS Biology Editor-in-Chief, Nonia Pariente.
PLOS Biology is here to serve our authors and readers. As the flagship PLOS journal in the life sciences, we are a selective journal aiming to give voice to significant advances that will be widely read, built upon and drive future discovery. An important motivation for us is to provide a venue that counters the publish-or-perish culture so pervasive in science communication. Our recent changes advance this goal by helping to take the pressure off the publication process as well as fostering good scientific practice and reproducibility.
As an open and inclusive journal, we aim to provide a home for exciting advances in all areas of the life sciences. If you have work that significantly advances its field or is at the crossroads between biology and related fields–regardless of the biological discipline–we would love to hear from you and hope that you can benefit from our approach to publishing.
Countering pressures in scientific publishing
The policies we have developed over the years are a reflection of our desire to make the publication process work for the researcher instead of viceversa. These include, for example, our consideration of complementary research (a.k.a scooped protection), format-free submission, transparent review and direct preprint-to-submission options. We are also participating in the recent Review Commons initiative and offer consideration of submissions with referee reports from other publishers.
The updates we’re making now, including our focus on the research question, and our new article formats are designed to combat publication bias, give authors more options to publish their research as it unfolds, and enable publication of exciting initial work without waiting for years to develop a story. Pre-registration provides a guarantee of publication, even when significant research questions result in unexpected outcomes, and we hope Update Articles are an effective means of fostering collaboration and advancement of the scientific record through linkage with Discovery Articles.
Excellent author service
We recognize that the most important work you do is in the lab and the field. And yet, the process of publishing, and even deciding on the right journal for your work, can eat up a large amount of time which delays public access to important work. Providing our authors with timely and personalized service has been and will continue to be a priority for us. Our format-free initial submission process takes just 10 minutes so that you can focus on your research. In 2019, our median decision time to initial editorial decision was 6.5 days and 42 days to a decision after peer-review. While the disruptions associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may result in some delays to the editorial process, we are doing our best to minimize impact as far as possible and keep our authors regularly updated on the status of their submissions.
Transparency, accountability and approachability are essential in the publication process, and authors should feel free to approach us at any stage. The opinion of our authors is paramount. Thus, we take pride in the fact that in our last author survey, 95% of all authors were very satisfied with the fairness of the review process and quality of feedback received, and 90% of authors of accepted and rejected manuscript said they were likely to submit again.
Unique editorial model
To make the work we do possible, PLOS Biology relies upon a unique partnership between our Staff Editors and the more than 200 internationally distributed, leading scientists who serve on our Editorial Board of Academic Editors. Authors have access to a dedicated relationship with PLOS staff who are there to help them at every step of the way. But we also consult with our Academic Editors on every paper that we choose to send to peer review.
This collaboration gives us the best of both worlds. Academic Editors consult on the work’s merit and significance in the field, and can focus on the science without being bogged down with administrative duties. Meanwhile, oversight from Staff Editors in initial assessment, reviewer selection and decision-making helps ensure the overall efficiency, fairness, and consistency of the process.
The latest updates at PLOS Biology are a continuation of what we have always strived to do: bring out the best in biological research in a way that makes sense for researchers. Especially now, with uncertainty and pressure to produce work mounting in equal measure, we hope authors can make use of the new opportunities to rapidly share their work without additional stress.