Posts Tagged PLoS

Questions about uptake of Springer’s hybrid OA option

A news release, Springer Open Choice uptake affects 2011 journal pricing (EurekAlert, June 18, 2010), raised questions about uptake of the Springer Open Choice option, a hybrid OA option.  Searches of PMC (PubMed Central) can provide some relevant information. Examples:

Q#1: Was uptake of Springer Open Choice greater in 2009 than in 2008?

A: Yes. When “Limit by Journal” was used to restrict the search of PMC to “Springer Open Choice” (“Journal Name”), then the number of articles published in the date range “2009/01/01” to “2009/12/31” was found to be (Search #1): 2186. For the date range “2008/01/01” to “2008/12/31”, the result was (Search #2): 1079. So, these results indicate that the uptake of the Springer Open Choice option did increase substantially between 2008 and 2009.

Q#2: Does the Springer Open Choice option account for a substantial proportion of the OA publications available via PMC?

A: No. The proportion of the PMC Open Access Subset identified as being associated with the Springer Open Choice option was found (on June 21, 2010) to be 2186/40196=5.4% in 2009. This is an increase in this proportion in comparison with the previous year. The results for 2008 were:  1079/31006=3.5%.

Q#3: How does uptake of the Springer Open Choice option compare with that of other hybrid OA options?

A: Quite well. Data were obtained, using searches analogous to those considered above, for the percentages of “Elsevier Sponsored Documents” (PMC’s nomenclature) in the PMC Open Access Subset (1.1% in both 2009 and 2008) and for the percentages of “Wiley-Blackwell Online Open” (PMC’s nomenclature) publications in the PMC Open Access Subset (1.0% in 2009 and 1.6% in 2008).

Of course, many other publishers provide hybrid OA options. For a list, see: Publishers with Paid Options for Open Access (via SHERPA/RoMEO, University of Nottingham).  The hybrid OA options of only a few of the major publishers on this list could be identified among PMC’s “Journal Names”. These included (in order of decreasing uptake into PMC): “BMJ Unlocked“, “ACS AuthorChoice“, “Taylor & Francis iOpenAccess” and “SAGE Open“. The uptake into PMC of the latter four hybrid OA options was less than that found for the Springer, Elsevier and Wiley-Blackwell hybrid OA options.

Data for the Oxford Open hybrid OA option could not be obtained via searches of PMC. However, a recent press release, Open Access Uptake for OUP Journals: Five years on (Oxford Journals News, June 10, 2010) , included the information that: “On a like-for-like basis, the average uptake in 2009 for journals which entered the scheme prior to 2008 was stable (6.7%, compared with 6.8% in 2008).” (These percentages represent the average uptake of the Oxford Open option for papers in participating OUP journals, taking into account a lower uptake amongst 11 new titles joining Oxford Open in 2009. They should not be compared with the percentages of hybrid OA publications in the PMC Open Access Subset).

Q #4: How does uptake of the Springer Open Choice option compare with data for PLoS ONE?

A: Better than anticipated. Data were obtained, using searches analogous to those considered above, for the percentages of publications in the PMC Open Access Subset that were published in PLoS ONE. The results, 11.0% in 2009 and 8.7% in 2008, are only approximately twice as large as the results for the Springer Open Choice option (5.4% in 2009 and 3.5% in 2008, see Q#2 above).  PLoS ONE was selected for this comparison because it’s a broad based (and very high volume) fully OA journal that seems likely to grow even larger in the future (see Comments, below).


Data have been obtained, via PMC, about the uptake of the hybrid OA options of several major publishers. The Springer Open Choice option appears to have had the greatest uptake in 2008 and 2009. Perhaps this is because Springer was one of the earliest adopters of a hybrid OA option, which it launched in 2004 (see: Springer’s Open Choice program, Peter Suber, Open Access News, July 3, 2004). Springer has also actively marketed this option, via deals such these, also reported in Open Access News: Max Planck and Springer strike a deal (February 4, 2008) and Springer’s first US deal in which subscriptions cover publication fees for affiliated authors (January 21, 2009).

Of course, like it or not, one of the major marketing tools for journals is their Journal Impact Factor (JIF). Fully OA journals can have an JIF, but the hybrid OA components of otherwise toll-access journals currently do not.

Thomson Reuters recently released its 2009 Journal Citation Report. An excerpt from: New impact factors yield surprises (The Scientist, June 21, 2010):

PLoS ONE debuted in the Journal Citation Report for the first time with a respectable impact factor of 4.351. This score puts the open access journal in the top 25th percentile for biology publications. But might this sudden success be more of a bane than a boon to PLoS ONE, blogger Philip Davis asks. It may turn out that accepting 70 percent of the manuscripts submitted to your journal gets a bit trickier when you’re flooded with papers.

Thus, a surprisingly large initial JIF for PLoS ONE provides support for the prediction that this OA journal will grow even larger in the future. Will such growth pose problems of scalability for PLoS ONE? Perhaps – but these will be problems arising from success. Nice problems to have. Much better than the most unattractive alternative, which is failure.

Can the hybrid OA options offered by toll-access journals also increase their uptake? Perhaps, if these options are actively marketed, and can compete successfully in prestige and price with fully OA journals. Springer also has a nice problem. It now owns BioMed Central (BMC) a pioneering OA publisher. See: Springer acquisition FAQ. An excerpt from the FAQ:

7. Will BioMed Central’s article processing charges be raised to match those of the Springer Open Choice option?

No, BioMed Central will continue to set its own article processing charges, and no increases are planned as a results of the acquisition. As ever, BioMed Central reserves the right to adjust article processing charges from time to time in the light of economic factors.

So, Springer’s Open Choice option is competing with Springer’s own fully OA publisher. Might both of Springer’s approaches to Gold OA fail to compete successfully with those of other publishers? Seems unlikely.


Comments (3)

Ten Years of PubMed Central

The blog post PubMed Central Turns Ten – Dr. David Lipman, by Dean Giustini (Open Medicine Blog, April 21, 2010), includes a link to
a video (51 min), entitled “Ten Years of PubMed Central “.

It’s a video of a talk given by David Lipman, Director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Library of Medicine, on March 23, 2010. He provides an overview of the past, present, and future of the National Institutes of Health’s archive of biomedical research articles, PubMed Central (PMC). Some noteworthy sections of the video are:

0 – 3:30 min: Introduction by Ian Lapp, Mailman School of Public Health (which cosponsored the event).

3:30 – 22:40 min: David Lipman describes the past of PMC.

22:40 – 31:30 min: He discusses the “Discovery Initiative”, an effort to “improve the quantity, quality and relevance of information obtained/viewed by users“. The value of weblog analyses is emphasized.

31:30 – 32:25 min: PMC statistics (as  of January 2010) are discussed.

32:25 – 38:50 min: Changes in written communication are considered.  Some very interesting comments are made about use of the Google knol authoring system to produce a new kind of journal, PLoS Currents: Influenza. Plans to produce other journals using this same authoring system are mentioned. These plans include additional PLoS Currents journals, but also journals initiated by other groups.

39:20 – 51 min: Discussion. The initial question is about the process for starting a Google knol journal.

Comments (1)

Can the costs of quality-filtration be reduced?

The costs of the conventional ‘hierarchy of journals’ approach to the quality-filtration of the research and scholarly literature can be very high.

For example, Mike Rossner, Executive Director of the Rockefeller University Press, has quoted a figure of US$10,000 as the average cost per article for the online versions of the three journals that this press publishes. These journals (and their 2008 Journal Impact Factors) are: J Cell Biol (9.1), J Exp Med (15.5) and J Gen Physiol (4.7). He provided this cost figure at the 07:50 min. point during his presentation at an event held on March 9, 2010 by the Scholarly Communication Program at Columbia University.

The full 97 min. video of the presentations is available at: Who Pays for Open Access?. Mike Rossner is the first of three speakers. He called these Rockefeller University Press journals ‘selective journals’, and described their business model, which provides free public access to articles after a 6-month embargo period. He suggested (at the 18:25 min. point in the video) that, for biomedical research journals, “charging for information in only the first 6 months after publication is a clear-cut way to know how valuable it is“.

The costs per article for these ‘selective journals’ are high mainly because of staffing costs of the ‘publication platform’. Tasks such as the management of the peer review system and the performance of copy-editing are done by paid staff. These people must deal with all of the manuscripts that are received, even though only about 10% of them are published.

Mike Rossner also suggested (at the 14:00 min. point in the video) that PLoS ONE provides an example of his definition of an ‘archival journal’ – one where: “Reviewers ask if data support conclusions, not whether the research represents an advance in the field “. An ‘archival journal’ publishes a higher proportion of submitted articles than does a ‘selective journal’. This higher volume reduces costs.

The current publication fee for PLoS ONE is US$1,350. This figure probably overstates the actual cost per article, if PLoS is indeed using PLoS ONE to subsidize its more selective journals (see the 14 min. point in the video, and, for example, Bulk Publishing Keeps PLoS Afloat, Philip Davis, The Scholarly Kitchen, July 7, 2008).

In contrast, Green OA costs much less. To date, an exemplar for Green OA is the arXiv repository, which provides OA to e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics. The cost of per submission for an article in the arXiv repository is much, much lower than the publication fee for PLos ONE. It’s less than US$7 per article (see the section on “How much does arXiv cost to operate? ” in the arXiv Support FAQ).

This much lower cost was mentioned (at the 48:35 min. point in the video) by Ivy Anderson, Director of Collection Development and Management at the California Digital Library, the second speaker in the event at Columbia University (whose presentation begins at the 18:50 min. point in the video). However, she also pointed out that arXiv is primarily a repository. It’s not a publishing platform.

Although submission to the arXiv doesn’t involve peer review, there is an arXiv moderation system. Excerpt:

The arXiv moderators are experts in their fields and in the types of submissions that are appropriate for their subject classifications. They evaluate based on the content of the submission and the policies of arXiv.

In an analogous way, the OA collection PLoS Currents: Influenza also uses a Board of Expert Moderators. In the PLoS Currents FAQs, it’s stated (here) that:

There are currently no publication charges for PLoS Currents. However, it is possible that we will introduce a small publication charge in future to cover the running costs.

It’s also stated, near the bottom of the same FAQs page, that: “We intend PLoS Currents: Influenza to be the prototype for additional PLoS Currents sites“.

Comments: The entire video (Who Pays For Open Access?) is recommended, including the presentation by the third speaker (Bettina Goerner, Manager, Open Access for Springer, beginning at 51:40 min. in the video) and the discussion session (beginning at 72:25 min.).

So, how best to increase the cost-effectiveness of quality-filtration of the research and scholarly literature? One can ask (as does Mike Rossner at the 17:40 min. point in the video): “Has the revolution in searchability negated the utility of selective journals as filters of information?“. He thinks that it hasn’t (and won’t for some time).

Perhaps, if PLoS Currents: Influenza is successful, in that it’s valued by it’s users and it’s running costs are low, then this peer moderation-based approach to quality-filtration of contributions to specified areas of research may flourish, as it has for those specified areas served by the arXiv.

It’s noteworthy that some basic article-level metrics (ALMs) are also provided for each contribution to PLoS Currents: Influenza. These include statistics about “Views” and “Comments“, together with “Ratings“. One need not wait for citation data in order to obtain some guidance about those contributions to this collection that are already attracting attention.

For more about the need for sophisticated ALMs, see: Article-Level Metrics and the Evolution of Scientific Impact by Cameron Neylon and Shirley Wu, PLoS Biol 2009(Nov); 7(11): e1000242. See also the “Metrics” and “Comments” that are attached to this same article.

Comments (4)

Article-level metrics getting attention

The very interesting publication Article-Level Metrics and the Evolution of Scientific Impact Export by Cameron Neylon and Shirley Wu (PLoS Biol 2009(Nov); 7(11): e1000242 [Epub 2009(Nov 17)][PubMed Citation]) is receiving attention on FriendFeed [here] and Topsy [here] and has been bookmarked on Connotea [here].

There’s also a related blog post, A brief analysis of commenting at BMC, PLoS, and BMJ by Shirley Wu on her blog, I was lost but now I live here, November 18, 2009. Excerpt:

One of the many issues Cameron and I touched on was the problem of commenting. Most people probably aren’t aware of the problem; after all, commenting is alive and well on the internet in most places you look! But click over to PLoS or BioMed Central (BMC) and the comment sections are the digital equivalent of rolling tumbleweed.

Comment: A major long-term benefit of OA seems likely to be the development of a much more efficient and equitable system that will make full use of the potential of the Internet to facilitate the quality-filtration of new knowledge. The available set of relevant online resources continues to evolve rapidly.

Leave a Comment

What’s next for PLoS Currents?

The launch of PLoS Currents: Influenza begins a novel and interesting experiment in OA publishing. See: A new website for the rapid sharing of influenza research, Harold Varmus, PLoS Blog (August 20, 2009) and the PLoS Currents FAQs. An excerpt from the answer to one of the FAQs:

There are currently no publication charges for PLoS Currents. However, it is possible that we will introduce a small publication charge in future to cover the running costs.

The launch of the first PLos Currents has generated a number of commentaries, including:

Introducing PLoS Currents: Influenza, Coturnix (Bora Zivkovic), A Blog Around the Clock (August 21, 2009);  Finally a Good Use for Google Knol: Sharing Information About Flu Research, Frederic Lardinois, ReadWriteWeb (August 20, 2009);  Varmus Gets His Preprint Server, Jocelyn Kaiser, ScienceInsider (August 21, 2009);  E-Biomed 2.0? Richard Poynder, Open and Shut? (August 22, 2009);  Science publishing on the fast lane, plus optionally in journals, Daniel Mietchen, Fund Science blog (August 30, 2009) [FriendFeed entry][Twitter entry];  PLoS Currents Uses Google Knol Collections Feature for Swine Flu Reports, Barbara Quint, Information Today (August 31, 2009).

An excerpt from the post by Harold Varmus (in PLoS Blog and in The Official Google Blog): “PLoS Currents: Influenza is an experiment and a prototype for further PLoS Currents sites“.


If the first experiment with PLoS Currents: Influenza is a successful one, there will be further PLoS Currents sites. I’ve seen no speculation about the probable research theme for the next site. What might be some appropriate criteria for the selection of an appropriate research theme? Criteria that appear to be met by the first research theme (influenza) are:  #1) The research field is a very active one; #2) The research field is recognized to have important practical applications; #3) A substantial amount of translational research is already under way; #4) A credible board of expert moderators can be assembled; #5) Some outstanding researchers in the field will agree to submit contributions for inclusion in the launch site. [See also this FriendFeed entry (WebCite cache)].

Another five criteria could be added to this list: #6) There is much public interest in the research field; #7) The research field is neither so large that it yields an unmanageable numbers of contributions, nor so small that it yields very few; #8) The problems addressed by the research field have implications for large numbers of people;  #9) These problems are (or potentially are) global in their reach; and, #10) Most of the methods used  in the research field are well-established ones that experienced moderators are able to evaluate.

It will be of interest, when the next PLoS Currents is launched, to see how many of these proposed criteria are met. One biomedical field that merits consideration is “Regenerative Medicine”. See, for example, these two Gratis OA editorials in the journal Regenerative Medicine, 2009(May);4(3):329-331 and 2007(Jan);2(1):11-18.

Comments (3)

Harold Varmus interviewed

Dr Varmus, I presume? By David Worlock, Outsell’s Thinking Out Loud, October 15, 2008. Excerpts:

October 14 was the foundation date for PLoS Biology, as well as the designated Open Access Day, so the 300 STM publishers gathered at the STM Association’s annual meeting on that day at the Frankfurt Book Fair to hear this interview needed no reminder of the significance of Dr Varmus’ work. They may have been surprised, however, when he spoke as a publisher himself and shared some of his five years of experience.


The foundation of PLoS One as a fast track publication mode based on review of technical competence and eligibility, rather than scientific standing or originality, had been a great success, with a high proportion of submissions being accepted at a lower $1200 fee. The peer reviewed journals now had high reputations, and rejected some 90% of submissions, but had needed to raise fees beyond his forecast of five years ago to cover costs.


He is plainly interested by search tools and analysis, and while it remains his conviction that repositories like PubMed are a critical component, he wants to see the urge of scientists to cross search the literature on factors and issues of their own choosing as vital to eventual success, regardless of the conventional structures of current article publishing.


And in terms of new developments, he certainly sees the article as a work in progress, and was particularly strong on the need, where privacy and data regulation permitted, for more of the evidential base to be exposed to allow other scientists to examine the data from which conclusions had been drawn, and subject it to their own analytical techniques.

Recommendation: Read the entire text of the blog post from which these excerpts were taken.

Leave a Comment