Thank goodness for the Web of blogs.
From a comment Pedro Beltrao kindly left on my earlier post Science Wide Open, I went to take another look at his blog, which I'd not visited for a while. And what do I find but this fascinating story about PLoS ONE, from the Public Library of Science. In my annoyance over the Wired piece on Varmus, I must have, um, missed this little nugget.
Not so much a little nugget, actually, as potentially an entire goldmine. The idea behind PLoS ONE is to create what is effectively a huge, open access, peer-reviewed blog journal for science. It is nothing if not ambitious, and on at least four counts.
The boundaries between different scientific fields are becoming increasingly blurred. At the same time, the bulk of the scientific literature is divided into journals covering ever more restrictive disciplines and subdisciplines. In contrast, PLoS ONE will be a venue for all rigorously performed science, making it easier to uncover connections and synergies across the research literature.
A key to navigating and unlocking the content potential of PLoS ONE will lie in powerful discovery and personalization tools. Users will be able to set up individual alerts to keep up to date in their areas of interest. Papers within PLoS ONE will contain links to related work in its own database and beyond.
PLoS ONE will empower the scientific community to engage in a discussion on every paper and provide readers with tools to annotate and comment on papers directly.
A paper in a traditional journal is a static marker in an ongoing process. Authors looking back on papers written 6 months or a year ago will see things that they might now have written differently. New data may have arisen to strengthen or alter some of the conclusions. We will provide authors with ways to make those changes and so acknowledge the evolution of their ideas. This doesn't alter the scientific record—the original paper is still the original paper—but authors and readers can build upon it.
The Public Library of Science has already played a crucial role in helping to bolster enormously the academic credentials of open access; with PLoS ONE it looks as if it is going to re-make scientific discourse entirely.
Update: Richard Poynder has conducted a characteristically full and fascinating interview with Chris Surridge, the UK-based managing editor of PLoS ONE.