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Newly Launched Features on our Online Platform

At the end of March, PLoS ONE (and all other PLoS titles using the Topaz platform) upgraded the way that information is displayed on individual journal articles, as well as adding entirely new sources of information to those articles. These improvements have significant implications for both authors and readers and will make it considerably easier for users to navigate around articles; to find related articles; and to discover the impact that a paper might be having in the wider academic community.

The developments have been described in two other blog posts (by our IT Director and by our Director of Publishing) and represent the first step towards the provision of ‘Article-Level Metrics’ for all PLoS titles. This post illustrates how the site now operates, and mostly concerns itself with the improvements that have been made over our previous functionality.

The new default article view can be seen in the following screen shot, and the most significant change is in the creation of three sub-tabs: ‘Article’; ‘Related Content’; and ‘Comments’. Clicking each tab brings up different sets of information relating to the article.

Screenshot of tabs

Clicking on the ‘Article’ tab is self explanatory. This view shows you the HTML version of the article and has changed very little from previous versions of the site.

Clicking on the ‘Related Content’ tab brings up a new screen which includes almost all of the new functionality related to Article-Level Metrics. Underneath this screen, there are (currently) two sub-sections titled “Related Articles” and “Related Blog Posts”.

Related Tab Screenshot

“Related Articles” is sub-divided into:

  • “Related Articles on the Web” – containing links which launch ‘related article’ searches on Google Scholar and PubMed.
  • “Cited in” –which indicates how many citations exist for this article (as measured by Scopus and PubMed Central) as well as a link to see if any citations are being listed at Google Scholar. This section deserves special explanation: at the moment we are only able to automatically access data from Scopus and PubMed Central. Google Scholar does not have an API (a way to pull data from third party databases and web sites) for this type of information and so we are only able to send users to a rather generic search on Google Scholar itself. We are working with other services, to add more citation information to this section, so look out for more developments in the next few weeks and months. Note: each service covers different sets of journals, and so there is likely to be overlap in the citations listed here. To get a full picture of the citations to each article you will need to consult all available services and combine the lists.
  • “Bookmarked in”– which shows how many times the users of various ‘social bookmarking’ or ‘reference management’ services have bookmarked this article. Clicking the link sends you to a landing page at each service which has information on the article and a list of the users who made the bookmark. At the moment we are showing data from CiteULike and Connotea, but also plan to add other services over time.

“Related Blog Posts” extracts information from various ‘blog aggregation services’ and provides an overview of how many times this article has been written about in the science blogosphere. Each aggregation service covers different blogs and so, as with citations, in order to get a complete picture you should combine the results from each service. At the moment we are showing data from Postgenomic, Nature Blogs and Bloglines, but again, we plan to add other services over time. We appreciate that these aggregating services are not comprehensive and so we also offer an automated search at Google Blogs (using a search term which you may need to tweak for best results). Finally, the ‘Trackbacks’ list shows those web pages (usually blogs) which have provided a ‘trackback’ to this article.

Right Hand Column: Each tab also includes “Download”; “Ratings”; “Related Content” and “Share this Article” boxes on the right hand side. These boxes include common actions, and also provide snapshots into some of the items which appear in more detail under the 3 tabs.

Of particular interest here are the new links under the ‘Related subject categories’ heading:


Each PLoS ONE article is tagged (by the author) under one or more of our 50+ subject headings. In the example above, the author felt that this article was relevant to ‘Evolutionary Biology’, ‘Genetics and Genomics’ and ‘Ecology’. If you now click on each of these links you will be sent to our browse page, which lists all articles we have published under that category.

Another new feature is a reciprocal link from articles when they are part of a Collection. Collections on PLoS ONE are aggregations of published articles – these articles are published as part of the regular run of the journal, but are then identified in our system as being part of a specific Collection. For example, a paper that is part of our Paleontology Collection will appear as follows on the Paleontology Collection page:

Paleontology Collection

Now, when you are viewing the actual paper, the ‘Related Content’ box on the right hand side will indicate that the article is in that Collection, and clicking that link will take you to the relevant Collection homepage.

Paleo Collection in Related Content

Finally, the 3rd new tab is labeled “Comments” (and also notes how many comment streams are included within it). This tab collects together all the Notes, Comments and Corrections for an article and presents them as threaded conversations. One new feature with our Notes, Comments and Rating functionality is that users are now specifically asked to confirm any Conflicts of Interest when making a post, and this information is placed alongside their comment.

Bear in mind that older articles are typically going to have more metrics and commenting activity to report, and therefore most newer articles will initially show little activity. If you would like to see good examples of articles which display many of the above features then check out: Order in Spontaneous Behavior by Maye et al; The Evolution of Mammalian Gene Families by Demuth et al; A Three-Stage Colonization Model for the Peopling of the Americas by Kitchen et al; Ionizing Radiation Changes the Electronic Properties of Melanin and Enhances the Growth of Melanized Fungi by Dadachova et al; and Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur by Sereno et al.

Taken together, this new presentation format and the provision of new data at the article level represents a significant development for PLoS. Over the coming months you should expect to see more article level metrics added, including new citation, bookmarking and blog aggregation services; the addition of download data; and new ways to tag and navigate content. We may also be adding additional tabs, and coming up with new ways to present our articles in the most effective way for readers and authors.

If you have feedback about this new design, or suggestions for other services to add, then we would love to hear it – please email me!

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