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Towards our next ten years

 

Over the course of the past year we have celebrated PLOS ONE’s 10 year anniversary. It was exciting to use this opportunity to look back at our accomplishments so far and thank and celebrate the people who have been the foundation of our success – our authors, our readers, our reviewers, our editorial board, and our internal staff. You can see some of the highlights of our anniversary celebrations here: https://www.plos.org/plosone10 where you can read up on some of our editors’ favorite papers or explore more about our academic communities and some of their research output.

At the same time, we have also been busy implementing exciting innovations at the journal and across PLOS. These include partnerships with protocols.io to share experimental protocols from our journals on their platform, with the Children’s Tumor Foundation to implement a trial of Registered Reports at PLOS ONE, and with bioRxiv to enable authors submitting to PLOS journals to opt-in to post qualifying papers to their preprint server. We remain committed to strengthening openness and transparency in scholarly publishing, and these initiatives exemplify how openness goes hand in hand with author service and improvements in reproducibility of research. Stay tuned for more!

 

A new editorial structure to serve our academic communities

 

Fostering a continuing close relationship with researchers is at the heart of our mission as a community-driven journal. As part of that we need to ensure that our internal structure enables us to efficiently engage with the academic communities that we serve. In the past months we have restructured our in-house editorial teams according to subject areas: Behavioral & Social Sciences (led by Meg Byrne), Life Sciences (led by Alejandra Clark), Medicine & Public Health (led by Christna Chap), and Physical Sciences & Engineering (led by Leonie Mueck).

These teams facilitate stronger interactions with our authors and our editorial board alike, and are our centers of competence for the research areas they cover. The creation of a Physical Sciences & Engineering division at the journal further aims to strengthen our footprint in an area where the journal is currently underrepresented. We believe that PLOS ONE provides an ideal venue for publishing research in these disciplines, as we offer an opportunity to authors to publish their work in a nonprofit, multidisciplinary, Open Access journal without consideration of subjective impact criteria. Additional exciting announcements for authors in these fields will follow soon.

In addition to subject-based teams, we have also created a separate team to manage our publication ethics cases (led by Renee Hoch). This team will work to ensure expert and consistent handling of publication ethics cases that involve both submitted and published papers.

Our in-house editorial teams are complemented by our editorial services team, which continues to provide support to our authors, reviewers and editors alike, and by our teams that work on the development of our editorial board as well as the distribution of submissions to our editorial board members.

 

Addressing our challenges

 

A journal the size of PLOS ONE also has its fair share of challenges, and we have a number of these to address in 2018.

For example, a large fraction of our editorial board joined the journal several years ago during its phase of rapid growth in submissions. However, natural changes in academics’ careers and submission patterns meant that we need to re-assess the composition of our editorial board. We would like to achieve stronger subject area coverage across all relevant disciplines, and at the same time aim to improve diversity among editorial board members. We therefore have started an ambitious program to recruit new Academic Editors to join the journal and increase the size and scope of our board. In parallel, we are also pursuing more effective and efficient means of distributing submissions to our Academic Editors.

These efforts support our goal to ensure a high-quality service to the research community, with a stronger, better-supported editorial board at its heart, supported by in-house teams with subject-relevant expertise. We will also strengthen our efforts to deliver a consistently fast service for all our authors by comprehensively monitoring submissions and taking early corrective action as needed.

There has been plenty of speculation as to our published output, which has been decreasing for the past few years. Submissions and submission quality had been fairly stable in the first half of 2017, but we saw a drop in some localities following the release of our latest Impact Factor – a fundamentally flawed metric to assess or compare journals such as PLOS ONE. While we predict this drop in submissions may impact publishing output in the near-term, our principles and the bar for editorial acceptance will remain consistent.

As we enter our second decade, PLOS ONE will continue to drive innovations that further our mission. We will continue to improve reproducibility and openness in scholarly publishing. We will continue to promote existing policies like our data availability policy, and at the same time aspire to drive new, innovative initiatives. We will be able to leverage our subject-based editorial teams to engage with the academic community across all disciplines that we cover. And last but not least, we will provide robust and engaging author service based on a strengthened editorial board that delivers a fast, fair and competent handling of submitted manuscripts.

PLOS ONE has come a long way, and with its model and activities has influenced the publishing landscape around us. We look forward to tackling upcoming challenges, and we will continue our drive to be an agent of change in scholarly publishing.

 

Featured Image by Edwin van Buuringen “Speed of Light” from flickr licensed under CC-BY 2.0.

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