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Communicate your science more completely with Lab Protocols

Results alone don’t tell the full story of your research. In order to understand a scientific study, readers need clear insight not only into the outcomes, but into processes and procedures: the methods. Clear, complete methods help increase confidence in published research and provide a springboard for future researchers to build upon the work.

But describing detailed, reproducible methods within the confines of a classic research article can be challenging. Not all processes lend themselves to narrative description. Sometimes flow charts, step-by-step instructions, or even videos can more accurately and effectively communicate your approach.

At PLOS ONE we’re working to address this need with Lab Protocols, a new type of article developed in partnership with protocols.io which opened for submissions earlier this year. Lab Protocols consist of two interlinking components: 

  1. A protocol on protocols.io, where authors can use specialized tools to communicate technical details, including reagents, measurements, formulae, dynamic flow charts, and step-by-step instructions.
  2. A peer-reviewed article in PLOS ONE, contextualizing the protocol, with sections discussing applications, limitations, expected results, and sample datasets.

Now, we’re excited to share the first published Lab Protocol!


Vectorial application for the illustration of archaeological lithic artefacts using the “Stone Tools Illustrations with Vector Art” (STIVA) Method
Jacopo Niccolò Cerasoni

The peer-reviewed and published research article. Fully indexed, archived and citable, with a link to the protocol at the top of the page.

The posted protocol, with step-by-step instructions, images, diagrams, measurements, and more.

As this first publication demonstrates, protocols aren’t just for bench researchers. Researchers from all disciplines use specific technical procedures in their investigations which need to be clearly described. Lab Protocols offer authors the flexibility to publish in the format that best describes the methods, and best serves the reader.

“Lithic illustrations have always been widely used for the interpretation of lithic artefacts and Palaeolithic cultures. During my work, however, I have always had problems interpreting and comparing contextually-different illustrations due to the variations in styles and methods. This methodological variability inspired me to develop and share a protocol which could be used by anyone with basic computational skills, so to create easily reproducible and comparable lithic illustrations.”

Jocopo Niccolo Cerasoni

And when you make your detailed methods public, their impact is compounded. The STIVA method protocol has already inspired a modified “forked” version using an Open Source software tool.

How to publish a Lab Protocol of your own

To submit, first consult our submission guidelines, then submit. If you’re trying protocols.io for the first time, we can help. Authors of Lab Protocols at PLOS ONE can receive free support from the protocols.io editorial team to upload and format their protocol.

Hear more

Watch a recording of a webinar held June 15 2021 at 9:00 AM PT where we discussed the importance of sharing peer-reviewed protocols, practical advice for preparing protocols for publication, and real-world experiences and perspectives from researchers in the field. Watch on YouTube.

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