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2022 Editor’s Picks – Staff Editor Highlights

As 2023 gets underway, the PLOS ONE Staff Editor team has looked back on some of our favorite papers published in 2022. The editorial team currently consists of 20 full-time editors, who spend their time assisting authors, Academic Editors, reviewers and readers throughout the publication process and beyond. Given the broad scope of PLOS ONE, both in terms of research areas and article types, we are fortunate to work on an incredible variety of manuscripts and topics each year. As a result, collating a list of our favorite or most memorable manuscripts from the past year is never easy. Below, we present you with a glimpse of highlights from 2022 hand-picked by our staff editors. We would like to thank all our authors, reviewers, Academic Editors and readers for a wonderful year, and we look forward to working together in 2023.


Behavioral and Social Sciences, Neuroscience, Mental Health Division

Authenticating coins of the ‘Roman emperor’ Sponsian

Pearson PN, Botticelli M, Ericsson J, Olender J, Spruženiece L (2022) Authenticating coins of the ‘Roman emperor’ Sponsian. PLoS ONE 17(11): e0274285. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0274285

pone.0274285

Non-destructive imaging and spectroscopic techniques were used to authenticate coins depicting an obscure ‘Roman emperor’ named Sponsian. These coins were thought to be forgeries. The authentication forces a re-evaluation of Sponsian as a historical figure. Combining evidence from the coins with the historical record, the study proposes that Sponsian ruled the isolated Roman Province of Dacia during the military crisis of the 260s CE.

Prevalence of questionable research practices, research misconduct and their potential explanatory factors: A survey among academic researchers in The Netherlands

Gopalakrishna G, ter Riet G, Vink G, Stoop I, Wicherts JM, Bouter LM (2022) Prevalence of questionable research practices, research misconduct and their potential explanatory factors: A survey among academic researchers in The Netherlands. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0263023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0263023

This large survey by Gopalakrishna and colleagues of researchers in the Netherlands revealed the prevalence of questionable research practices and suggests ways to promote research integrity. It suggests that greater emphasis on scientific norm subscription, strengthening reviewers in their role as gatekeepers of research quality and curbing the “publish or perish” incentive system promotes research integrity.

Emotional responses in Papua New Guinea show negligible evidence for a universal effect of major versus minor music

Smit EA, Milne AJ, Sarvasy HS, Dean RT (2022) Emotional responses in Papua New Guinea show negligible evidence for a universal effect of major versus minor music. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0269597. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269597

Image by Top_Notch_Vectors from Pixabay

In western cultures, emotions induced by music are strongly influenced by ‘major’ and ‘minor’ characteristics in harmonics, but is is unknown whether this effect exists universally. The authors examined whether non-Western cultures experience these typical emotive shifts in music in a sample of participants living in a remote region of Papua New Guinea with differing levels of exposure to Western-influenced music. The findings showed that emotive valence of major and minor was strongly associated with exposure to Western-influenced music and culture, indicating that culture is a strong mediator of people’s emotional responses to music. The study was also only one of a very few number of studies in this literature to study these effects in a non-industrialized context where participants have little exposure to a globalized music culture.

Do book consumers discriminate against Black, female, or young authors?

Weinberg DB, Kapelner A (2022) Do book consumers discriminate against Black, female, or young authors? PLoS ONE 17(6): e0267537. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0267537

pone.0267537

There is evidence of race- and gender-based discrimination in the publishing industry. One possible explanation is the preferences of book consumers. Weinberg and Kapelner tested this hypothesis with a large-scale experiment in which they collected ratings of mocked-up books from over 9000 participants who were presented with book covers and descriptions from both fiction and non-fiction genres, with one of three possible titles per book randomly assigned. Race, gender, and age of the author were signaled via names and photographs. The authors found no support for any claim of consumer bias against black or females authors. In fact, participants were willing to pay approximately $0.50 more for books by Black writers. The authors conclude that there is no evidence of taste-based preferences by consumers that would rationalize the historic discriminatory treatment of Black or of female authors by publishers nor of discrimination based on an author’s age.

Experiences of criticism in adults with ADHD: A qualitative study

Beaton DM, Sirois F, Milne E (2022) Experiences of criticism in adults with ADHD: A qualitative study. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0263366. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0263366

Image by Ohmydearlife from Pixabay

Individuals with mental health problems often face discrimination. Here, Beaton and colleagues analyse free text comments from adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) on their experiences of criticism from family, friends and colleagues. Participants reported commonly criticised behaviours and traits, with many noting they felt consistently criticised and felt unable to succeed. The authors indicate that the findings highlight the importance of advocating for a more flexible society that is accepting of individuality and neurodiversity.


Life Sciences Division

Single-nucleus RNA-sequencing in pre-cellularization Drosophila melanogaster embryos

Albright AR, Stadler MR, Eisen MB (2022) Single-nucleus RNA-sequencing in pre-cellularization Drosophila melanogaster embryos. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0270471. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0270471

pone.0270471

In an effort to establish the use of single-nucleus RNA-sequencing to detect local changes in gene expression for early Drosophila embryos, Albright and colleagues compared nuclei transcript abundance differences between wide type and dCTCF mutants and identified distinct clusters that corresponded to spatial regions of the embryo. A resource of candidate differentially expressed genes was provided to explore the subtle changes upon loss of dCTCF gene. The results highlighted the potential of this new technique as a means of understanding the regulation of gene expression in the early Drosophila embryo.

Diagnostic accuracy of non-invasive detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by canine olfaction

Grandjean D, Elie C, Gallet C, Julien C, Roger V, Desquilbet L, et al. (2022) Diagnostic accuracy of non-invasive detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection by canine olfaction. PLoS ONE 17(6): e0268382. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0268382

pone.0268382

The development of efficient and early COVID-19 testing methods is a very timely subject and much work remains to advance from proofs of concepts to practical applications. In this popular article, Grandjean and colleagues conducted a double-blinded test of COVID-19 detection using trained dogs and suggest that the detection of COVID-19 by dogs could be an alternative to antigenic tests.


Physical Sciences and Engineering

A feather hydrogen (δ2H) isoscape for Brazil

Alquezar RD, Costa FJV, Sena-Souza JP, Nardoto GB, Hobson KA (2022) A feather hydrogen (δ2H) isoscape for Brazil. PLoS ONE 17(8): e0271573. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0271573

Gmagnago, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Alquezar and colleagues present the first feather hydrogen isoscape for Brazil. Isoscapes are essentially isotopic maps that model how isotopes vary in space and time. As such, isoscapes can be used in a variety of applications in order to understand animal origins, for instance within ecology and forensic sciences. The Brazil hydrogen isoscape was developed through collection of feathers from ornithological collections and field campaigns in National Parks around the country, focusing on tanager species belonging to the family Thraupidae. These data were analysed in conjunction with climatic variables, such as temperature, precipitation and solar radiation, using machine learning in order to build a map of feather isotopes across Brazil. Although the model has limitations, including relatively low predictive power for this first iteration, isoscapes like these are increasingly deployable within forensic investigations, such as the illegal wildlife trade.

Analysis, identification and confirmation of synthetic opioids using chloroformate chemistry: Retrospective detection of fentanyl and acetylfentanyl in urine and plasma samples by EI-GC-MS and HR-LC-MS

Valdez CA, Leif RN, Corzett TH, Dreyer ML (2022) Analysis, identification and confirmation of synthetic opioids using chloroformate chemistry: Retrospective detection of fentanyl and acetylfentanyl in urine and plasma samples by EI-GC-MS and HR-LC-MS. PLoS ONE 17(11): e0275931. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0275931

pone.0275931

Synthetic opiod fentanyl and its analogues have widespread use in anesthesia and pain management, but despite being highly controlled substances, their illicit use and unpredictable fatal dosage when combined with other substances have led to tragic consequences in many countries. This new method reported by Carlos A. Valdez and colleagues is effective at detecting fentanyl and acetylfentanyl at levels reflecting those reported in overdose victims, and the chemical reaction approach used in the method enables the detection and identification of unknown fentanyls, with potential implications for diagnosis and monitoring supply.

Programmable droplets: Leveraging digitally-responsive flow fields to actively tune liquid morphologies

Kay R, Katrycz CW, Heimlich EJ, Hatton BD (2022) Programmable droplets: Leveraging digitally-responsive flow fields to actively tune liquid morphologies. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0264141. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0264141

pone.0264141

Kay and colleagues from The University of Toronto present a proof-of-concept method of tuning liquid droplet morphology. They do this by creating a modified version of a Hele-Shaw cell and allowing the boundary valves to be either open or closed to the atmosphere. This allows for control of the pressure, which means that droplet shape and position can be manipulated using the local flow fields. B adding a dye to the liquid, in this case carbon black to castor oil, they created droplet morphologies that can be switched between being optically transmissible and absorptive. This sort of liquid smart material can potentially be employed in a variety of applications, such as shading, camouflage and dynamic displays.


Public Health and Medicine Division

Robust and generalizable embryo selection based on artificial intelligence and time-lapse image sequences

Berntsen J, Rimestad J, Lassen JT, Tran D, Kragh MF (2022) Robust and generalizable embryo selection based on artificial intelligence and time-lapse image sequences. PLoS ONE 17(2): e0262661. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0262661

Image by Freepik

Artificial intelligence and deep learning approaches hold promise to revolutionize medical practice, including the assessment and selection of the most viable embryos for vitro fertilization (IVF). In this paper, Berntsen and colleagues developed a deep learning-based embryo selection model based on time-lapse microscopy images. They showed that their fully automated model performed better than state-of-the-art, manually annotated methods. In addition, using a large dataset from 18 IVF clinics, they showed that the model is generalizable across different subgroups of age and clinical conditions, and correlated with traditional embryo development and morphology parameters. This model will help establish efficient, reliable, and reproducible tools in IVF clinics to combat rising infertility rates worldwide.

Romantic partner embraces reduce cortisol release after acute stress induction in women but not in men

Berretz G, Cebula C, Wortelmann BM, Papadopoulou P, Wolf OT, Ocklenburg S, et al. (2022) Romantic partner embraces reduce cortisol release after acute stress induction in women but not in men. PLoS ONE 17(5): e0266887. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0266887

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Stress is an inevitable aspect of daily life, and it’s essential to find ways to manage it. One form of stress-relief that has been studied is social touch, such as massages. However, the impact of other forms of physical touch on stress have not been widely explored in literature . This study looked at the impact of a short-term embrace between romantic partners on stress levels. The results showed that women who embraced their partner before a stressful situation had a lower cortisol response compared to a control group. No similar stress-reducing effects were observed in men. The study suggests that a short-term embrace before a stressful situation can help reduce stress in women.

Modeling the spread of the Zika virus by sexual and mosquito transmission

Agudelo S, Ventresca M (2022) Modeling the spread of the Zika virus by sexual and mosquito transmission. PLoS ONE 17(12): e0270127. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0270127

Image by jcomp on Freepik

The Zika virus (ZIKV) infects humans via sexual contact or mosquito bites and presents a significant threat to newborns of mothers infected with the virus during pregnancy. In this article, Agudelo and Ventresca establish a mathematical model that analyzes the impact of the sexual and mosquito transmission on ZIKV spread within a population. They concluded that ZIKV spreads mostly via mosquito transmission, while sexual transmission alone appears negligible for viral dissemination. The model can serve as a powerful tool in combating viral spread by providing reliable information for the implementation of protective health policies.

Using wearable biological sensors to provide personalized feedback to motivate behavioral changes: Study protocol for a randomized controlled physical activity intervention in cancer survivors (Project KNOWN)

Liao Y, Schembre SM, Brannon GE, Pan Z, Wang J, Ali S, et al. (2022) Using wearable biological sensors to provide personalized feedback to motivate behavioral changes: Study protocol for a randomized controlled physical activity intervention in cancer survivors (Project KNOWN). PLoS ONE 17(9): e0274492. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0274492

Image by FitNishMedia from Pixabay

Evidence supports multiple health benefits of physical activity for cancer survivors, however, many cancer survivors are not sufficiently active to achieve these benefits. In this study protocol, Liao and colleagues describe a randomized pilot study to test the feasibility of a physical activity intervention in 50 cancer survivors. The novel intervention will demonstrate the immediate positive impact of physical activity to participants through the use of wearable devices. The authors hypothesize that “biofeedback” from wearable devices may help to motivate behavioral change.

Weight-normative messaging predominates on TikTok—A qualitative content analysis

Minadeo M, Pope L (2022) Weight-normative messaging predominates on TikTok—A qualitative content analysis. PLoS ONE 17(11): e0267997. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0267997

TikTok is a popular social media platform amongst young people. Use of this platform for fitness and nutrition advice is very popular, however the quality of this content has not been well researched. This study investigated key themes in posts related to nutrition and weight-related content on this platform. From 1000 videos, each with over a billion views, the majority of posts were found to present weight-normative views, which may negatively impact young viewers with body image/eating disorders. This study indicates the importance of helping TikTok users discern credible information, and the ability to selectively remove triggering content from their feeds, which may help address the prevalence of weight-normative content and its potentially negative impact.

Hangry in the field: An experience sampling study on the impact of hunger on anger, irritability, and affect

Swami V, Hochstöger S, Kargl E, Stieger S (2022) Hangry in the field: An experience sampling study on the impact of hunger on anger, irritability, and affect. PLoS ONE 17(7): e0269629. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0269629

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Conducting the first experience sampling study on the emotional outcomes of hunger, Swami and colleagues investigated the relationship between hunger and negative emotions, known to many as feeling “hangry”. The findings showed that greater levels of self-reported hunger were associated with greater feelings of anger and irritability, suggesting that feeling “hangry” is a real experience. The results of the study might facilitate the understanding of everyday experiences of emotions, support practitioners in ensuring productive individual behaviours and interpersonal relationships and could potentially help individuals to regulate certain emotions by putting feelings into words and labelling an emotion.

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