The Public Library of Science: Open Access Journals, and Advice For Scientists

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit open-access scientific publishing project aimed at creating a library of open access journals and other scientific literature under an open content license.  I learned of this organization the other day from my VAO colleague Gus Muench. PLoS launched its first journal, PLoS Biology, in October 2003 and now publishes peer-reviewed seven journals . It has the ambitious goal of transforming scientific research. Its web page states these core values:

  • Provide ways to overcome unnecessary barriers to immediate availability, access, and use of research
  • Pursue a publishing strategy that optimizes the openness, quality, and integrity of the publication process
  • Develop innovative approaches to the assessment, organization, and reuse of ideas and data.

The web page reports that the Open Access movement now has the 25,000 signatures needed to compel a response from the White House. Good for them – I am a supporter of Open Access and have signed the petition. I think astronomy would benefit from an organization such as PLoS.

Although the emphasis is on biology and medicine, there is one publication that scientists in all fields should read: PLoS Computational Biology:Ten Simple Rules, which offers “a quick, concentrated guide for mastering some of the professional challenges research scientists face in their careers.” Among the papers are:

Ten Simple Rules for Starting a Company

Ten Simple Rules for Getting Involved in Your Scientific Community

Ten Simple Rules for Getting Help from Online Scientific Communities

Ten Simple Rules for Building and Maintaining a Scientific Reputation

Ten Simple Rules To Combine Teaching and Research

… and so on. I would recommend all astronomers read these publications.  Here is a list of rules from the last publication:

Rule 1: Strictly Budget Your Time for Teaching and for Doing Research

Rule 2: Set Specific Teaching and Research Goals

Rule 3: “Don’t Reinvent the Wheel”

Rule 4: Don’t Try To Explain Everything

Rule 5: “Be Shameless in Bringing Your Research Interests into Your Teaching”

Rule 6: Get the Most in Career Advancement from Bringing Your Research into Your Teaching

Rule 7: Compromise, Compromise, Compromise

Rule 8: Balance Administrative Duties with Your Teaching and Research Workload

Rule 9: Start Teaching Early in Your Career

Rule 10: Budget Time for Yourself, Too

.. and a sample of the advice for Rule 2:

“In order not to have one occupation overpower the other one—which would transgress Rule #1—it is a good idea to decide on specific aims for each enterprise. Compile a list of reasonable but specific long-term goals (for the month or the semester) and short-term ones (for the week) for both your teaching (e.g., finish Chapter 3 by Nov. 1; this week propose a discussion to engage students to brainstorm about the risks of GMOs) and your research (e.g., finish experiments for this project and start writing before Easter; this week do the control for my primer binding assay). Make sure you achieve them. If you don’t—this is likely to happen at first—ask yourself how legitimate your reason is. Then review and adjust the goals accordingly.”


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