Peer review in scientific publications - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Further supplementary written evidence submitted by Dr Mark Patterson, Public Library of Science (PLoS) (PR 54b)

What training does PLoS provide for its editors and how often is this refreshed?

We have three types of journals, and the training/support of editors is somewhat different on each of them. In general, our goal is to provide solid ongoing support and advice to all of the academic and staff editors who are involved in the PLoS Journals, supported by materials and documentation that is reviewed and updated as and when needed. PLoS also has its own ethics committee (chaired by the Chief Editor of PLoS Medicine, who is currently the Secretary of the Committee on Publication Ethics, and another member being a Senior Editor from a PLoS community journal) that provides guidance across all PLoS publications.

(i)  PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine are run by professional, staff editors, with PhDs or MD degrees and relevant research experience. Staff editors undergo substantial training on the job, and all editorial decisions are discussed to ensure consistent standards of decision making. Staff editors also have the opportunity to attend relevant external training sessions.

(ii)  The PLoS Community Journals—PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Genetics, PLoS Pathogens and PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases—are run by internationally renowned academic Editors-in-Chief (EICs), who take overall editorial responsibility for the journal. The EICs and their editorial boards are supported by PLoS staff, who provide initial training and ongoing support in the use of the journal management system. PLoS staff also send occasional communications on best practice to the editorial boards. There is a weekly telephone call with the EICs and other Senior Editors to discuss specific manuscripts or editorial issues, and PLoS hosts a regular (roughly annual) in-person meeting of the EICs so that issues relating to the running of the journals can be aired and discussed. The EICs and Section/Deputy Editors ensure the consistency of the decision-making, and they provide advice and guidance to the wider group of Associate Editors. The journals have an electronic discussion facility so that all submissions can be discussed with colleagues on the journal or with editors who work on other PLoS journals (on a confidential basis). The PLoS staff editors are occasionally brought in to discussions to provide support on specific content issues or matters pertaining to publishing ethics.

(iii)  Responsibility for the editorial decisions on PLoS ONE also rests with a community-based editorial board, but PLoS ONE has a less hierarchical editorial structure than the PLoS Community Journals. Newly recruited Editorial Board members receive a pack of information providing guidance about the editorial process and standards associated with PLoS ONE. We also provide Board members with videos explaining the operation of the journal management system, and in the next few months we will be introducing an online training course for all new recruits. Much additional support and ongoing advice are provided by PLoS ONE administrative staff. PLoS ONE also employs professional staff editors (currently five editors who all have post-graduate research experience) who are not involved in the review of individual manuscripts, but are on hand to advise and discuss specific problems or queries with Academic Editors (matters relating to content issues, publishing ethics, reporting standards and so on). As with the other PLoS journals, any submission can be discussed in confidence with other board members or staff using the journal management system. The Editorial Board also has a dedicated private online forum where any matters relating to the running of PLoS ONE can be discussed. Editors frequently post questions on the forum which can be seen by all Board members and are then discussed and answered with the aid of experienced PLoS staff.

Dr Mark Patterson
Director of Publishing
Public Library of Science

7 June 2011

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 28 July 2011