Damian Pattinson has published a widely discussed review of PLOS ONE,
the prestigious open-access journal of the public-domain,
peer-reviewed scientific literature. The article is worth your time,
especially if you’re not yet familiar with the work of this fascinating
British scientist. We’ll let you read the article for free, but first,
let’s examine the stats. According to the most recent estimate I could
unearth, about 4.39 million unique users have visited this site since it
was launched in 2008. A search on “PLOS ONE” currently yields
23.9 million results in Google
search. Pretty astounding when you think about it. A single
journals’ worth of content, all readily available for the world to
Now for the interesting bits. First, note the author’s disclaimer:
“I have an economic interest in PLOS ONE because I am an author
and editor of a scientific journal that often publishes in PLOS ONE.”
Odds are you’ve heard of this journal. Since its founding in
1971, PLOS ONE has published over 9 million papers, making it the
third-largest academic publisher in the world.
According to a 2001 paper by the International
Statisticians’ Association (ISA), PLOS ONE “is one of the three
journals with the greatest impact on science, along with Cell
The journal’s impact factor is currently 11.73. For
context, the average impact factor of a scientific journal in 2019
An Evolving Journal
Let’s take a quick trip back in time, to when PLOS ONE was
initially founded as a print journal.
In its first 15 years, the journal mostly published ‘original
research’ in the field of biochemistry. Most of these articles were
behind paywalls, so access was largely limited to scientists who
could afford to pay for research.
Then, in 2006, the authors of the original research
decided to switch to an online-only format. This was a bold move
at the time, as only a handful of open access journals existed at
the time, and the transition was met with skepticism.
To get a better sense of how the journal
evolved from a printed magazine to a web-based publication, let’s
take a quick tour through the early years, using the Wayback Machine
In this digital nomad’s travel log through time, we’ll
visit the journal’s early years, from the days when it was a
printed magazine, all the way through to the present day.
The first few pages of the Wayback Machine will transport us
to August 2006, when PLOS ONE began its
transition to an online-only journal. We’ll now be able to peruse
the journal’s first 15 years in archival form, as PLOS ONE began
its transition to an online-only journal in
The first item we’ll come across is a short notice
announcing the launch of PLOS ONE’s new website. The article
mentions that the journal will be available online starting with the
A Whole New World
early years of the 21st century were a time of great
innovation in the field of scientific publishing. In
particular, the open access movement was ramping up, as
researchers sought to make their work available to a wider
audience. And what an audience!
In 2019, we’ll see over 4.39 million unique
visitors per month come to this site. If you’re a
researcher looking to share your work with the world, then you
might consider publishing in PLOS ONE. With open access journals,
researchers can upload their papers to an independent server,
wherever they like.
This allows other scientists to access the content
for free, while also meeting the journal’s stringent publishing
standards. To put this into context, in 2001, only 1.26 million
papers were published globally.
This figure was
just over double that in 2019. That’s a lot of open
access publishing innovation.
A Place To Display Research
On the topic of
researchers wanting to publish their work, let’s take a quick
look at how PLOS ONE fits into their workflow. Once
researchers have finished their work, they can
submit it to the journal for publication. Once accepted, the
article will undergo a rigorous review process, before being
As a journal, PLOS ONE is a great place to display
your research. Not only can you publish your work there
free of charge, but you can also use the journal’s open access
model to disseminate your findings to a wider audience.
In particular, the journal’s Editorial Board consists
of leading scientists from around the world. This means your
work will be vetted by some of the greatest minds in your
field. In addition, the journal prides itself on being
open to submissions from underrepresented groups in science,
so that more diverse opinions can be represented and
A Different Approach To Publishing
addition to being an open access journal, PLOS ONE
is a green
journal. The bulk of the journal’s revenue comes from
sponsorships from organizations like
CERISE, a company that manufactures medical marijuana
The Wellcome Trust,
a UK-based funder that focuses on health and medicine research.
These organizations fund
the journal in return for the right to print an
advertisement in the journal. Green
a way of capturing revenues that would otherwise go to
editors and publishers, and giving them directly to
scientists and research
institutes who need the money. As a journal that
actively encourages submissions from around the world,
publishes in an open access format, is
green, and allows diverse voices, you’d almost certainly
find a home here.
An Important Publishing Venue
up this review of PLOS ONE, let’s take one more
trip back in time. To when the journal was
initially founded, as a print magazine.
information in this article comes from the Wayback Machine of Google
History. When we visit the Wayback Machine, it is as
if the past has frozen
in place. On most pages, we can still click on
anything, and it will work exactly as it did in the
can explore the archives of the journal, and read
all the content that was ever published.
While the paper is a useful overview, be mindful of the
limitations of using a historical archive. For example,
the layout of the pages might look the same, but the content
could be out of date and irrelevant. Additionally, the
inventories for text and images might not include everything,
as they were not preserved for posterity. And finally,
access to some of the paper’s content might require payment of
some kind (like a research login).
History’s Wayback Machine remains the world’s
largest and most extensive collection of historical
websites and blogs. If you’re looking for a broad
overview of a particular topic, or want to trace the
evolution of an idea, the Wayback Machine is a gold
mine. For more information, see the Google
History help page.