Friday, July 6, 2007

Bora/Coturnix asks for your help: the ivory tower and the street come together

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bora Zivkovic <>
Date: Jul 6, 2007 10:10 AM
Subject: Bora/Coturnix asks for your help

Hello everyone,

First, let me apologize for sending a mass e-mail, but it would take
me a few days to e-mail each one of you separately (and a lot of
copying and pasting of pretty much identical text).  I know this is
impersonal, but if you respond with a question or comment, I promise I
will promptly respond one-on-one to each one of you.

Second, I will be in no way offended if you hit "Reply" and change the
title to read "Remove from the mailing list".  I understand how it
feels to deal with tons of unwanted e-mails and will not take it
against you in any way.  I hope you will at least read this one
message all the way to the end before you make this decision, though.
You can decide to ask to be removed at any time in the future so no
need to do it right away.

Third, I do not intend to inundate you with many e-mails every day.  I
will limit myself to the absolute maximum of 12 messages over the next
three months and another 12 messages over the subsequent 12 months.  I
think that is not too much (at least in comparison to some other
mailing lists I am subscribed to!).  You don't need to do anything I
ask yo to do, but you can stay "in the loop" if you remain on this

Fourth, if you got this in the mailbox of an e-mail system you rarely
use and would like me to replace the address (or you got multiple
copies of this message), hit "Reply" (so I know which address to
delete) and let me know which address works better for you so I can
add it to the list.

Now that the 'housekeeping' is taken care of, let's get to the meat of it.

As many of you may know, I got a job as an Online Community
Coordinator at PLoS ONE.  Today is my first day at the job, still
smelling the factory smell of my new computer!  I got the job in an
unusual way as well - by posting about it on my blog (and the managing
editor posting a comment "Is this a formal application?").  The rest
is, as they say, history.  To make this message shorter, I have
blogged about the job, about the way I got the job, and some of my
thoughts about what I want to do with it, so check out the relevant

So, my #1 goal (and there are other goals I'll tell you about later in
future e-mails) is to dramatically increase the number of comments and
annotations on the PLoS ONE papers, without compromising their
quality.  I have many ideas how to go about it, but I am always
interested in hearing others.

Scientists are generally shy about
posting stuff online, but a growing number of science bloggers shows
that it is possible for them to change their habits!  Please help me
in that difficult task ;-)

While my CV and the cover letter were fine, what really got me the job
were my blog commenters!  They demonstrated my ability to build an
online community better than any Resume can reveal.  And, while I will
keep using my own blog as part of my toolkit at the job
(subscribe/blogroll/bookmark if you want so you can see the updates
there), there will be times when I'd rather limit the information to a
chosen few - hence this mailing list.  Lots of small updates will
appear on my blog and the PLoS Blog, but the big stuff will be mailed
via this mailing list.

What will I use the mailing list for?  What should you expect me to
ask/tell you?

Usually, I will ask you to go to a particular page on PLoS site and do
one or more of the following:

- take a look at the visual/psychological effect of the changes I made
to the site and give me feedback about it
- test a new application I introduced on the site and let me know how
it works and how it can be improved
- post a comment or annotation yourself
- ask the readers of your blog/website/newsgroup/mailing-list to do
some of the above.

It's all voluntary, of course.  Do it if you feel like it, and are
comfortable doing it, and have time, and are in just the right mood at
the time...

In order for you to be able to do this, i.e., to be able to compare
the 'before' and 'after', I'd like you (and your readers and
friends/colleagues) to go over the next few days and familiarize
yourself with PLoS ONE, its look and feel:

Also, you may want to get more familiar with PLoS as a whole:

...with all of its journals:

...and with the principle of Open Access:

It will also be helpful if you register for the site, subscribe to RSS
feeds of journals, and to e-mail notifications of new articles:

You can also help me if you use some of these ready-made PR materials:

...and here are some other ideas of the ways you can help:

You can join the PLoS group and PLoS cause on Facebook and invite all
your 'friends' to join:

One of the first things I am going to do is try to breathe new life
into the PLoS Blog and make it a pretty central (and frequently
updated) spot on the site.  This may also require some re-design:

So it is not a bad idea for you to subscribe to its feed and to check
in regularly and post comments.  Linking to its posts or placing them
on services like digg, delicious and redditt will also be appreciated.

If you are not comfortable yet with annotating or commenting on actual
papers, you should try how it feels by posting a "Hello" in the

Oh, almost forgot - think about publishing your papers in PLoS-ONE.
As long as it is good science and well written, it is acceptable.  It
does not need to be Earth-shaking, revolutionary stuff that goes to
Science or Nature (though that is certainly acceptable!).  It does not
need to be of 'general interest' either - a very specialized paper is

The pre-publication peer-review is fast and simple - the papers are
evaluated on 'correctness' of methodology and writing.  Once a paper
is accepted and all the editing and modifications (if suggested by
reviewers) is done, the average time between the date of acceptance
and the date of publication is 19 days.  No other journal can beat

Then, and this is where I hope you will help me, the post-publication
peer-review kicks in.  The community at large, over a span of time,
decides if the paper is 'Earth-shaking' or not.  Thus, unlike on a
blog where only the latest posts are commented on, on PLoS ONE papers,
comments may appear, with validity, months and years later as new
information on a topic comes to life.

Finally, a study by PNAS last year showed that papers published in
Open Access are substantially more likely to get cited, than similar
papers hidden behind the pay-walls of subscription-only journals.

Also, while currently most of the papers in PLoS ONE are in the
biology/genetics/medicine areas, the journal takes anything from math
and astronomy
to archaeology and anthropology, so please help us become more diverse!

Oh, another thing - if you are in Bay Area (San Francisco, California,
USA) during July and would like to meet me in person, let me know.

Oh, and tell your friends...

Bora aka Coturnix

Bora Zivkovic