So it goes with PLoS. I am not the fan of all of PLoS One most here are (and that is not any kind of official position of this site - I am in the minority and not a researcher) because I think that it is difficult separating the wheat from the chaff. Some PLoS publications do not really do that well. I have seen any number of editorials that are no more than political or ideological diatribes yet they get to call themselves 'peer reviewed' and I am not sure that doesn't impact the reputation of the quality material produced there.
Declan Butler at Nature is critical as well. Now, automatically there will be knee-jerk speculation that a guy working at Nature has a hidden agenda - Nature is a business and has to protect its revenue. We are in the top 20 science sites worldwide and have never so much as merited a mention from Nature. Is that because they have blogging and feature articles and we do also? Not likely, because Nature owns Postgenomic and they should practically be co-branded with Seed Media's Scienceblogs - Postgenomic appears on the front page of their site and I imagine all 70 Scienceblogs writers are in it and the young man who runs Postgenomic has never responded to a dozen requests by writers here to have their blogs listed (and that's not a knock on Scienceblogs - they have the craftiest, most aggresive marketing out there and more power to them for it) so if Nature were worried about a competitor they would not endorse Scienceblogs and thus its parent magazine, Seed.
(Disclosure: we have a partnership with Imaginova, which owns Livescience, and their content appears on our site and our content appears on theirs)
But Scienceblogs also has a paid writer that works for PLoS One and they have gotten free advertising from PLoS so they clearly have friends on both sides of this discussion.
(Disclosure: Jonathan Eisen occasionally blogs here and is Academic Editor in Chief of PLoS Biology and brother to the PLoS co-founder, so we have friends on one side of the discussion)
GrrlScientist is even on a panel at the London science blogging conference being hosted by ... Nature ... so her criticism of a Nature employee for criticizing PLoS can be confusing.
Except it isn't confusing at all. It's a beautiful endorsement of science and blogging and independence.
She is an independent thinking person with an opinion about an isolated matter. So is Declan Butler at Nature. He may not personally dislike the PLoS open access concept at all (I certainly love it, only I would want more than open access and instead endorse free publishing as well) but if he believes 'peer review lite' articles are getting published in PLoS One just so they can collect $1,250 he has every right to say so - he even has a duty to say so.
And it's specifically PLoS One he has an issue with, not PLoS Biology or Medicine;
Since it launched, PLoS One has published 2,526 articles — more than PLoS Biology has published in its five years of existence, and that growth shows no signs of abating. PLoS One has published 1,158 papers since the beginning of this year, which is almost as many as it published during the whole of 2007. Another factor is that it costs authors only $1,250 to publish in PLoS One.Can there be all that much quality with 200 articles per month being shoved out the door? It's not for me to say. We publish over 200 articles a month here and they're all good - but we do not call them peer reviewed.
The great thing about our science community ( us, Scienceblogs, Livescience blogs,Nature blogs, Discover blogs, everyone out there too) is that, in matters like this, we can tweak each other a little as needed - and people will get wound up because they are passionate (I have no doubt my equal criticisms of all three groups in question could come back to haunt me) but at the end of the day we are all a community and we have integrity and no problem with speaking our opinions.
Should Nature writers with integrity be a fan of all open access publications? Well, no, not if it is a free-for-all just to make money. Nor should we. Declan Butler taking what he knew what would be an un-popular stand, especially given his employer and the claims of bias it would engender, is to be applauded. Not saying anything would have been the easier, diplomatic road. And completely wrong.
It shouldn't be inferred that Butler is some kind of paid shill attacking PLoS just because he works for a competitor any more than it could be said that GrrlScientist is a shill for PLoS because of marketing arrangements PLoS has with Scienceblogs.
Should she have said Nature employs 'paid toadies' and then specifially mentioned Butler? No, but Scienceblogs is always going to be on the dramatic fringe of science discourse and I think that will be water under the bridge in a month or two. I'm not a zoologist so I have no idea if Butler is a toadie - plus, he has a blog of his own, so he can defend himself.
At the Nature Science Blogging conference in London they will likely be the best of friends, regardless of their differing opinions on this one issue. If being able to fight it out on issues and get along smashingly as people is the future of science writing, I am all for it.