Can you imagine how difficult it is to juggle peer review for 10,000 published studies per year? That's 40 every single working day, without the time it took to look at the ones that got rejected.
It's unmanageable to me, yet it happens. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences does it. Their system, where National Academy of Sciences members can just advocate for their friends and get articles published, leads to hilarious results, like when advertising majors get hand edited by a gender studies psychologist and claim that female hurricane names are more dangerous, but for the most part their articles are fine. They even claim their process is better than Cell and Science and Nature. Nature also publishes 10,000 articles per year and claims to be rigorous, though overall we know 20,000 real journal articles per year are not just bad, they are fraudulent.
Now triple that number and you can imagine the logistical feat faced by Public Library of Science (PLOS). Just one of their journals, PLOS One, published 31,000 papers in 2013, which is a magnificent achievement. Or, if you are a competitor of theirs such as AAAS, a reason to imply they have damaged their reputation and scholars are fleeing.
Yes, yes, they want you to believe they are all wholesome non-profits and therefore more ethical than Big Tobacco employees. They all make profits or they are out of business. In reality, the difference between Scrooge McDuck and the CEO of multi-million dollar non-profit is the feathers - and that a non-profit can't pay a dividend. Both get to go for a money swim if they want. Credit: Disney. Link: Fanpop
How is 10,000 published pieces rigorous quality control while 30,000 is shoddy? Where is the line drawn? In most cases, it is always going to be just to the right of wherever the accuser is. AAAS is happy because PLOS is getting bit by its own bug, in a way. PLOS wanted to be a renegade alternative to subscription media and refute the corporate claim that an article took $5,000 to produce. Why was $5,000 wrong and $1,200 is right? It happened to be the number picked by PLOS, that's why. Now PLOS is The Empire too, just with different colored outfits on their stormtroopers.
Still, it seems strange that AAAS is talking about someone else's business. What would happen to an AAAS employee who took to the Science website and criticized AAAS management? We all know the answer to that. If you don't have the journalistic freedom to talk about your own company, you shouldn't criticize anyone else and pretend it is still your freely-written opinion.
You also never want to just directly attack a competitor, of course, so it is good form to talk about a competitor only when someone else is doing the criticism. It seems more objective that way. In this case, AAAS had Phil Davis at Scholarly Kitchen. Scholarly Kitchen is a blog about publishing and their author roster reads like you would expect - journal insiders and industry consultants. Now I have nothing against consultants or journals published by universities or anyone else, it seems like a fine site with logs of good content, but we know PLOS built itself into a top-tier open access publisher.
I can't find a single successful publishing company that anyone at Scholarly Kitchen or bloggers at AAAS have created. It's easy to be a critic or write mild snark under a pretense of doing industry analysis, but building a company takes actual work.
Maybe PLOS is having growing pains, maybe they are just publishing fewer articles to keep sites like Science 2.0 from making fun of some of the weirder stuff they have risked their brand on, but implying they are doing a worse job than subscription-based journals is not evidence-based.
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