Internet is revolutionising science communication, says Google

24 Aug 2009

Google has launched a new website aimed at ensuring rapid communication of flu research results and ideas in response to the worldwide outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu.

Using the open access publishing site Public Library of Science (PLoS) as the foundation stone, Google says the development of such sites is a dramatic illustration of how internet is revolutionising scientific communication.

PLoS Currents: Influenza is built on three components:

·        A small expert research community that PLoS is working with to run the website;

·        Google Knol with new features that allow content to be gathered together in collections after being vetted by expert moderators;

·        And a new, independent database at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) called Rapid Research Notes, where research targeted for rapid communication, such as the content in PLoS Currents: Influenza will be freely and permanently accessible.

To ensure that researchers are properly credited for their work, PLoS Currents content will also be given a unique identifier by the NCBI so that it is citable.

Harold Varmus, Chairman and Co-Founder, Public Library of Science said that he welcomes contributions covering any and all aspects of research into influenza: influenza virology, genetics, immunity, structural biology, genomics, epidemiology, modeling, evolution, policy and control. Contributions might take the form of new datasets, preliminary analyses or entire manuscripts.

He said that to enable contributions to PLoS Currents: Influenza to be shared as rapidly as possible, they will not be subject to in-depth peer review; however, unsuitable submissions will be screened out by a board of expert moderators.

“The key goal of PLoS Currents is to accelerate scientific discovery by allowing researchers to share their latest findings and ideas immediately with the world’s scientific and medical communities. Google Knol’s features for community interaction, comment and discussion will enable commentary and conversations to develop around these findings.

“Given that the contributions to PLoS Currents are not peer-reviewed in detail, however, the results and conclusions must be regarded as preliminary. In time, it is therefore likely that PLoS Currents contributors will submit their work for publication in a formal journal, and the PLoS Journals will welcome these submissions.”

He said that PLoS Currents: Influenza is an experiment and a prototype for further PLoS Currents sites.

“It reflects our commitment to using online tools to the fullest extent possible for the open sharing of research results,” Varmus said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years