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I’ve published a paper with PLoS One which should be out today. The most common question I’ve been asked so far is: Why there? I’m applying for jobs in Archaeology and Ancient History, so why would I want to publish in an online journal that hardly anyone in those fields has heard of? Surely publishing in one of the big journals would be better? Here’s a few reasons.

  1. It’s fast.
    The paper was submitted on the 8th of September and I got the acceptance, subject to revisions on the 30th of September. I wouldn’t be quite so happy if it had been rejected, but you have to be prepared for that. The faster there’s a decision the quicker you can work on the revisions or else re-write for another journal. The rapid response means that I can cite the data in this paper in other papers immediately rather than delaying writing about further work.
  2. It’s accessible.
    Research might be interdisciplinary, but not so many journals are. For this paper the alternatives would be publication in specialist archaeoastronomy, classics, archaeology or astronomy journals. I can do that and will do that in the future, but writing for those journals means writing for those specific audiences. If they’re subscription-based they also lock out a large proportion of the potential audience. If an astronomer is in a university without a classics department then it’s going to be hard for him to get a copy of the paper. Likewise many universities don’t carry archaeoastronomy journals. PLoS One gives me a platform to introduce the work and then I can publish tailored articles developing ideas in the specialist journals.
  3. It opens conversation.
    You can comment on the paper. So too can anyone else. This is particularly handy for interdisciplinary work. I’m hoping the conversation doesn’t end with this one paper. The article-based metrics will included some of citation search. Hopefully in a couple of years people reading this paper will be able to see where they can find criticisms and developments in other papers. That’s amazingly useful for interdisciplinary work where subsequent papers could be in journals in a variety of disciplines.

I’ve decided some form of open-access is essential for interdisciplinary work. The paper stands or falls on whether or not the binomial distribution is the right tool for the task. That means for academic honesty I have to submit it to a journal where the I can be reasonably sure it will be scrutinised by people familiar with basic statistics. Scientists might laugh at that as the mathematics in the paper is very simple. I think any classicist could follow it, but some could quite reasonably be wary of it. Is it statistical sleight-of-hand? They can read any comments left by statisticians or astronomers and judge how confident they should be in the findings. Likewise people unfamiliar with the Greek material can read the classicists’ and archaeologists’ comments and see if the human aspect of the research is sound.

It’s also important for me because I might learn something, and indeed I did. This is a better paper post-review than it was when I submitted it. I’ve re-thought how I process some of the data and that will have a positive on the next project I do.

After going through the process I’m impressed with PLoS. I think I hit every bump in the submission process, most of it due to the ordering of the paper being different to how I would normally write it. Still, the everyone was very helpful along the way. If you’re a recent PhD or grad student with a need to put out some publications, I’d recommend publishing with PLoS One. Of course I’m writing this before I’ve seen how the paper has been received, so you can check on my article metrics yourself to see if it’s being read or else sunk into obscurity.