These two publishers are trying hard to change the current publishing model in science, where a journal acts as gatekeeper, selecting the best articles, and then charging readers to subscribe to the journals. Indeed, not only are the subscription prices astronomical sometimes, but authors pay the publisher to publish their paper.
PLoS and BMC therefore, have many reasons to turn this model on its head (and chuck it out the door). But, in the end, to me, they seem like the same publishers they are trying to change – they still do peer-review (gate keeping?) and publish article for reading only.
Of course, being a service designer in this day and age, I wonder how one could take these publishers even further, such as how to bring in the readers to participate via the current common community tools (without digressing on the existence of community), or how to bring in some intelligence (folks or robots) to add value to the large mass of info so that, as a total, the publication can drive more discoveries and insights.
PLoS has done something interesting, creating Journal Clubs online. Journal clubs, a staple in universities, are regular meetings to discuss a research paper of interest (like a book club, except more focused and more geeky). PLoS’s take on it is interesting (see below) – if the discussion around a paper is captured over time, one could chart the evolution of the thinking over time.
Alas, I would not ask someone to read _all_ the comments. To me, this suggests that in this area, the post-comment model might be insufficient.
There it is: all laid out – the complete history of molecular biology all in one spot, all the big names voicing their opinions, changing opinions over time, new papers getting published trackbacking back to the Watson-Crick paper and adding new information, debates flaring up and getting resolved, gossip now lost forever to history due to it being spoken at meetings, behind closed door or in hallways preserved forever for future students, historians and sociologists of science.