Tuesday, May 30, 2006

PLoS Clinical Trials Launched - An Efficient Consortium

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) has just launched PLoS Clinical Trials, a new open access scientific publication for reports of randomised trials in all areas of medicine and public health.

In providing international peer-reviewed open-access publication of clinical trials, it is suggested that the journal will achieve greater diversity and transparency in the reporting of such trials. This process of publication is driven by the esteem of scientific research, rather than the needs of commercialisation of that research. In other words, it may seem to run contrary to the obstacles perceived to be indirectly put in place by the patent system, where the value of research is driven not by its exchange but by its secrecy.

Speaking in 2001 on the politics behind the race to map the human genome, Sir John Sulston described in interview in Nature Medicine, the way in which the rush to exploit each item of knowledge along the way inhibits the cooperation and indeed the progress and direction of scientific research. Commercialisation, as it were, leads to the choice of direction. As Sir John Sulston said back in 2001, "the truth is that as a society we need to know a lot more than we choose to do."

The journal information provided by PLoS Clinical Trials shares much of this philosophy, explicitly stating that decisions to publish will not be determined by the perceived commercial import of the trial: "In order to maximize the number of trials whose results are available in the public domain, publication decisions will not be affected by the direction of results, size or perceived importance of the trial." This is the kind of "efficiency" that might be provided by ensuring broad and diverse publication driven, allowing excellence in research to drive publication potential rather than pre-emptive commercial indications. As Sir John Sulston said, "A consortium is not inefficient, it's the way things should be done. Everybody should pull their weight."

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