My supervisor an I published our first DNA metabarcoding manuscript in PlosONE this year, demonstrating influence of primer bias and taxa biomass. The paper is doing quite well, and I’m quite happy with it. However, what remains hidden to the reader is all the trouble we had to go trough to get it published!
Some people might had better experiences with PlosONE, but we were not happy at all and also others had their issues (and actually made some great statistics). I give a detailed time line of events below, but in short; The paper was hold up in peer review twice, and was additionally delayed several times by small formatting errors or pieces of information missing. Additionally we did never receive the reviews from the second round of reviewing, and PlosONE apparently does not provide proofs of the article, leading to Figure 3 being published in CYMK color mode, causing the blues to be darker than expected. All costing us a publication fee of 1,495$ (makes you wondering what PlosONE is actually contributing. They try give some justification, but in my opinion it’s just to make a profit… but then they are a non profit publisher, so how are they burning all that money?).
So, you could say that reviews taking longer can happen… twice on the same paper… And it is really our fault to not get every last bit of formatting right. Some delayed were caused by formatting, which was stated in the 14.000 (!!!) word submission guide lines on the plos website. That is 1.7x the length of the published article. It’s just such a pain. We really tried to get things right, checked several times and even used the bioedit manuscript service before we submitted the manuscript (bioedit did an amazing job getting the english to a good level, highly recommended!).
In conclusion, for me PlosONE took ages to get reviews back, was very picky when it comes to small formatting details, did not provide proofs and was expensive. Over all a very unpleasant experience. I will be more proactive in the future and publish manuscripts as preprints and choose journals like PeerJ which allow making the reviews public to discourage “unexpected delays in the review process”.
I’m done with you PlosONE! I did stop caring about impact factors, or the risk that people are stealing ideas from your preprints. I just want to get science done! Making the publication process as painless as possible and being listed in paper search engines is all I need, so I will try PeerJ for my next paper = )
Here are all the details of the “adventure” we had with PlosONE.
Timeline off events (Me / PlosONE):
Day 1 Submitted the manuscript to PlosONE (16. January 2015).
Day 3 Submission rejected because Figure file names are not “Figure X.png” and ethics statement is not good enough.
Day 4 Resubmitted. Giving information that we had all necessary permissions and no protected invertebrates were used.
Day 5 Submission rejected, GPS coordinates were demanded.
Day 6 Resubmitted with necessary corrections.
Day 46 After 40 days in review, without any word from PlosONE we ask were our reviews are (3. March 2015).
Day 47 PlosONE responds; “all reviews have been submitted and your manuscript is currently with the Academic Editor [which] should make a decision soon”.
Day 59 We receive a “Major Revision” for in my opinion minor reasons, but well…fair enough (16. March 2015).
Day 81 Resubmission, we did correct most requests and write a rebuttal letter (7. April 2015).
Day 83 Submission on hold, first “Please ensure that you refer to Table 1 in your text”
Day 83 Resubmission, with the table error corrected (9. April 2015).
Day 96 After 13 days since resubmission, we ask PlosONE again whats up?
Day 97 Response “I can confirm that your manuscript is currently out for peer review again. We are in contact with the Academic Editor and are working to ensure that the review continues to run smoothly.”
Day 105 We are becoming proactive and publish the manuscript as a preprint on PeerJ.
Day 114 After 31 days since resubmission, we ask a second time.
Day 115 Response: “I can confirm that all reviews have been submitted and your revised manuscript is currently with the Academic Editor. The Academic Editor is considering the reviews and should make a decision soon.”
Side note: We did never see the additional reviews! The manuscript was suddenly accepted, without sending uns the reviews. I’m sure the additional reviews did bring up some good points, wich we could have improved / corrected in the manuscript.
Day 126 The manuscript is accepted for publication (22. May 2015).
Day 130 We are requested to do changes in the authors contributions, change some formatting in the references and Figure references from “Fig. S1” to “S1 Fig.”
Additionally the information; “PLOS ONE does NOT provide author proofs. Any changes other than those requested in this email will need to be reviewed by the Academic Editor and reviewers; this will delay the formal acceptance of your manuscript.”
Day 131 Are they kidding? They send us back the word document as we did submitted it, as we did not wanted to lose more time, we made the requested corrections and resubmitted the manuscript again as is was.
Day 132 Notification of Formal Acceptance “Your manuscript is now with our production department.” (28. May 2015)
Day 173 After 5 months and 22 days the Manuscript is finally published and available online! (8. July 2015)