Google knol to die? PLoS currents?
I just saw mention on my favorite news for nerds forum that knol will be disappearing sometime next year. Thankfully it looks like google may have a transition plan for scholarly works like all the PLoS Currents content, something called Annotum. And even if that’s not the plan, the PLoS Currents content is open access so it can be rescued by copying it out elsewhere. But what if google forgot about the benevolent part of being a benevolent dictator? What technical challenges would exist in preserving this content? Knol has a means to export content, but does that come out in a well-used well-documented standardized format without losing too much formatting/metadata/etc?
Situations like this remind me just how important it is to have open data standards and open software to back our open access scientific work. PLoS seems to have failed on that front over and over again. Despite their failure in that area, I still consider PLoS among the very best of the open access venues. Andrew Tritt, myself, and some other coauthors submitted a paper to PLoS One last week. They’re on a new manuscript management system which, like the last one, is closed-source and even more strictly enforces the use of closed-source proprietary software for manuscript preparation. The good news is that P1 now accepts LaTeX (which at least is open although is far from a well-defined standard!). The bad news is vector graphics can’t be submitted unless they have been processed by Acrobat Distiller. We spent hours trying to tweak our PDF and EPS figures to sneak through their system. Even Adobe Illustrator EPS and PDF wouldn’t make it through. Has anybody else made this work using open-source gadgetry? Alas, for now PLoS has taken one step forward, two steps back.
Fortunately, PLoS and Google look set to turn over a new leaf with Annotum. They’ve got a github site with source code, and in my book that’s a great way to start. I hope they get lots of creative and useful code contributions from the very scientists who will use the publishing platform. And I hope they can keep the public version in-line with any private branch of the code that PLoS may run so that we the scientists have the tools to serve our own (published in PLoS) content!