Finally a Good Use for Google Knol: Sharing Information About Flu Research
Last year, Google Knol launched to a lot of hype and skepticism. While, at first, it looked like a possible Wikipedia-challenger, in reality, it didn't attract a lot of users or attention, even though some of the articles on the site are actually quite good and well written. Today, however, Google announced that the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organization focused on providing free access to scientific and medical literature, will use Knol to give scientists a place to collaborate and share research on important topics, including influenza research.
PLoS Currents, as this project is called, will first focus on influenza research and might later expand to other topics. In order to keep the standard of the submissions high, PLoS will be able to use a number of new moderation tools in Knol to vet submissions and comments. Any submission that is accepted for publication will immediately appear on PLoS Currents and will also be publicly archived at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). All articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which allows anybody to share and remix these papers (with attribution).
Overall, we think this is a great project. Knol is a good, easy-to-use platform for these kinds of publications, and given that the articles are also archived on other servers, this project also doesn't rely on Google to keep Knol's servers running indefinitely.PLoS, being a non-profit, is also the right organization to give this project a try. Commercial publishers are still wary of the Internet, and while the open access movement has been gathering some support over the last few years, a lot of research in most scientific fields will still be hidden behind paywalls for a long time.