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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine and Health

Lessons that Last: 200 Pearls and Counting

Please note that the Flipboard collection will no longer be updated starting January 2017. For the updated PLOS Pathogens Pearls collection, please see the PLOS collection at  

PLOS Pathogens Pearls Editor Joseph Heitman reflects on the success of Pearls, an Open Access compendium of the “lessons that last”, and introduces the new Flipboard collection. 

The PLOS Pathogens Pearls mini-review series publishes concise reviews (less than 1500 words and a limited number of references), which take stock of recent exciting advances in the field of microbial pathogenesis.  Pearls are not meant to be comprehensive treatises on a subject, but to condense information in a field broadly into units that advance understanding and education, encouraging further inquiry and reading.  They span all areas of interest to the journal and to its readership, including bacteriology, virology, parasitology, studies on prions, human and plant fungal pathogens and interactions, and host-pathogen interactions spanning innate and adaptive immunity.

The founding editor for the Pearls series was Hiten Madhani, and the series was launched in June 2009.  The initial years for the series were formative ones, forged by a single editor and publishing on average approximately one Pearl per month. Today 1-2 Pearls are published every week, and a team of 8 editors head the Pearls editorial effort: Vincent Racaniello (viruses), Joe Heitman (fungi), Rich Condit (viruses), Katherine Spindler (viruses), Bill Goldman (fungi and bacteria), Virginia Miller (bacteria), Laura Knoll (parasites), and Heather True (prions).

Two key landmarks for the series are approaching.  On April 17th, 2014, the 200th Pearl will be published, and on June 26, 2014, the series will have been in progress for five years.  Many such experiments in publishing require a decade or more before it is clear whether they have been impactful. By several metrics, this series has hit its stride earlier.

One such metric is the article level metrics available for all PLOS publications, by which readers and authors and editors can track how many times an article is accessed electronically.  By this metric, a dozen Pearls have been read more than 10,000 times, and all more than 1000 (except one published last week).

The Pearls series can be explored by topic on Flipboard, where there are 7 mini-collections for 7 days of the week: Bacteria, Fungi, Host-Interactions, Parasites, Plant Pathogens, Prions, and Viruses. The entire series, including the founding Editorial, can be readily accessed via the online collection.

New on Flipboard: 7 Pearls mini-collections for the 7 days of the week.

To provide a sense of the scope of the Pearls series, we list the following as illustrative examples of the breadth and range of the series:

As editors for the Pearls series, we look forward to the next five years of this series, and look forward to hearing comments from authors and readers.

We also invite you to consider submitting a Pearls mini-review for the series on a topic of your interest to assist us in highlighting novel and interesting areas of the field that are advancing, and will thereby be further advanced.


heitman_photoAuthor bio:  Joseph Heitman, MD, PhD, is a James B. Duke Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University, and director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis. His research focuses on the evolution of sex in fungi and the roles of sexual reproduction in microbial pathogens, how cells sense and respond to nutrients and the environment, the targets and mechanisms of action of immunosuppressive and antimicrobial drugs, and the genetic and molecular basis of microbial pathogenesis and development. He serves on the editorial boards of PLOS Pathogens, PLOS Biology, and PLOS Genetics, amongst others.


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