San Francisco, Oct. 13, 2003 - The movement to provide free online access to results of scientific and medical research took an important step forward today with the launch of PLoS Biology - the first open access journal from the Public Library of Science (PLoS) publishers.
The inaugural issue, available online and in print today, features peer-reviewed research articles on diverse topics---ranging from malaria genetics to elephant evolution---authored by prominent scientists from around the world.
PLoS Biology is an open access publication - all of these articles are freely available via the Internet to anyone, anywhere to read, download, print, distribute and reuse, so long as proper attribution of authorship is maintained.
"Scientists want their work to be seen and used," states Dr. Harold Varmus, chairman of the PLoS Board of Directors and former Director of the National Institutes of Health. "The outstanding science in the first issue of PLoS Biology shows that many scientists believe in open access and are willing to demonstrate their convictions by sending their best work to a brand-new and non-traditional journal."
"Science thrives on the free flow of information," said Dr. Patrick O. Brown of Stanford University and co-Founder of PLoS, "By removing restrictions on the sharing of knowledge---ensuring that anyone, anywhere can access the latest research findings---PLoS Biology will speed the pace of scientific discovery".
Scientific publishing is an industry with revenues exceeding $10 billion per year. The majority of existing journals restrict access to their current issues to individuals or institutions who have paid often hefty subscription or site-license fees. In order to make its content immediately available at no cost and with no restrictions, PLoS Biology will use a different business model. Authors of articles in PLoS Biology are asked to pay $1,500 to cover the costs of carrying out peer-review, providing editorial oversight, and managing production. In the vast majority of cases, these costs (on average less than 1% of the cost of conducting the research itself) will be borne by the funding agencies and institutions that sponsored the research.
Strong support for open access publishing and the proposed business plan has come recently from the world's two largest private funders of biomedical research - the Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
By publishing outstanding science from prominent scientists that would otherwise have appeared in leading pay-for-access journals, PLoS Biology is addressing an important cultural barrier to open access publishing. "Scientists have always strongly supported the idea of open access, but many have been reluctant to publish their best work in new open access journals that lack the prestige of established journals like Science or Nature," noted Michael B. Eisen, Ph.D. and co-founder of PLoS. "But with the outstanding papers in the first issue of PLoS Biology and the issues to follow, we believe we will have overcome this cultural obstacle. Scientists will no longer have to choose between supporting open access and advancing their careers by publishing in a prominent journal. With PLoS Biology they get both."
Although PLoS Biology is using a new business model, it retains many of the features of existing scientific journals. All research submissions are subjected to a rigorous peer-review and selection process, overseen by a team of leading scientists and outstanding professional staff at PLoS. Only articles that make significant contributions to moving a field forward are published in the journal. As noted by Vivian Siegel, Ph.D., executive director of the PLoS, the promise is greater than locating research results online. "The full text searches made possible by our open-access policy will increase opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers, speed scientific discovery and potentially save lives."
In addition, every primary research article will be accompanied by a synopsis of the research, written in non-technical language to ensure that readers from other disciplines or from the general public will be able to understand the nature and significance of each report.
The Public Library of Science is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization of scientists committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource. PLoS began as a grass roots movement within the scientific community in October 2000, when more than 30,000 scientists, including 13 Nobel Laureates, endorsed a change in the current commercial, restricted-access publishing model. Increased awareness of open-access publishing and the momentum of the open-access movement are visible in the public statements of organizations as diverse as the National Institutes of Health's Council of Public Representatives, the Association of Research Libraries, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Start-up funding for PLoS publications was provided by grants from the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation and the Irving A. Hansen Foundation. PLoS Biology and background about PLoS can also be found at http://www.plosbiology.org.
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