Public Library of Science

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The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit open access scientific publishing project aimed at creating a library of scientific journals and other scientific literature under an open content license. As of 2005 it published PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine.

The Public Library of Science began in early 2001 as an online petition initiative by Patrick Brown, a biochemist at Stanford University and Michael Eisen, a computational biologist at the University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The petition called for all scientists to pledge that from September of 2001 they would discontinue submission of papers to journals which did not make the full-text of their papers available to all, free and unfettered after a six-month period from publication. Some journals, notably the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the BioMed Central stable of journals (see below), conformed to the PLoS guidelines, but as of 2003 many journals, including the highly regarded journals Nature and Science, have focused instead on allowing authors to self-archive their original submission.

Joined by Nobel-prize winner and former NIH-director Harold Varmus, the PLoS organizers next turned their attention to publishing themselves, along the lines of the UK-based BioMed Central which has been publishing open-access scientific papers in the biological sciences in journals such as Genome Biology and the Journal of Biology since late 1999. As a publishing company, the Public Library of Science began full operation on October 13, 2003, with the publication of a peer reviewed print and online scientific journal, entitled PLoS Biology, and have since launched a second journal, PLoS Medicine. The PLoS journals are what they describe as "open access content"; all content is published under the Creative Commons "by-attribution" license [1] ( (Lawrence Lessig, of Creative Commons is also a member of the Advisory Board). The project states that: "The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited".

To fund the journal, the publication's business model requires that, in most cases, authors will pay publication costs. In the United States, institutions such the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have pledged that recipients of their grants will be allocated funds to cover such author charges (see the "Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing"). The initiatives of the Public Library of Science in the United States has initiated similar proposals in Europe, most notably the "Berlin Declaration" developed by the German Max Planck Institute, which has also pledged grant support for author charges (see also the "Budapest Open Access Initiative"). One weakness of the 'author-pays' model pioneered by PLoS is that it fails to recognise the high cost of filtering and evaluating the high number of submissions the high-impact journals receive - the vast bulk of which are necessarily rejected to maintain these high standards. As such, the jury is still out as to whether a publishing model based on author-pays will be sustainable in the longer term.

PLoS Medicine PLoS Medicine ( was launched in October 2004. Three further journals will be launched in 2005: PLoS Genetics PLoS Genetics), PloS Computational Biology ( PLoS Computational Biology), and PLoS Pathogens ( PLoS Pathogens).

See also

External links


Adam, David. "Scientists Take on the Publishers in an Experiment to Make Research Free to All." The Guardian, 6 October 2003.,3604,1056608,00.html

Albanese, Andrew. "Open Access Gains with PLoS Launch: Scientists Call for Cell Press Boycott; Harvard Balks on Big Deal." Library Journal, 15 November 2003, 18-19.

Bernstein, Philip, Barbara Cohen, Catriona MacCallum, Hemai Parthasarathy, Mark Patterson, and Vivian Siegel. "PLoS Biology—We're Open." PLoS Biology 1, no. 1 (2003): 3. pbio.0000034

Brower, Vicki. "Public Library of Science Shifts Gears." EMBO Reports 2, no. 11 (2001): 972-973. ml&filetype=pdf

Brown, Patrick O., Michael B. Eisen, and Harold E. Varmus. "Why PLoS Became a Publisher." PLoS Biology 1, no. 1 (2003): 1-2. pbio.0000036

Butler, Declan. "Public Library Set to Turn Publisher as Boycott Looms." Nature, 2 August 2001, 469.

———. "Scientific Publishing: Who Will Pay for Open Access?" Nature, 9 October 2003, 554-555. a_fs.html

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Cohen, Barbara. "PLoS Biology in Action." PLoS Biology 2, no. 1 (2004): 1. .0020025

———. "PLoS Medicine." PLoS Biology 2, no. 2 (2004): 139. pbio.0020063

Doyle, Helen. "Public Library of Science (PLoS): Committed to Making the World's Scientific and Medical Literature A Public Resource." ASIDIC Newsletter, no. 87 (2004): 9-10.

Doyle, Helen J. "The Public Library of Science—Open Access from the Ground Up." College & Research Libraries News 65, no. 3 (2004): 134-136. ce.htm

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Foster, Andrea L. "Scientists Plan 2 Online Journals to Make Articles Available Free." The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10 January 2003, A29.

Gallagher, Richard. "Will Walls Come Tumbling Down?" The Scientist 17, no. 5 (2003): 15.

Kleiner, Kurt. "Free Online Journal Gives Sneak Preview." New Scientist, 19 August 2003, 18.

Knight, Jonathan. "Journal Boycott Presses Demand for Free Access." Nature, 6 September 2001, 6.

Malakoff, David. "Opening the Books on Open Access." Science Magazine, 24 October 2003, 550-554.

Mantell, Katie. "Open-Access Journal Seeks to Cut Costs for Researchers." SciDev.Net, 15 January 2004. 1

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———. "New Open-Access Journals." The Scientist, 20 December 2002.

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———. "The Future of the Public Library of Science." Information Today 19, no. 2 (2002): 28.

———. "The Scholarly Publisher as Midwife." Information Today 18, no. 7 (2001): 32.

Pickering, Bobby. "Medical Journals to Get Open Access Rival." Information World Review, 21 May 2004.

Public Library of Science. "Open Letter to Scientific Publishers." (2001).

Reich, Margaret. "Peace, Love, and PLoS." The Physiologist 46, no. 4 (2003): 137, 139-141.

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———. "A Science Publishing Revolution." The Scientist 15, no. 8 (2001): 1.

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