PLoS Biology inaugural issue provides free access to top tier biology research

Contact: Susan K. Martin, Ph.D

ACRL Visiting Program Officer

for Scholarly Communications


For Immediate Release

October 17, 2003

PLoS Biology inaugural issue provides free access to top-tier biology research

Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and a coalition of major library and public interest organizations praised the October 13, 2003 premier of the first open-access journal published by the San Francisco-based Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians.
The journal supports ACRL’s main initiative to inform its members of excellent scholarly communications resources.

PLoS Biology ( is a monthly peer-reviewed journal available free online. The publication features research of exceptional significance, including several groundbreaking articles that recently have received extensive coverage in the worldwide news media.

PLoS is employing a new model for scientific publishing in which research articles are freely available to read and use through the Internet. The costs of publication are recovered not from subscription fees, which limit information access and use, but from publication fees paid by authors out of their grant funds and from other sources.

Organizations voicing their support for PLoS include the American Association of Law Libraries, Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Medical Library Association, Open Society Institute, Public Knowledge, and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). Several of these organizations have been actively promoting alternatives to subscription-based journal publishing.

"PLoS has captured the imagination of scientists around the globe," said James G. Neal, vice president for information services at Columbia University and chairman of SPARC. "The support it has garnered from leaders in biomedical research make it a potent symbol of the opportunity we have today to share scientific findings and propel innovation. Thenetworked digital environment allows PLoS and similar initiatives to sustain the best features of traditional journal publishing but without perpetuating barriers to access and use. This is a milestone in the advancement of scholarly communication."

PLoS is supported by a large group of the world's leading scientists, including Nobel Laureate James Watson, Susan Lindquist, E.O. Wilson, and Kai Simons. A team of leading scientists serve as academic editors and an experienced professional staff operate the venture. Start-up costs for PLoS are being supported by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

"Unlimited access to scientific research will speed discoveries and medical advances, as it has in the cases of the Human Genome Project and SARS," said Harold Varmus, co-founder and chairman of the board of PLoS. "The speed at which these projects advanced science and, more importantly, saved lives is testament to the equation that drives the Public Library of Science.
Multiply knowledge by access and you can really accelerate progress." Varmus is a Nobel Prize winner, President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and former director of the National Institutes of Health.

PLoS is one of several initiatives that promote open access to scientific and medical literature. Although they still represent only a fraction of the published research literature, many open-access journals have been launched. BioMed Central ( is a commercial publisher of original research papers using an open-access model. The

Directory of Open Access Journals ( identifies 540 peer-reviewed open-access journals in wide-ranging scholarly and scientific fields. There are also groups, such as the Open Society Institute ( and SPARC (the Scholarly Publishers and Academic Resource Coalition) ( that are providing support and advocacy for open-access publishing.

Backing for this new publishing model is growing, particularly in biomedical fields, where high journal subscription charges limit access by physicians, researchers, and individual members of the public. Recently the Howard Hughes Medical Institute ( and the Wellcome Trust (, major private funders of biomedical research in the U.S. and U.K. respectively, announced that they will earmark funds to pay open-access publication fees as part of their grants.

According to Vivian Siegel, PLoS Executive Director, “Our goal is to make the scientific and medical literature a freely accessible resource. But the literature is huge, and we cannot do it all by ourselves. Using the success of our own journals as a template, we hope to encourage other publishers to adopt the open-access model.”

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