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Organizations Laud Innovative Open-Access Publishing Venture

  October, 13 2003 11:15
new and historical books in bioscience and medicine
Washington, DC -- A coalition of major library and public interest organizations praised the October 9 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. PLoS Biology (http://biology.plosjournals.org/), a monthly peer-reviewed journal available free online, 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, Association of College and Research Libraries, 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. The networked 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 (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is a commercial publisher of original research papers using an open-access model. The Directory of Open Access Journals (http://www.doaj.org) identifies 540 peer-reviewed open-access journals in wide-ranging scholarly and scientific fields. There are also groups, such as the Open Society Institute (http://www.soros.org/openaccess/) and SPARC (http://www.arl.org/sparc/) 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 (http://www.hhmi.org/) and the Wellcome Trust (http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/en/1/awtvispolpub.html), 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.”

# # #

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to providing leadership and advocacy in the field of legal information and information policy. AALL’s more than 5,000 members respond to the legal information needs of legislators, judges and other public officials, corporations and small businesses, law professors and students, attorneys, and members of the general public.

The Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) is composed of the directors of libraries of 142 accredited U. S. and Canadian medical schools belonging to the Association of American Medical Colleges. AAHSL's goals are to promote excellence in academic health science libraries and to ensure that the next generation of health practitioners is trained in information seeking skills that enhance the quality of health care delivery, education, and research.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), is a professional association of academic librarians and other interested individuals. ACRL currently has a membership of approximately 12,400, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total ALA membership. ACRL provides a broad range of professional services and programs for a diverse membership.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in North America. ARL programs and services promote equitable access to and effective use of recorded knowledge in support of teaching, research, scholarship, and community service.

The Medical Library Association (MLA) is a nonprofit educational organization of more than 900 institutions and 3,800 individual members in the health sciences information field committed to educating health information professionals, supporting health information research, promoting access to the world's health sciences information, and working to ensure that the best health information is available to all.

The Open Society Institute (OSI) is a private operating and grant-making foundation established in 1993 by investor and philanthropist George Soros. It develops and implements a range of programs in civil society, education, media, public health and human and women’s rights, as well as social, legal, and economic reform.

Public Knowledge is a public-interest advocacy organization dedicated to fortifying and defending a vibrant information commons. This Washington, D.C. based group works with wide spectrum of stakeholders -- libraries, educators, scientists, artists, musicians, journalists, consumers, software programmers, civic groups and enlightened businesses -- to promote the core conviction that some fundamental democratic principles and cultural values -- openness, access, and the capacity to create and compete -- must be given new embodiment in the digital age.

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) is an initiative of universities, research libraries, and library organizations to correct dysfunctions in the scholarly publishing marketplace that have constrained the dissemination of scholarship and crippled libraries. SPARC publishing partnerships and educational activities demonstrate publishing models that expand information dissemination in a networked digital environment while responding to the needs of scholars and academe.

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