Open access to good science

Published: Saturday 15 November 2003

The San Francisco-based nonprofit organisation Public Library of Science (PLoS) has gate-crashed into the exclusive world of scientific publishing, by coming out with an open access scientific journal, PLoS Biology. Its objective is free and unrestricted access to latest scientific knowledge to anyone interested in science.

A notable feature of the journal, whose first issue appeared on the web on October 13, is that authors pay a fee to cover the cost. The venture -- spearheaded among others by Nobel laureate and former director of National Institutes of Heath, USA, Harold Varmus -- is apparently supported by 30,000 scientists from 180 countries. Varmus is known for his strident posture against proprietary rights over the human genome project results. The journal intends to compete head-on with top-tier journals like Nature, Science and Cell. PloS is planning more journals.

The outstanding science in the first issue shows that many scientists believe in open access and are willing to demonstrate their convictions by sending their best work to a non-traditional journal. Among them is Miguel Nicolelis, who publishes a report on brain implants that allowed monkeys to play video game using only their thoughts. "It was a very important point for us. It was a very clear statement," Nicolelis, who has previously published his research in Nature, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science and other journals, said.

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