Update on Public Library of Science Initiative

From: Stevan Harnad <harnad_at_coglit.ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 13:10:06 +0100

Below is an update on the progress of the PLSI Initiative:
26,000+ signatures (pledging to publish only in compliant biomedical
journals), 6+ compliant journals, 6+ partially compliant journals.
(Compliant means agreeing to free full-text online access within 6
months after publication.) As there are not yet enough compliant
biomedical journals to accommodate all the papers by the 26,000 signers
of the petition, PLSI are now looking to create new compliant

These efforts are very welcome and we can all wish they will succeed,
but there is a long way to go yet: 26,000 is still only a small
portion of the biomedical research authorship, and 12+ journals is
still only a tiny proportion of the perhaps 6000+ refereed biomedical
journals published annually. And free public access only 6 months after
PUBLICation is still too little, too late.

For a comparative review of the alternatives, see:

    Harnad, S. (2001) Six Proposals for Freeing the Refereed Literature.
    Ariadne 28 June 2001.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 04:48:58 -0700
From: Public Library of Science Initiative
To: STEVAN HARNAD <HARNAD_at_coglit.ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Subject: Update on Public Library of Science Initiative

Dear Colleague,

We are writing to update you on the status of the Public Library of
Science initiative, and to offer our perspective on what it has
accomplished and what we can do now to continue to work toward free
and unrestricted access to the published record of scientific
research. More importantly, we ask for your participation and support
in a major new effort - the launching of new scientific journals that
will publish peer-reviewed scientific research reports online with no
restrictions on access or distribution.

We are very grateful for the courageous step you took in signing the
Public Library of Science open letter. In the 10 months since this
letter began circulating, more than 26,000 of our colleagues from 170
countries have signed it, expressing their strong commitment to free
and unrestricted access to the published record of scientific
research. Your strong voice has brought the issues of access to and
ownership of the scientific literature to the attention of scientists
and the public, and has catalyzed serious thought, discussion, and
debate. The response from the international scientific community and
the public has been overwhelmingly positive. It is clear, however,
that scientists' response to this initiative has been more
enthusiastic than the publishing establishment's. Our initiative has
prompted significant and welcome steps by many scientific publishers
towards freer access to published research, but in general these
steps have fallen short of the reasonable policies we proposed.

We have all pledged that, beginning in September 2001, we will
exclusively support journals that have agreed to provide their
archival contents, within 6 months of publication, to online public
libraries of science. We had hoped that many of the journals that we
have long supported and admired would respond constructively.
Indeed, several leading journals have done so - agreeing to make
their published research reports freely available at the NIH's public
archive, PubMed Central, within six months of publication. These
include the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
Molecular Biology of the Cell, the British Medical Journal,
Bioinformatics, Genome Biology, the Canadian Medical Association
Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association
(JAMIA), and diverse new online journals published by BioMedCentral
(a complete, updated list of such journals will be posted at

With September upon us, we must all now decide how to proceed. We
believe the best way to advance our shared goals is to make every
effort to publish our work in, and give our full support to, journals
that have adopted the policy proposed in the open letter. By
directing our manuscripts and our voluntary assistance (reviewing and
editing) to these journals, we will reaffirm our belief that no
single entity, whether a publisher or government, should have
monopoly control over any portion of the scientific literature; and
we will keep our promise of support to the journals whose actions
endorse this principle. In doing so, we can support not only the
journals who have earned our loyalty, but also the 26,000 colleagues
who share our commitment.

We recognize that the range of journals that have met our conditions
is not yet sufficient to accommodate all the work that we and our
colleagues must publish. Despite our best intentions, it may not
always be feasible to publish our work in a journal whose publication
practices meet our highest standards. In such cases, we suggest that
we make every effort to publish in the available option that comes
closest to meeting our goal of unrestricted free distribution within
6 months. Several journals, including Nucleic Acids Research,
Genetics, American Journal of Human Genetics, the research journals
published by the American Society for Microbiology, several journals
published by the Cold Spring Harbor Press, EMBO Journal and others
have taken a significant, partial step by allowing full-text
searching at PubMedCentral, but still requiring that the articles be
accessible only at their own sites. And a growing number of journals
now allow free access to back issues, after various intervals, but
only at the publisher's website and without full-text searching at a
public site (see, for example,
http://www.highwire.org/lists/freeart.dtl). The journals that have
taken these positive steps are clearly more deserving of our support
than those that have made no constructive efforts at all.

It is important for us to continue talking with the publishers of
journals that are important to us, but which have not yet adopted the
policies we support. This would be an ideal time to write or speak
to the editors of two or three of your favorite journals, and we urge
you to do so. Let them know where you stand, and that your
continuing support is dependent upon their response to this

If we follow this course and demonstrate our commitment to free and
unrestricted access to scientific literature, more journals are
likely to adopt the policies we advocate. However, the resistance
this initiative has met from most of the scientific publishers has
made it clear that if we really want to change the publication of
scientific research, we must do the publishing ourselves. It is now
time for us to work together to create the journals we have called
for. We believe that it is now both necessary and financially
feasible for scientists to create a mechanism for publishing their
work - with responsible, efficient peer review and the highest
editorial standards - while allowing free and unrestricted online
distribution from the moment of publication. We intend to establish
a non-profit scientific publisher under the banner of the Public
Library of Science, operated by scientists, for the benefit of
science and the public. We are beginning to assemble an editorial
board of outstanding scientists from around the world who share this
vision. We are already raising the necessary funds to cover the
startup and initial operating costs. With your participation, vision
and energy we can establish a new model for scientific publishing.
Please join us in this effort. A complete description of our plans
for PLoS journals, and information on how you can participate in
making them a reality, is available at our website:


Michael Ashburner, University of Cambridge
Patrick O. Brown, Stanford University
Michael B. Eisen, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and UC Berkeley
Marc Kirschner, Harvard University
Chaitan Khosla, Stanford University
Roel Nusse, Stanford University
Richard J. Roberts, New England Biolabs
Matthew Scott, Stanford University
Harold Varmus, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Barbara Wold, Caltech


Resources available at www.publiclibraryofscience.org

An updated list of journal policies
Description of plans for Public Library of Science journals
Links to articles and discussions about PLoS initiative
A universal PLoS copyright and license agreement
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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