Public Library of Science made simple

Today’s front page Wall Street Journal article on the Public Library of Science (PLoS) was uncharacteristically muddled.

Here are the key points you need to know:

PLoS journals and journals from traditional commercial and non-profit publishers have a number of similarities. Both types are:

  • Peer reviewed, by reviewers who are not paid for their time
  • Filled with articles reporting the results of government and foundation funded research
  • Available online and in print

However, PLoS journals differ from traditional journals in important ways:

  • PLoS journals are available for free online (and for a nominal fee in print) compared with hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars per year for traditional journals
  • PLoS journals charge authors $1500 to have their articles published. These fees are often covered by grants. If an author can’t pay, PLoS waives the charge
  • PLoS journals are increasing in prestige, while traditional journals are threatened by dissent from prominent contributors and subscribers

The open access movement seeks to increase the free flow of information and thereby stimulate innovation.

May 23, 2005

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