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“Free” medical publishing venture gets under way

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7379.11/b (Published 04 January 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:11
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. London

    The Public Library of Science, which has been campaigning to produce free access scientific research via the web, rather than conventional print publication, has obtained a $9m grant over five years from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, enabling it to publish two peer reviewed online journals-on biology and medicine.

    The online journals will be funded through payments made by authors of the papers, rather than the current subscription based financing of medical publications. Authors will be asked to pay about $1500 (£936; €1460) per article, a cost that the scientists are hoping will be met by those funding the research in the first place. Viewing or reproducing the information will be free.

    The initiative is being led by Dr Harold Varmus, who is president of the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, former director of the National Institutes of Health, and 1989 Nobel laureate; Dr Patrick Brown of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stanford University; and Dr Michael Eisen of Lawrence Orlando Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley.

    “Publication is fundamental to the process of scientific and medical research, and the costs of publication are a small but essential part of the cost of research,” said Dr Eisen. “If the same institutions and organisations that sponsor our research also committed to directly paying journals for providing peer review, editorial oversight, and production, the latest scientific discoveries could be made freely available online to every scientist and physician or interested citizen in the world.

    “The anachronistic system of giving away the copyrights to the original research reports and then paying for access to them costs more, and it effectively deprives most of the world-including the people whose taxes paid for the research in the first place-from having any meaningful access to the results.”

    The scientists hope their initiative will help make research findings easily available to non-scientists as well. “When a woman learns she has breast cancer, she deserves to be able to read the results of research on her treatment options that her own tax dollars have funded,” said Dr Brown.

    He added: “A physician in a public clinic in Uganda ought to have the same access to the latest discoveries about AIDS prevention as a professor at Harvard Medical School. And a precocious high school student in Gary, Indiana, who wants to read about the latest discoveries from NIH sponsored research in cell biology shouldn't have to pay thousands of dollars for journal subscriptions.”

    The Foundation was set up in 2000 and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for future generations.

    http://www.publiclibraryofscience.org/