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News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Public Library of Science launches “author pays” model

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7473.996 (Published 28 October 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:996
  1. Lynn Eaton
  1. London

    The Public Library of Science (PLoS) last week launched PLoS Medicine, an open access journal that will charge authors rather than readers.

    PLoS Medicine will be published monthly, primarily as an internet journal (http://medicine.plosjournals.org), although print copies will be available at cost price.

    It is the second journal from PLoS to challenge the traditional, subscription funded basis of most medical and science journals, including the BMJ and Lancet. The first, PLoS Biology, was launched last year.

    The new journal finances itself by charging authors $1500 per paper published—a fee authors will be expected to budget for in their initial research applications to funding bodies.

    Dr Ian Gibson, chairman of the UK parliamentary select committee on science and technology, which recently carried out an investigation into the funding of science publishing, welcomed the initiative.

    “This is an important test case, setting the pace,” he told the audience at the journal's launch at the Wellcome Foundation, London, last week. “It's going to be a real example to people out there.”

    Institutions would have to find the money to fund the dissemination of research if people wanted to get published, he acknowledged.

    The government's response to his committee's report, which called for more open access journals, is due to be published next week.

    “I think it is going to be very difficult for the government to deny some of the things we are asking for here,” he said. “But we are not kidding ourselves these things can happen overnight.”

    Dr Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ and now on the board of directors at PLoS, also welcomed the venture, recalling how when he first suggested this funding model to a group of science editors “they looked at me as if I was a complete lunatic.”

    But some traditional, print based journals were sometimes taking two years to publish a paper, he said. “That's completely insane in the internet age.” He added that the journal, which gives easily understood summaries aimed at patients at the end of each piece of research, would have a “great influence” on patients.

    Dr Virginia Barbour, one of the journal's four senior editors, said they wanted to do things differently from other medical journals.

    “We want to have a place where people publish papers that you might not see in other medical journals,” she said.

    She and the other three senior editors—James Butcher, Barbara Cohen, and Gavin Yamey—want to publish papers of worldwide significance and to reach readers in the developing world who would not otherwise have easy access to subscription journals. Among the papers in the first issue is one looking at the problem of dehydration among children with malaria in Gabon.

    The journal has also taken the unusual stance of refusing to accept any advertising from the drug industry and says it will be cautious of research funded by the industry.

    “Anything that seems to be simply a marketing tool from the pharmaceutical industry will be given low priority,” said Dr Vivian Seigel, executive director of PLoS.

    She said that although the journal has taken some start up funding from the drug industry, including donations from Merck and Genentech, it insisted its sponsors signed a waiver to say the money came with no strings attached (see www.plos.org/support/sponsors.html).