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Should publicly funded research be free and available to the public?

Last October, a small, San Francisco-based organization known as the Public Library of Science (PloS) shook up the scientific publishing world when it launched a free, online journal called PloS Biology.

According to the group's website, the goal of PloS Biology is to make original, peer-reviewed research papers freely available online, giving anyone with access to the Internet freedom to "read, download, print, copy and redistribute any published article, or to use its contents in derivative works, such as databases, textbooks or other teaching materials."

The PLoS board of directors promised to go head-to-head with other prestigious journals, such as Nature and Science, which require a subscription fee for Internet access, as well as written permission to reproduce any online content.

Is "open access" science publishing the wave of the future, or will subscription-based research journals remain the dominant source for peer-reviewed science?

In the following essays, two Stanford University scientists at the center of the controversy offer their perspectives: Patrick Brown, professor of biochemistry and co-founder of PloS; and Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford and editor-and-chief of the journal Science.

VANTAGE POINT BY PATRICK BROWN

Last year, Harold Varmus, Michael Eisen and I founded a new nonprofit scientific publisher, the Public Library of Science (PloS; www.plos.org). In October, PloS began publishing its premier scientific journal, PLoS Biology. Everything PloS publishes is immediately available online, free of charge, with no restrictions on access or use.

Here's why: The public library, one of the greatest inventions of human civilization, has been waiting for the Internet. What seemed an impossible ideal in 1836, when Antonio Panizzi, librarian of the British Museum, wrote, "I want a poor student to have the sa
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
2-Mar-2004


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