The Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit, international grass-roots organization of scientists, announced today that it is launching a new scientific publishing venture that will make the published results of scientific research more accessible and useful to scientists, physicians and the public. This new effort is backed by a five-year, $9 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by an important policy decision from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

The PLoS initiative has been led by Dr. Harold E. Varmus, president of the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, former director of the National Institutes of Health and 1989 Nobel Laureate; Dr. Patrick O. Brown of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stanford University; and Dr. Michael B. Eisen of Lawrence Orlando Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley.

PLoS will publish two new journals - PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine. The senior editorial board of the new journals is an international group of scientific luminaries (see list below). The PLoS journals will retain all of the important features of scientific journals, including rigorous peer-review and high editorial standards, but will use a new business model in which the costs of these services are recovered by modest fees on each published paper. This new model will allow PLoS to make all published works immediately available online, with no charges for access or restrictions on subsequent redistribution or use.

"By making the published results of biomedical research available for free, and allowing them to be redistributed and used without restriction, these new journals will substantially increase the value - to both the scientific community and the public - of the tremendous investment our society makes in scientific research," explained Dr. Varmus.

Open access publication will:

  • Greatly expand access to scientific knowledge by giving any scientist, physician, student - or anyone with access to the Internet, anywhere in the world - unlimited access to the latest scientific research.
  • Facilitate research, informed medical practice and education by making it possible to freely search the full text of every published article to locate specific ideas, methods, experimental results and observations.
  • Enable scientists, librarians, publishers and entrepreneurs to develop innovative new ways to access and use the information in this immensely rich but highly fragmented resource.

According to Dr. Eisen, "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. If the same institutions and organizations 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 in comprehensive, searchable open archives of the scientific literature. 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 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), among the most highly respected medical research organizations in the world, strongly endorsed this new model for scientific publishing by promising to cover the publication costs for their 350 investigators when they publish in open access electronic journals like PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine. In so doing, HHMI's scientific leadership - its president, Thomas R. Cech, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, and vice presidents Gerald Rubin, Ph.D. and David Clayton, Ph.D. - expressed their support for the PloS initiative, and are helping to assure the success of PLoS's publications by encouraging leading scientists to publish their work in open access journals.

"We think that Web publications that are instantly available for free and are readily searchable and downloadable very much support HHMI's mission," said Dr. Cech. "They are clearly "the wave of the future" in terms of our investigators disseminating their research discoveries and learning from the findings of others. In addition, we have a strong commitment to international science and the current subscription system puts many journals out of the reach of our colleagues in poorer countries."

As noted by Dr. Varmus, "the generous support by HHMI is a strong vote of confidence in our journals and serves as a model for other funding agencies and institutions."

PLoS is confident that the scientific community will support their new publications. In the past two years, more than 30,000 scientists from 180 countries signed an open letter circulated by PLoS, which called on established scientific journals to provide open access to their archives. Dr. Brown expects this initiative to be welcomed by many groups with a stake in biomedical research. "Anyone who has an interest in the results of scientific inquiry, or who believes in making the latest advances in medical knowledge available to physicians and patients around the world, can recognize the importance of more equitable access to the scientific literature. 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. 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."


Public Library of Science, a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, was formed in 2000 by a group of biomedical research scientists to encourage scientific publishers to make the archival scientific research literature available for distribution through free online public libraries of science, such as NIH's pioneering online research library, PubMedCentral.

Partial List of Advisors:

We are currently contacting prominent scientist around the world who strongly support the goals of PLoS to serve as editorial advisors to our new journals. This is a partial list of those who have agreed to serve. An updated list is available on our website:


Michael Ashburner, Ph.D.
University of Cambridge
United Kingdom

Anne-Lise Borresen-Dale, Ph.D.
Norwegian Radium Hospital

Patrick O. Brown, M.D., Ph.D.
Stanford University School of Medicine
United States

Steve Chu, Ph.D.
Stanford University
United States

Nick Cozzarelli, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
United States

Sean Eddy, Ph.D.
Washington University of St. Louis
United States

Michael B. Eisen, Ph.D.
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
United States

Mikhail Gelfand, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Russian Academy of Sciences

Alan Fersht, Ph.D., FRS
University of Cambridge
United Kingdom

Lee Hartwell, Ph.D.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
United States

David Hillis, Ph.D.
University of Texas
United States
Brigid Hogan, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
United States

Fred Hughson, Ph.D.
Princeton University
United States

Tim Hunt, Ph.D., FRS
Imperial Cancer Research Fund
United Kingdom

Marc Kirschner, Ph.D.
Harvard University Medical School
United States

Rowenna Matthews, Ph.D.
University of Michigan
United States

Roel Nusse, Ph.D.
Stanford University School of Medicine
United States

Svante Paabo, Ph.D.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Richard Roberts, Ph.D.
New England Biolabs
United States

Gerry Rubin, Ph.D.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
United States

Harold E. Varmus, M.D.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
United States

Barbara Wold, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology
United States


The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was established in September 2000 to create positive outcomes for future generations. The Foundation funds outcome-based grants and initiatives to achieve significant and measurable results. Grantmaking supports the Foundation's principal areas of interest: global environmental conservation, science, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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