Public Library of Science

PLOS logo. source

Public Library of Science is a project that pioneered a series of open access scholarly & scientific journals. As financially viable, peer-reviewed alternatives to commercial journals, PLOS journals authorize sharing and re-use of research literature, advancing the goals of the academy and overcoming the inequities of copyright-driven markets.

PLOS is "the world's largest publisher of free to read, immediately accessible and openly licensed scholarly content. (Cameron Neylon)

# Legal Status and Location?

PLOS is a nonprofit publisher based in San Francisco, California, USA, Americas, transnational


# When did it start?

The PLOS Open Access Initiative began in 2001 when Harold Varmus, Patrick Brown and Michael Eisen circulated an open letter (html ) urging scientific and medical publishers to make research available free in online public archives.

After nearly 34,000 scientists from 180 nations signed the letter committing themselves to this idea, the three founded PLOS, still in 2001, and launched its first open-access journal in 2003, PLOS Biology, html .

# How do they work?

In 2017, PLOS was publishing seven respected peer-reviewed journals, each preceded by the initials PLOS: One, Biology, Computational Biology, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Medicine, Genetics, and Pathogens.

PLOS publishes more than 20,000 papers per year. Besides publishing free, open access journals, PLOS is a policy advocate for greater

access to research, transparency in peer review and an open approach to science assessment.

It also seeks to overcome legacy traditions in academia that inhibit free exchange of research and ideas. For example, PLOS pioneered "article-level metrics" that document the many ways that readers engage with published research, moving beyond the old-style metrics that count the number of article citations and rely on the reputation of the journal title as indicia of impact, (webpage )

In 2014 PLOS adopted a data policy to ensure that a research article's underlying data could be available to readers.

PLOS blog mage. source

PLOS also hosts specialized blogs, actively uses social media, and engages with the general public. In 2016, PLOS ONE published 22% fewer papers than previously and issued some high-profile retractions, (html ).

# Financing & partnerships Rather than charging a subscription fee, PLOS funds itself by charging authors a fee -- $1,495 for PLOS ONE, and $2,250 or $2,900 for the other six journals. Thus its revenues rise or fall with the number of articles it publishes. This caused concern in 2016 when it had fewer article submissions and 30% fewer articles published than in its peak year, 2013. Based on tax documents, according to a news account, PLOS had net revenues of $566,229 in 2016, down from $10 million two years before.


PLOS journals and associated projects are all committed to advancing core principles of academic -- open inquiry, advancement of knowledge, and peer scrutiny and debate. It is world-making in this sense, and very creatively adaptive as a large-scale publishing and scientific institution.

PLOS operates as a standard nonprofit with the usual governance hierarchies, acting as a steward of larger shared interests, particularly those of free access to peer-reviewed scientific research.

Since its inception, PLOS has helped academics-as-commoners escape the unnecessarily high costs of commercial journals, both in terms of copyright restrictions on authors and high subscription fees to libraries (for work produced in the first place by academics, often with taxpayer support). By using Creative Commons licenses, PLOS journals and other PLOS platforms have used a pool & share strategy and academic gift-economy approach to decouple giving & taking.

Open access publishing serves to Relationalize property, i.e., copyrights, by enhancing inclusive access. In terms of quality of article submissions, PLOS uses peer review, as most other respectable academic journals do, to ensure that standards of rigor and integrity are met.

The impact of the open access (OA) publishing models is to protect & extend value sovereignty and by redirecting capital to commons provisioning.

Besides its pool-and-share approach, PLOS relies on Creative Commons licenses to help make research articles free to everyone online in perpetuity. This makes knowledge creation easier and more affordable for all researchers. PLOS journals, blogs, social media and other fora amount to a commons-based infrastructure that mutualizes benefits and reduces inequality of access to the latest scientific findings.

# Peer Governance As a nonprofit publisher, PLOS appears to manage itself as many other journal publishers do, albeit with less need to market itself or reap higher profit margins. Because it is directly responsive to academic authors and not to corporate shareholders, PLOS has been able to strengthen the shared values of scientific inquiry by making research results available to anyone online for free.

The journal honors transparency in research and embodies the principle of Share knowledge often and widely.

PLOS's leadership in developing the OA journal publishing model has given it great respect within the OA community, inspiring other disciplines to emulate OA protocols and identify with the OA publishing culture.

As an administrative commons structure, PLOS's impact on the inner lives of commoners is unclear. It has certainly reinforced the sharing ethos of academia and asserted the importance of open relationships and debate. But this is a byproduct of its core mission, mutualizing access to the academic research literature.


# Sources

Public Library of Science html ]

Cameron Neylon, "Open Access Pioneer: The Public Library of Science, in Bollier and Helfrich, Patterns of Commoning (Off the Common Books, 2015), pp. 179-181, at html