You are writing a paper. You need to do some research, so you google your topic.
Ah ha! There it is! The perfect article for your paper. The abstract is right in front of you, but you must go to the actual journal for the full text.
Hmmm…you can access the full text of the article, but you must pay to do it! Anywhere from nine dollars to almost thirty dollars for twenty-four hour access.
“No way”, you say! “I have access to my university’s online library, I’ll just go there and look it up for free!”
Except the journal isn’t in the online database or it has to physically come from another library, and you happen to live two thousand miles away from your “campus”.
Reluctantly, you pay for access to the article. Or not.
What if scientific and medical literature were considered a public resource, available to use any way you chose at no cost; all you would have to do is give credit to the author and source as described in the Creative Commons Attribution License?
This is already happening. It’s called open access publishing and the Public Library of Science (PLoS) is at the forefront of this new movement. Everything published in PLoS journals is immediately available for printing, copying, distributing and hosting. In addition, the complete works are archived in a “public repository” (like PubMed) making them easy to find.
Every article is peer reviewed. Let me quote the actual FAQ page:
The articles in PLoS journals will be published only after they have undergone a rigorous and constructive peer-review process that will be managed by academic editors in collaboration with experienced professional editors.
In addition, readers can rate articles and respond to them, offering additional feedback.
The journal I watch is PLoS Medicine.
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Open access and the Public Library of Science.
What a great concept!