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From: Public Library of Science Initiative
[mailto: feedback@publiclibraryofscience.org]
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2001 7:15 AM
Subject: Update on Public Library of Science Initiative

Dear Colleague,

We are writing to update you on the status of the Public Library of
Science initiative, and to offer our perspective on what it has
accomplished and what we can do now to continue to work toward free and
unrestricted access to the published record of scientific research. More
importantly, we ask for your participation and support in a major new
effort - the launching of new scientific journals that will publish
peer-reviewed scientific research reports online with no restrictions on
access or distribution. 

We are very grateful for the courageous step you took in signing the
Public Library of Science open letter.  In the 10 months since this letter
began circulating, more than 26,000 of our colleagues from 170 countries
have signed it, expressing their strong commitment to free and
unrestricted access to the published record of scientific research.  Your
strong voice has brought the issues of access to and ownership of the
scientific literature to the attention of scientists and the public, and
has catalyzed serious thought, discussion, and debate.  The response from
the international scientific community and the public has been
overwhelmingly positive.

It is clear, however, that scientists' response to this initiative has
been more enthusiastic than the publishing establishment's. Our initiative
has prompted significant and welcome steps by many scientific publishers
towards freer access to published research, but in general these steps
have fallen short of the reasonable policies we proposed. We have all
pledged that, beginning in September 2001, we will exclusively support
journals that have agreed to provide their archival contents, within 6
months of publication, to online public libraries of science.  We had
hoped that many of the journals that we have long supported and admired
would respond constructively.  Indeed, several leading journals have done
so - agreeing to make their published research reports freely available at
the NIH's public archive, PubMed Central, within six months of
publication. These include the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, Molecular Biology of the Cell, the British Medical Journal,
Bioinformatics, Genome Biology, the Canadian Medical Association Journal,
the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA), and
diverse new online journals published by BioMedCentral (a complete,
updated list of such journals will be posted at

With September upon us, we must all now decide how to proceed. We believe
the best way to advance our shared goals is to make every effort to
publish our work in, and give our full support to, journals that have
adopted the policy proposed in the open letter. By directing our
manuscripts and our voluntary assistance (reviewing and editing) to these
journals, we will reaffirm our belief that no single entity, whether a
publisher or government, should have monopoly control over any portion of
the scientific literature; and we will keep our promise of support to the
journals whose actions endorse this principle.  In doing so, we can
support not only the journals who have earned our loyalty, but also the
26,000 colleagues who share our commitment.

We recognize that the range of journals that have met our conditions is
not yet sufficient to accommodate all the work that we and our colleagues
must publish. Despite our best intentions, it may not always be feasible
to publish our work in a journal whose publication practices meet our
highest standards.  In such cases, we suggest that we make every effort to
publish in the available option that comes closest to meeting our goal of
unrestricted free distribution within 6 months.  Several journals,
including Nucleic Acids Research, Genetics, American Journal of Human
Genetics, the research journals published by the American Society for
Microbiology, several journals published by the Cold Spring Harbor Press,
EMBO Journal and others have taken a significant, partial step by allowing
full-text searching at PubMedCentral, but still requiring that the
articles be accessible only at their own sites.  And a growing number of
journals now allow free access to back issues, after various intervals,
but only at the publisher's website and without full-text searching at a
public site (see, for example, http://www.highwire.org/lists/freeart.dtl).

The journals that have taken these positive steps are clearly more
deserving of our support than those that have made no constructive efforts
at all. It is important for us to continue talking with the publishers of
journals that are important to us, but which have not yet adopted the
policies we support.  This would be an ideal time to write or speak to the
editors of two or three of your favorite journals, and we urge you to do
so.  Let them know where you stand, and that your continuing support is
dependent upon their response to this initiative. If we follow this course
and demonstrate our commitment to free and unrestricted access to
scientific literature, more journals are likely to adopt the policies we

However, the resistance this initiative has met from most of the
scientific publishers has made it clear that if we really want to change
the publication of scientific research, we must do the publishing
ourselves. It is now time for us to work together to create the journals
we have called for. We believe that it is now both necessary and
financially feasible for scientists to create a mechanism for publishing
their work - with responsible, efficient peer review and the highest
editorial standards - while allowing free and unrestricted online
distribution from the moment of publication.  We intend to establish a
non-profit scientific publisher under the banner of the Public Library of
Science, operated by scientists, for the benefit of science and the
public. We are beginning to assemble an editorial board of outstanding
scientists from around the world who share this vision.  We are already
raising the necessary funds to cover the startup and initial operating
costs.  With your participation, vision and energy we can establish a new
model for scientific publishing.

Please join us in this effort. A complete description of our plans for
PLoS journals, and information on how you can participate in making them a
reality, is available at our website:
http://www.publiclibraryofscience.org. Signed,

Michael Ashburner, University of Cambridge
Patrick O. Brown, Stanford University
Michael B. Eisen, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and UC Berkeley
Marc Kirschner, Harvard University
Chaitan Khosla, Stanford University
Roel Nusse, Stanford University
Richard J. Roberts, New England Biolabs
Matthew Scott, Stanford University
Harold Varmus, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Barbara Wold, Caltech


Resources available at www.publiclibraryofscience.org
An updated list of journal policies
Description of plans for Public Library of Science journals
Links to articles and discussions about PLoS initiative
A universal PLoS copyright and license agreement