Opening Access to Science
“Why is it, a growing number of people are asking, that anyone can download medical nonsense from the Web for free, but citizens must pay to see the results of carefully conducted biomedical research that was financed by their taxes? The Public Library of Science aims to change that.” -Washington Post front page, 5 August 2003.
Biomedical research is funded by the public or by private organizations in the name of public welfare. Scientists do the work, they peer-review the work of their colleagues and then, more often than not, they publish the work in a journal which turns around and charges these same scientists and their institutions to read it. The current scientific publication system began in a paper-based world, but as in so many other domains, the Internet has changed the possibilities for communicating science. The Public Library of Science grew out of a grass-roots movement of biomedical scientists with the aim of freeing the scientific literature from its subscription-based shackles and maximizing its potential in an open electronic-based forum. We are now a full-fledged publisher; and in this talk, I will discuss the current publishing landscape, its role in the larger scientific enterprise and the value and pitfalls of high-profile scientific publishing. I’ll explain how we are positioning ourselves in this publishing landscape to achieve our goal of making the world’s scientific and medical literature a public resource.
Hemai Parthasarathy received a Ph.D. in systems neuroscience from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995. She then did a postdoctoral fellowship first at the University of Sydney and later at University College London, before daring to stray from academia by accepting an editorial position at the journal Nature in 1998. She was the acting North American Editor in Nature's Washington D.C. office until leaving last spring to work for the Public Library of Science. Hemai has edited review collections for Nature and written articles for New Scientist and Nature.
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