Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Public Library of Science

I hope this idea catches on and runs like wildfire through the entire scientific community.

PLoS is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. All our activities are guided by our core principles.

I have long wished for, and argued for, complete and open [read: free] access to peer-reviewed science and medical journals. I get into lots of arguments in blogs, on message boards, in real life, in which I'm challenged to back up my statements. I'm almost always right [April Fools Day jokes notwithstanding], and a quick Google Scholar or other search often turns up just the right article[s] I need to buttress my point. Voila! Click on the relevant link and get directed to an abstract [or sometimes an abstract of an abstract] and a link to buy a copy of the article.

WTF?! Twenty or thirty dollars to buy one article?! At that rate I could spend my entire paycheck between coffee break and supper time.

  • Didn't my tax dollars already pay for you to not only do this research but also for you or your institution to subscribe to this [horrendously expensive] journal? Yes, they did, so don't tell me that's why you need to charge me such outrageous fees again.

  • Nor am I buying the "it costs big $$ to store all that information" argument. Google and YouTube, and many more sites like them, let me and countless millions of other folks blog and vlog for free. That's a lot of server space, dudes; if they can do it so can you.

  • And finally: No I do not trust the MSM* to read and accurately regurgitate scientific literature for me. I want to read it for myself.

* I've already forgotten which blog I saw it on, but we're being exhorted to stop calling it the "mainstream media" and start calling it the "corporate-owned media." It's a good idea, but MSM looks better than COM, and typing out the full phrase just increases my chances of making embarassing spelling mistakes. I'll be sticking with MSM for a bit longer I think.


Keifus said...

Hipparchia, I fear that the establishment dinosaurs have discovered your post and are working like mad to suppress it with muddy footprints Duck!

I so love the idea of open access to journal articles. Selfishly! I mean, there are publication costs--I'm pretty sure print copies are composed even now--and paying the editors and all. I think the problem is that everyone wants to publish and no one wants to get a subscription.

I'd suggest tying a portion of grant funding to publishing, or else divert the costs to taxpayers (better value for the buck than an expeditious war, that's for sure). The former is actually not a long shot from the current system, I suppose, those dollars coming from teh general morass of university (and sometimes even corporate) overhead.

Bummer (for me) that PLoS is all bio publications.


fkpzkv: freak piezoelektrik volts (or kilovolts)

Archaeopteryx said...

Hey--what's wrong with bio publications?

How do I make the dinosaurs quit? I mean, they were cute enough for a couple of minutes, but one of them just tried to maul me--and it was one of the little orange ones. And they're leaving really smelly dino poop all over my desk.

hipparchia said...

arch: those were just for you! they're the closest thing i could find to transitional fossils.

oh well. don't know about your corner of the universe, but it's hot enough here to fry eggs on the sidewalks.

Keifus: you just have to write your next grant proposal more cleverly, including the costs of publication in that useful classification of "miscellaneous costs."

admittedly i was exaggerating a bit, but publicly-supported universities and libraries do receive tax dollars, some of which gets spent on journal subscriptions, and grant recipients really do find ways to cover all kinds of costs.

and we need to write to the plos people and tell them to include some chemistry in their mix. or leave comments to that effect on their blogs.

Keifus said...

Grants? Oh man, i should be so lucky. I whore it up for contracts, and strikingly little ones at that.

(I know you asked Arch, but I'll tell you that right now, here, it's snowing.)

I'll check plos's blog tomorrow. Tonight's edition of hipp's blogroll brings me someone unhindered by talent. No idea what they're about, but that's a great title for a blog.


bxxub: The devil's signature

hipparchia said...


unhindered by talent: i'm soooo jealous that somebody else thought of that one before i did.

i'll be on the lookout for blizzards....

Keifus said...

Um, so how hot is it down there again? Dammit that's the second time you made me laugh with that joke today.

Here's one thing I learned this afternoon when I was supposed to be working: Brian May went back to grad school after thirty years. I've wasted my life.


dvvuagw: dave's average is way up

hipparchia said...

dvvuagw: dave. is. my. hero. [ok, so that didn't match anything, but he is]

thanks for that link, though now i'm a little bit depressed because now i think i may have wasted my life too.

we're now in the middle of our last-cold-snap-before-easter and i think it's supposed to last through the weekend. i don't know that for sure, though. once april gets here i quit thinking about the temperature and start stocking up on hurricane supplies.