Public Library of Science Acts to Increase Public Access to Scientific Research

June 27, 2003

June 26, 2003 – San Francisco, CA. Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians, is launching a public campaign aimed at making the world’s scientific and medical literature a public resource.

PLoS argues that the current closed system of scientific publication places the narrow interests of publishers before the public interest and greatly diminishes the value of the more than $50 billion dollars invested by US taxpayers each year in scientific and medical research.

PLoS is promoting a new model for scientific publishing – where all scientific and medical publications would be freely available to read and use through online public libraries of science.

The campaign received a substantial boost today when Representative Martin O. Sabo (D-MN) announced that he is drafting legislation that would put publications describing research substantially funded by taxpayer dollars into the public domain.

“This is a good idea whose time is overdue,” said Representative Martin O. Sabo. “We only progress as a society when research is available to all of our best minds at any time. Citizens should have access to publicly-funded research anytime.”

Virtually all of the latest scientific and medical research publications are now available online, but full access is restricted to a privileged elite at large universities and research institutions who can afford the often exorbitant subscription fees. Journal publishers often pocket excessive profits, while most American taxpayers, who paid the researchers’ salaries and expenses, are denied access.

When a woman learns she has breast cancer and desperately wants to find out for herself what researchers have discovered about her disease and its treatment; when a family doctor in rural Mississippi wants to know what NIH-sponsored research has revealed about the risks and benefits of a new treatment for asthma; when a budding scientist at a public high school in Washington wants to see with his own eyes the latest US-sponsored scientific research on the biology of cells; when a scientist at a biotechnology start-up company wants to read the published results of a federally-funded study of cancer genes that may be critical to her own research, they face a huge, unjust and unnecessary obstacle.

“It’s a scandal that anyone is denied free access to the results of research paid for by their tax dollars,” said Michael B. Eisen, Ph.D., co-founder of PLoS, “And it’s a scandal that the scientific community is denied the free and unfettered sharing of research discoveries upon which scientific and medical progress is built. If the public were more conscious of these problems, there would be tremendous pressure for change.”

PLoS’s awareness campaign will feature a 30-second television message called “Wings,” which humorously portrays the scientific progress that could be made if research and discoveries were openly and freely shared. The spot features a man leaving his house on his way to work. A voiceover begins, “In the year 2003 the Public Library of Science made it possible for people all over the world to have access to the latest scientific discoveries,” as the man tends to a few seemingly mundane tasks: tying his shoe, buttoning his coat, checking the sky.

Only at the end of the short film, does the connection between the man and science become clear. As the voiceover continues, “Shortly thereafter things began to change,” rather than getting into a car, the man takes off and flies to work!

The campaign is linked to the October launch of PLoS Biology, a new peer-reviewed scientific journal that will compete with prominent publications such as Science, Nature, and Cell to publish the most significant works of biomedical research. Unlike these established journals, all works published by PLoS Biology will be immediately and freely available. PLoS Biology is backed by a large group of the world’s leading scientists, including Nobel Laureate James Watson, Susan Lindquist, E.O. Wilson, and Kai Simons. PLoS has also recruited a team of leading scientists as academic editors who will work with outstanding professional staff.

“Unlimited access to scientific research will speed discoveries and medical advances, as it has in the cases of the Human Genome Project and SARS,” said Dr. Harold Varmus, co-founder and chairman of the board of PLoS. “The speed at which these projects advanced science and, more importantly, saved lives is testament to the equation that drives the Public Library of Science — multiply knowledge by access and you can really accelerate progress.”

In addition to the television commercial, an extensive grassroots campaign is under way utilizing PLoS’s 33,000 supporters at institutions worldwide to raise awareness of PLoS among the scientific community, and to encourage research submissions to the new journal. The campaign utilizes teaser posters featuring the letters “PLoS” written in various languages and scripts, as well as posters featuring prominent scientists and Nobel laureates who support PLoS. These posters are also available on the PLoS website ( Supporters are urged to print and post them at universities, libraries, and major research centers.

The Public Library of Science is a San Francisco-based non-profit organization oscientists committed to making the world’s scientific and medical literature a public resource. Since October 2000, more than 30,000 scientists, including 13 Nobel Laureates have supported the Public Library of Science and its mission. More information about PLoS, including materials for the awareness campaign, can also be found at the website –

North Woods Advertising, a Minneapolis-based marketing communications firm best known for its work with Jesse Ventura, the late Senator Paul Wellstone, the Mall of America and Nader 2000, created the television commercial in conjunction with Hollywood writer/director Scott Burns and producer Lesley Chilcott. HSI, one of the nation’s premier production houses, produced the spot, and Swietlik, Inc. edited it. For more information about North Woods Advertising, visit


Karin Vanderzee
North Woods Advertising
Phone: +1-612-340-9999

185 Berry Street Suite 1300 San Francisco CA 94107 USA
phone +1 415.624.1200 email