27,000 scientists support challenge to restrictive journals

September 14, 2001

Scientists from more than 170 countries are beginning a boycott of scientific journals that they believe are overpriced and restrict access to their research, writes Caroline Davis.

The Public Library of Science initiative has more than ,000 signatures supporting its bid for free, unrestricted access to published scientific findings. It was set up ten months ago by 12 academics, including Michael Ashburner at Cambridge.

Professor Ashburner said: "We can't change the culture of scientific publishing overnight, it will take years." He singled out publisher Elsevier as particularly unhelpful to academics, saying he would decline any invitation to publish through the company and that he would advise his university not to get its journals.

In a letter to signatories, PLS founders wrote: "We have all pledged that, beginning in September 2001, we will exclusively support journals that have agreed to provide their archival contents, within six months of publication, to online public libraries of science."

The PLS said it had had positive responses from several journals that agreed to make their published research freely available at the National Institutes of Health's public archive, PubMed Central, within six months of publication. But most journals fell short of the policies demanded.

The PLS letter encourages researchers to try to avoid such journals if possible. If they have no choice, researchers should apply to journals that come close to the goal of unrestricted distribution after six months.

The British Medical Journal , Genome Biology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and many others have signed up to the library, which also aims to create freely available peer-reviewed journals online.

  • A non-commercial journal created by a group of academics to fight the costs of scientific periodicals has overtaken its commercial competitor. Organic Letters , an organic chemistry journal set up by the American Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition, has overtaken rival Tetrahedron Letters .

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