Open Access

Peer reviewed original research science articles have been typically found only in scholarly journals. Libraries at research universities subscribe to them. Scientists order reprints for their own literature files. They aren’t usually easy to get by the broader public. Well, maybe the broader public isn’t too troubled by that.

However, professors at smaller colleges who are trying to teach a course using a collection of research articles have to go to another institution’s library to keep themselves up on the current research (assuming they don’t have their own subscriptions to the appropriate journals).

Isolated researchers (assuming there are such people), students on their own, and ambitious high school teachers who want to get their best classes involved with more than a textbook education are even less likely to gain access.

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is an organization trying to improve things. They are trying to encourage researchers to publish on the Internet through “journals” that are not based on paper and library subscriptions. The articles are peer reviewed.

PLoS has just published a progress report.

{The report contains, among other things} Impressive statistics about the size of the PLoS community: 13,000 peer-reviewers. 26,000 authors, 1,400 board members and millions of unique visitors in 2008.