The New York Times uses an article from the Public Library of Science journal, PLoS One. It’s another step towards the standard of openness.

The study reveals that parallel brain activity of both sides of the brain allows experts to analyze a chess problem more quickly than novices whose left brain does the work. That’s interesting.

But what excited me (I’m excitable, I guess) was that the New York Times was reporting on a study written up in an open access journal. In the case of PLoS One, the articles are published using the Creative Commons Attribution License (cc-by) which makes the information immediately and deeply accessible to all of us.

CC-BY allows reuse, reworking, republishing and more; as long as the original source is acknowledged.

Such work is what education needs. Teachers and students benefit. Learning becomes easier. Copyright issues are avoided. Attribution is easy to do and helps to teach the difference between copyright, copying and plagiarism.

Those noble goals are going to be easier to achieve as mainstream publications like the New York Times refer to articles like this one.

PLoS even makes it stunningly easy to do the proper attribution. A link at the right of the article’s web page gives the following citation.

Bilalić M, Kiesel A, Pohl C, Erb M, Grodd W, 2011 It Takes Two–Skilled Recognition of Objects Engages Lateral Areas in Both Hemispheres. PLoS ONE 6(1): e16202. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016202


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.