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HEALTH REPORT — Public Library of Science - 2003-08-12

Broadcast: August 13, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Health news and other scientific information generally comes from research published in the professional literature. This includes publications such as Science and Nature, The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet. Some people, though, have criticized this system because the publishers charge money to read the reports.

Each year up to sixty-thousand research reports are published in the United States from projects funded by the government. Yet private publishers charge as much as fifty dollars to read the results of just one study over the Internet. To receive printed copies of weekly or monthly publications costs a lot more.

Three years ago, a group of medical researchers organized into a group known as the Public Library of Science. They urged scientific publishers to permit the release of reports online without charge. More than thirty-thousand scientists from one-hundred-eighty countries signed a letter of support.

The Public Library of Science says that some publishers did take steps. But, in general, the organizers say they were not satisfied. So the library decided to publish research on its own. It is now building a system to put medical findings on the Internet. Anyone will be able read the reports without having to pay anything.

In October, the Public Library of Science, or PLOS, will begin its first series of computer publications. The first will be called PLOS Biology. PLOS Medicine is to follow in two-thousand-four. The aim is not to continue creating new online publications. The aim is to get existing publications that charge for their reports to begin offering them for free.

Will the world’s best scientists send the Public Library of Science their best work to publish? No one really knows. But library officials say scientists have already begun to send them reports to consider for publication. The organizers say they are pleased with the quality.

And they say they want to develop tools and materials that will help people who are not scientists to understand and enjoy science. The library is on the Internet at

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.