Public Library of Science

Short Summary

Public Library of Science is a nonprofit publisher that pioneered a series of open access scholarly & scientific journals. As financially viable, peer-reviewed alternatives to commercial journals, PLOS journals authorize sharing and re-use of research literature, advancing the goals of the academy and overcoming the inequities of copyright-driven markets.
PLOS is "the world's largest publisher of free to read, immediately accessible and openly licensed scholarly content. (Cameron Neylon)

Website address:

Location: San Francisco, California, USA

Logo. source


In 2017, PLOS was publishing seven respected peer-reviewed journals, each preceded by the initials PLOS:
  • One
  • Biology
  • Computational Biology
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases
  • Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Pathogens
PLOS publishes more than 20,000 papers per year. Besides publishing free, open access journals, PLOS is a policy advocate for greater “access to research, transparency in peer review and an open approach to science assessment.” PLOS also hosts specialized blogs, actively uses social media, and engages with the general public.

It also seeks to overcome legacy traditions in academia that inhibit free exchange of research and ideas. For example, PLOS pioneered "article-level metrics" that document the many ways that readers engage with published research, moving beyond the old-style metrics that count the number of article citations and rely on the reputation of the journal title as indicia of impact.

In 2014 PLOS adopted a data policy to ensure that a research article's underlying data could be available to readers.

In 2016, PLOS ONE published 22% fewer papers than previously and issued some high-profile retractions.

PLOS relies on Creative Commons licenses to help make research articles free to everyone online in perpetuity. This makes knowledge creation easier and more affordable for all researchers. PLOS journals, blogs, social media and other fora amount to a commons-based infrastructure that mutualizes benefits and reduces inequality of access to the latest scientific findings.

YOUTUBE kXc5GwudWXQ On PLOS ONE's tenth birthday (2017), this video is a reflection "on the ways in which the journal has changed the landscape of scholarly publishing."


As a nonprofit publisher, PLOS appears to manage itself as many other journal publishers do, albeit with less need to market itself or reap higher profit margins. Because it is directly responsive to academic authors and not to corporate shareholders, PLOS has been able to strengthen the shared values of scientific inquiry by making research results available to anyone online for free.

In terms of quality of article submissions, PLOS uses peer review, as most other respectable academic journals do, to ensure that standards of rigor and integrity are met.

Friends & Partners

PLOS's leadership in developing the OA journal publishing model has given it great respect within the OA community, inspiring other disciplines to emulate OA protocols and identify with the OA publishing culture.


Rather than charging a subscription fee, PLOS funds itself by charging authors a fee: $1,495 for PLOS ONE, and $2,250 or $2,900 for the other six journals. Thus its revenues rise and fall with the number of articles it publishes. This caused concern in 2016 when it had fewer article submissions and 30% fewer articles published than in its peak year, 2013. Based on tax documents, according to a news account, PLOS had net revenues of $566,229 in 2016, down from $10 million two years before (source).

Since its inception, PLOS has helped academics-as-commoners escape the unnecessarily high costs of commercial journals, both in terms of copyright restrictions on authors and high subscription fees to libraries (for work produced in the first place by academics, often with taxpayer support).

Origin Story

The PLOS Open Access Initiative began in 2001 when Harold Varmus, Patrick Brown and Michael Eisen circulated an open letter urging scientific and medical publishers to make research available free in online public archives.

After nearly 34,000 scientists from 180 nations signed the letter committing themselves to this idea, the three founded PLOS, still in 2001, and launched its first open-access journal in 2003, PLOS Biology.

See Also

  • Other commons categories that are related to this one's, or specific similar examples