As a leading Open Access publisher, PLOS believes that all of its science content should be freely available to anyone without restriction. Over the past six months, PLOS has implemented some changes to its network of independent science blogs to further support this core mission.
The 22 blogs that make up the PLOS BLOGS Network offer original content from professional science writers and scientists. Both types of contributors to this Network maintain a singular focus on new research, with scientists bringing a view “from the lab” that helps demystify the process of science, while freelance science writers often apply their journalistic skills to explain the implications of complex science.
To encourage independent thinking and promote community engagement, PLOS does not pre-screen or edit its bloggers’ posts. Their work is enjoyed by a broad readership of scientists and non-scientists averaging 300,000 monthly visitors, and reaching far into the larger research community and the general public through content aggregation, social media and syndication.
Stipends for Bloggers
To support freelance writers who contribute explanatory science for the benefit of PLOS readers, as of January 2014, PLOS is instituting a stipend program for its Network bloggers. These payments go to qualifying PLOS Network bloggers whose output meets certain established criteria, including the frequency of posting and traffic to their blogs.
Open Access Means Unrestricted Reuse
A second policy shift, effective October 1, 2013, requires that all blogs and blog posts hosted by PLOS are licensed using the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. As the “Gold” standard for Open Access publishing, CC BY is used by authors of research in PLOS journals, and by contributors to PLOS staff blogs.
The primary terms of the CC BY license include:
- The retention by authors of the copyright for their original works. This differs from terms offered by many closed access publishers who generally keep copyright of an author’s article or blog post.
- Open Access to anyone wishing to repost, remix or reuse published content for any purpose, including commercial and noncommercial users, while requiring that authors and bloggers receive attribution for any reposting or reuse of their work. (Previously, when requested, PLOS permitted its network bloggers to use the more restrictive CC BY NC license, which aims to prohibit commercial reuse of content).
New Applications for CC BY
A CC BY license has been implemented by other online publishers, including the investigative news website ProPublica, and Wellcome Trust, for its forthcoming Mosaic series showcasing the work of independent science journalists. In a blog post, Mosaic editor Giles Newton acknowledged that, while well established in scholarly circles, CC BY for independent journalism is relatively new, adding “We want as many people to be able to read our stories as possible, and so we’ll be publishing features on the Mosaic site and making it simple for others to take our content and re-use it.”
By instituting a CC BY license across all PLOS sites, including its journals and blogs, the organization is demonstrating its commitment to the principle of placing no restrictions on reuse – while providing consistency for readers in terms of how they access and reuse any and all PLOS content.
Some Departures from Our Network
PLOS recognizes that freelance science writers are not in the same position as most PLOS researcher-authors who may have financial support for their publishing activities. While regretting their departures, PLOS acknowledges the views of bloggers who have opted to leave the PLOS Network because of this requirement. All previously published blog posts remain available under their original licenses in the Archived Blogs section of the PLOS BLOGS Network. PLOS is pleased to retain the majority of our Network, and welcome several new bloggers as we work to accelerate science and bring its benefits to a wider public.
Victoria Costello, Manager of PLOS BLOGS Network and Social Media since 2012, previously worked as a freelance science writer for such publications as Scientific American Mind, Brain World and HuffPost, and as an Emmy Award-winning, independent documentary writer/producer for PBS, Disney TV and Discovery Networks.