June 19, 2019

Scientists Call on Funders to Make Research Freely Available Immediately, “Plan U” Proposal Published Today

From a PLOS News Release:

In a new article in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, Richard Sever and John Inglis from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Mike Eisen from UC Berkeley propose a new solution to these problems, which they call Plan U (for “universal”).

They call on the organizations that fund research – government agencies such as NIH and charities like the Howard Hughes Medical Institute – to require the scientists they support to post drafts of their papers on free websites called “preprint servers” before submitting them to academic journals.

The value of this approach was demonstrated by arXiv (pronounced “archive”), a preprint server in the physical sciences that has been running for 28 years and hosts more than a million papers. bioRxiv (pronounced “bio-archive”), founded by Sever and Inglis in 2013, brought the culture to biology and is growing rapidly as more and more biologists realize the benefits of making their work available early.

As well as making papers available sooner—and to everyone—Plan U should speed up research itself, because other experts can immediately begin building on the work. It should also stimulate evolution of the publication system. “Because preprint servers take care of dissemination, scientific journals don’t have to worry about that part and so have more freedom to experiment with how they do peer review,” Sever said. Servers reduce the barrier to entry for new initiatives, he added, since they no longer have to cover the costs of hosting the papers themselves.

Direct to Full Text Article: “Plan U: Universal Access to Scientific and Medical Research via Funder Preprint Mandates”
PLoS Biol 17(6): e3000273
4 pages; PDF.

Article Abstract

Preprint servers such as arXiv and bioRxiv represent a highly successful and relatively low cost mechanism for providing free access to research findings. By decoupling the dissemination of manuscripts from the much slower process of evaluation and certification by journals, preprints also significantly accelerate the pace of research itself by allowing other researchers to begin building on new results immediately. If all funding agencies were to mandate posting of preprints by grantees—an approach we term Plan U (for “universal”)— free access to the world’s scientific output for everyone would be achieved with minimal effort. Moreover, the existence of all articles as preprints would create a fertile environment for experimentation with new peer review and research evaluation initiatives, which would benefit from a reduced barrier to entry because hosting and archiving costs were already covered.

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.