PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Open Sesame
Digital Media and the Proliferation of Open Access Scientific Information and Knowledge

Scott Mitchell  

Launched in 2003, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) is a publishing project that provides open access content through a library of journals, scientific literature, information on clinical trials, and other such materials and data. The assessment by PLOS only considers the accuracy and rigor of the experimental design and data analysis; in other words, articles are not rejected due to a perceived lack of significance, and 'importance' is determined post publication by the community. Materials published by PLOS are made available under the Creative Commons attribution license, which allows for the free reproduction and distribution of information. The reported success of PLOS has often been credited with encouraging the widespread adoption of 'open' values throughout the scientific community, with not only a recent rise in the number of open source journals, but also a number of established journals either becoming open access or moving towards greater accessibility. This completed article examines PLOS as an institution, identifying the actors and regulations involved with mediating the production, publication, distribution and access of information across the various platforms of the project; the processes between the production and articulation of data are described. What intermediaries and institutional arrangements shape the production and dissemination of this open access knowledge? This article explores a growing trend in the communication of scientific research and the use of digital technologies and networks to facilitate new forms of science communication. As an institution that relies on digital networks and technologies to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge and open access to information, PLOS should be approached through a lens that considers social production in networked environments, and the intersection between networks, materiality and economics. Through this examination of PLOS as an institution, the article focuses on issues of property ownership surrounding open access science in the digital era.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.