Practitioner’s Perspective: Science as a Public Resource: Rules of Engagement
Advances in information and digital technology have made it possible for anyone, anywhere with access to a computer to download millions of published scientific papers, creating the opportunity for a virtual public library of science. For too long, barriers to accessing that information have denied researchers, educators, consumers, and citizens the opportunity to benefit from this growing body of knowledge. The Public Library of Science became an “open access” publisher to remove those barriers by ensuring free and unrestricted access to the scientific and medical literature. PLoS also sought to change the very definition of “the scientific community” by providing the general public with the educational resources to better understand technical scientific papers and by creating Web-based tools that invite the general public to join discussions and debates surrounding the scientific literature. Such tools are especially important in an environment where scientists feel pressure to “do science by press release,” exaggerating the implications of study results to gain publicity and status. Editors at PLoS take pains to ensure that press releases describe the principal findings of published results without sensationalizing the implications of the work, hoping to prevent the sensationalized news stories that distort not only the significance of the findings at hand but the very nature of scientific progress.
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