Sunday, August 22, 2004

Public Library of Science

I've been intending to do this for a while.

I Support the Public Library of Science

Above you will find a link to a really great organization, the Public Library of Science, which describes itself in the following terms:

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource.

Currently the only journal they have up and running is PLoS Biology, of which you can find the most recent issue here. This is a great journal, wonderful to browse. It is a scientific peer-reviewed journal, so it's the real deal. On the other hand, because of PLoS's commitment to being accessible to the public, every scientific article comes with an easy-to-read synopsis of the basic line of thought in the article. In addition, there are primers for those interested in a slightly more advanced look at the science of particular topics (e.g., gene transcription or the modeling of autoimmune diseases), occasional book and movie reviews looking at biology in the media, and essays on various unsolved scientific problems and what is being done to solve them. One of my favorite essays so far was this one in their occasional "Unsolved Mysteries" section, discussing the human sense of smell. Apparently, the human sense of smell is much better than most people think; we can outperform most animals whose sense of smell has been studied in all but a limited range of chemicals, despite the fact that we seem to have less developed physiology for this purpose. The author, Gordon Shepherd, suggests (as just the most likely current possibility) that it might have something to do with our ability to use language. PLoS Biology is always full of things like this.

Because PLoS Biology makes use of Creative Commons copyright license, one may freely copy and distribute any article in the journal, as long as it is properly cited.

They hope to put up another journal, PLoS Medicine, this October, and after that, at regular intervals, other journals for other fields. As I said, it's a great organization; tell your friends about it.

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