Declan Butler, reporter This is the personal blog of Declan Butler, a senior reporter at Nature. All views expressed here are mine, and not those of Nature. Contact me at

June 20, 2006

PLoS financials

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:14 pm

For a change, something other than avian flu. I’ve an article in Nature this week on the finances of the Public Library of Science (PLoS]. I’ve been a longtime advocate of the principles of open access, and open data, but at the same time also keen on experiments to verify its feasibility across various sorts of publications; ie not simplistic “one solution fits all” models — see previous debate here. — This weeks article, published online here, which takes a hard look at PLos’s finances, will I hope contribute to the debate. Comments welcome.
Here’s some excerpts:

“But although PLoS Biology has achieved an impact factor of 14.7, a more than respectable score for a relatively new journal, an analysis of PLoS’s accounts shows that the financial side of the business looks less rosy. As a US non-profit charity, PLoS must file its annual accounts to the Internal Revenue Service. Nature consulted these via, a database that contains information on 1.5 million US non-profit organizations.

The figures show that PLoS lost almost $1 million last year. Moreover, its total income from fees and advertising currently covers just 35% of its total costs. And although this income is increasing – from $0.75 million in 2003-04 to $0.9 million in 2004-05 – it lags far behind spending, which has soared from $1.5 million to around $5.5 million over the past three years.

To stay afloat, the firm continues to rely on the philanthropic grants that launched the project: $9 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and $4 million from the Sandler Family Supporting Foundation, both based in San Francisco (see table image). These covered 65% of the company’s operating costs last year, but are running out: at the end of last September, PLoS had assets of $3,393,265.”

“But Patterson points out that PLoS launched most of its journals recently, and that income from these publications is only beginning to accrue. “The financial situation for this year will look quite different,” he says. “I’m confident we can balance the books this year and next.””

“The hike in PLoS’s fees, announced earlier this month, is due to take effect from 1 July. It is similarly intended to improve the firm’s financial position by “reflecting more closely the costs of publication”, according to a statement on the PLoS website announcing the increases. Author charges will rise to $2,500 for PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine and PLoS Clinical Trials and to $2,000 for PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Genetics and PLoS Pathogens.”

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