What are the Public Library of Science Collections ? – Part I

PLOS Collections¹ is a specific section of the Public Library of Science (PLOS) initiative which hosts collections of articles which have been specially selected by editors at PLOS, one of the leaders in the academic publishing Open Access (OA) movement.

Seven subject disciplines are represented in PLOS Collections and these include biology, medicine, genetics and tropical diseases. However, we would particularly like to highlight at this time four important sub-collections for those that are interested in general in Open Access, and also the possibilities that open up from an information science perspective.

In particular, the subject discipline PLOS Collections/biology² offers two general Open Access collections, along with two other very interesting specific collections –Text Mining and Altmetrics. It populates both of these sections with selected articles dealing with advanced information technologies and data extraction, and the new tools which are available for measuring the impact and influence of scientific articles.

These two areas of specialization, which have been stimulated thanks to free access to full-text, are those areas which will bring about an incredible improvement in information retrieval systems in the near future by the implementation of the semantic web. They will also enable other ways of measuring the importance and relevance of academic output as an alternative to the famous –and much criticized–Impact Factor.

The object of this article is to offer a condensed presentation of a number of key documents which can be found in each of the four PLOS sub-collections. New articles will be added to each of these sections on a regular basis, so it is worthwhile adding these sections to one’s Internet favorites to be able revisit them easily. Because there is so much information, this post will be split into two parts. This part (Part 1) will deal with the content of the Open Access collections. Part 2 will look at the content of the remaining two collections.

  • Open Access Collection³
  • Tenth Anniversary PLOS Biology Collection⁴
  • Text Mining Collection⁵
  • Altmetrics Collection6

Open Access Collection

At the end of 2013, PLOS Biology celebrated 10 years of continuous academic publishing excellence in OA, and it is for this reason that these collections showcase a selection of articles which look at both the past and present of the OA movement and the history of PLOS.

In the section entitled “Tenth Anniversary” (2013), there is an editorial which offers food for thought with the following words:It’s hard to cast one’s mind back 10 years and recall the scepticism with which open access publishing was initially received. 

The sentiment expressed in these words is true, because many questions were raised and one of the main criticisms was the feeling that this model would lead to the emergence of “vanity or narcissistic publications”, which, in addition, did not seem to be compatible with author integrity since the latter had to pay to publish. It was also felt that the OA model would water down editorial rigor.

The article entitled The Open Access Movement Grows Up: Taking Stock of a Revolution7relates how in little more than a decade the concept of OA increasingly caught the attention of the academic and scientific community, and pointed out how the idea of freely sharing knowledge provided a solid intellectual and philosophical basis for that movement. This vision of the future spurred the dissemination of a public petition, sponsored by PLOS, which was signed by 30,000 individuals who collectively declared their intent to act in support of OA practices.

However, in spite of having such a compelling and portentous vision, the movement towards OA was not easy because it also entailed social and ethical changes and required the necessary financial conditions to ensure its viability. It was therefore not possible that this vision would be achieved overnight. On the contrary, the implementation of these changes turned out to be an extraordinarily difficult undertaking. It was a complex set of intertwined factors that included, among so many things, modification of the practices of the indiscriminate transfer of author rights, as was the case in the print based world, to a digital system of specific rights as found in Creative Commons licenses; and incorporation of changes in the practices of editorial evaluation that were firmly established in high impact journals, not to mention that the editorial “establishment”was (and continues to be) an international industry that generates revenues of billions of dollars annually.

Despite these obstacles, these past 10 years have seen the adoption and acceptance of OA grow steadily and inexorably, incorporating itself into academic and research institutions which gave support to the creation and publication of several thousand of OA journals on platforms such as SciELO and BioMed Central, and to a thriving network of open digital repositories. In the current scientific environment, it is an article of faith that research is only half completed if the research outcomes have not been disseminated as widely as possible.

The construction and availability of a solid infrastructure was required to move from the theoretical to the practical in OA. The article entitled “The Open Access Movement Grows Up: Taking Stock of a Revolution”[7] identifies four key components of that infrastructure which are indicators of excellence, demonstrating to what point OA has built a truly open ecosystem for scholarly communication and for the communication of research.

  1. A solid set of OA journals disseminated world-wide. The DOAJ and SciELO together list more than 10,000 fully OA journals.
  2. A network of more than 2,000 institutions of higher education, research centers, and funding and government agencies convinced of the validity of the OA model.
  3. The consistent use of open licenses that permit flexibility in managing copyright in the digital world. The adoption of Creative Commons licenses, in particular the use of CC-BY licenses, has been an important and increasingly used solution.
  4. The adoption and implementation of policies that support OA, which just 10 years ago did not exist, and which today are implemented at the institutional level with legal backing in many of the world’s developed countries.

Whichever way you look at it, OA has flourished over these past ten years, and the message which emerges from the PLOS Open Access collection is that a Global Community is successfully being built.

Other articles in this section discuss the importance of OA in public heath, in the publication of the results of clinical trials, rights of reuse, and how OA is funded. This section also offers a wide variety of selected articles published in the last decade.

Our reflections

The previous comments are a summary of the history of OA from the point of view of PLOS. As a first reflection, we draw the reader’s attention to the fact that PLOS celebrated its 10 year anniversary one month after SciELO celebrated its 15 year anniversary, and the difficulties narrated by PLOS in undertaking what is has in a country with the world’s greatest scientific output, with a public petition signed by 30,000 individuals in support of OA practices and financially well endowed institutions, were no different to the pioneering work of SciELO, built up with less lobbying but with tremendous will. The difficulties encountered by SciELO were no different to other similar ventures; nevertheless its history and the results obtained puts SciELO on equal footing with one of the major OA initiatives in the world.

As a second reflection, our recommendation to the SciELO Program and to the participating publishers and their journals is to consider creating selected collections of articles in specific subject disciplines.


In the second post on this topic, to be published shortly, we will review the documents of the PLOS Collections on Text Mining and Altmetrics.


¹ What are the PLOS Collections – http://www.ploscollections.org/;jsessionid=7E86FB385236F1DD3425171788D264AB

² PLOS Collections/biology – http://www.ploscollections.org/static/pbioCollections

³ Open Access Collection –http://www.ploscollections.org/article/browse/issue/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fissue.pcol.v01.i10

⁴ Tenth Anniversary PLOS Biology Collection – http://www.ploscollections.org/article/browse/issue/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fissue.pcol.v06.i03

⁵ Text Mining Collection – http://www.ploscollections.org/article/browse/issue/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fissue.pcol.v01.i14

Altmetrics Collection – http://www.ploscollections.org/article/browse/issue/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fissue.pcol.v02.i19

The Open Access Movement Grows Up: Taking Stock of a Revolution – http://www.ploscollections.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001686


ROBERT, R.G., and ALFRED, J. Collection Overview: Ten Years of Wonderful Open Access Science. In Tenth Anniversary PLOS Biology Collection. 2013. Available from: <http://www.ploscollections.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.1001688>

The Directory of Open Access Repositories OpenDOAR. OpenDOAR. 2014. Available from: <http://www.opendoar.org/>

External link

PLOS – http://www.plos.org/

Ernesto SpinakAbout Ernesto Spinak

Collaborator on the SciELO program, a Systems Engineer with a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science, and a Diploma of Advanced Studies from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain) and a Master’s in “Sociedad de la Información” (Information Society) from the same university. Currently has a consulting company that provides services in information projects to 14 government institutions and universities in Uruguay.


Translated from the original in Spanish by Nicholas Cop Consulting.


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

SPINAK, E. What are the Public Library of Science Collections ? – Part I [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2014 [viewed ]. Available from: https://blog.scielo.org/en/2014/06/03/what-are-the-public-library-of-science-collections-part-i/


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