The inaugural issue of the journal, called the Public Library of Science Biology, is the first journal to be published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a San Francisco nonprofit that's backed by several highly regarded scientists who want to see scientific research freely distributed online.
Instead of charging subscription fees that cost thousands of dollars annually, as do many traditional scientific journals, PLoS charges authors $1,500 per published article. The fee covers peer review, editing and production, while allowing the public to freely access the research. The group wants to compete with established journals while slimming publishing costs and shortening peer-review cycles.
A statement on the site says the Web makes it possible "to make our treasury of scientific information available to a much wider audience, including millions of students, teachers, physicians, scientists, and other potential readers who do not have access to a research library that can afford to pay for journal subscriptions."
Not surprisingly, the free distribution model seems be going over well. Within the first eight hours of the journal's launch, traffic on the site spiked to more than half a million hits, said Nick Twyman, director of information technology and computer operations at PLoS. The traffic has overwhelmed the group's servers, causing PLoS to direct visitors to other sites, where they can access simplified versions of the journal. Twyman said he hopes to get the site up and running again by Wednesday.
"We always expected a lot of interest, but we're surprised by this response," Twyman said.
One reason the journal has generated so much attention is a report it contains about brain implants in monkeys that enable them to control a robotic arm with their thoughts.
PLoS, which plans to launch a medical journal next year, is focusing initially onliterature. The group may eventually expand into other areas, such as computer science, Twyman said.
Leading scientists who are involved in PLoS include Dr. Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health and now chief executive officer of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, along with Dr. Patrick Brown of Stanford University, who co-founded the new journal.
Brown agreed with Twyman. "It was sort of a surpise," he said, "yet all along, we felt this is so obviously the way to go that I would say we never doubted it would be a success. If you have to have a problem, (too much traffic) is a good one to have."