Global Participation Initiative

To accelerate the pace of discovery, PLOS aims to remove existing barriers that prevent scientists from sharing, finding, learning from, and building upon the shared scientific body of knowledge. To achieve our mission of transforming research communication requires going beyond solving the problem of access for readers, to providing sustainable access for authors to the systems of scholarly communication. Any barrier to publication ultimately reduces the impact of open access by limiting the number of findings available to readers. This is particularly damaging when that barrier reduces the ability of global scholars from low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) to engage with the global research community.

To address this issue and the wider issues of encouraging global participation in scholarly communication PLOS has formed an International Advisory Group (IAG).  The IAG provided PLOS valuable expertise, input and thought leadership for our Global Participation Initiative, which will encourage wider participation by researchers in LMICs through targeted reductions in publication fees.

It has been a long-standing policy at PLOS to offer reductions or waivers of publication fees. To supplement and expand this program we have turned our attention to global authors by setting publication fees in two groups. For those publications where the funders are in group #1 PLOS will offer publication in our journals free of charge. For those in group #2 we offer publication at the flat fee of $500. These groups will be reviewed on an annual basis. By providing clear guidance on appropriate levels of contribution and making these reductions automatic we hope to make this process simple.

These two groups were identified on the basis of a wide range of data in consultation with the IAG. Unlike other publishers PLOS wanted to go beyond the published economic data of the Health Inter Network Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) to also include Gross National Income per capita and national expenditure on Research and Development to set our criteria. In short, PLOS wanted more depth and breadth of countries available for its program to encourage the widest possible participation in open access publishing.

We hope to see the level of participation rise through this initiative and will invest the appropriate internal resources to accommodate the increasing participation from these nations. This remains an imperfect solution. Our goal is to enable a global research communication system in which all researchers involved have a stake and are recognized as equal contributors.  This is crucial so that…

  • Upper middle- and high-income countries (UMHICs) learn from research in LMICs. Traditional journals have focused on the issues of UMHICs, while journals focused on issues of local relevance do not always achieve global reach. PLOS is committed to the publication of research of global and local relevance and increasing access to publication can help to deliver this.
  • LMICs get to participate in setting global agendas and research priorities, and ensuring these agendas are more globally inclusive. A track record of publication is often a prerequisite to participation in these discussions making barriers to publication particularly problematic.
  • In addition to contributing to global science, improving access to research can underpin global development. Access to health research for instance is a key element for developing healthcare capacity as well as locally relevant health research in LMICs. Without access to research and the ability to communicate local findings to a global audience the development of local health research capability is difficult. Furthermore, publication in journals with a global reach also enhances an author’s credibility while elevating the visibility of the research, while providing valuable experience in navigating the international publication system that authors can build on.

The Global Participation Initiative is only the first step toward PLOS’ goal of encouraging publication of global research and we will monitor uptake and continue to seek the views of all stakeholders.