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The Nigersaurus has landed.

PLoS ONE published a paper today. This might not sound very unusual but today is Thursday and PLoS ONE papers are usually published on a Wednesday (or to be precise late Tuesday in time for Wednesday). This paper however is a special case.

The paper in question is this one:
Sereno PC, Wilson JA, Witmer LM, Whitlock JA, Maga A, et al (2007) Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur. PLoS ONE 2(11): e1230. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001230

And shows a really nice fossil skull of a dinosaur that lived about 100 million years ago. The dinosaur had been known before but this new find shows the skull and particularly the teeth. It is the teeth that are particularly interesting; two straight rows making for a very wide flat mouth looking not unlike a pair of carpenters’ pincers. With these the creature likely cropped the ferns around it, head down like some ‘Mesozoic Cow’.

Strictly speaking the publication date on this paper is November the 21st but we are using what is known as Early Online Release (EOR, pronounced ‘eeyore’ like the depressive donkey in Winnie-the-Pooh) to set it live today, 10:30 Eastern Standard time.

Why have we done this?

Simple. At 10:30 EST the fossil skull is being unveiled as the centrepiece of an exhibition at National Geographic Gallery in Washington DC. There is also a lot of information about the find at the website of Project Exploration, the Chicago-based science education organization.

This is superb example of the power of Open Access publishing. This fossil will be seen by hundreds and thousands of people in Washington and at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, Oklahoma which will be the exhibition’s permanent home. Millions of people will read about the dinosaur in their newspapers throughout the World.

And because Paul Sereno and his colleagues chose to publish their work in a PLoS journal, every single one of those people will be able to read the detailed scientific description of their work first hand.

  1. All great and so on, but how much did the authors pay,
    or their institution pay PLOS for publication?
    And what are the ongoing projected costs (100 years say..) for hosting the paper?
    And do costs increase for PLOS when a paper is suddenly
    And can we have 5 language abstracts: En, Fr, De, Sp, Cn, Ar, Ru ?
    The OA model isn’t firmed up yet.

    And can we have a math question instead of the Captcha for blind readers of PLOS blogs? See BBC’s Betsie for other ideas.

  2. It seems intuitive to me that if an organization, government, or university funds research they certainly want to fund the dissemination of that produced knowledge as well.

    A better question might be: how much are they paying for their subscriptions to closed-access/ARR journals right now?


  3. Dear Bill,

    I’m not quite sure what the relevance of some of these questions is but I’ll try to answer them.

    1) the publication fee on PLoS ONE is $1,250. That is the same for any published paper. However if authors do not have funding to cover costs of publication they can ask for a full or partial waiver of that fee. Which papers receive those waivers is a private matter between PLoS and the authors, and something that is not revealed to editors so that it cannot affect the decision to publish papers.

    2) maintaining and archive of papers will cost money, though how much over the next 100 years is impossible to guess. This is of course a new cost to publishers as in the past libraries bore the entire cost of maintaining print collections of journals. All PLoS papers are of course independently archived and available in the NIH’s PubMed Central.

    3) I guess costs to PLoS do increase somewhat if a paper is popular in that there will be greater traffic Internet traffic to that paper increasing server and bandwidth costs. This isn’t something that we will worry about at a paper by paper level.

    4) Translations are interesting. Because the paper is published Open Access anyone is free to translate it and make it available in whole or on part as long as the original source is properly cited. Some authors do this themselves and you will sometimes find author’s translations of papers attached as supplementary information.

    5) Good idea, we will see what can be done.

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