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This month saw the debut of a new, high-profile player on the science-publishing scene — a 'free' electronic journal, known as PLoS Biology, in which contributors cover the costs.

In this article, David Malakoff reports that the new journal — which has sparked considerable anxiety in the profit-making world of science publishing — appears to be off to a solid start. Its inaugural issue included a headline-grabbing research paper on a monkey whose brain had been wired to move a robotic arm, prompting curious readers to create gridlock on the PLoS website last week.

Many are sceptical of the journal's prospects for long-term success, however. Even Harold Varmus, co-founder and chair of the board of the Public Library of Science, which runs the journal, admits they could have a tough time persuading scientists to publish their work in the journal. "We're unknown, online and contentious — plus we're asking them to pay," he says.

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science 302, 550 (2003)