PLOS ONE at 10 years and commons-based product and policy change

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Open Access Mega Journal PLOS ONE turned TEN last week. Seems worth noting here as PLOS ONE fits squarely in the theory of change I espouse, in particular:

Commons-based (often identified as free, libre, or open) knowledge production is the most promising (feasible, effective, sustainable) reform and restructuring of knowledge policy and the knowledge economy in the direction of a good future, as such production is generative of freedom, equality, and security; and simultaneously destroys rents dependent on freedom infringing policy, diminishing the constituency for such policy, and grows the constituency and policy imagination for freedom respecting policy.


  1. Commons-based knowledge production that competes directly with proprietary production
  2. Commons-based knowledge production that establishes a new category
  3. Commons-based knowledge production that supports a large organization that is committed to furthering commons-based knowledge production

PLOS ONE established a new category, the mega journal. What’s the evidence for successful market competition? None that any proprietary products or companies have been destroyed or diminished, but Nature did have to respond with its own megajournal, Scientific Reports, which may have recently surpassed PLOS ONE as the world’s largest journal, measured by number of articles published per month. Crucially, Scientific Reports is also (at least mostly) an Open Access mega journal. It started off with noncommercial semicommons licenses, but it seems that after a year they began offering a commons license (CC-BY), which seems to be the default now. (Anyone who has references for the history of Scientific Reports licensing, please let me know, or add to the English Wikipedia article directly.)

References wanted, but I’m pretty sure that PLOS ONE accounts for the vast majority of PLOS revenue, which allows it to be a medium-sized organization (previous mention and also listed as an exemplar) which has the capacity to do a significant amount of advocacy for commons-favoring reform.

I don’t think I know anyone well who works at PLOS anymore and don’t have any sense of how effective they are now at product or policy competition. In any case, PLOS ONE is the kind of entrepreneurial commons-based product of which many more are needed to change the knowledge economy on the ground, the vision for what is possible and desirable, and concentrated resources needed to win policy battles for the commons. Happy birthday and congratuations, PLOS ONE!