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When you choose to publish with PLOS, your research makes an impact. Make your work accessible to all, without restrictions, and accelerate scientific discovery with options like preprints and published peer review that make your work more Open.

2020 Financial Overview

Building on our success and reinvesting in our mission

In 2019 we focused on strengthening the foundation we needed to advance scholarly communication in an evolving research landscape. In 2020 we set out ready to build on this success and explore new pathways to carry our mission forward. The outbreak of the pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for researchers in every part of the world and encouraged us to turn our focus inward: how could we support the research community in this altered landscape? As we sought new ways to connect with researchers, and to help them connect with each other, we were grateful to be in a financial position that enabled us to evolve quickly to meet their changing needs and reinvest further in our mission to expand open, equitable, and trustworthy research communication across the globe. 

Listening and adapting to the research community’s needs

As the need for open, trustworthy information about the pandemic became critical, we fast-tracked peer review for research related to COVID-19, and forwarded those submissions to the World Health Organization, feeding into an international public database of publications on coronavirus. The effects of the pandemic, however, reached far beyond the medical sphere, impacting each of our everyday lives. In light of so many unknowns, we asked researchers in all disciplines to tell us how their work and careers had been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 and how we could better support their evolving needs. Many of the pain points we encountered –while exacerbated by the pandemic–have always been embedded in scholarly communication and credit systems. Our conversations with research communities have underscored the need for greater transparency and flexibility in the way research is communicated as well as decisive action in eliminating barriers to inclusion and global collaboration. We are partnering with research communities, particularly those underrepresented in today’s landscape, to co-create solutions that enable greater participation in an open and equitable scientific discourse.

Increasing transparency at all stages of research communication

We view Open Science as an opportunity to contribute to, learn from, and grow our collected knowledge from diverse perspectives. Our intention is to make sure that is an opportunity that is open to all researchers regardless of career stage, discipline, or geographic location. In addition to our ongoing work to expand the adoption of Open Science practices like preprints and open peer review, in 2020 we added new opportunities for researchers to demonstrate transparency and trust in their work through preregistration options available on PLOS Biology and PLOS ONE. PLOS Biology also added new article types that give greater clarity into the research process. We will continue breaking boundaries until all research communities have ways to participate in Open Science that meet the needs of their research.

Progress towards making Open Access more accessible

In 2019, we laid the groundwork for two new business models we hoped would eliminate barriers for researchers to make their work Open Access. Though still in their pilot stages in 2020, our Flat Fees and Community Action Publishing models are proving that author fees are not the only model for Open Access. So far we’ve seen a welcome reception from both the researcher and library communities as we expand these partnerships. Both models include membership benefits for authors in Research 4 Life countries, ensuring the future of Open Access is built sustainably to include all researchers, regardless of funding background. This work is now more important than ever. We intend to continue experimenting to build a range of Open Access solutions and ensure all PLOS journals offer APC-alternative models tailored to the needs of that particular research community.

PLOS and Price Transparency

PLOS is committed to transparency in all its forms. In 2020 the Open Access organization Plan S created a Price & Service Transparency Framework which becomes a requirement for Plan S compliance in July 2022. We have committed to participate in and share our reporting from that framework each year, in addition to this Financial Overview. 

View 2020 price transparency data and commentary on The Official PLOS Blog

2020 Highlights (see figures below for a fuller picture)

  • As of December 31st, 2020, PLOS had net assets of $14.8 million, improved by more than $3 million compared to the previous year’s $11.8 million.
  • Of the 2020 year-end net assets, cash and unrestricted investments totaled $16.4 million compared to $12.5 million at year-end 2019.
  • For the year ending December 31st, 2020, PLOS generated total revenues of $34.1 million compared to total revenues of $31.6 million for the year ending December 31st, 2019. 
  • 2020 total expenses of $31.1 million compared with $30.5 million in 2019.
  • 2020 yielded a net operating surplus of $3.0m compared to a net operating surplus of $1.1m in 2019.
  • PLOS provided $1.9 million in annual Publication Fee Assistance. 

Laying the groundwork for more inclusive Open Science future

Our work in 2020, and everything we have learned from our community, has made it clear that science communication is stronger when it includes more diverse perspectives. However, the path to open, trustworthy science and equitable participation in research communication is not one-size-fits-all. We will always have more work to do in making science, and the process of publishing science fair and equitable for every researcher. But we won’t be doing it alone. We intend to spread our roots deeper, embedding diverse perspectives in every level of our organization, and partnering with research stakeholders to co-create a future of Open Science that includes all researchers, fosters collaboration and enables trusted science to advance faster.

Financial Overview for 2020 including a breakdown of the Balance Sheet and Statement of Activities

Total Expenses, Inclusive of Capitalized Development Costs and Publication Fee Support

2020 financial donut chart showing total expenses
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