I encourage everyone to read the announcement in its entirety. Of particular interest is the following:
The Board has appointed an interim leadership team effective immediately to ensure that PLOS is able to continue to move projects and strategic initiatives forward. Together with the existing PLOS Executive team, they will govern the organization until Marincola’s arrival.
Okay, will somebody please tell me what is going on? This sounds like a sudden decision was made. How often do you see the CEO and the CFO leaving on the same day?
Were PLoS a for-profit company, especially one that is publicly traded, this would be very big news. It would be on page one (for print readers!) of the Wall Street Journal. The blogosphere would be burning up. None of this has happened, and I cannot imagine why.
The question is, what responsibility does an organization have to explain its internal operations to outsiders? For publicly traded companies, the rules are pretty stiff. For privately held for-profit companies, the requirements are not very great. This is because for-profit companies exist for the benefit of their shareholders. In a public company, the shareholders could potentially be anyone, so the requirements for disclosure are considerable. The privately held company can do pretty much what it pleases, because that is what its shareholders require.
But when you have a not-for-profit organization, the discussion moves from shareholders to stakeholders. No one “owns” a NFP. But the stakeholders are many. For PLoS those stakeholders include scientists, authors, readers, funding agencies, and employees; and it also includes everyone else, at least all Americans, as PLoS has tax-advantaged status. The taxes that PLoS does not pay have to be paid by someone else. As stakeholders, don’t we have a right to know more?
The reason these events, and the lack of disclosure, trouble me so much is because I am a huge admirer of PLoS, especially PLoS ONE. I have long felt that Green OA is a bad idea and that Gold OA is a good one, and PLoS certainly proved the second part of that statement. We have heard that PLoS burst into profitability (or into “surplus,” as it is called in the NFP environment) and is growing rapidly. What’s not to like and admire? I don’t accept the critique of traditional publishing that is associated with PLoS (why can’t we have both?), but that doesn’t take anything away from what PLoS ONE has accomplished. The supporters of PLoS ONE could be total knuckleheads when they talk about Elsevier and John Wiley, but they certainly know what they are talking about when it comes to PLoS ONE.
Or do they? That’s what the disappearance of the CEO and CFO calls into question. If the business is growing and is profitable, why are these two individuals leaving? If the business is not growing and is not profitable, why have we been told otherwise?
It would be a good idea for PLoS to publish a transcript of their Board discussions concerning this management transition. Let’s be open about open access.