News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Digital archive of Lancet is launched

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 16 October 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:888
  1. Annabel Ferriman
  1. BMJ

    Every issue of theLancet going back to its first edition in 1823 is now available in digital format.

    A two year project, which involved scanning and storing more than 370 000 articles, has produced a searchable database, which will be available for a one-off purchase payment. The cost will vary according to the size of the institution. For a medium sized institution, it will be about £55 000 ($91 700; €78 400), or 15p ($0.25; €0.21) per article.

    By the end of 2004, ScienceDirect, the company running the project, hopes to have articles from all the1800 titles owned by Elsevier, publishers of theLancet, added to the archive. The database is eventually expected to contain six million articles.

    Dr Richard Horton, editor of theLancet, said at the project's launch last week: “Medical journals must be one of the greatest benefits to mankind. We take them for granted and forget what they achieve.”

    He gave three examples of their importance. Firstly, they responded to public health emergencies. In the case of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic, for example, medical journals had been tremendously important in helping to ensure that the causative agent was quickly identified.

    Secondly, they helped to change medical practice, not only in the community but also at the bedside. TheLancet had been at the forefront in publishing research on statins, which had had a great influence on medical practice.

    Thirdly, medical journals helped to set the agenda and could focus on issues that were sometimes forgotten. TheLancet had published a series of articles on child health highlighting the fact that 11 million children died each year worldwide from preventable diseases. That had catapulted the issue to the top of the agenda of the World Health Organization.

    Medical journals often acted as the conscience of the medical profession, Dr Horton concluded.

    Among the articles which can now be accessed on the ScienceDirect database are “On the antiseptic principle in the practice of surgery” by Joseph Lister (1867), “The repression of war experience” by W H R Rivers (1918), and “Penicillin as a chemotherapeutic agent” by E Chain and H W Florey (1940).

    For more information, see