Intended for healthcare professionals


NIH website of original research to start in January

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 11 September 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:657
  1. Tony Delamothe
  1. BMJ

    The US National Institutes of Health has announced that its web based repository of original research in the life sciences will “go live” in January 2000, just 10 months after the idea was floated by the institute's director, Harold Varmus (20 March, p 784).

    The repository, to be called PubMed Central, will provide free access to both peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed articles submitted by existing journals, new journals, and reputable scientific organisations. It will be integrated with PubMed (the Medline search service), enabling searches across the entire repository.

    Dr Varmus describes it as “a system that ultimately will enrich the reading experience, deepen discussions among scientists, and enhance information flow from the world's investment in life sciences research.”

    All submissions will come via agencies independent of the National Institutes, one of several departures from the original proposal Another change relates to the speed with which articles will be added to the repository. Although the initial proposal said that articles would be added immediately on acceptance by a journal, the latest plan bows to publishers' concerns over lost subscriptions. The National Institutes “will welcome content submitted at any time,” both before or after its appearance in a journal.

    Publishers are now trying to work out how long this gap will need to be to guarantee the continuation of a financially viable proportion of subscriptions. Collecting page charges from authors before publication has been suggested as a way of making up the shortfall.

    So far, seven organisations have signalled their participation in PubMed Central, of which only three publish original scientific material The publishers of Molecular Biology of the Cell ( have offered its content, with a two month delay, on an experimental basis. They “strongly support the ultimate goal of barrier-free access.”

    The National Institutes of Health's summary of the new venture can be read on the web (

    Readers may vote in the BMJ's website poll, “Should medical journals participate in PubMed Central, thus making their original articles available to all?” (

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