NIH's Public Archive for the Refereed Literature: PUBMED CENTRAL

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 1999 09:28:13 +0100

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 18:37:39 -0400
From: "Varmus, Harold" <>

The commentary period for the E-biomed proposal has
been enormously helpful, and after considering the
hundreds of letters and e-mail messages we have
received, and the many meetings we have held, we
have issued a statement on e-publication and the NIH
repository for life sciences literature.

It will also be available on the NIH Web site at

Thank you for your help in this work. I welcome your
ongoing support of PubMed Central.

Harold Varmus, M.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health


In the four months since we proposed E-biomed -- a system
that would make results from the world's life sciences
research community freely available on the Internet
( --
we have heard from hundreds of people and have had
discussions with dozens of interested organizations. Whether
they support or oppose the proposal, these commentators have
made valuable suggestions, many of which have been
incorporated into this statement.

Although the fundamental principles that motivated our
proposal remain, specific aspects have evolved in significant
ways. First, the scope of the content has expanded to
include the life sciences in general, including plant and
agricultural research as well as biology and medicine.
Second, the screening of non-peer-reviewed reports will be
the responsibility of groups that have no direct relationship
to the NIH.

In an effort to put the system into operation, the NIH will
establish a Web-based repository for barrier-free access to
primary reports in the life sciences. This repository --
which we consider to be the initial site in an international
system -- will be called PubMed Central, based on its natural
integration with the existing PubMed biomedical literature
database. PubMed itself will extend its coverage of the life
sciences and continue its linkage to external online

PubMed Central will archive, organize and distribute peer-
reviewed reports from journals, as well as reports that have
been screened but not formally peer-reviewed. In addition,
it will coordinate with similar efforts to establish servers
internationally, including those overseen by the European
Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). Scientific
publishers, professional societies, and other groups
independent of the NIH will have complete responsibility for
the input to PubMed Central. Copyright will reside with the
submitting groups (i.e., the publishers, societies, or
editorial boards) or the authors themselves, as determined by
the participants.

Peer-reviewed reports will be provided to PubMed Central from
participating publishers and societies that have mediated the
review process. The submission of content to PubMed Central
can occur at any time after acceptance for publication, at
the discretion of the participants. Although early
deposition offers the greatest benefit to the scientific
community, we recognize the concerns of publishers about
financial consequences of rapid submission and will welcome
content submitted at any time.

The non-peer-reviewed reports will also enter PubMed Central
through independent organizations, which will be responsible
for screening this material. Many of the non-peer-reviewed
reports will be "preprints," both deposited in PubMed Central
and subjected to formal peer review by journal editorial
boards. In other cases, these reports may never be submitted
to a journal for traditional peer review, yet will be
deposited in PubMed Central because, in the judgment of the
screening organization, they provide valuable data to the
research community. Some publishers and societies have
already planned preprint servers, and we believe that such
groups -- and other responsible groups yet to be constituted
-- can bring diversity and experience to the oversight of the
non-peer-reviewed material. We emphasize that this material
will be clearly distinguishable from the peer-reviewed
content of PubMed Central.

NIH's responsibility will be limited to maintaining this
central repository, specifically:

* Facilitating the input of SGML-tagged content from
* Developing technology for enhanced retrieval,
  presentation, and navigation;
* Improving the access to and utility of the content in
  PubMed Central for other information resources,
  publishers, and database groups;
* Coordinating with the repository efforts of international
  partners in the system; and
* Archiving the content and working to guarantee
  accessibility in the future.

An international advisory committee will be constituted by
learned societies interested in fostering the development of
PubMed Central and the collaborating international
repositories. One of the important functions of the
advisory committee will be to establish criteria for
certifying groups that may submit peer-reviewed or screened
material to PubMed Central. In the meantime, the initial
criteria will be:

* Any journal currently indexed by the major abstracting
  and indexing services: EMBASE, Biosis, MEDLINE, Science
  Citation Index, Agricola, PsycINFO, and Chemical Abstracts.
* Any organization with at least three members who are
  principal investigators on research grants from major
  funding agencies and foundations (for example, NIH, NSF,
  DOE, NASA, or HHMI in the United States, and equivalent
  organizations abroad).

In order to facilitate participation in this initiative, some
of the expenses associated with publication may shift from
readers to authors. As they do with journal subscriptions,
page charges, and reprints, NIH grantees (and those of other
funding agencies) may choose to use funds to pay any
additional expenses, e.g., submission and document
preparation charges.

Participating journals and other organizations will submit
complete research reports to PubMed Central and access to the
entire report will be free to individuals through PubMed
Central. The status of all reports -- peer-reviewed or
screened -- and the identity of the contributing organization
will be clearly indicated. The PubMed Central staff will
work with the publisher to establish an efficient data flow
and make this content available as soon as possible. They
will also work to satisfy publishers' needs to preserve the
distinctive appearance of their journals' contents in PubMed
Central without compromising the overall utility of the
repository. Appropriate links to the publisher's site will
also be included. PubMed Central will solicit the views of
participating publishers to best serve their needs and
enhance the value of the overall resource.

We now invite the scientific community to engage in this
exciting new venture. We plan to be ready to make reports
accessible through PubMed Central by January 2000.
Publishers, societies, editorial boards and other
organizations interested in depositing content in PubMed
Central are urged to contact us at

August 30, 1999
Received on Wed Feb 10 1999 - 19:17:43 GMT

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