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

Stevan Harnad harnad at
Tue Sep 28 20:26:09 EST 1999

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

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 PubMedCentral at  

August 30, 1999


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