A large joint funding grant of £1.25 million from the Wellcome Trust and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), in partnership with the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) has allowed the project to be realized.
It will permit the complete backfiles of a number of major and historically significant medical journals to be made freely available on the internet via PubMed Central.
The project will involve the digitization of an estimated 1.7 million pages of text, and will begin this year, with the first titles expected to be available online in early 2005.
The NLM, a part of the National Institutes of Health, will manage the project, host the archive and ensure that the digital files are preserved in perpetuity.
| "Users will have free access to the back files of some of the UK's and US's most significant medical journals"|
| Professor Sir Graeme Catto, President of the General Medical Council, UK|
Journals to have their backfiles made available through the project will include Annals of Surgery , the most highly referenced surgery journal , as well as the Biochemical Journal, Journal of Physiology and Medical History.
Medical literature that will become freely available for the first time on the internet will include such works as Sydney Ringer's original research, (published in the Journal of Physiology in the 1880's), on the actions of inorganic salts on living tissues.
This work provided the theoretical basis for the development of saline infusion in clinical practice, a pre-requisite for most modern surgery.
Other examples include the work of Michell and colleagues (Biochemical Journal, 1983) and Berridge et al (Biochemical Journal, 1984), that led the way to the subsequent demonstration that IP3 is a second messenger that releases calcium from intracellular stores; findings that have had a major impact in the field of cell signaling.
Robert Gross and John Hubbard's reports on successful surgical repairs for congenital heart disease (Annals of Surgery, 1939) will also become available to access via the internet.
In addition to creating a digital copy of every page in the backfiles, the digitization process will also create a PDF file for every discrete item (article, editorial, letter, advertisement, etc.) in the archive, and use optical character recognition technology to generate searchable text.
Although the project focuses on digitizing backfiles, publishers will also include new issues of the selected journals on an ongoing basis subject to an embargo period, as defined by each participating publisher.
Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, warmly welcomed the project and said: "This international partnership will create an invaluable historic archive which will provide fascinating insights for today's research, teaching and clinical communities worldwide. This project is in close accord with the Trust's declared position on the desirability of open access to scientific literature."
"This is a major step in our continuing effort to preserve and freely make available an important segment of medical literature" said Donald A.B Lindberg, M.D., Director of the National Library of Medicine. "The project is an example of truly useful international collaboration for the benefit of all."
Professor Sir Graeme Catto, President of the General Medical Council and Vice Principal of King's College London (host of JISC's London office), welcomed the announcement, saying: "I am delighted that the JISC-NLM-Wellcome Trust project will enable users to have free access to the back files of some of the UK's and US's most significant medical journals through PubMed Central. This innovative project will have important implications for the learning, teaching and research communities, but its commitment to open access will mean it has great importance beyond the education world too."
The Medical Journals Backfiles Digitisation Project is one of six digitization projects with funding for the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE). The overall program, being managed by JISC, represents a total investment of some £10m to be applied to delivering high quality content online, including sound, moving pictures, census data and still images for long-term use by the further and higher education communities in the UK.
Further information about this project can be found at: http://library.wellcome.ac.uk/backfiles