Free online access to nearly 200 years of medical research

Complete back issues covering nearly 200 years of historically significant biomedical journals are being made freely available online as a result of a landmark project launched today at the Wellcome Trust headquarters in London.

On completion, the Medical Journals Backfiles Digitisation Project will deliver over three million pages of medical journals to the archive, free to anyone through standard search tools such as PubMed and Google.

The initiative was developed through a partnership between the Wellcome Trust, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) and a number of medical journal publishers.

The archive will contain a number of discoveries that have changed the face of medicine, including:

Participating publishers have also agreed to continue to deposit current content of their journals into this archive. They will be freely available after an embargo period: a maximum of one year for all research papers.

In addition to the faithful replication of every published page, the archive provides a number of innovative, value-added functions, including links from references to full text, high-resolution images, full text searching across the entire archive, and links from the original article to corrections and retractions and vice-versa.

Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "This growing collection will be of lasting benefit to researchers, practitioners and medical historians worldwide. It will provide access to important scientific literature from the past, free of charge, to anyone in the world with internet access."

JISC's Executive Secretary, Dr Malcolm Read, said: "This archive and its commitment to free and open access to the outputs of scientific research demonstrates the value of collaboration between funding bodies, publishers, and the academic and research communities. JISC is delighted to have worked closely with the Wellcome Trust and the National Library of Medicine on what is an impressive and important resource."

Dr Donald AB Lindberg, Director of the National Library of Medicine said: "The importance of this archive is realised every day - our studies show that researchers and authors whose articles appear in PubMed Central are read and cited hundreds of times more than they were in their original print format. PubMed Central has greatly benefited from the journal content and funding contributions made possible by the Wellcome Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee."

The Backfiles archive can be accessed free of charge through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) full-text, life sciences repository PubMed Central (PMC). Journals will be added to the archive as soon as they are digitised. PubMed citations are added to the database when the archive is complete.