PubMed Central-it is a great accomplishment. I must say it makes me proud of everyone at
NCBI. This is a celebration of the 10th anniversary
of PubMed Central…a success story unto itself- from its founders to its collaborators, to
its public advocates-it is truly a story of achievement in science.
To those of us who were on the front lines a little over ten years ago when PubMed Central
was just a contentious idea and a small band of rebels were trying to
change the way that scientists funded by the NIH did their business
and publicized their work and shared it with others-the changes that have occurred over
the last ten years seem truly phenomenal. In the last ten years PubMed Central has become
one of the essential tools of the life sciences. It gets millions of people using it and it
is an essential resource for biomedical scientists. It really truly does accelerate the pace of
scientific discovery and fuel this kind of innovation
that we all want to have and contribute directly back to the public good.
It begins in 1998, at a San Francisco bakery called “Tassajara”-where, over a cup of
coffee, then NIH director Harold Varmus, meets with
Stanford University biologist Pat Brown. Brown describes how a Los Alamos physicist,
Paul Ginsparg, and his colleagues are using the internet to share their pre-published
work. Not long after that, the vision of an internet-based
system, for the distribution and storage of biomedical research articles, begins to take
shape. What was exposed very quickly was just how
un-ambitious my own efforts were… when it was taken over by these guys they
just did an extraordinary job of integrating text databases.
It is simply called “E-Biomed”….and, in December of that year, scientists at the Banbury
Center Genome Project Workshop, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories-embrace
the concept of a global knowledge network system like “E-biomed”.
Then, under the leadership of NCBI’s director, David Lipman, “E-Biomed” undergoes a name-change…to
“PubMed Central” The richest information about biological function
right now is really in the literature. It’s not in specialized databases, it’s
not in some sort of mathematical frame work like quantum mechanics,
it’s in the papers that biologists are writing, and the easiest way to learn about that is
to read the papers. PubMed Central debuts with two prestigious
journals — The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — and Molecular Biology
of the Cell In launching PubMed Central in 2000, NIH aimed
to follow the successful example of the Human Genome Project
and promote scientific discovery by taking advantage of opportunities created by information
technology and the internet. Development of a digital archive of biomedical
journal articles was seen as a way to improve access to cutting-edge research
and to provide a long-term, stable repository of the scientific literature that researchers could continue to draw on in their work, recognizing the cumulative
nature of science. Nobel Prize winner, Sir Richard Roberts, dubs
PMC “the Genbank of published literature”. This is the value of something like PubMed
Central. If you want to know what is the current state of what is going on;
whether you are a scientist or whether you are a lay person, or you are a kid doing a
high school science project you have access to the literature, you can
see what is going on, you can find out where the cutting edge is,
you can know what is going on. At the same time, in 2000, Vitek Tracz launches
“Biomed Central”…a European publishing organization,
offering a host of “open access” titles that become part of PubMed Central.
And by the summer of ’01, PMC gets a further boost as notable publishers such as:
The European Molecular Biology Organization, Cold Spring Harbor,
and The American Society for Micro-Biology… present their journals, for the rapidly growing
archive. At the same time, Varmus, Brown and a young
computational biologist from UC Berkeley named Michael Eisen
begin their effort to create an online, open access publishing organization that they call
“The Public Library of Science.” Their objective is to produce high-quality,
high impact journals-that will also demonstrate the benefits of open access publishing.
By 2002-2003 NCBI, and the PMC team leaders, amass considerable experience
in building and operating a digital repository for journal articles.
And a highlight of that effort is the establishment of a structured digital format-for representing
journal articles- known as the “NLM-DTD”. Developed by Jeff
Beck, at NCBI, the format is now utilized by the Library of Congress, the British Library,
and numerous publishers submitting incoming data to PubMed Central.
In 2003 and 2004, at the urging of the PubMed Central National Advisory Committee, NCBI
and the NLM Library Operations staff-embark on a major “back issue digitization” program.
And more than 100 libraries donate their journal copies.
There is also strong support from the U.K.’s Wellcome Trust and the Joint Information Systems
Committee. They funded a good half of the project and
Robert Kiley and his staff went out and sought publishers to contribute to PubMed Central,
and they got some worthy journals. The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
which we ended up scanning back 191 years. With the older journals – both US and British
– there is a wealth of significant biomedical literature.
Past medical observations and epidemiological records have proven to be invaluable in providing
insights into modern diseases. Why is the Wellcome Trust so supportive of
Pub Med Central? Well for the very obvious reason really
that a piece of research isn’t finished until it is published. And we want to make sure
that the results of the research that we fund are available to as many people
as possible. And that is what PubMed Central has achieved
in a fantastically successful way. With growing interest in open access, in 2005
PubMed Central becomes international collaborating with the U.K. and, later, Canada.
The degree of cooperation between PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central for example has proven
that two groups of people in two countries can really work together in a way that benefits
both groups of scientists, educators and researchers in both countries
and actually synergizes in a way that each benefits from the other.
I think that that degree of cooperation between UK PubMed Central and PubMed Central here
is really a model of how the open access movement can spread worldwide.
In addition, by 2005 it is also clear that the stars have begun to align in favor of
public access. With Congressional interest stirring, the
NIH officially initiates a policy requesting that
recipients of NIH funding deposit a copy of their peer-reviewed manuscripts in PubMed
Central. Most members of the public and most Legislators,
I think initially think, well, of course this stuff is available to the public — and
they are actually surprised to learn that it isn’t.
When the NIH “voluntary policy” meets with tepid compliance, the U.S. Congress steps-in,
and with the strong support of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, the policy
becomes mandatory. And we hope that our recent requirement that
NIH-funded research be made available through NCBI, will get even more information
out there to enhance the discovery process and the public health.
This had a dramatic effect on compliance. Of the 88,000 NIH-funded articles published
in 2009, 70% have been submitted to PubMed Central,
and that figure continues to grow. We wanted it to be very fast. It only takes
about ten minutes for authors to submit files to us and have it accepted into the system.
Remarkably, in little more than a decade, what begins as a coffee-chat topic between
two notable scientists evolves into a viable digital repository
offering free availability of an increasingly large body of biomedical and life sciences
literature. But to look at PMC as just a repository for
scientific articles is to miss the bigger picture.
PMC is an integral part of a larger information infrastructure that is accelerating discovery.
Articles in PMC are entry points into a vast body of biomedical information maintained
by NCBI and NLM. Interpreting these data requires access to
the knowledge that is embodied in scientific articles.
Despite this progress the story is not over. The desire for access to the medical literature
is stronger than ever, whether it comes from the biomedical researchers,
health practitioners, medical educators, or the general public.
The fact that all the content in PubMed Central is fully crawlable and indexed by tours like
Google means that you and I, our families, can go onto PubMed Central, go on to Google
and find highly relevant resources which make us more informed consumers for
healthcare matters. So what does this success story look like
in the years to come? Increasingly science is becoming multidisciplinary.
So I am looking ten years from now to see something that is very much broader,
very much larger probably with even better data resources associated
with it than PMC currently has. If you want to be a young scientist just entering
the field you will have so many more resources available
to you in 10 years, than you have now. PubMed Central changed everything-this is
the demonstration of the way you can optimize doing science in a digital environment.
Eventually I think all scientific literature, certainly all federally funded scientific
research will be made immediately available with no embargo period, on-line, it will be
fully searchable, fully accessible. This will happen I hope and believe in the
not too distant future. I think that because of all the exciting new
devices you have you are going to expect you can just reach into your pocket
and pull something out and have access to almost anything that has been published with
a basis of taxpayer dollars. We are delighted to work in partnership with
PubMed Central, to have established UK PubMed Central,
which is now undergoing a European expansion as other European funders come onboard.
It’s a real privilege to work with the kind of talented, hard working creative folks,
who are part of PubMed Central and, you know, when I’m working on other projects
and I come back and see what’s been accomplished it’s just incredibly exciting…so it’s a
real privilege to work with them all. When you look back on this, say, 15 or 20
years from now, the sharing of these data and reports from grant-supported work
will seem so obvious people will wonder how could they possibly do it any differently.
So anyway, many thanks to everyone present who helped, aided and abetted and designed
“and probably did a little maneuvering as well to be sure that PubMed Central succeeded,
and long may it wave. ”