UK PubMed Central

A UK version of the free biomedical research server PubMed Central will provide free access to a permanent online archive of peer-reviewed research papers in medicine and the life sciences.

UK research funders, led by the Wellcome Trust, awarded the contract to develop UKPMC to a partnership between the British Library, The University of Manchester and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

Members of this group now require that articles describing the results of research they support are made available in UKPMC with the aim of maximising its impact. The UKPMC service will ensure that articles resulting from research paid for by any member of the funding consortium will be freely available, fully searchable and extensively linked to other online resources.

The UKPMC essentially mirrors the US PubMed Central database but as of 8th January 2007, UK scientists will also be able to submit their research outputs for inclusion in UKPMC.

Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust commented: “Medical research is not complete until the results have been communicated. The development of UKPMC provides a great opportunity for this research to be made freely available, and I am very pleased that a first class partnership of the British Library, the University of Manchester, and the European Bioinformatics Institute will be running it.”

The British Library will run the service, promote it to researchers, as well as offering support for those who want to include their research papers in UKPMC. The University of Manchester hosts the service – on servers based at MIMAS (Manchester Information and Associated Services) – and will support the process of engaging with higher-education users. EBI, which is part of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), will contribute its biomedical domain knowledge and state-of-the-art text-mining tools to integrate the research literature with the underlying bioinformatics databases.

The launch of UKPMC brings into sharp relief once again the ethical debate surrounding scholarly publication. The Wellcome Trust has insisted that authors publish research arising from its funding in open access repositories since 1st October 2006.

Writing in PLoS Biology in 2005, Robert Terry (Senior Policy Adviser at the Wellcome Trust, Cambridge, United Kingdom), discussing the plans for UKPMC at the time said, “For a funder, having all its research in one format, “under one roof”, and searchable will improve the efficiency of strategy setting—for example, setting funding priorities—assessing the outputs of the funded research, and even gaining an insight into the impact of the work. As grants management becomes more electronic, there can be a direct link between original research proposals and the research outputs.”

According to AJ Cann on MicrobiologyBytes recently, this widely adopted funding-body policy already means “publishers are over a barrel – sign up or sign out.”