Expanding Access, Improving Health

Guest post by Kathryn Funk, program manager for NLM’s PubMed Central.

Last week, National Library Week celebrated how libraries and library workers make our communities stronger. In the spirit of building strong communities, NLM has committed to “democratiz[ing] access to the products and processes of scientific research.”

NLM delivers on that commitment by supporting the NIH Public Access Policy. This policy, passed by Congress in 2008, requires authors funded by NIH to make publicly accessible in PubMed Central (PMC) any peer-reviewed paper accepted for publication. Now, over a decade after the NIH Public Access Policy went in to effect, PMC makes more than 1 million NIH-funded papers available to the research community and the public. This volume of publicly accessible, NIH-funded papers represents a clear return on investment for the public, but numbers alone don’t provide the full story.

A quick dive into NIH Research Matters, a weekly update of NIH research highlights, offers a much richer and more personal picture of how the NIH Public Access Policy and NLM’s support of it can strengthen and empower communities. Making NIH-funded papers publicly accessible in PMC means that the public has free and direct access to research that touches on some of the most critical public health concerns facing our community, including studies that:

  • Suggest a method for detecting breast tumors earlier and more often, creating a higher chance of survival for patients (NIH Research Matters | PMC);
  • Identify treatment options for reducing the risk of death for people who’d previously had a non-fatal opioid overdose (NIH Research Matters | PMC);
  • Explore how maternal nutrition supplements can increase infant birth size and potentially improve children’s life-long health (NIH Research Matters | PMC);
  • Identify young people with suicidal thoughts by using machine learning to analyze brain images (NIH Research Matters | PMC);
  • Gauge exercise’s impact on the growth of new nerve cells in the brains of mice, which could potentially reduce memory problems in people with Alzheimer’s disease (NIH Research Matters | PMC); and
  • Develop blood tests to detect signs of eight common types of cancer (NIH Research Matters | PMC).

These examples illustrate that access, while essential, is not the Library’s end goal. Improved health is.

NLM supports public access to research outputs to accelerate scientific discovery and advance the health of individuals and our communities. It is the best way we can honor the investment made by the American people in scientific research and the surest way to make our communities stronger.

casual photo of Kathryn FunkKathryn Funk is the program manager for PubMed Central. She is responsible for PMC policy as well as PMC’s role in supporting the public access policies of numerous funding agencies, including NIH. Katie received her master’s degree in library and information science from The Catholic University of America.

Happy One Billion, PubMed Central!

The odometer on PubMed Central® turned over a slew of zeroes in October, when someone somewhere retrieved the ONE BILLIONTH article in 2017 from this free, full-text archive.

That’s one billion articles retrieved in less than 10 months—a breakneck pace on par with the iPhone App Store’s one billionth download, which took 9 months and  12 days back in 2009.


What makes PubMed Central (PMC) so popular?

Quality and quantity at a great price—all brought to you by a powerhouse partnership with publishers and research funders dedicated to making science more open and accessible.

PMC provides free permanent electronic access to the full text of over 4.6 million peer-reviewed biomedical and life sciences journal articles. It’s a digital counterpart to NLM’s extensive print journal collection, with the added advantage of being available 24/7 from around the globe.

Current articles follow one of two paths to get into PMC: they are deposited either by the journal publishers or by the authors themselves.

The first path delivers the lion’s share of articles to PMC. Over 2,400 journals have signed agreements to deposit directly to PMC the final published versions of some or all of their articles.

Authors, on the other hand, are commonly driven to deposit their peer-reviewed manuscripts by their agencies’ public access policies, which call for making federally funded research freely available to the public, generally within 12 months of publication.

At this point, aside from NIH, we’ve got 11 other organizations whose funded authors contribute a range of scientific findings to PMC, from sister agencies within HHS (Administration for Community Living, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, CDC, FDA, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response) to other federal bodies (EPA, NASA, NIST, and the VA) to private research funders committed to information sharing and transparency (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute). The Department of Homeland Security will join this list early next year. In addition, our partner across the pond, Europe PMC, delivers content from 28 international funders.

All of that recent journal content is enriched by a deep well of historical articles spanning 200 years of biomedical research. Funding by the Wellcome Trust  has enabled us to scan thousands of complete back issues of historically-significant biomedical journals and make them freely available through PMC. That translates to more than 1.26 million articles—with more to come.

The result is a impressive collection of biomedical knowledge, most peer-reviewed and all freely available—even, in some cases, for text mining.

But as they say on TV, that’s not all.

As of October 2017, researchers funded by our partners can now deposit into PMC data and other supplementary files that support their published findings. It’s a move intended to nurture transparency, foster open science, and enhance reproducibility, while also facilitating data reuse—all key elements to the future of data-driven discovery we envision.

NLM is proud to work with the scientific community to bring this exciting scientific resource to the world.

So, congratulations, PubMed Central staff and every publisher and contributor who makes his or her work available this way! We couldn’t have reached this major milestone without you, and we look forward to reaching many more together.