Medicine and biology take a lesson in physics

Dr Paul Ginsparg, one of the key instigators of the world's first free-access electronic archive for physics research, will join leading players from the biomedical community at a conference in New York next month to discuss how free-access to biomedical research on the internet will change the way that biomedical science is used, communicated and done.

The conference will be opened by Dr Harold Varmus, the former head of the US National Institutes for Health who last year proposed the creation of PubMed Central, an archive for research published in the biomedical sciences. "Electronic communication is making dramatic changes in the way information is exchanged among scientists," says Dr Varmus, "Within biomedicine the full potential of electronic communication has yet to be realized."

The recently launched PubMed Central archive, http://pubmedcentral.nih.gov,together with other open-access publishing initiatives promise to transform the biomedical landscape by making research available for free to all. However, even PubMed Central only goes part of the way to catching up with the physics publishing model where research is submitted to the open-access archive before peer-review and publication to encourage rapid distribution of research results. For biomedicine, where the peer-review issue is much more sensitive, PubMed Central will only archive articles that have been peer-reviewed.

"It is thrilling that the biomedical community is beginning to join the 1990s," says Dr Ginsparg, whose pre-print archive of physics research, http://arXiv.org, was launched in 1991 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory archive. Today the physics e-Print archive regularly processes between 1000 and 2000 electronic transactions per hour and has revolutionised the way physicists communicate research findings by allowing them to distribute articles rapidly, efficiently and before they are prin

Contact: Andrew McLaughlin
BioMed Central

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