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The Launch of Europe PubMed Central


By Graham Steel

November 1st 2012 sees the launch of yet another significant milestone for Open Access in the form of Europe PubMed Central (PMC). Please see this announcement on the Europe PMC blog. Details of Europe PMC were announced on July 13th 2012 by the European Research Council. This is a continuation of the transition of PubMed morphing from an Abstract only database of life sciences and biomedical research literature into a full text database. PubMed itself launched in January 1996.

February 2000 saw the launch of PubMed Central (PMC).

“PMC is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM)”.

This was then followed by UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) which went live in January 2007 followed by The Canadian member of the PubMed Central International network, PubMed Central Canada, which was launched in October 2009. The philosophy behind what became PubMed Central was initially thought about by Prof. Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate and ex Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“In June 1999….. Varmus had just embarked on a project that would maximise the drama in his life, and spark a long-running controversy that has still to run its course. In short, his new project was to prove the catalyst for the creation of the Open Access Movement”.(source)

Varmus and Pat Brown discussed and how potentially, creating a similar initiative might be successful for biology. This directly led to the proposal for an entity entitled e-BIOMED. The response to the proposal was rather interesting!!

"Sure enough," he (Varmus) adds, "the response from publishers was explosive. It caused all kinds of problems."

Over the following months and after much debate, e-BIOMED was rebranded and formally launched as PubMed Central. In retrospect, Varmus agrees that he was naïve not to have anticipated the furore. "I must have known that I was not going to be at NIH for much longer," he joked to New Scientist in 2003, "because this caused a tremendous political argument: what the hell was I trying to do to destroy the publication industry.

Indeed, Varmus left NIH within months of publishing the proposal, taking over as president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre. Ironically, he says, his last public act at NIH was to sign the press release announcing the launch of PubMed Central”.

“NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health”

Varmus however returned to the NIH and in May 2010 and to this day, is the Director of the National Cancer Institute.

“President Obama has appointed Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize-winning researcher and former Director of the National Institutes of Health, to lead the National Cancer Institute, the White House announced Monday”.

Things have changed a lot since 2003 with all the incontrovertible maturity mentioned at the start of this post. Most recently, on 19th October 2012, the European Science Foundation (ESF) released their Science Policy Briefing 47.

New report assesses open access in biomedical research across Europe

“Today the European Science Foundation’s (ESF) membership organisation for all medical research councils in Europe, the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) released an ESF-EMRC Science Policy Briefing (SPB) entitled ‘Open Access in Biomedical Research’ highlighting the need to accelerate the adoption of open access to research articles in the biomedical sciences across Europe.(source) The new report assesses open access in biomedical research across Europe and can be downloaded here”.

Quoting from the report:- “European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) task force meetings held in September and November 2011 led to the identification of a number of issues and the drafting of a preliminary document. These issues included the coexistence between open access and the traditional business model of scientific publishers (including scientific learned societies), the recognised challenges associated with researchers understanding the concept of open access and depositing their research in local repositories, the recognition of PubMed Central (PMC) as a model of disciplinary repository in the biomedical field, and the desirability and/or feasibility of expanding UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) to include more European biomedical research outputs. While this report was in preparation, the ERC joined UKPMC and funders agreed to rename it ‘Europe PMC’ as of November 2012”.

It will be exciting to see how Europe PMC, for example integrates with the likes of Horizon 2020. The launch of Europe PMC is also the latest evidence of how committed the heart of Europe are seeing Open Access as the default when it comes to science and beyond.

There is also more to the Europe PMC than you might think. Also see Europe PMC labs, Europe PMC plus and Europe PMC Journal List for example. (The FAQ page is extremely informative).

You can keep up with Europe PMC updates by reading their blog and/or following @EuropePMC_news on Twitter. As always, feedback, comments, suggestions and ideas are welcomed. Please get in touch at or via twitter, facebook or google+.

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