Press release

Wellcome Library and NLM establish agreement to make 150 years of biomedical journals freely available online

Representatives of the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), a component of the National Institutes of Health, and the Wellcome Library have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together to make thousands of complete back issues of historically significant biomedical journals freely available online.

The terms of the agreement include a donation of £750,000 ($1.2 million) to the NLM that will support coordination of the three-year project to scan original materials from NLM's collection at the article level, and the Wellcome Library's work to secure copyright clearances and permissions for electronic deposit from publishers. NLM will undertake conservation of the original material to ensure its preservation for future generations. NLM is authorised to accept donations in support of its mission.

Key journals charting the development of modern medicine over the last 150 years will be digitised in their entirety and made available on the National Institutes of Health life sciences repository PubMed Central (PMC) and its European counterpart, Europe PMC. The project builds on the Medical Journal Backfiles Digitisation Project (2004-2010), and will contribute substantially to the current PMC archive of over 3 million articles from medical journals.

Part of the project will concentrate on mental health journals, supporting a major archive digitisation programme also being undertaken by the Wellcome Library. Journals to be digitised include 'Mental Health', 'Mental Hygiene' and the 'Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology'. Other journals have been selected for their general relevance, such as the 'Indian Medical Gazette', the 'British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review' and the 'Transactions of the Epidemiology Society of London'.

Donald A B Lindberg, Director of the NLM, said "This is a wonderful step forward in our continuing partnership with the Wellcome Trust to preserve and make freely available important biomedical literature for research, education, and learning. It is an example of a truly useful collaboration, and NLM is grateful to the Wellcome for its generosity."

Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, and Jeffrey S Reznick, Chief of the NLM's History of Medicine Division, worked together to arrange the partnership in cooperation with their respective teams.

"We are delighted to partner with NLM to make these important archives freely available to users across the world," said Chaplin. “It is crucial that digitised content can be found and used easily, and PubMed Central, and its European counterpart, Europe PMC, are at the top of the list for anyone searching for biomedical journals."

Reznick said: "This partnership will benefit generations of individuals who wish to learn about biomedical history, the thousands who use PMC regularly today and the many more tomorrow who will discover and use its rich content to study the past for the benefit of the present and the future."

In addition to images and searchable text, NLM will also create article-level citations for PubMed. Digitisation is expected to start in late 2014 and to be completed by 2017. Material will be added to PMC and Europe PMC as it is digitised.