Medicine and biology take a lesson in physics

June 12, 2000

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,,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,, 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 printed by a commercial publisher.

Open access publishing in biomedicine could also change the way science impacts on the general public who regularly interface with the produce of medical research in hospitals or when visiting their doctor or pharmacist. Jean Hoffman-Anuta, herself a clinical pharmacist, will discuss the issue of accessing research information in the light of her own experience as a member of the general public who turned to the latest medical research papers in order to receive the best medical treatment. The conference will also include sessions on the changing nature of publishing and librarianship and the technology shaping the open-access publishing initiatives of the future.
The conference, organized by BioMed Central, will be held on the 6-7 July 2000 at the New York Academy of Medicine, New York, USA.

There are a limited number of places available to the media who are welcome to attend this event free of charge. To register or receive further information please contact Andrew McLaughlin, or alternatively visit to register.

Notes for editors
1. Conference organizing committee: Professor Pat Brown (Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University), Dr Fiona Godlee (Editorial Director (Medicine), BioMed Central) Dr David Lipman (Director of the National Center for Biotechnology at the NIH) and Jan Velterop (Publishing Director of Nature).
2. Dr Harold Varmus's proposal for an archive of electronic publications in the biomedical sciences can be found at:
3. PubMed Central:
4. The physics e-Print archive:
5. Registration to attend the conference will be free to journalists. A fee of $250 (US) for individuals from not-for-profit organizations and $750 (US) to individuals from corporate organizations will be applicable.
6. Directions to the New York Academy of Medicine can be found at
7. BioMed Central is a new publishing house that will give free access to research at BioMed Central is part of the Current Science Group -- a group of independent companies that collaborate closely with each other to publish and develop information and services for the professional biomedical community. The Group has its head-office in London (UK), with additional offices in Philadelphia, New York and Tokyo.
8. Recent articles on BioMed Central can be found at: (subscriptions required)

BioMed Central

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