Stanford University's HighWire Press announced Thursday that publishers of the journals it hosts now provide free online access to the full text of more than 137,000 articles. As a result, HighWire Press is now home to the second-largest free full-text science archive in the world and the largest in the life sciences with three entirely free journals, 51 journals offering free back issues and 32 offering free trial access.
HighWire Press the online journal-production division of the Stanford University Libraries provides free and subscription-based access-technology services to more than 180 high-impact journals and more than 600,000 articles, mostly in the fields of science, technology and medicine.
"We are extremely pleased with the trend to allow free access on the part of the publishers we serve, which are largely not-for-profit scholarly societies and publishers," said Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian and publisher of HighWire Press.
"Although it is a decision made by each society, based on the business plan for each journal, we applaud their willingness to make the back files more accessible to the public. It helps fulfill HighWire's mission to support and improve scholarly communication that is, to make the fruits of scholarly research as broadly available as possible.
"Further, we think that providing back issues without restriction helps assure institutional subscribers libraries, universities and laboratories that they need not rely absolutely on the printed versions of the journals as backup to online subscriptions."
John Sack, associate publisher and director of HighWire Press, added, "The HighWire program works because we and the societies share the same basic goal of advancing scholarship through dissemination of peer-reviewed, research-based articles. Open access to back issues works economically for the publishers because the need for current issues [rather than back issues] drives their subscriptions and technically because HighWire's access control software is extremely flexible, and our bandwidth is quite high."
In addition to the free back issues, the participating publishers offer "toll-free linking" of articles, in which a reader who subscribes (either individually or through an institution) to one journal can click on a reference in an article to another article from another journal and read the full text of the linked article, whether or not that reader has subscription rights to that second journal.
This powerful service to the reader means that a further 70,000 articles published online through HighWire can be available free in appropriate contexts. It also greatly facilitates the scholar's research productivity by enabling a seamless investigation through the trail of citation and evidence.
HighWire became home to the largest free full-text life science archives after several key developments following publishers' decisions: the loading of the 1990-1995 content of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), which added nearly 15,000 freely available articles; the annual New Year's release to the public of the previous volume of the Journal of Biological Chemistry nearly 5,300 articles for the 1999 volume; and a decision by the American Physiological Society (APS) to provide free access to back issues of all its online publications. APS's decision added more than 5,000 articles to those already free at HighWire-operated sites.
According to Martin Frank, executive director of the APS, "We have long supported the idea of disseminating science as widely and freely as possible. Giving the world access to our 13 subscription-based journals after 12 months allows us to do just that. Access to all issues of APS's Advances in Physiology Education will continue to be available to the world at no charge."
Robert Simoni, professor of biological sciences at Stanford and an editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC), said: "We at ASBMB, publisher of the JBC, are delighted that HighWire has fostered and facilitated this remarkable innovation [of easily freeing back content] and helped us meet our society's commitment to barrier-free access to research information. Journals in the HighWire group now release their back issue papers free in order to better serve both the authors and readers. HighWire and its publishers now provide the largest repository of free research information in the life sciences in the world."
JBC and PNAS began the program of free back issues along with Rockefeller University Press' three journals the Journal of Cell Biology, the Journal of Experimental Medicine and the Journal of General Physiology when they discussed a common concern about educational uses of the research literature and recognized that the electronic technology gave them a no-cost opportunity to serve those readers. PNAS now also has more than 26,000 articles free from its 1990-1999 archive. Rockefeller University Press journals now make several thousand articles free as well.
Subsequently, 17 publishers of more than 50 journals have joined the program. Some of the largest participants include the entirely free British Medical Journal, with more than 22,000 free articles from 1994-2000, and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), with nearly 26,000 free articles from its 10 journals for 1995-1999.
"ASM has made the decision to provide free online access to journal content that is one year old or older on a continuously moving 12-month window," said Samuel Kaplan, chair of the ASM Publications Board. "We believe this to be the best way of insuring the greatest possible access to the science published in our journals. ASM views this to be a major part of its mission. Also, we know that our journals have a lasting 'shelf life' for print subscribers, so it's gratifying to know that we now provide an online back-volume archive to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. ASM is pleased that this 'milestone' of 130,000 such articles has been achieved and are proud to have played a role in this achievement."
Other journals and publishers participating in the program include the four journals of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Drug Metabolism and Disposition, the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Molecular Pharmacology and Pharmacological Reviews; the Journal of Neuroscience from the Society for Neuroscience; the Journal of Clinical Investigation from the American Society for Clinical Investigation; the two journals of the American Society of Plant Physiologists, The Plant Cell andPlant Physiology; Clinical Chemistry from the American Association for Clinical Chemistry; Molecular Biology of the Cell from the American Society for Cell Biology; the Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry from the Histochemical Society; the Biophysical Journal from the Biophysical Society; the five journals of the American Heart Association, Circulation, Circulation Research, Hypertension, Stroke and Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Blood from the American Society of Hematology; Thorax, the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry and Archives of Disease in Childhood from the BMJ Publishing Group; the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition from the American Society for Clinical Nutrition; and Genes & Development, Genome Research and Learning & Memory from Cold Spring Harbor Labs Press. A complete list of journals offering free back issues and free trials is on the HighWire Press website at http://highwire.stanford.edu/lists/freeart.dtl.
Stanford's HighWire Press makes it easy for publishers to offer their content without charge to users. "It really takes only a few minutes for us to implement a publisher's decision to make content free on an immediate basis, or delayed by a number of months or a volume," Sack said. As a result, several other societies and publishers are considering making their back content free under this program.