BETHESDA, MdThe new year will bring a new and controversial source for obtaining access to new scientific studies in the life sciences. In January, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will launch PubMed Central, a free on-line repository of research reports, found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/.
The site will store, organize, and distribute articles, preprints, and screened reports contributed to the repository by scientific journals and reputable scientific organizations. It is unclear, however, to what extent peer-reviewed journals will cooperate with the new venture.
PubMed Central is an expanded form of E-biomed, which NIH director Harold E. Varmus, MD, originally proposed in May as a cyberspace library for the biomedical sciences. His idea drew considerable criticism from companies and organizations that publish scientific journals, which feared the free service would cost them subscribers. The plan was also criticized for the use of materials that were not peer reviewed.