Hark – PubMedCentral Canada on the horizon!

Thanks to Dean Giustini for the original heads-up on this:

In a press release titled “Canada joins international effort to provide access to health research,” the NRC (parent organization of CISTI, the de facto Canadian national library of science & medicine)

PubMed Central repository will open new pathway to Canadian health research

July 06, 2009, Ottawa, Ontario

Accelerating the development of discoveries and innovations and facilitating their adoption through free and open access to research findings. This is the aim of an important new initiative that will provide researchers and knowledge users free access to a vast digital archive of published health research at their desktop and connect them to an emerging international network of digital archives anchored in the United States.

The National Research Council’s Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) have announced a three-way partnership to establish PubMed Central Canada (PMC Canada). PMC Canada will be a national digital repository of peer-reviewed health and life sciences literature, including research resulting from CIHR funding. This searchable Web-based repository will be permanent, stable and freely accessible.


This has been a long time coming, and I know I’ve been but one of a gazillion nags pestering folk at CISTI and CIHR about when PMCCanada was going to actually happen. Between translation issues (the two existing PMC repositories are both English only), funding cuts, and who knows what all else, it’s taken quite a while for PMCC to go from drawing board through discussion to reality.  And to be sure, this is still short of reality, but an official press release gives reason to hope!

PMCCanada could really help Canadian health research funders, many of whom now have OA policies requiring free access to research outputs within 6 months of publication, guide grantees to a specific deposit location if they so desire (or at least offer a clear option to those without institutional repositories). CIHR sort of already guides researchers to PMC, but the CIHR policy came about much more quickly than the Canadian PMC repository did, so this could only be one of multiple options.  I wonder if CIHR will now require deposit in PMCCanada, similar to the NIH’s PMC deposit policy.

I know some Canadian journals have worked to become accepted into PMC by now, and I’m not sure if they will get shifted over, or exactly how the territory between PMC affiliates is divvied up/shared.  It’s a bit of a confusing time for authors these days, with some journals depositing automatically into PMC, some not (or not fast enough to comply with all funder mandates), some not even eligible to do so, and multiple deposit processes still required to deposit into multiple repositories (e.g. a university institutional repository and PMC).

Anyway, kudos to those who have worked long and hard on this project. It will be great in principle to have a PMCCanada, it may make it easier for CIHR (and possibly other finders) to check on compliance with their access policies, and we’ll just have to figure out what the existence of PMCCanada means in practice.




Filed under government, Health, OA, preservation, publishing

5 responses to “Hark – PubMedCentral Canada on the horizon!

  1. What Canada needs is not yet another central repository, but more mandates by institutions (and funders) for their employees (and fundees) to deposit directly in their own institutional repositories (the universal providers of all research, funded and unfunded, across all subjects, biomedical or otherwise). The institutional deposits can then be harvested into whatever subject-specific central collections one wishes to create. Mandating direct central deposit simply makes funder mandates compete with institutional mandates, at the cost of needlessly slowing and handicapping instead of facilitating and accelerating progress toward universal Open Access to all research, funded and unfunded, across all subjects, biomedical or otherwise.
    The value of PubMed Central (PMC) is great and indisputable. That is not what is at issue. What is at issue is (1) WHERE TO DEPOSIT (should researchers be mandated to deposit directly in PMC or in their own institution’s repository, from which PMC — and other central services — can harvest?) and (2) WHO SHOULD DEPOSIT (the author or the publisher?).

    The links in — http://bit.ly/ECAuA — explain the reasons why (1) the locus of deposit for both funder and institutional mandates should be the institutional repository and not PMC or any other central service and the reasons why (2) deposit should be done by the mandatee author, and not a third party, such as a publisher. The reasons discussed are very specific and matter a great deal for the practical success and effectiveness of OA mandates. They deserve to be reflected upon in order to ensure that funder and institutional policies are compatible, coherent, and can systematically scale globally.

  2. greyson

    Hi Stevan,

    I really appreciate your comments, especially given that you’ve been thinking about these issues since long before I even knew they existed.

    I understand that you are a visionary and see the future in green archiving in Institutional repositories, which will revolutionize the whole scholarly communications system. Some days I think revolution is near; others I am more cynical.

    I’m still trying to hammer out where I think the role for publishers will be in the future…but I could say the same on institutional repositories.

    One of my concerns with putting all eggs in the IR basket is that, at least in the fields with which I am most closely allied: health and librarianship, there are many researchers who are not university-based (but can archive in central subject-oriented spaces like E-LIS and PMC). Additionally, a growing focus on evidence based practice calls for more and more practitioners to contribute back into the research literature, so community-based research seems unlikely to diminish in the near term, at least. Obviously this work should be openly accessible, the same as academically-affiliated researchers. But I don’t see already under-resourced and overtaxed university-based IRs scrambling to reach out to these community-based researchers. Nor do I see hospitals, health authorities, cities, etc. developing their own scholarly “institutional” archives.

    Do you have suggestions as to how research produced by community-based researchers should be handled, in your vision of the future of scholarly publishing?

    It seems to me that an interoperable deposit interface, at which researchers could enter article metadata and upload article copies, and then export to as many repositories as they select (either by checking off tickboxes representing participating repositories or otherwise specifying locations to which the record should be sent), would be quite handy.

    • There are a number of central repositories for unaffiliated researchers. (I happen to run one of the oldest ones, since 1997: CogPrints.)

      But unaffiliated researchers are the exception, not the rule, insofar as OA’s primary target content — peer-reviewed journal articles — is concerned. The overwhelming majority of those articles originate from universities and research institutions.

      It is in those institutions’ repositories that they should be deposited, and it is also there that institutional and funder mandates should stipulate that they should be deposited.

      Then, thanks to the OAI harvesting protocol, and to SWORD, and to other new tools, the deposits (or their metadata) can be imported, exported, harvested wherever else we may wish. The crucial thing is to first get them deposited, in a universal, systematic, and convergent way that scales to cover all of OA’s primary target output.

      (Nor are institutional repositories one egg-“basket”: they are a global, distributed network of many baskets, provided by the universal research-providers: the universities and research institutions. Those “baskets” can and will be mirrored and made redundant, to ensure reliability and permanence.)

  3. The SWORD Project now has a Twitter feed. This tweet was posted on May 1, 2009: “RT @carter_dave: Done proposal-ish report for grafting #swordapp onto PubMed Central Canada/NIHMS. Looks doable.” (Dave Carter is a “Tech lead/software developer at CISTI“). Interesting?

  4. greyson

    Thanks for the links, Jim! I’ve heard about SWORD but don’t have a clear idea of how far it is from real implementation. Will go read more about it.

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