October 11, 2005
Stanford's HighWire Press releases millionth free journal article
By Andrew Herkovic
On Oct. 6, the millionth scholarly journal article was made freely available to users worldwide by publishers hosted by HighWire Press, a division of the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources. HighWire is the largest archive of free, full-text, peer-reviewed research literature, and the million-article milestone culminates a decade of collaboration among scholarly publishers, libraries and the research community for the common good.
"Stanford started HighWire in 1995 with two aims: to help nonprofit and responsible scholarly publishers compete as publishing entities in the Internet age, and to improve access to scholarly information," said Michael A. Keller, university librarian and publisher of HighWire Press. "A million free full-text articles on our servers comprise a strong validation of this effort and testimony of the importance of responsible, not-for-profit, scholarly publishers in the information economy."
As the online host for more than 800 scholarly journals, HighWire Press has championed free access to both archival and recent journal articles for scholars and the public alike since its founding. The publishers of more than 230 journals have made back issues freely available. Most of these journals make their content free on a rolling one-year basis or sooner; some allow articles to be viewed immediately on publication.
In addition to the 1 million free articles, the HighWire-hosted publishers provide free access to millions of abstracts, to the tables of contents for every online issue and to other scholarly references. HighWire features taxonomic indexing, extensive hyperlinking (with waived subscription requirements to view cited articles), alert services, and other advanced tools and services for readers.
The million-article milestone was reached when more than 10,000 articles from JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) and nine Archives journals were made freely available to registered guests. Now, original research and review articles from the Archives journals, published by the American Medical Association, are freely available to registered guests one year after publication. JAMA research and review articles and editorials are free after six months. On average, journals add 10,000 articles every month through the HighWire Press Free Back Issues Program.
Access to journal articles that report research results has been a controversial topic in recent years. Debate has focused in part on changes in the commercial publishing industry, including consolidation of producers, proliferation of journals and large subscription cost increases for institutions. Scholars, librarians and funders of research have raised concerns that institutional subscriptions have grown too expensive overall, resulting in subscription cancellations and inadequate access to the results of research for scholars worldwide. Among them are advocates of the open access movement, who favor alternative business models for publishing research funded by public agencies. Some scientists have called for an overhaul of scholarly publishing with so-called "author-pays" systems, which other scientists and librarians fear may destroy the financial basis for branded, reputable, edited and authoritative journals published by scholarly societies.
"The million articles in the HighWire Free Back Issues Program demonstrate that there is a third way between the extremes of prohibitively expensive publication and immediate, unmediated posting of content direct to the open web," said John Sack, director of HighWire Press. "New business models will likely emerge but must be seriously tested over time, not only evangelized, before we can accept as demonstrated fact that they meet the needs of research and society. We and the publishers we support are testing new models continuously; this experimentation includes open-access journals, 'open choice' decisions by individual authors, author manuscript publishing, free access to developing countries and to patients, as well as other models that address access problems and take advantage of the opportunities that the new technology allows."
Business-model experimentation is part of the work HighWire and journals do together.
Said Sack: "We provide technological support to journals like the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the journals of Rockefeller University Press, which in 1997 took the step to create the program that today has released its millionth article. These journals, their societies and their publishers take the risk, do the experiments and push the leading edge of editorial and business development forward."
Andrew Herkovic is communications director for the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources.