Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Remember that BioMed Central now offers its entire corpus of articles free for downloading in one large zipped file. It didn't take Alf Eaton long put this gift to good use. Let me quote his words from his blog:
[All the BMC articles are XML files], which means that all the sections are marked up and machine-readable, including the author names, titles, PubMed ID numbers and bibliographies. Running a small Perl script through these files, sending Trackbacks from one article to another, lets HubMed now display the full list of references for each article - in both directions.

In other words, anyone looking at an article (such as this one) cited by an open-access paper, can click on the 'References' link, then follow the 'Cited By' link to the citing paper (this one). Which will, of course, increase the visibility of the open-access paper (which is also free for anyone to read). From here you'll also see a further 40 outward reference links, each of which can be followed in the same way.

This is a great resource, previously only partially available through a costly subscription (and gnarly interface) to ISI's Web of Knowledge, and a lead which I hope commercial, paid-access publishers will begin to follow as soon as possible.

This is a break-through development. To keep costs down and subsidies small, open-access proponents only ask authors and journals to provide open access to the "essential" full-text. If enhancements to the basic text are expensive, then the provider could well charge for them in order to recoup expenses. Until now, reference linking was an "inessential" that seemed too expensive to provide for open-access texts. BMC's willingness to provide free XML files as data, and Alf Eaton's programming skill, have changed this and put reference linking within the reach of open-access journals and archives.