Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BMJ Offers Prize for Use of Its Online Archive

To celebrate online access to all research articles since the first published in October 1840, BMJ, or the British Medical Journal, is offering a 1,000-pound prize to the "most interesting use" of its archive. Entrants to the competition must describe their actual use of the archive in an article that is submitted by the September 30, 2009 deadline. Complete guidelines are available at the BMJ site.

To highlight some of the many influential contributions to medical scholarship and practice that have appeared in its pages over the years, BMJ is also producing a series of videos that describe the work of such people as James Simpson (chloroform), Joseph Lister (antisepsis), Ronald Ross and Patrick Manson (mosquitoes and malaria), Richard Dahl (smoking and cancer), Alice Stewart (x-rays and leukemia), and others. The first video in the series, "The Evidence," is now available online.

BMJ began as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal in 1840 and after various name changes became the British Medical Journal in 1857. BMJ was the first general medical journal to participate in PubMed Central, which offered to digitize and provide open access to the journal's back issues. Initial difficulties included assembling a complete run of the journal in all its incarnations as well as overcoming the many technical issues inherent in digitizing historical materials, such as poor paper quality and bleed-through during scanning.

The National Library of Medicine, and later, the Wellcome Trust and the Joint Information Systems Committee, provided financial support for the project, with an estimated expense of $1 per page for the 824,183 total pages of the print journal. At present, BMJ is available both at the BMJ web site and at PubMed Central. Access to article type, however, varies between the two resources. In January 2006, BMJ stopped offering free online access to non-research articles, although research articles are still available from the time of publication at both and PubMed Central. Further information on the online archive can be found in a recent BMJ editorial.

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