Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the European Association for Health Information and Libraries

  EAHIL—The European Association for Health Information and Libraries is an active professional association uniting and motivating librarians and information officers working in health science libraries in Europe. Some of the main objectives are to improve co-operation amongst health science libraries throughout Europe, to raise standards of provision and practice in health science libraries and to represent health science librarians at European level. The association counts about 400 members from 25 European countries.

  Biomedical knowledge is today being generated at a staggering rate. Far more than two million articles are published each year in about 21,000 biomedical journals, and the number of published articles is said to increase by 4% each year. This new knowledge must be captured, analysed, and disseminated in order for it to be useful and to make a difference in health care. Health science libraries ensure that quality biomedical information is available to support health care, research and learning within our institutions, medical communities and society. The challenge lies in finding new approaches to deal with the increasing volume and complexity of biomedical information and thereby improve our understanding of health and disease.

  Information technology holds the promise of delivering specific knowledge in a timely manner to our communities, in ways undreamed of even a short time ago. Health science libraries now have the opportunity to provide near-instantaneous reliable access to high-quality health information resources. Health science libraries are now embracing new technologies and adjust to the priorities of their parent institutions.

  Today the costs of published scholarship far exceed the library budget, which means that the information is not readily available.

  In many countries physicians are obliged by law to always stay up to date in their fields. That means working under cross-pressure from the profession itself, from the health authorities, from the well-informed patients, and in worst cases from lawyers. To survive, the physicians need access to appropriate information.


  The scientists who perform research and the professional societies that represent them have a great interest in ensuring that research results are disseminated as immediately, broadly and effectively as possible. There is today a growing understanding that the present system of scholarly communication must change. The traditional system of scholarly communication has many constraints. The Internet has fundamentally changed the practical and economic realities of distributing published scientific knowledge and makes possible substantially increased access.

  Today there is a worldwide movement towards Open Access of Information. The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) (, the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) (, SPARC (, Public Library of Science ( and BioMed Central ( are leading the way in this transformation process.


  EAHIL supports the two routes to open access:

    —  open access journals with author-fees and/or institutional subscriptions to author-pays journals

    —  e-print repositories where scientists can self-archive their preprint or published papers

  EAHIL wishes to emphasise that scientists and scientific societies, libraries and publishers should make every effort to hasten this transition in a fashion that does not disrupt the orderly dissemination of scientific information.

  Health science libraries are now becoming more deeply engaged in the creation and dissemination of knowledge and are becoming essential collaborators with the other stakeholders in these activities. The role of the health science library moves from manager of scholarly products to that of participant in the scholarly communication process.

  Health science libraries are developing and supporting mechanisms to make the transition to open access publishing including providing tools and services to facilitate innovation in publishing, particularly e-print repositories and promoting open access journals.

  Health science libraries are both in their education and outreach activities, teaching their users about the benefits of open access publishing and open access journals.


  Many medical libraries pay the institutional members' fee of BioMed Central, which means that all scientists can publish their articles free of charge in BioMed Central journals.

  Health science libraries now list and highlight open access journals in our catalogs and other relevant databases. One example is Directory of Open Access Journals ( This service covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals. DOAJ aims to cover all subjects and languages. There are now 736 journals in the directory.


  By setting up, promoting and managing an institutional repository the library can create a stable location where scientific information produced by the institute can be preserved and disseminated. The institutional repository should be OAI-compliant. OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative—Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) defines a mechanism for data providers to expose their metadata. Service Providers use metadata harvested via the OAI-PMH as a basis for building value-added services.

  We believe that in the future electronic personal publication will be the norm and will supplement traditional commercial publisher but not replace them. Authors must carefully consider what rights they assign to publishers if they want to self-archive a copy of their work.

February 2004

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