NET NEWS: Journals Endorse Electronic Linking Plan

Science  07 Aug 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5378, pp. 747c
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5378.747c

A vision of the Web as a seamless scientific cyberlibrary has just come a step closer to reality. Many scientific publishers have endorsed an “electronic linking” proposal under which the National Library of Medicine (NLM), home of the online MedLine biomedical abstracts, would create a new database so that electronic citations could be linked across all scientific and engineering fields, from astronomy to zoology.

PubRef, as it's been dubbed, wouldn't be directly searchable and would in fact be invisible to users, says Kenneth Fulton, executive director of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which is spearheading the plan. Instead, behind the scenes, PubRef would supply hyperlinks for references in online articles. The result would be that for someone reading, say, an astrophysics paper in Science, a referenced paper or its abstract in Physical Review Letters would be just a mouse click away. (Depending on the journal, viewing the paper might require a subscription or fee.) “This is something that's clearly going to be very useful for the community, and we can do it at minimal cost,” says NLM's David Lipman.

More than 40 scientific publishers and societies (including AAAS, which publishes Science) and other groups have signed on to a 31 July letter from NAS president Bruce Alberts to NLM director Donald Lindberg describing the plan. Lipman says it's now up to journals to submit citation URLs, but once that happens PubRef could be up and running in 5 months.

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