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J Med Libr Assoc. Oct 2007; 95(4): 450–453.
PMCID: PMC2000773

Expanding medical library support in response to the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy

Molly C. Barnett, MLS, AHIP and Molly W. Keener, MLIS


Responding to recent changes in the scholarly publishing process, Coy C. Carpenter Library is expanding its scholarly communications program to better support the research publication efforts of the faculty at Wake Forest University Health Sciences (WFUHS). Recent advances in open access publishing and archiving initiatives, adoption of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research” (Public Access Policy) in 2005, the rapidly increasing pool of published biomedical research, rising costs of subscription rates, and continued barriers to access have necessitated an internal redesign of the library's Faculty Publications (FP) database. Changes in the scholarly publishing environment have also spurred the creation of online resource lists specifically addressing common issues in scholarly communications, including copyright and intellectual property ownership, open access, and the importance of scholarly publishing [13].

These efforts, coupled with plans for educational sessions on open access and copyright retention for faculty, are intended to address common questions raised during the publishing process. In particular, the FP database will bridge faculty publication citations to individuals' personnel profiles in the university's human resources department's management software, PeopleSoft, and to the full text of faculty-authored journal articles, thus providing the institution with a more complete picture of WFUHS faculty research initiatives and outcomes. This paper illustrates key objectives in Carpenter Library's strategy for supporting scholarly communications through enhancing the knowledge management applications of the FP database and leveraging the database's functions to promote open access to research.


Since 1977, Carpenter Library has been responsible for collecting and organizing publication citations of WFUHS faculty. The goal of this effort has been to support the research and publishing activities of the faculty, as well as provide information to the Office of the Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, a division of WFUHS, for faculty promotions and advancement. Since the beginning, reports were created to track publication activities of faculty. The paper-based system was automated in 1988 as the FP database in Cuadra Star, and in 1991 the information was moved to MS Access. Only published, scholarly materials—articles, abstracts, book reviews, chapters, books, editorials, and letters—are included in the database. Until recently, citations from the database were formatted and printed as an appendix of the Dean's Annual Report (DAR). Now the library maintains a searchable Web interface for departments as well as visitors. Statistics are compiled for the DAR by document type totals (Table 1) and by department.

Table thumbnail
Table 1 2004–2006 comparison of totals by publication type


As mandated by the office of the dean, faculty must submit all publication information, including the bibliographic citation and a copy of the first page of the material, to the library. The library maintains a Faculty Publications Web page with submittal forms, guidelines for submission, a link to the previous year's DAR, and library contact information [4]. Approximately 60% of the publications are received directly from faculty, with the remaining 40% gathered by library staff from bibliographic databases such as PubMed, BIOSIS, and Web of Science. The staff verifies all submitted materials and has maintained very high standards of accuracy over the years. Bibliographic information is entered into the database, and a Web-based interface is available for departments to track submittals and as a research tool for users.

In 2005, a committee, including library representation, was formed to create a Faculty Information (FI) database for the school of medicine. The database would include biographical and professional information for faculty. The goal of the project is to connect faculty profiles with research interests, grants, internal protocols, and publications, which would be easily accessible to authorized users. WFUHS has used PeopleSoft software for vital information, salary data, and personnel activity for many years, and the committee decided to integrate professional information such as research interests, grants, and publications into a unified source. To this end, a team composed of library and information technology staff created a new interface for faculty publication data entry utilizing PeopleSoft software, which links information in the FI database through employee identification numbers. Figure 1 shows the FP database input screen, still under development, which includes fields linking users to full-text articles via the digital object identifier (DOI), uniform resource locator (URL), or the unique identifier used in PubMed Central (PMCID).

Figure 1
Faculty Publications database input screen (under development)


In light of rapid increases in both the volume of scholarly research articles published annually and the subscription costs of scientific, technical, and medical journals [2,3,5], momentum is building in the scholarly communications community for broader, less restrictive access to vital scientific and biomedical research information, particularly to taxpayer-funded research [58]. NIH, at the behest of the US Congress, adopted the Public Access Policy on May 2, 2005 [9]. This policy requests that copies of all peer-reviewed scholarly articles resulting from NIH-funded research projects be archived in PubMed Central (PMC) [10]. Created in February 2000, PMC is a freely accessible, full-text digital repository of peer-reviewed scholarly articles from biomedical and life sciences journals [9]. In September 2006, approximately 700,000 articles were in PMC [11]. This figure includes both materials submitted as a result of the NIH policy and articles submitted by publishers.

Although some WFUHS faculty members have complied with the NIH Public Access Policy's archiving request, the library advocates increasing the percentage of archived publications. The institutional contribution rate (ICR), modeled on a search query developed at the Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center, University of New Mexico [12], for WFUHS is 4.31%.* This figure takes into account archived author manuscripts in PMC published on or after the May 2, 2005, NIH Public Access Policy adoption date through May 7, 2007 (n = 20 for WFUHS) and the number of eligible articles cited in PubMed published during the same time period (n = 464 WFUHS-authored articles resulting from NIH-funded research). This compliance rate is disproportionate to the number of publications likely to result from the 1,279 NIH awards granted to WFHUS faculty during the past 5 fiscal years (July 1, 2001–June 30, 2006), which account for 68.29% of all external funding received by WFUHS researchers during that time [13,14].


The inability to accurately track the number of publications stemming from individual grants should improve with the changes to and increased functionality of the FP database. Currently, articles in the FP database include a DOI link to articles regardless of whether the full text is available via a WFUHS library subscription. The FP staff plans to include the PMCID in each relevant record to allow users to link to the freely accessible full text of faculty research articles and, in turn, encourage submission. Additionally, users will be able to link from the citation to other information in the FI database such as grant information, research protocols, and funding data. This information is useful, if not required, when applying for and renewing federal grants, as well as filing grant progress reports. The database should also fill a valuable role in promoting the exchange of internal knowledge about research interests and findings and potentially enabling connections among researchers.


The library recognizes that current low rates of compliance with PMC archiving might be due to confusion about and general lack of awareness of the NIH Public Access Policy and is tailoring its scholarly communications program to better support faculty research endeavors. Previously created “toolkits,” lists of online and print resources appearing on the library's Website, have been updated and are now centrally located in the site's Scholarly Publishing Assistance section. Resource pages relevant to scholarly communications include the NIH Public Access Policy, scholarly publishing and open access, copyright and intellectual property, and scientific writing [15]. The need for straightforward resource pages was identified in an interdepartmental meeting hosted by the library with representatives from the office of the dean and the office of research.

Beyond the redesigns of the FP database and the Scholarly Publishing Assistance section of the library's Website, direct educational outreach programs are under development. Plans include “lunch and learn” seminars to be delivered to faculty in individual departments, during which time a librarian will give a ten-to-fifteen-minute presentation on topics including open access archiving, copyright permission and retention, the NIH Public Access Policy and PMC, current compliance rates, and ways these issues impact researchers. Time for questions will be allowed following the presentation, with the total estimated time of the program to be thirty minutes. By taking these seminars to the various departments directly and limiting the time of the program to half an hour, library staff hope that many faculty will be willing to attend.


Continued growth of the scholarly communications program at Carpenter Library will be dictated by the success of current and future initiatives undertaken by the library, as well as by changes in the broader scholarly communications community. Potential adoption of open access archiving requirements stipulated by either funding sources or government bodies will also guide library staff in prioritizing their efforts to support faculty researchers. Enhancement of the FP database and the anticipated interconnectivity with the FI database should facilitate increased functionality and accountability in faculty's and administrators' research tracking efforts. Libraries interested in highlighting the research achievements of faculty but lacking the resources necessary to build and maintain an institutional repository might consider creating a bibliographic database of faculty publication citations with links to full text available elsewhere. Librarians will be able to use these databases to engage faculty and administrators in dialogue about the advantages of open access and compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy and the necessity of understanding copyright, as well as provide quantifiable evidence of the knowledge congregated in their parent institutions. These efforts further underscore libraries' valuable roles in facilitating the expansion of scientific information.


* Affiliation can alternatively be stated as Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, or Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, and the WFUHS campus has a separate zip code from the main campus, so the search query started: (((“wake forest” AND (health OR medicine OR medical)) OR 27157) NOT (27106 OR 27109)).

 Data exclude subcontract awards. Due to the length of time typically needed to produce publishable research results and allowing for varying time periods needed to complete the prepublication peer-review process, data for the past five fiscal years is given with the reasonable assumption that most National Institutes of Health (NIH)–funded research projects supported during that time period would be eligible for author manuscript archiving in compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy.


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