John Inglis discusses how he worked with HighWire to build a solution that can support the 1.2 million biomedical articles published globally every year

John Inglis

Executive Director and Publisher
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

The team at Highwire understood from the beginning that we had to dream that this would become an enormously important element in bio-medical communication. If you look at aRxiv, it has 100 manuscripts a year, and the field of physics and mathematics is much smaller than biomedicine. So we need to think in terms of half a million articles a year, or a million articles a year. There are 1.2 million articles published in biomedicine a year and indexed in PubMed, so we need to think in those sorts of terms. The site has been robust through this entire growth phase, the uptime has been perfect. At one point we did have an outage for some global reason, and instantly on Twitter there were people saying, “What’s going on with bioRxiv, I can’t get on!” At which point somebody tweeted, somewhat sarcastically, “Congratulations bioRxiv, you’ve gone from a novelty to a utility in the space of a year” – a utility that people just expect to be there at the flick of a switch.

The global audience has been fascinating. As journal publishers we are used to having a very large predominance of submissions coming from the United States, Western Europe, Australia, Japan – a relatively small number of regions and countries. So we track the submissions to bioRxiv. Right now we have submissions from 101 countries. I think that’s quite remarkable. I should also say something about usage, which has an impact on what HighWire does for us as well. The usage is now consistently over 1 million or 1.2, 1.3 accesses each month. Once again, the site is robust, we never hear from people that they can’t get on when they need to. It is a 24/7 operation. Our screening staff are on-deck at the weekends, on holidays – even on major holidays there will be someone who is looking to upload a manuscript to bioRxiv. It’s a very exciting thing but also a very humbling thing, because we realise that this is a service function and we have a lot of people who we serve.