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A Pacesetter on the Information Superhighway: The DFG Provides Access to Additional Digital Research Resources

Whether they are looking for a groundbreaking article in the journal Science, a periodical held by the British Library, a journal published by Cambridge University Press or the art catalogue of a museum in New York, scientists and researchers at German universities and research institutions will soon have access to a much larger and more varied range of digital information sources.

This free access to 20 additional major databases and journal archives will be possible due to new national licenses funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) The DFG is providing 6.5 million euros to purchase the licenses and an additional 3.4 million euros for its Digital Information Initiative. These measures were approved by the Joint Committee of the DFG, Germany’s main research funding organisation.

“By funding access to additional databases and major journal archives through the purchase of national licenses the DFG is pursuing its efforts to boost digital research in Germany,” said Dr. Anne Lipp, Head of the Scientific Library Services and Information Systems Division at the DFG’s Head Office.

The new research resources, which will become available by May 2009, include international full-text databases such as the Science Classic archive, which provides full-text access to all issues of the well-known magazine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, from its first issue, published in 1880, up until 1996. In future it will be possible to search previous issues on-screen instantly – a first-class source of information for researchers and scientists. The digital collection Early American Newspapers, which contains 2,000 U.S. newspapers dating from 1690 to 1922, is also expected to be of great interest. The same applies to the collection of British Library Newspapers (17th-19th centuries), which contains approximately 3.2 million pages. Both of these newspaper archives open up opportunities for study that are by no means only of interest to researchers from the humanities and social sciences.

This year’s national license purchase is given a special note thanks to the DFG’s Digital Information Initiative. This aims to promote access to electronic journal archives and databases that could not be accessed using national licenses in the past due to copyright restriction. The great demand for access to these archives expressed by various scientific communities prompted the DFG to promote this under a special funding initiative.

One example of the digital resources covered by this initiative is the journal archive JSTOR (Journal STORage,, an archive operated by a not-for-profit organisation of the same name based in New York, which has created an interdisciplinary online archive of technical and scientific journals which are accessible for a fee. The research database, which has been built up over several years, contains over 800 academic journals from a total of 563 publishers, making it an information cosmos encompassing some 25 million pages. The online archive ARTstor ( is of similar quality. It provides access to approximately 700,000 images from North American museums and art collections, making it a digital photo database that is of interest far beyond the art world.

The long-term goal of the DFG’s funding initiative is to boost the provision of Germany’s national library and information services with digital media. The DFG first funded the purchase of national licenses for electronic databases and journal archives from international academic publishers in 2004. The 1,010 databases, major collections of texts and journal archives for which access has been purchased by way of national licenses to date encompass all areas of science and academia and are useful to researchers from every discipline – in an aim to boost Germany as a location for research and its international competitiveness.

Jutta Hoehn | alfa
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