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FAQ:
Journal Selection for MEDLINE® Indexing at NLM

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) uses an NIH-chartered committee, the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC), to review and recommend biomedical and health-related life science journals for inclusion in MEDLINE®. Journals must first be suitable for the NLM collection and have subject material appropriate for MEDLINE before they can be considered for review by LSTRC. The NLM Fact Sheet "MEDLINE Journal Selection" describes the role of the LSTRC and several critical elements that serve as a general guide for recommending journals to be indexed in MEDLINE.

A publisher or editor must submit an application for a journal to be considered for inclusion in MEDLINE. If a journal is selected for MEDLINE, its article citations will be reviewed and processed. Metadata, including Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), are added to the citations. MEDLINE content is presented through the PubMed database and also distributed through the NLM Data Distribution program as it has been for decades. Publishers and editors of journals selected for MEDLINE must understand that their journal citations will be part of the distribution program.

The NLM Web page called Information for Publishers gathers links for many sources of information relevant to publishers’ needs. For questions about MEDLINE and PubMed, see the Fact Sheet "MEDLINE, PubMed, and PMC (PubMed Central): How are they different?"

Here are some frequently asked questions about the review process:

  1. What does "suitable for the NLM collection" mean?
  2. What are the best practices for journals to be considered for LSTRC review?
  3. How do I get a journal reviewed?
  4. What information is required for the journal review / MEDLINE application?
  5. When will a journal be scheduled for review and once the review has been completed, how are the results communicated?
  6. How often does LSTRC meet? How many journals are examined and recommended for MEDLINE?
  7. Will the journal be reviewed by a subject or language specialist?
  8. How do I find out what journals are indexed?
  9. If the journal is not recommended for MEDLINE, can it be re-reviewed?
  10. When will indexing begin and what version of a journal is used for indexing?
  11. What is XML-Tagged Citation Data?
  12. Are journals ever deselected from MEDLINE?
  13. What effect does changing the journal title, publisher, or sponsor have?
  14. What is an ISSN?
  15. My journal is already being indexed in MEDLINE/PubMed. If my journal becomes an electronic-only journal with no print equivalent, will this affect its inclusion in MEDLINE?
  16. What are the NLM preservation concerns for journals indexed in MEDLINE?

1. What does "suitable for the NLM collection" mean?

The National Library of Medicine was established "to assist the advancement of medical and related sciences and to aid the dissemination and exchange of scientific and other information important to the progress of medicine and to the public health..." (42 U.S.C. 286) Central to this mission is the development of a collection that supports contemporary biomedical and health care research and practice as well as future scholarship.

To this end, NLM attempts to aggregate and to maintain, for permanent access, library materials that:

  • Record progress in research in biomedicine and the related areas of the life sciences
  • Document the practice and teaching of medicine broadly defined
  • Demonstrate how health services are organized, delivered and financed
  • Chronicle the development and implementation of policy that affects research and the delivery of health services
  • Illustrate the public perception of medical practice and public health

The decision to select a title for NLM generally also implies a responsibility to preserve the material. For more information, see the NLM Preservation Policy.

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2. What are the best practices for journals to be considered for LSTRC review?

A journal should demonstrate quality of editorial work, including features that contribute to the objectivity, credibility, and quality of its content. These features may include:

  • Information about the methods of selecting articles (especially on the explicit process of external peer review)
  • Statements indicating adherence to ethical guidelines
  • Evidence that authors have disclosed financial conflicts of interest

Commercial sponsorship should not raise questions about the objectivity of the published material. Additional factors that are considered include the publisher and/or sponsoring organization's history and corporate structure, longevity, and record of performance regarding such issues as: quality of publications; experience in scholarly publishing; involvement with the scientific community; disclosure of and adherence to print and electronic publication standards; and promotion of editorial integrity and independence.

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3. How do I get a journal reviewed?

The LSTRC reviews biomedical and health-related life science journals published worldwide. Any editor or publisher who would like to request a journal review must complete the "MEDLINE Review Application Form" (requires registration). The form is required for all journals, whether they are published as print-only, electronic-only, or as both print and electronic versions.

Regardless of its format, it is important that the publication frequency demonstrates that the journal is published consistently, and that the amount of content being published (for example, number of articles per issue) is also fairly consistent.

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4. What information is required for the journal review / MEDLINE application?

A copy of the MEDLINE Review Application is available at http://wwwcf.nlm.nih.gov/lstrc/lstrcform/med/index.html. All fields marked with an asterisk (*) indicate required information. Journals must have an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN). See also question #14.

The LSTRC will need access to the journal content for the review:

  1. Print-only journals: For journals with only a print product, a required number of recent print issues must be submitted for each MEDLINE application. Please follow these guidelines, including the number of issues to submit, depending on how frequently the journal is published:
    • If published 3 or more times a year, 4 print issues are required.
    • If published twice a year or irregularly, 3 print issues are required.
    • If published once a year (annually), 2 print issues are required.
    • Send one copy of each issue; do not send duplicates, supplements or issues containing only abstracts.
    • Send only published issues; do not send "proofs," unbound issues, or photocopies.
  2. Journals with print and electronic versions: For journals that have both print and electronic versions, copies of the print issue should be submitted following the instructions in (a) above. In addition, the journal's URL and any necessary login information must be included in the MEDLINE application.
  3. Electronic-only journals: For journals that are electronic only (have no print equivalent), follow these guidelines; the journal should:
    • Contain articles that are citable, and indicate how frequently articles are published online.
    • Be accessible for at least 12 months and have at least 40 articles published before a MEDLINE application is submitted (in general).
    • Have the journal's URL and any necessary login information included in the MEDLINE application.
    • Comply with the MEDLINE Policy on Indexing Electronic Journals. This policy includes a preservation compliance step that all articles in MEDLINE indexed electronic-only journals are deposited in a digital archive, ensuring that users will always have access to the full text of every article that NLM cites.

Additional information:

  • It would be especially helpful if, following the receipt of the required number of recent issues, a complimentary subscription was received up until the time of the scheduled review. This will ensure that the LSTRC reviewers have the most current issues available at the time of the review. Failure to send in the required number of recent issues in a timely manner may result in the delay of the journal’s review or necessitate the use of older issues from the NLM general collection.
  • Journals with print-on-demand options or that provide an annual print version of their content are considered to be electronic-only journals with regard to MEDLINE indexing and compliance with MEDLINE policies.
  • Other helpful advice can be found in the National Information Standards Organization Recommended Practice – PIE-J: Presentation and Identification of E-Journals (NISO RP-16-2013).

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5. When will a journal be scheduled for review and once the review has been completed, how are the results communicated?

Once a completed application and all required material (print issues and/or access to electronic content) are received, the journal is scheduled for review at the earliest possible date. Due to the large number of applications and the possibility of schedule changes, applicants are not informed of the specific date of the review.

While there is no specific cut-off date for submission of applications for LSTRC review, journal review lists are usually finalized about four months prior to each scheduled LSTRC meeting.

Notification of the review results are sent to editors/publishers several weeks after the meeting.

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6. How often does LSTRC meet? How many journals are examined and recommended for MEDLINE?

The LSTRC meets three times a year, in February, June, and October. Approximately 180 journals are examined at each meeting. Approximately 12-15% of the journals reviewed are recommended for inclusion in MEDLINE.

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7. Will the journal be reviewed by a subject or language specialist?

The LSTRC consists of fifteen members serving four-year terms, so it is not possible to have a subject specialist on the Committee for all fields. Every effort is made to assign journals to primary reviewers on the Committee who are knowledgeable about the subject and/or fluent in the language. Sometimes outside expertise is sought as input to the Committee.

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8. How do I find out what journals are indexed?

Journals Recently Accepted by NLM for Inclusion in MEDLINE are announced on the NLM Web site.

The NLM Catalog provides a list of currently indexed MEDLINE titles. In the search box, type: currentlyindexed.

Annual statistics on the number of journals indexed in MEDLINE are found on the Key MEDLINE Indicators page.

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9. If the journal is not recommended for MEDLINE, can it be re-reviewed?

Rating scores range from 0 to 5. Currently, a journal must receive a score of 3.75 or greater to be recommended for indexing. After the first review, journals are eligible for re-review after a minimum of two years following the first review date. After the second and subsequent reviews, journals are eligible for re-review after a minimum of three years following the prior review date. These intervals allow editors and publishers time to implement improvements to their journal and guarantee that the majority of the LSTRC membership will have changed by the time of the next review, thus ensuring a fresh examination. A new MEDLINE application must be submitted for a re-review.

Usually, neither the staff nor the LSTRC members are in a position to provide guidance about the steps an editor or publisher should take to ensure that a specific journal will be indexed in MEDLINE. The staff can explain the process but has no input into nor influence over the LSTRC recommendation. The LSTRC does prepare a review summary sheet designed to document their recommendation. This review summary sheet is available upon request to NLM following notification of the results of the review. The LSTRC decisions are based on a journal's scientific quality and importance, editorial policies, and subject coverage in MEDLINE. See Fact Sheet MEDLINE Journal Selection.

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10. When will indexing begin and what version of a journal is used for indexing?

Before MEDLINE indexing begins, NLM must have a mechanism for creating the journal's citations and must have access to the journal's articles.

Journal Citation Data:

It is expected that a journal will provide its citation and abstract data as XML-tagged data to NLM; this rapidly increases the public availability of citations and abstracts in PubMed.

The XML-tagged citation data must be provided within six months of acceptance. Please refer to XML Help for PubMed Data Providers for the requirements. Communications concerning this process should be sent to publisher@ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

For electronic-only journals, the receipt of XML-tagged data is a requirement; NLM has no alternative mechanism for creating the citation entries. For journals with both a print and electronic version, if there is any content that is only available electronically, NLM must index from the electronic version; therefore, the publisher must send XML citation data for all of the journal's citations.

Access to Journal Articles:

For access to the journal's articles, NLM acquires a subscription or license to the journal. Delays in setting up a subscription will delay indexing. Most journals are indexed from the electronic version; NLM typically uses the article PDF for quality assurance purposes. NLM will subscribe to and use the print version for indexing if an electronic version is not available.

The publisher must provide NLM with immediate access to the journal content at a publisher or third-party site under a license that allows efficient support of NLM operations, onsite services, and interlibrary loan (ILL):

  • NLM operations: This includes the use of automated programs (Web robot, crawler, spider, or similar devices) to obtain some of the article metadata in a cost effective way to enhance the basic MEDLINE citation. The data are not used for any purpose other than inclusion in the MEDLINE citation. If needed, NLM will also work with the publisher to ensure that any indexing programs accessing the journal site will do so at a limited requesting speed and time period to ensure that these NLM program activities do not interfere with the journal site's regular activity.
  • Onsite services: This means that individuals who are physically present in the facilities of the NLM must be able to access the journal without any barrier. For example, requiring a user to log in with a username and password is not acceptable.
  • ILL: This is the ability to fulfill ILL requests through the delivery mechanism specified by the requesting library and without regard to geographic location of the requesting library.

Publishers of electronic-only journals should be aware of the additional conditions found in the MEDLINE Policy on Indexing Electronic Journals and the accompanying FAQ: MEDLINE Indexing Requirements for Electronic Journals. These conditions must be met before indexing can begin. Newly recommended electronic-only journals are expected to be in compliance within six months of acceptance. If a currently indexed journal becomes electronic-only, these conditions will also apply in order for indexing to continue. See question #15.

Once the above conditions have been met, indexing will typically begin with the current year/volume.

Publishers may also ask about submitting XML-tagged citation data for volumes preceding the indexing start date; if approved, these citations will appear in PubMed but will not be indexed with Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).

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11. What is XML-Tagged Citation Data?

XML (eXtensible Markup Language) prescribes a standard format for embedding descriptive information and forces each element to fit into a logical, predictable structure. The NLM citation format requires the various pieces of information, such as author, title of article, and date of publication to be enclosed in certain defined tags or delimiters. A description of our required XML citation format as well as other important information for publishers may be found on the NLM Web site at XML Help for PubMed Data Providers.

Citations and abstracts submitted electronically in our required XML format are available to the public via PubMed almost immediately after its receipt and the citations then quickly move into the indexing stream. Thus, the public has access to this information more rapidly.

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12. Are journals ever deselected from MEDLINE?

Journals may be deselected from MEDLINE for various reasons including extremely late publication patterns, major changes in the scientific quality or editorial process, changes in ownership or publishers, etc.

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13. What effect does changing the journal title, publisher, or sponsor have?

A straightforward title change or change in sponsor usually is not brought to the attention of the LSTRC. However, changes to a journal that may have an effect on a journal's MEDLINE status include:

  • The merger of two journals when one of the journals is not indexed in MEDLINE. The new journal needs to be reviewed by the LSTRC; a new MEDLINE application must be submitted for the new merged journal.
  • When a society changes publisher but does not own the rights to the journal. The resulting journal, which has a new title, is brought before the LSTRC as a new journal. A new MEDLINE application must be submitted along with an explanation of the situation. Sometimes both the new and the old titles are reviewed at the same LSTRC meeting.
  • A major title change that requires a new ISSN and indicates a change in focus (aims and scope) or editorial board.
  • A change in publisher. If the new publisher is not an organization from which NLM is currently acquiring materials for the collection, NLM may deselect the journal from MEDLINE.

Note that a journal title change often results in a new title abbreviation (and thus has implications for MEDLINE/PubMed searching). Detailed information on how NLM constructs journal title abbreviations can be found on the Construction of the National Library of Medicine Title Abbreviations factsheet.

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14. What is an ISSN?

Any journal applying to MEDLINE must have an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) before submitting an application. A journal needs a separate ISSN for each publication format (such as one ISSN for the print version and a different ISSN for the electronic version).

NLM cannot provide an ISSN for a journal. To obtain an ISSN, contact one of the following:

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15. My journal is already being indexed in MEDLINE/PubMed. If my journal becomes an electronic-only journal with no print equivalent, will this affect its inclusion in MEDLINE?

When a journal currently indexed in MEDLINE becomes an electronic-only publication, it must comply with the MEDLINE Policy on Indexing Electronic Journals. Additional information on this is available from the FAQ: MEDLINE Indexing Requirements for Electronic Journals. NLM will work with the publisher of an electronic-only journal to ensure compliance with this policy so that the journal's citations will continue to be found in MEDLINE/PubMed. If an electronic-only journal is not able to meet the policy requirements, the journal will no longer be indexed in MEDLINE prospectively.

In addition, the publisher should:

  • Apply for and obtain an ISSN for the electronic version; see question #14.
  • Provide XML-tagged citation data; see question #11.
  • Include an extra tag in the XML for the publication date of the article (as opposed to the publication date of the issue). This date must be supplied for PubMed to display it correctly. The date format must Year / Month / Day (YYYY/MM/DD).
  • Ensure that all articles appear in the online table of contents or equivalent.
  • Ensure that electronic-only content is citable, which means it must have pagination or its electronic equivalent. PubMed users must be able to find an article based on the PubMed citation.
  • Follow the same rules for retraction and erratum as apply to the printed version. Do not change electronic content once it has been published/posted without an explicit statement that it has been changed. For electronic-only journals, or electronic-only content, the erratum notice must be readily discernable in the table of contents of a subsequent issue, and must be associated with identifiable pagination. See our fact sheet on Errata, Retractions, Partial Retractions, Corrected and Republished Articles, Duplicate Publications, Comments (including Author Replies), Updates, Patient Summaries, and Republished (Reprinted) Articles Policy for MEDLINE.
  • Ensure that the basic bibliographic information such as the author list is identical if both HTML and PDF formats exist. (NLM typically uses the PDF for quality assurance purposes.)

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16. What are the NLM preservation concerns for journals indexed in MEDLINE?

When a title is indexed in MEDLINE, access to the journal content expands. To ensure that users continue to have access to the content, NLM encourages publishers to develop preservation plans. For print versions, NLM hopes that publishers use acid-free paper so that the pages in the journal will last as long as health professionals may need the printed information. In addition, it is helpful to libraries to have the acid-free status printed in the journal.

The MEDLINE Policy for indexing electronic-only journals requires that electronic-only journals have an acceptable preservation plan. NLM strongly encourages archiving in PMC (PubMed Central), the NLM free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. For more information, see "How to Join PMC."

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For general information on NLM services, contact:

National Library of Medicine
Customer Service
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Bethesda, MD 20894
Telephone: 1-888-FINDNLM (1-888-346-3656)
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If your browser does not work with forms, you can send an e-mail directly to custserv@nlm.nih.gov

A complete list of NLM Fact Sheets is available at:
(alphabetical list) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsheets.html
(subject list): http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsubj.html

Or write to:

FACT SHEETS
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Library of Medicine
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Bethesda, Maryland 20894
Phone: (301) 496-6308
Fax: (301) 496-4450
email: publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov