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FAQ:
Journal Selection for MEDLINE® Indexing at NLM

The National Library of Medicine uses an NIH-chartered committee, the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC), to review all new biomedical and health journal titles and recommend those to be indexed for MEDLINE®. The NLM Fact Sheet titled "MEDLINE Journal Selection" provides information on the role of the LSTRC and critical factors considered in making the decision to recommend a journal title for indexing. It is intended only as a guide since there is no one set of characteristics that will guarantee selection. The LSTRC considers the quality of the scientific content, including originality, and the importance of the content for the MEDLINE audience throughout the world.

The following answers are provided in response to frequently asked questions about the review process:

  1. How do I get a print journal title reviewed?
  2. How do I get an electronic journal reviewed?
  3. How often does LSTRC meet? How many titles are examined?
  4. Will the journal be reviewed by a subject or language specialist?
  5. When will a journal be scheduled for review?
  6. Once the review has been completed, how are the results communicated?
  7. What percentage of titles are selected for indexing?
  8. If the journal is not selected, what can be done?
  9. If a journal title is selected, when will indexing begin?
  10. What version of a journal is used when the indexing process begins?
  11. What is a comprehensive subject review?
  12. How are titles deselected from MEDLINE?
  13. What effect does changing the title, publisher, or sponsor have?
  14. How do I learn the steps that need to be taken to ensure that a particular title is indexed?
  15. How do I find out what titles are indexed?
  16. Does MEDLINE include popular press publications?
  17. What’s the difference between MEDLINE and PubMed?
  18. What is NLM's policy on indexing supplements to MEDLINE journals?
  19. What is NLM's policy on determining title abbreviations?
  20. What is XML Tagged Data?
  21. What is an ISSN?
  22. 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?
  23. What are the NLM preservation concerns for journals indexed in MEDLINE?
  24. There are gaps in MEDLINE/PubMed indexing for my journal.  How may I help fill these gaps?
  25. If an online journal is published in multiple languages, which languages display in the MEDLINE citation?
  26. Under what circumstances will a separately published English edition of a non-English MEDLINE journal be indexed?

1) How do I get a print journal title reviewed?

The LSTRC reviews new biomedical and life science journal titles published anywhere in the world. Any editor or publisher who would like to request a journal review should use the "MEDLINE Review Application Form" at http://wwwcf.nlm.nih.gov/lstrc/lstrcform/med/index.html (requires registration). This form is required for all journals initially reviewed by the LSTRC for inclusion in MEDLINE. Please send the review issues (described below) after the form has been submitted.

*If the journal title is published three or more times a year, the LSTRC needs four issues for the review; twice a year or irregularly, three issues; once a year, two issues. Please send one copy of each issue; do not send duplicates, supplements, or issues containing all abstracts. Only published issues (i.e., not "proofs", unbound issues, or photocopies) are accepted for the review process.

It would be especially helpful if, following the receipt of the required number of recent issues, a complementary subscription was received up until the time of the scheduled review. (See Question 6.) 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 NLM's general collection.

Curriculum vitae and biographical sketches should not be sent. Do not send letters to LSTRC members.

2) How do I get an electronic journal reviewed?

The same review process used for print journals (see Question 1) also applies to electronic journals. Quality, originality, and importance of the scientific content are primary considerations. In addition, electronic journals must contain articles that are citable and indicate how frequently articles will be published online. In general, once an electronic journal has been accessible for at least 12 months, an editor or publisher may request that the journal be reviewed for possible indexing if at least 40 articles have been published and made available online.

Before NLM can begin indexing your electronic-only journal in MEDLINE, we must be satisfied that you will submit all articles published in a digital archive. We seek to ensure that our users will always have access to the full text of every article that we cite. The permanent archive must be PubMed Central or another certified archive site. Details concerning the MEDLINE Policy for Indexing Electronic journals are found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/policy/ejournals.html. You must also be able to submit the bibliographic citation data electronically in XML format. See XML Help for PubMed Data Providers for more information.

3) How often does LSTRC meet? How many titles are examined?

The LSTRC meets three times a year. Meetings are held in the fall, winter and late spring. About 190 titles, including new titles and re-reviews, are examined at each meeting.

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4) 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.

5) When will a journal be scheduled for review?

If the title is in scope (i.e., contains subject material appropriate for MEDLINE), the journal is scheduled for review at the earliest possible date. Requesters are not informed of the specific date of the review because of the large number of titles to be reviewed and the possibility of changes to the schedule.

NLM reviews many new titles in the biomedical and life sciences. Titles will not be scheduled for LSTRC review unless requested or acknowledged by the editor or publisher. While there is no specific cut-off date for submission of titles for LSTRC review, journal review lists are usually finalized about four months prior to each scheduled LSTRC meeting.

6) Once the review has been completed, how are the results communicated?

Several weeks after the meeting, notifications are sent to editors/publishers for all titles selected for indexing as well as non-selected titles that had been requested by editors/publishers. As soon as the notification letter is received by editors/publishers, all mailings of review issues/complimentary subscriptions to NLM should promptly be discontinued.

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7) What percentage of titles are selected for indexing?

Overall, about 20% - 25% of the titles reviewed are selected for indexing.

8) If the journal is not selected, what can be done?

Rating scores range from 0 to 5. Currently, a title must receive a score of 3.75 or greater to be selected for indexing. The LSTRC does conduct re-examinations of journals upon request. After the first review, titles may be re-examined after a minimum of two years following the first review date. After the second and subsequent reviews, titles may be re-examined after a minimum of three years following the prior review date. These intervals allow editors and publishers time to make and implement improvements to their journal and guarantees that the majority of the LSTRC membership will have changed by the time of the next review, thus ensuring a fresh examination.

9) If a journal title is selected, when will indexing begin?

Once a journal has been accepted for MEDLINE, these issues must be addressed before indexing can begin:

  • Provide the journal's citation and abstract data as XML-tagged data to NLM, which rapidly increases the public availability of the journal's citations and abstracts in PubMed. Whenever possible, NLM encourages publishers to provide XML-tagged data. Please refer to the NLM Web site for information for publishers including the requirements for our XML-tagged format. Communications about submission of citation and abstract data electronically to NLM should be sent to publisher@ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

    For electronic-only journals, the receipt of XML-tagged data is a requirement; there is not a print version from which NLM can create the citation entries. In this case, acceptable XML-tagged citation and abstract data must be received within six months following the date of inclusion in MEDLINE.
  • Provide access to the journal content. The publisher must provide NLM with immediate access to the journal content at a publisher or third-party site under a license that allows:

    1. Efficient support of NLM operations, onsite services, and interlibrary loan (ILL). In regards to ILL services, 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.
    2. Local use of the journal at the National Library of Medicine. Local use means that individuals who are physically present in the facilities of the National Library of Medicine 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.
    3. Use of automated programs (web robot, crawler, spider, or similar devices) to cost effectively obtain some of the article metadata normally found within a MEDLINE citation record. The data are not used for any purpose other than inclusion in the MEDLINE citation record.

    In addition, publishers of electronic-only journals should be aware of the licensing expectations covered in the MEDLINE Policy on Indexing Electronic Journals and its accompanying FAQ: MEDLINE Indexing Requirements for Electronic Journals.

Once the above conditions have been met, indexing will begin with the current year/volume. Publishers may also submit XML-tagged citation data for volumes preceding the indexing start date; these citations will appear in PubMed but will not be indexed with Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).

In addition to being included in MEDLINE/PubMed, citations from journals indexed in MEDLINE become part of the MEDLINE data distributed through the NLM Data Distribution program (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/licensee/).

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10) What version of a journal is used when the indexing process begins?

Once a journal has been approved for MEDLINE indexing, NLM acquires a subscription or license to the journal. Most journals are indexed from the online version; NLM will subscribe to and use the paper version for indexing if an electronic version is not available. License terms must not prohibit the NLM from crawling the journal web site with an automated program (web robot, crawler, spider, or similar devices) in order to cost effectively obtain some of the article metadata normally found within a MEDLINE citation record. NLM does not use the acquired information for anything other than the journal indexing process. Any data not used in the MEDLINE citation record will not be kept past the indexing processing activities. 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.

11) What is a comprehensive subject review?

In addition to reviewing new journal titles, the LSTRC systematically reviews the indexing coverage of two to four subjects each year. A subject review is commonly undertaken when that expertise exists on the Committee. In comprehensive subject reviews, a few American professional societies in the field are asked to indicate and rank the journal titles in that specialty that they think are important and useful to specialists in the field. The LSTRC usually recommends continuing to index those highly ranked titles that are currently indexed. LSTRC then individually reviews the highly ranked non-indexed titles for possible addition to MEDLINE. The Committee also reviews those titles not highly ranked but that are indexed to determine those to be recommended for deselection.

12) How are titles deselected from MEDLINE?

Titles may be brought to LSTRC for review for possible deselection through a comprehensive subject review, extremely late publication patterns, major changes in the scientific quality or editorial process, etc.

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

A straightforward title change or change in sponsor usually is not brought to the attention of the LSTRC. However, the merger of two journals, one that is indexed and one that is not, usually results in the title being reviewed by the LSTRC. Occasionally, a society changes publisher but does not own the rights to the title. The resulting journal, which has a new title, is brought before the Committee as a new title. It is important in these cases to write a letter asking for the review, explaining the situation, and submitting the required number of issues. Sometimes both the new and the old titles are reviewed at the same LSTRC meeting.

Note that a journal title change results in a new title abbreviation (and thus has implications for MEDLINE searching). Detailed information on how NLM constructs journal title abbreviations can be found at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/constructitle.html.

14) How do I learn the steps that need to be taken to ensure that a particular title is indexed?

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 title will be indexed in MEDLINE. The staff can explain the process but has no input into nor influence over the LSTRC recommendation. The Committee does prepare a summary sheet which is available upon request following notification, but this is designed to document the Committee's recommendation and not the improvements that should be made to ensure indexing. It would be difficult to prepare such suggestions since the LSTRC decisions, based on scientific quality and importance, are affected by the number and quality of journals already published in the field.

15) How do I find out what titles are indexed?

It is estimated that there are about 13,000 to 14,000 biomedical titles currently published throughout the world. About 5,300 titles are currently indexed and included in the MEDLINE database. MEDLINE is the principal component of the PubMed system, and includes all the citations published in Index Medicus plus others that were formerly in specialty databases such as HealthSTAR.

The NLM Catalog can provide a list of currently indexed MEDLINE titles. Under the Limit function, select the subset titled "Journals Currently indexed in MEDLINE" and click the Search button. This will produce a list of the currently indexed journals covered by MEDLINE. Journals Recently Accepted by NLM for Inclusion in MEDLINE are announced on the NLM Web site.

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16) Does MEDLINE include popular press publications?

A few popular press publications, including Time and Newsweek, were originally indexed for the separate HealthSTAR database, created through a cooperative agreement between NLM and the American Hospital Association. As part of NLM reinvention efforts in the late 1990s, citations in the separate NLM databases were folded into MEDLINE/PubMed. Indexing of the health- and biomedicine-related content of these popular press titles has continued, and the citations are now tagged as part of the consumer health subset of MEDLINE/PubMed. The citation of titles such as Time and Newsweek are meant to provide access to information such as patient and public opinion about health and medicine, political proposals related to Medicare, health care, stem cell research, and other prominent news stories related to medicine and health care written for the lay public.

17) What’s the difference between MEDLINE and PubMed?

See the Fact Sheet, "MEDLINE, PubMed, and PMC (PubMed Central): How are they different?," at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/dif_med_pub.html.

18) What is NLM's policy on indexing supplements to MEDLINE journals?

NLM will index supplements to journals if the supplements contain indexable articles, come as part of the journal subscription, and retain the title and volume numbering of the journal. If there is a variation in the title or numbering, the supplement is considered as a separate journal title.

If a supplement is sponsored by an outside organization, or reports on a conference or other activity that was sponsored by an outside organization, or is devoted to a special topic that is in any way related to a proprietary product, then the articles in the supplement will not be cited and indexed for MEDLINE unless the supplement includes disclosure information as specified at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/supplements.html.

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19) What is NLM's policy on determining title abbreviations?

Detailed information on how NLM constructs journal title abbreviations can be found at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/constructitle.html

20) What is XML Tagged Data?

XML (Extensible Markup Language) prescribes a standard format for embedding descriptive information and forces each element to fit into a logical, predictable structure. NLM's required 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 format as well as other important information for publishers may be found on NLM's Web site at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK3828/.

Citations and abstracts submitted electronically in our required XML format are available to the public via PubMed® almost immediately after its receipt and the records then quickly move into the indexing stream. Thus, the public has access to this information more rapidly than records which are created by scanning and optical character recognition (OCR). Publishers may also enable direct links from PubMed citations to the full-text of journal articles on publisher's Web sites via the NLM LinkOut service.

If you have additional questions or comments, please contact NLM. Please indicate the specific, full title of the journal in question.

21) What is an ISSN?

An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is required for each new serial title published. If an online version is also published, two separate ISSN are required. (Thus, two applications for an ISSN--one for the print version and one for the online version--are required.)

Process for applying for an ISSN:

For serials published in the United States, an ISSN must be obtained from the ISSN Center at the Library of Congress. All the application information is available at their Web site: http://www.loc.gov/issn. To ensure receipt of an application, it is recommended that the application(s) be faxed or sent via e-mail. It takes about 6-8 weeks to obtain a new ISSN. Applications should not be sent to NLM; the Library plays no role in the assignment of ISSN’s.

The ISSN Center at the Library of Congress processes requests for ISSN only for U.S. titles. For non-U.S. titles, the best place to access the relevant information is at the ISSN International Centre in Paris, France. Publishers can consult their Web site at: http://www.issn.org to identify the correct ISSN Center for their country. (Instructions are available in both English and French.) Further instructions for applying for an ISSN are available at each ISSN Center's Web site. ISSN assignments for countries in which there is no ISSN Center are handled by the ISSN International Centre in Paris.

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22) 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 / online-only publication, it must adhere to 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 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.

23) 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.

To preserve electronic journals, NLM strongly encourages archiving in PubMed Central (PMC), the NLM free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. For more information, see "How to Join PMC."

24) There are gaps in MEDLINE/PubMed indexing for my journal.  How may I help fill these gaps?

Please send print issues that are missing in MEDLINE/PubMed to the following NLM mailing address:

National Library of Medicine
Serial Records Section - Missing Issues
Bldg. 38, Room B1W10, MSC3803
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD  20894

Please contact publisher@ncbi.nlm.nih.gov if the journal is online-only (electronic version only) or is interested/able to supply electronic XML citation data files to MEDLINE/PubMed.

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25) If an online journal is published in multiple languages, which languages display in the MEDLINE citation?

Languages display in the MEDLINE citation if:

  1. Full translations are available at the original time of publication, and
  2. Publishers or their suppliers include the language as part of the XML citation data submitted to NLM.

An unlimited number of languages may display.

26) Under what circumstances will a separately published English edition of a non-English MEDLINE journal be indexed?

The language to be indexed is approved by the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC) at the time a journal is accepted for MEDLINE indexing. If a separately published English edition becomes available after LSTRC approval, the publisher may request that it be indexed in lieu of the non-English edition by submitting a request to the Index Section. Staff will review the request and determine if the English edition meets the criteria for indexing. See the Fact Sheet on Multiple Language Translations of Online Journals and Indexing English Editions of Journals for more information.

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National Library of Medicine

Customer Service
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
Telephone: 1-888-FINDNLM (1-888-346-3656)
email: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/contacts/contact.html
NLM Customer Service Form at http://apps.nlm.nih.gov/mainweb/siebel/nlm/index.cfm

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
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894
Phone: (301) 496-6308
Fax: (301) 496-4450
email: publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov