Journal Selection for MEDLINE
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) decides whether the scientific and editorial character and quality of a journal merit its inclusion in MEDLINE. In making this decision, NLM considers scientific policy set by the NLM Board of Regents, the suitability of the journal for the NLM Collection (according to the criteria in the Collection Development Guidelines), as well as the recommendations of an NIH Federal Advisory Committee, the Literature Selection Technical Review Committee (LSTRC).
The LSTRC consists of fifteen members, including scientists (i.e., Ph.D.- or M.D.-level researchers and physicians) and medical librarians. The LSTRC generally reviews articles from the last two years of journal content and evaluates them primarily based on scientific and editorial quality. The final decision of whether to index a journal for MEDLINE is made by the Director of the NLM.
Scientific and Editorial Quality Assessment
The LSTRC evaluates journals for MEDLINE based on 5 critical elements, listed in the table below. Examples of the types of questions the LSTRC may consider for each element are also provided.
|Critical Element||Possible Considerations|
|Scope and Coverage||
|Editorial Policies and Processes||
|Scientific Rigor¹/Methodological Rigor²||
|Production and Administration||
¹NLM uses the definition of scientific rigor provided by the NIH Office of Extramural Research, which defines scientific rigor as “the strict application of the scientific method to ensure robust and unbiased experimental design, methodology, analysis, interpretation and reporting of results. This includes full transparency in reporting experimental details so that others may reproduce and extend the findings.”
²In fields of research where scientific rigor may not apply, the journal’s methodological rigor will be evaluated.
³NLM’s definition of “significance” is adapted from the NIH Office of Extramural Research website; specifically, significance considers the importance of the problem investigated in the article, as well as whether the article will improve scientific knowledge, and the article’s relative contribution to the field.
In addition to the above, as outlined in the Collection Development Guidelines, review articles should generally contain substantive summaries and analysis of recent research in a field. Case reports should include thorough and detailed case presentations, as well as substantial discussions about the relevance to clinical practice and research. Data articles should detail the methods used to create or collect the data, describe validation of the data, and facilitate the sharing and reuse of the data by other researchers.
There are numerous resources available that can aid authors and journals in improving article quality. As examples, some resources NLM encourages journals and authors to reference are:
- Human research: Helsinki Declaration as revised in 2013
- Systematic reviews and meta-analyses: PRISMA guidelines
- Case reports: the CARE case report guidelines
- Clinical trials: CONSORT
- Animal studies: ARRIVE and Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals
For a more comprehensive list see the Research and Reporting Guidelines list maintained by NLM. This resource lists the major biomedical research reporting guidelines that provide advice for reporting research methods and findings. They usually "specify a minimum set of items required for a clear and transparent account of what was done and what was found in a research study, reflecting, in particular, issues that might introduce bias into the research" (Adapted from the EQUATOR Network Resource Centre). The chart also includes editorial style guides for writing research reports or other publications.
MEDLINE’s scientific and editorial quality evaluation is a rigorous, multi-step process in which many factors are assessed. NLM views each journal comprehensively, rather than basing a decision on a defined list of criteria. Each title is reviewed by multiple individuals, both inside and outside of NLM, and final decisions are based on input from all these sources. To maintain the quality of the archive, NLM performs ongoing review of current MEDLINE journals for conformance with these standards.
For an overview of the MEDLINE pre-application requirements as well as a step-by-step breakdown of the MEDLINE application and review process, please see How to Include a Journal in MEDLINE.
Last Reviewed: February 10, 2021