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 June 30, 2000 [posted]
 NLM Online Users' Meetings 2000: MEDLARS Remarks

[Editor's note: These are remarks made by Sheldon Kotzin, Chief, Bibliographic Services Division, NLM, at the Annual Meeting of the Medical Library Association in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, May 8, 2000.]

H ello, I'm Sheldon Kotzin and this is the 20th time I've had the pleasure to welcome you to the NLM Online Users' Meeting. These meetings began in the 1970s just after the National Library of Medicine (NLM) announced the first remote access real-time searching of any computerized data. Since then, NLM has made great improvements to MEDLINE records and access to them.

Three years ago, I reported that there were about 600,000 searches performed monthly using ELHILL. This April we exceeded 21 million PubMed and IGM searches, and we grow at rate of about 650,000 searches each month. About 40% of these searches appear to be from non-researchers and non-health professionals.

Three factors contribute greatly to this success: you and your colleagues who use our products, train others to use them, and tell us how to make them better. And, this year we thank you for making the transition from ELHILL as smooth as possible. I want to acknowledge NLM staff who work on PubMed and IGM development and who respond to your customer service questions. Also, the excellent serials staff, indexers and quality control staff who last year added nearly 450,000 citations to MEDLINE.

At this point let me introduce some representatives of the excellent staff that I mentioned previously: Janet Zipser, Online Training Coordinator, who is currently developing a web-based PubMed training module; Annette Nahin, our new Library Operations representative on the Library's PubMed development team, and Jane Rosov, who is Library Operations' primary liaison with publishers who send us electronic data and with MEDLINE licensees.

Electronic Data
At the end of April, 147 publishers of nearly 1,000 MEDLINE journals were sending NLM electronic data for citations and abstracts for quick inclusion in PREMEDLINE, and most of them had links from PubMed back to the full text at their respective Web sites. These 1,000 titles represent nearly 40% of MEDLINE's current citations. Also, more publishers are sending us citation and abstract data for older articles published before indexing began, and these citations are available via PubMed.

Author and Selective Indexing
In response to your requests, new citations indexed include all authors -- the limit of 25 no longer exists -- and all author names now appear on PubMed's Document Summary page. In addition, we have eliminated "selective indexing" for all but a handful of general science and chemistry journals. All other formerly "selectively-indexed" journals, about 250, are now indexed cover-to-cover.

Many of you are aware that NLM is in the process of assuming the indexing responsibility for HealthSTAR journal titles formerly indexed by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and dental titles indexed for MEDLINE by the American Dental Association (ADA). All the HealthSTAR journals and most of the dental journals will continue to be indexed and all will be retrievable via PubMed. NLM looks forward to continuing its partnership with AHA and ADA in new ways beneficial to your libraries.

Data Creation and Maintenance System Update
This year NLM will complete our new indexing data creation and maintenance system replacing our 18 year-old mainframe-based system. With it will come the ability to create a corporate author field that will be text-word searchable. Also, the author affiliation will contain street address information, if it appears in the journal. In addition, there will be no limit to the length of abstracts in MEDLINE.

Electronic Journals
Expect to see more electronic-only journals indexed. Currently, we have several in MEDLINE and will review six more at the June Literature Selection Technical Review Committee meeting. In a move that could have a major impact on indexing in the near future, we have begun to index from journal Web sites for many "print" journals when pagination is identical for both "print" and Web versions. Right now NLM indexes 25 journals from Web site information.

Five journals now submit electronic citations without volume, issue and pagination data ahead of their "print" versions and NLM is entering them into PubMed with a bracketed notation [epub ahead of print]. NLM expects other journals to participate.

NLM is working with the Cochrane collaborators to create MEDLINE records for the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. An electronic file of the first set of about 800 records arrived last week.

MEDLINE Scope Expanding
There is good news for those of you who want to see the scope of MEDLINE expand. Already, NLM's journal review committee is considering and recommending more journals in the life sciences, behavioral sciences, and chemistry--when they are important to health professionals. This expansion of MEDLINE should result in a steady increase in new titles added each year. Some of you may not realize that our review committee has always had a librarian member -- currently it's Mark Funk of Cornell University, but he was preceeded by Ruth Makinen and other collection development librarians who have contributed their expertise.

PubMed Central and
Notice that I haven't talked about PubMedCentral or the new database. That's because Betsy Humphreys will talk about the former on Wednesday morning and Alexa McCray will tell us about at 10:30 today as part of the annual NLM Update, along with Dr. Lindberg and Betsy. [Editor's Note: Betsy Humphreys' presentation, Demystifying PubMed Central, and Alexa McCray's presentation, NLM Update: Research & Development at the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, are available on the NLM Web site.]

MeSH Update
Before I talk about some new efforts underway, I want to mention one anniversary and one revival. MeSH is 40 years old this year! In 1960, the NLM News proclaimed, "Now in press is the new NLM subject heading authority list, used for cataloging books and also for indexing periodical articles, and soon to appear under the title 'Medical Subject Headings'." True, there were separate cataloging and indexing authority lists before this, but a single scheme had many virtues for NLM and its users. Take a close look at the MeSH Web site if you haven't visited it recently. Try the MeSH Browser--distinct from the one in PubMed--it aims at presenting all the information in a MeSH record that you might need to see and will link you to some online portions of the NLM Indexing Manual. By the end of this year, the Index Section will make the entire Manual as well as other tools available on the Web. In the year ahead, expect to see vocabulary enhancement in the area of alternatives to animal testing, broader coverage of journals in that field, and improved methods for article retrieval. NLM is taking the lead at NIH in coordinating an international group of experts in this important area. Stuart Nelson, M.D., the Head of MeSH, is leading the effort.

Clinical Alerts
Many of you wondered what happened to the Clinical Alerts that existed from 1991 to 1997 and had asked for their return. For awhile, NIH Institutes, which developed their own Web sites, wanted to promote these announcements directly. After efforts by Carolyn Tilley, of the MEDLARS Management Section and Bob Mehnert, NLM's Public Information Officer, the Institutes agreed to notify NLM of Alerts so that NLM could announce and archive them, while they also remained on individual Institute sites. Clinical Alerts and Advisories can be found at:

Three "Buckets"
As part of NLM's project to modernize its computer systems, we have been reorganizing our bibliographic data into three groups, or as we fondly say, three "buckets."

The first bucket -- PubMed --will contain the journal citations mostly from 1966 forward, including about 109,000 citations from 1963 - 1965 years of publication. This includes more than 11 million MEDLINE citations with full MeSH indexing, publication types, grant numbers, comments, errata, and retractions. This bucket also includes MEDLINE in-process citations, most of which will become fully indexed. And it includes publisher-supplied citations, which are sent electronically, that are not destined to become indexed with MeSH, nor undergo any quality control procedures.

The second bucket -- LocatorPlus -- contains citations to monographs and whole serials. The contents are largely from NLM's own collection, but include some items not owned by NLM, owned instead by regional libraries or organizations that create records in subject areas such as health services research, bioethics, and family planing and population research.

Citations to meeting abstracts and OLDMEDLINE data will reside in the third bucket. NLM is separating meeting abstract citations to speed up their availability and so as not to confuse them with citations to full papers. OLDMEDLINE will also be here because its records have no abstracts and its vocabulary terms have not been validated against the current MeSH. At this point OLDMEDLINE contains 1960-1965 data, but by this Fall, NLM expects 1957-1959 data to be added, bringing the total to 1.4 million records.

With the data in these three buckets, searchers can go directly to a particular retrieval system if they choose. However, users who want to search for all types of information on a subject may wish to try the soon-to-be-available NLM Gateway, which you can see at the NLM Exhibit Booth. The NLM Gateway will be an intelligent search tool that will interface initially with PubMed, LocatorPlus, citations to meeting abstracts, OLDMEDLINE, HSRProj and MEDLINEplus. Future developments of the Gateway will provide access to TOXNET and

NLM is also converting unique data from its subject-oriented databases to move into the appropriate "bucket" in the new data organization. HealthSTAR journal citations are already in PubMed's MEDLINE with citations from AIDSLINE, HISTLINE, SPACELINE, BIOETHICSLINE and POPLINE to follow. Unique monograph citations for HealthSTAR, HISTLINE, SPACELINE, and BIOETHICS are in LocatorPlus with POPLINE to follow. NLM plans to continue access to Internet Grateful Med until the unique data from the old subject-oriented databases are converted and relocated.
[Editor's Note: For further information on these topics, see the following NLM Technical Bulletin articles in this issue: Organization of National Library of Medicine Bibliographic Databases and Migration of Monographic Citations to LocatorPlus.]

New PubMed Features
In other PubMed news, last month NLM added a new feature called "Preview" that lets searchers see in advance how many citations a search will retrieve. This will appeal to searchers who like to build searches one or two terms at a time, and don't want to display citations until a desired set is attained.

A few months ago, a new "Books" feature made its debut. This feature links individual PubMed citations to the full text of reference books. The idea is to allow users to explore unfamiliar concepts found in PubMed search results. Currently, only the textbook Molecular Biology of the Cell is available, and it provides information on a wide range of topics central to molecular and cell biology. The selection of books will grow to include new topics and different approaches to biology and medicine.

As part of new PubMed, NLM began a trial implementation of the LinkOut program with a small number of test libraries. The LinkOut program provides links from PubMed citations to the full-text of the journal article, but it doesn't stop there. It also can provide links to biological data, sequence centers, and even subject-relevant Web sites. These links are provided to PubMed by publishers and third parties, such as libraries and information providers. For example, a university that has a license with a full-text supplier provides PubMed with a link to that supplier's Web holdings. Students and staff from that university will see the link and know they can get the article. The LinkOut program will be phasing in more libraries gradually. We know many of you are eager to participate, and we appreciate your patience. [Editor's Note: Information about LinkOut is available from the PubMed Web site.]

Soon we will introduce the PubMed Cubby. The Cubby, as its name implies, will have storage capabilities. For example, a search can be stored in the Cubby, and at any time, you can check to see if the search retrieves new citations. The Cubby only shows you citations that are new since the last time you updated the search, and takes into account if MeSH terms have since been added to a previously received record.

Another Cubby service is called LinkOut Preferences. As I was describing the LinkOut program, many of you were probably thinking that the LinkOut display for some citations could grow long once lots of libraries add their electronic holdings. The Cubby will allow you to customize your LinkOut display, so that you only see links of interest to you.

[Editor's note: See the article, The Transition to New PubMed, in this issue of the NLM Technical Bulletin for more information on changes and new features in the new PubMed.]

MEDLINE Licensee Products
A last word to those of you that also use MEDLINE from licensee products. Lots of significant changes, all for the better, of course, are in the works for NLM's supplied data. NLM has defined a MEDLINE DTD (Document Type Definition) that describes the XML (Extensible Markup Language) format in which NLM data, including PREMEDLINE, will be distributed via FTP. You should also know that NLM is not charging licensees for records added during the 2000 production year or for future data transmitted via FTP.

At NLM, we are excited by these changes. As always, NLM values your suggestions and criticisms. It's now time for your questions and comments. We will answer each question to the best of our ability but we reserve the right to change any answer and post them in the NLM Technical Bulletin.

By Sheldon Kotzin
Bibliographic Services Division black line separating article from citation information

Kotzin S. NLM Online Users' Meetings 2000: MEDLARS Remarks. NLM Tech Bull. 2000 May-Jun;(314):e5a.


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Last updated: 12 April 2012