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 May 4, 2004 [posted]
 Index Medicus to Cease as Print Publication

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he printed Index Medicus, started by John Shaw Billings in 1879 and published for 125 consecutive years, will cease at the end of 2004. Once an indispensable tool for health professionals and librarians, it is now a seldom used alternative to PubMed® and other Internet-based products that contain the database from which Index Medicus has been generated for nearly 40 years.

For years, Index Medicus has been invaluable in medical care, education, and research, but use of the printed index declined slowly once MEDLINE® became available in 1971. Subscriptions to Index Medicus declined more noticeably in the 1980s with the introduction of end-user searching and dropped precipitously once MEDLINE was available free on the Internet in 1997. In 2000, NLM® ceased publication of the annual Cumulated Index Medicus. In that same year, the Government Printing Office recognized PubMed as the definitive permanent source of MEDLINE data and no longer required Depository Libraries to retain the printed Index Medicus.

By 2003, the number of subscribers to the monthly Index Medicus fell to 155 and even for countries in the developing world demand for the publication is almost non-existent. The lack of use of Index Medicus is a natural result of free world wide availability of more complete, current, and easily searched electronic versions of the NLM's authoritative indexing data.

Although the printed Index Medicus will cease, journals recommended for inclusion in MEDLINE by NLM's journal selection advisory committee will still be distinguishable from other journals in PubMed. NLM will continue to produce the annual Black and White printed MeSH tool and also expects to continue the printed List of Journals Indexed for Index Medicus, perhaps expanding its coverage to all indexed MEDLINE journal titles. NLM also will continue its indexing practice of starring MeSH terms as the main point of an article. Even though the printed Index Medicus (which lists citations under their starred headings only) will cease, there is still a need to designate the main points of an article for online retrieval.

For those users who do not wish to rely solely on PubMed access to NLM indexing data, there are numerous other Internet versions of MEDLINE as well as several commercial CDROM products. The MEDLINE data are available free under a license agreement should any company wish to publish a printed product.

For many years, NLM has considered the MEDLINE database to be the definitive version of its indexing data, and the Library is firmly committed to ensuring the integrity and availability of the data via its online systems. MEDLINE data are backed up each night and after one month the data is stored off site. In addition, NLM is currently establishing a remote site for critical NLM systems, including the indexing data creation and maintenance system and the complete version of PubMed. If necessary, users will be switched over to full searching of PubMed at the remote site without any interruption in access.

If you have questions or comments about Index Medicus please send them to:

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Index Medicus to Cease as Print Publication. NLM Tech Bull. 2004 May-Jun;(338):e2.


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Last updated: 13 April 2012