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NLM Technical Bulletin

NLM Technical Bulletin 1999 May-Jun; 308

In This Issue:

Technical Notes - e1

Converting SDI searches to PubMed - e2

HealthSTAR Unique Journal Citations Migrate to PubMed - e3

Internet Grateful Med Update - e4

dotMLA 1999 - e5

BIOETHICSLINE Regenerated and New Bioethics Thesaurus Published - e6

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NLM Online Users' Meetings - MLA 1999

dotMEDLARS Remarks
MEDLARS Questions and Answers
DOCLINE Users' Meeting - Remarks
DOCLINE Questions and Answers


[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 Chicago, May 1999.]

The Online Users' meetings at MLA began in the 1970s just after the Library announced the availability of online access to MEDLINE. Around that time, about 150 libraries sent staff to NLM for three weeks or more of training. Altogether, they performed a few thousand searches a year. Of course they used equipment that was slow - printers with speeds of about 10 characters per second -- and they could only search between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET in those early years. Since then, things have definitely improved.

Web Access and PubMed
Now all NLM databases are available free on the Web. Use of PubMed is averaging about 16 million searches a month; busy weekdays can run as high as 630,000 searches. Just two years ago billed ELHILL searching peaked at 7 million searches a year; now we have that much searching in less than two weeks -- and it's free. Who is searching PubMed? Heaviest use is still from health professionals and researchers. But, based on the survey conducted in March, use by librarians is now 14% of the total, nearly double the percentage of a year ago. This translates into approximately two million PubMed searches each month performed by librarians.

Journals and Data Entry
Searchers could not make effective use of MEDLINE without the excellent data creation and indexing operation at NLM. We now index 4,000 journals for MEDLINE and access to even more journals is imminent. In FY1999 we will add about 430,000 citations to MEDLINE and these citations are getting into the database much faster. About 25% of all input comes electronically from publishers into PREMEDLINE; scanning accounts for about 33% of input, and reliance on the slower, double-keying of citations has been reduced to slightly more than 40%. Before the data entry crisis of 1996, double-keying represented 100% of our data entry.

We receive electronic data for about 450 journals including some from nearly all major publishers. This will continue to grow and it will mean more links to publisher Web sites. In the next few weeks we expect to add data from about 200 MEDLINE journals published by Wiley. Another major improvement for PubMed users is that journals selected for MEDLINE that have been published for more than three volumes can send us older citations and abstracts electronically and we will add them to PubMed, although without MeSH terms applied. These thousands of additional records are retrievable in author and text word searches and will be have the Related Article feature.

PubMed Improvements
About six months ago, NLM implemented a system enhancement that dramatically increased the speed of PubMed. It was a redesign of the way PubMed stores and retrieves information and reduces search time dramatically. A few months ago we instituted a subset feature that allows users to limit retrieval to MEDLINE, PREMEDLINE, publisher-supplied, and AIDS-related citations. Other major improvements will be available this summer.

Human, Age Groups and English Only Limits Will Be Available in PubMed
The search page is being redesigned to allow users to select limits such as "human," age groups, and "English-only" articles. Additional subsets such as Abridged Index Medicus (AIM) titles, and nursing and dental journals will be added soon. Watch also for "Clipboard," a feature that allows users to gather together specific citations retrieved from several searches into a holding file that can be used to print, save, or order them as a group.

PubMed Cubby Service
This summer we hope to introduce the PubMed Cubby -- a service that allows a user to store individual information and preferences. Users can develop and store search strategies such as those used for SDI current awareness. Furthermore, the Cubby will enable users to request tailored print commands.

LinkOut Service
Two other new services may be even more exciting. As I mentioned earlier, we are adding more links to publisher web sites each month. But NLM has been asked to build a mechanism whereby URLs could be provided by third parties -- libraries, information providers who are not publishers, etc. -- to have links to their sites displayed from PubMed records. Users could LinkOut to any site that provides data describing their holdings, a range of volumes of certain journals, and the like.

Users will select the sites to which they wish to LinkOut by storing their preferences in their Cubby. To sum up, the default link will be to the journal publisher's Web site; other full-text links will be possible. One application of LinkOut might be for a university or hospital with a license to a full-text supplier to link from PubMed to that supplier.

PubRef for Non-MEDLINE Journals
NLM also has been approached by the National Academy of Sciences to link to journals not covered by MEDLINE, a sort of "white pages" for other journals that have electronic versions. This feature, called PubRef, will enable NLM to accept electronic citations and abstract data from publishers who will supply us with information necessary for linking their records.

Upon retrieving either a PubMed or PubRef citation and linking out to the full-text, a user may browse the references of that article and then link to the referenced article even if that journal is not biomedical. This, of course, assumes that the publisher of the referenced article is participating in the PubRef linking project. Many of the early participants will be publishers of physics and astronomy journals and those that use High Wire Press to put their journals in electronic form.

What's IN and What's OUT
This is the transition year for NLM, so let' see what's in and what's out. Additional journal citations in MEDLINE are definitely IN, as NLM moves away from "one-stop shopping by subject matter" to "one stop shopping by item type." In early June, NLM added to PubMed's MEDLINE approximately 170,000 unique journal citations from HealthSTAR journals. [Editor's Note: For more information please read the article, HealthSTAR Unique Journal Citations Migrate to PubMed, in this issue.] These citations are the start of a new enhanced MEDLINE that will be searchable via PubMed. In 2000, AIDSLINE citations, largely from newsletters and a few journals, will be searchable in PubMed's MEDLINE and included in the AIDS subset to limit retrieval to AIDS-related references.

Until NLM has a new data creation system, these citations will also be added to the databases available via Internet Grateful Med (IGM). HealthSTAR via IGM will continue to have unique monographs possibly not yet found in LocatorPlus. In time, journal citations from BIOETHICS, HISTLINE, AIDSLINE, POPLINE and SPACELINE will be added to PubMed's MEDLINE.

Many of you have asked when NLM would provide PREMEDLINE citations to its licensees. Because PREMEDLINE is updated each weekday, the Library had to wait until it developed a method to distribute these records. This will occur in the next few months, and as a result, licensees of MEDLINE soon will be able to ftp PREMEDLINE data from NLM.

Speaking of what's IN, you can add LocatorPlus, NLM's new Web-based OPAC that is part of our new Integrated Library System. It became available in April, replacing the old CATLINE, AVLINE and SERLINE files. These three files were frozen several months ago but are still searchable as billed databases. However, they will be OUT in a few months.

LocatorPlus allows users to search by author, MeSH term, Title, Keywords, and other fields. Current receipts and material on order are accessible. Eventually, monographs from HealthSTAR, brochures, and other databases will be searchable using LocatorPlus. It will link to other NLM databases, MEDLINEplus, and catalogs of other U.S. medical libraries.

New Gateway Interface Coming
Searching by journal title or monograph is not the full extent of your choices, however. NLM has given you direct links to PubMed, IGM, TOXNET, HSTAT, UMLS, LocatorPlus, MEDLINEplus, and more. That's not too friendly for the general public or a busy librarian. For that reason we are designing an intelligent gateway that will transparently allow users to initiate searches in these multiple retrieval systems from one interface.

The target audience for the new gateway is the user who does not know exactly what is available or how best to search for it. Links will be made within and across databases. Searches in clusters of databases or access to all databases simultaneously will be offered. In the first implementation phase, the gateway will search PubMed, LocatorPlus, and a new text-retrieval system that will include information such as meeting abstracts. Access to other systems including MEDLINEplus, TOXNET on the Web, and the new NIH Clinical Trials database are planned for the future.

Web-based Training
What else is IN? Web-based PubMed training modules are planned for development later this year as an alternative to classroom training. While classroom training will continue, we know that many users prefer to learn at their own pace, at their own PC. Often we can't get to their city or they can't get to our classroom sites. We are excited by this Web-based training opportunity and we hope that you will check the National Online Training Center Web site for more details as they become available.

TOXNET on the Web
Is there anything else that's IN, you ask? Yes, there is TOXNET on the Web. TOXNET access will be available via a much easier to use Web interface by the end of the year and of course it's also free of charge. The files have been organized into three groups: Toxicology Data; Toxicology Literature; and Toxic Releases. It will offer links to PubMed and IGM, the inclusion of TOXLINE and ChemID, cross-file searching, and relevancy ranking.

MeSH on the Web
Also IN is MeSH on the Web. Several versions of MeSH and MeSH-related files are available to download from the Web at no charge. The 1999 MeSH featured significant changes in four categories: fungi, genetics, delivery of health care, and chemicals and drugs. Areas being studied for the 2000 MeSH include revisions of nervous system diseases and bacteria. The MeSH Browser made its debut on the MeSH Web site during the past year. It is designed to help quickly locate descriptors of interest and note the hierarchy in which they appear. Virtually complete MeSH records are available, with the same detailed information found in the ELHILL MeSH file including scope notes, annotations, entry vocabulary, history notes, allowable qualifiers, etc. Expect the Browser to evolve based on user comments.

OLDMEDLINE is still IN. Now containing citations from 1960-1965, it has about 800,000 citations. Soon it will have several hundred thousand more as we go back to citations from the mid-1950s this year. Expect OLDMEDLINE to grow in size but remain separate from MEDLINE. While it won't be merged, it will be searchable using the gateway system.

With all that's IN, there must be something that's OUT, right? Our old friend ELHILL will disappear as a publicly accessible search system this September 30. Phrases like command language searching, Grateful Med disks, pricing algorithms, Auto SDIs and NTIS invoices will be things of the past. From the time when there were only a few search analysts, to the expansion of the search audience to include: hospital librarians, then health professionals, and now the general public, the Library has used ELHILL to reach users with a quality system for searching MEDLINE and over 40 other databases.

The Library is mandated to end its dependence on the mainframe computer and with the accelerated use of the Internet, it was time to transition off of ELHILL. In April there were only 2,200 billed ELHILL users compared to well over 100,000 at its peak. And of those 2,200 we estimate only a few hundred are librarians. I hope none of you feels threatened by this decision. Today's technology has determined the future for us. No group will be disenfranchised.

I like the way librarian Barbara Frey said it in a recent article titled, Perpetual Transition, in Gratefully Yours, ( Barbara asked: "Do I feel threatened by users doing their own searches, using their desktop, laptop, and palm-held computers, from their offices, planes, trains and automobiles? No. Systems keep changing. Some users can keep up; others rely on the professional resource -- you, the librarian."

Feedback Requested
I ask you, the professional librarian, to continue to keep us at NLM on our toes. Give us feedback on all our products and services. We value your suggestions and your criticism, especially in this time of transition. It's now time for your questions and comments. As usual, we will answer each question to the best of our ability but we reserve the right to change any answer once we return to Bethesda. Official answers will be posted online in the NLM Technical Bulletin (MEDLARS Questions and Answers).

--prepared by Sheldon Kotzin
Chief, Bibliographic Services Division
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