Confusion on Withdrawn Article from Cochrane

Yesterday I had a request to do some sleuthing on the article,”Androgens versus placebo or no treatment for idiopathic oligo/asthenospermia. Vandekerckhove P, Lilford R, Vail A, Hughes E. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(4):CD000150.  In the PubMed citation there is a nice big WITHDRAWN in front of the title.  The doctor wanted to know why the article was withdrawn.

My first stop was The Cochrane Library on Wiley.  According to The Cochrane Library,”This review has been withdrawn from The Cochrane Library as it has not been updated since 1996.”  Ok makes sense, if the review article hasn’t been updated in that long then I can see withdrawing it.  However, I began to look a little more and of course got a little more confused.  Apparently another review article (same title, authors, and CD#) was published in 2000 and does not have giant WITHDRAWN printed in front of the title on the PubMed citation.

So my brain started to ask the questions…

  • If the 2007 wasn’t updated since 1996, was the 2000 article updated?
  • Why is it when I search for the 2000 article in PubMed there is no mention of it being withdrawn, but when I search The Cochrane Library for both the 2000 and 2007 review articles (both have the same CD#), the databse tells me it is withdrawn? 
  • Shouldn’t PubMed have a big ol’ withdrawn next to the 2000 citation too?

Another question that is bouncing around in my head is in the wake of so many scandals regarding scholarly publishing, were the 2000 and 2007 articles ever updated from 1996?  The way The Cochrane Library has it listed it makes me think not.  Because The Cochrane Library says the article hasn’t been updated since 1996 makes me believe that the original review article was written and published in 1996 or before.  However when I search PubMed there are no articles by these authors on this topic before 2000.  Yet when you look at the 2000 citation it clearly points to a 1996 article:

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD000150. Review. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 1996;(4):CD000150.

Obviously the 2007 review article has been withdrawn and I would be hesitant to use the 2000 one as well.  But it is a little hard to figure out the story behind the withdrawal, other than it hadn’t been updated since 1996.  But there are still a lot of questions left hanging out there.  Now that things are going more digital it seems the breadcrumb path of the article is more nebulous which makes it difficult when those articles are no longer appropriate to use for treatment decisions.

Web Tools For Searching Biomedical Literature

Have you heard of iPubMed, PubGet, Bablemesh, HubMed?  They are some of the many alternative interfaces to PubMed, offering different search and retrieval methods currently not available within PubMed.  With some many of these aternative interfaces how do you keep track of them?  When would it be better to use the alternative interface over PubMed or vice versa?

John Dupuis alerted me to this article, “PubMed and beyond: a survey of web tools for searching biomedical literature” (free full text) from Database (2011) Vol. 2011, doi: 10.093/database/baq036

The article looks at and reviews 28 web tools for searching the biomedical literature and compares them to PubMed and each other and has a website dedicated to tracking existing tools and future advances in the area of biomedical literature search tools.

Abstract:

The past decade has witnessed the modern advances of high-throughput technology and rapid growth of research capacity in producing large-scale biological data, both of which were concomitant with an exponential growth of biomedical literature. This wealth of scholarly knowledge is of significant importance for researchers in making scientific discoveries and healthcare professionals in managing health-related matters. However, the acquisition of such information is becoming increasingly difficult due to its large volume and rapid growth. In response, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is continuously making changes to its PubMed Web service for improvement. Meanwhile, different entities have devoted themselves to developing Web tools for helping users quickly and efficiently search and retrieve relevant publications. These practices, together with maturity in the field of text mining, have led to an increase in the number and quality of various Web tools that provide comparable literature search service to PubMed. In this study, we review 28 such tools, highlight their respective innovations, compare them to the PubMed system and one another, and discuss directions for future development. Furthermore, we have built a website dedicated to tracking existing systems and future advances in the field of biomedical literature search. Taken together, our work serves information seekers in choosing tools for their needs and service providers and developers in keeping current in the field.

Not only does the article look at these 28 interfaces but it also looks at the recent changes to PubMed that were often influenced by these and other outside interfaces.

There is no way any library or librarian can teach or support every one of these interfaces, but this paper is free and is a nice resource to whip out when somebody asks about one of them.

The Mobile Web Is Not An Alternative

Wednesday’s post on medinfo alerted me to this interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “As the Web Goes Mobile, Colleges Fail to Keep Up.”  The article states that more and more college students access the web using the mobile devices.  From the graph in the article, in 2010 43% of college students use mobile devices daily to access the Internet compared to 10.2% in 2008.  That is a huge jump in mobile web usage.  Yet according to the article many colleges “treat their mobile web sites as low-stakes experiments.” 

Of course right away my mind is thinking, “If colleges are treating the mobile web as a low stake experiment, what are the libraries doing?”  Depending on the library’s relationship with the college, it may beholden to the college IT department or it may have its own IT department.  That relationship will help drive a lot of the mobile web direction.  However, what is also driving the libraries’ mobile web direction are the library resource vendors.  How many ILS systems have GOOD mobile web platforms?  In the days of shrinking budgets (state and institutional) how affordable is it to add these ILS companies’ mobile platform to the library’s system?  How can a library justify that extra cost when it is faced with a flat or shrinking budget and may have to cut journals, books, hours, staff, etc? 

How many databases and online books are available/optimized for mobile devices?  Let’s ignore the Nook and Kindle like devices, students ARE NOT using them as mobile devices.  They aren’t carrying them around all the time like they are their smart phones.  They are going to use their smart phones to order Chipotle, text a friend about meeting up or an upcoming test, then they are using it to do research (usually on Google) to find a title/resource and read it.  So how many online medical text books are smart phone optimized?  Not many.

Libraries are beholden to not only their institution’s response to the mobile web but also to their own profession’s resource vendors’ response.  I remember talking to one rather high ranking sales rep for a major medical database/journal/online book provider.  I asked him if his company had created an mobile optimized version of their search database and whether there were plans to gradually optimize their many online books and journals.  He said that quite frankly that he couldn’t see why anybody would want to search that way or read an article or book chapter that way.  He didn’t see as important.  That was about a year ago.  I was gracious and said that I don’t think that way of searching and reading is for everyone but I see it as a large growth area and I know we would eventually get people asking about it.  

Well guess what Mr. Sales rep, the college students of today are my residents and staff physicians of tomorrow.  They are also the current users of your products in college libraries NOW.  Their mobile web usage has jumped tremendously and you along with the libraries are missing out.  If my users don’t usage statistics on your resources drop below a certain line, guess what we drop your resources.  If people aren’t accessing your resources that I subscribe to because they aren’t mobile friendly and they are using the mobile devices, your usage statistics will drop.  How far?  Is it below that magic dropping line?  I don’t know but usage won’t grow, and you and I both want usage to grow.

Just to be fair, NLM’s PubMed smart phone app isn’t burning up the 3G networks either.  Just today, Wouter Stomp MD and Nick Genes MD, PhD who reviewed the 6 of best PubMed apps for iPhone and iPad for iMedicalApps.com said, “Although Pubmed has a mobile version of its website, it looks outdated and is not the easiest to use.”  So just because a library or vendor creates an app or mobile interface doesn’t mean that rest easy.  They need to find out how users use it and what other competitors or libraries are doing to improve their product. 

Are we starting to feel that we are missing the users?  I don’t know, I would guess it depends on your users and your library technology.  But I don’t think this mobile web access is a passing fad.  I think librarians, libraries, and library resource providers are behind the curve on this.

Good Example of Phrase Searching in PubMed

Just like some people like their cars to have a manual transmission while others prefer automatics, librarians tend to fall into one of two MEDLINE camps, those who prefer Ovid and those who prefer PubMed. 

I am an Ovid kind of gal.  Don’t get me wrong I can do a PubMed search and have done them and still do them frequently when I need to, but my MOC (MEDLINE Of Choice) is Ovid.  Since I am in Ovid often enough I tend to see and remember better certain things in my daily searches that might be good teaching methods or examples . 

Because I am not in PubMed as often as Ovid, I don’t have the experience of running across good search examples that I can pass on or use while teaching.  That is why I try and pay particular attention to good PubMed teaching examples as the come up.  I either try and blog about them, tag them, or print them off and save them for later. 

The NLM Technical Bulletin has a nice example of how to do effective phrase searching in PubMed.  This is nice because certain things like “text messaging” (their example) are best searched as phrases.  As the Tech Bull notes it is important to look at the Search Details to know whether your term is being applied in the MEDLINE database as you want/think it to be. 

Really I tell everyone when I teach PubMed to look at the Search Details.  Sometimes I wonder how much they really do that or whether the nodding of their head is not in agreement with my point but instead to the beat of some song they have stuck in their head.

Non-English Guides for PubMed

Those of you in other parts of the world or who work with a lot of international medical professionals who might prefer to learn PubMed in their native language you might be interested to know that the National Library of Medicine has several PubMed guides in other languages other than English.

Information is available in:

  • Chinese / 中文
  • French / Français
  • German / Deutsch
  • Italian / Italiano
  • Japanese / 日本語
  • Norwegian / Norsk
  • Portuguese / Português
  • Russian / Русский
  • Spanish / Español
  • Vietnamese / Tiếng Việt
  • Go to http://nnlm.gov/training/resources/intlpubmedlinks.html

    50 Years of MeSH

    Several librarians at my institution were interested in seeing/listening to the MeSH at 50 – 50th Anniversary of Medical Subject Headings by Robert Braude at NLM a few weeks ago.  Unfortunately at the time, we couldn’t get it to work correctly for some reason. 

    Good news, the program is now available under Past Events on the NIH’s videocast site.  One of the librarians here has already viewed it and said that much of the talk is about “what was (and wasn’t) available/used BEFORE MeSH, and about the initial development of MeSH itself.”  The program lasts about an hour and according the one viewer, there aren’t a lot of “visuals” so it is easy to listen to while multi-tasking at your desk.

    Electronic Resources: Does Your Library Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is?

    I remember listening to a discussion a few weeks ago about library budgets and how dollars are allocated.  If you take away salary and benefits much of the library’s budget is used on resources like databases, journals, books etc., which isn’t much of a surprise.  Also not a surprise is how much of this money is now put towards electronic resources and how less is put towards printed resources.  I do think libraries in general have a way to go before they are entirely online and have no printed books or physical materials on the shelves.  (As to if and when that ever happens, it will probably depend on the type of library and its scope.)  But there is no doubt that we are collecting more online and the amount we are spending for online resources has increased significantly.  Depending on how your library classifies resources you might find that at least 70% of the total resource budget goes to online resources. 

    What was kind of surprising was the percentage of staff costs that go toward the non-electronic resources.  What do I mean by this?  Well on a very simple model (one person library) think of how much time a person spends checking in printed journals, binding journals, ordering and processing printed books, photo copying, routing table of contents, etc. 

    Now ask the question, “Is your library staff structure in balance with your resource spending?”  While the amount staff time may not be exactly equal to your spending, it should not be completely out of whack.  For example how effective is it for your library to have people focusing on BackMed to fill out a collection when your library is shrinking its print collection?  Do you need to have somebody checking print issues in when you get the journal online? How indepth do you need to process a printed book if it is available online? 

    Let us look at it from another angle.  How many people access your website and how many staff do you have to maintain it?  How many staff are doing the high touch outreach services and also adding online tutorials to those they can’t reach?  Now compare that with the how you staff the reference desk where you pay your staff to sit and wait for a question. 

    These are overly simple examples, the true answers can be a little more trickey.  There are also exceptions to every rule and there are reasons we do what we do, but one of the reasons should not be, “We’ve just always done it this way.”  It is easy to fall in to ruts and continue what we have always been doing.  We are creatures of habit.  But every now and then we need to step back and look at our library from a different perspective, look at where the majority of our money is going and whether we are appropriating staff time, knowledge and skills accordingly.

    Videos Indexed in PubMed

    Did you know that there are citations to medical videos in PubMed? It was news to me and several other librarians today.  I was at the New England Journal of Medicine Library Advisory Board today discussing many things, among them the difficulty of finding good medical videos.  That is when one of the people with NEJM mention that their Videos in Clinical Medicine, were indexed and in PubMed.  Almost all of us were stunned, we said, “No they’re not, we’ve never seen them.”  So we grabbed a laptop found the title of one of the videos from the NEJM website and searched for it in PubMed.  Low and behold it was in there.  

    It turns out that videos are being added to PubMed and they are indexed under the Publication Type: Interactive Tutorial which was added to the database in 2008.  So why didn’t we librarians in the room know about this? Well if you search for any PubMed citation where the Publication Type is an Interactive Tutorial you will notice that there are only 758 citations.  In a database of over 20 million citation, 759 is less than a drop in a bucket.  It is more like a drop in the ocean, no wonder we didn’t know the videos were there. 

    Finding good medical videos is always difficult, it is nice to know that PubMed is indexing some of them and PubMed is another tool for discovering them.

    Friday Fun: NLM Milestones

    According to the Technical Bulletin, PubMed has added its 20 millionth citation and PubMed Central has logged its 2 millionth article.

    I almost feel like their should be some balloons falling from the ceiling, noise makers whistling, and confetti and streamers flying about to celebrate the occasion.  Perhaps this is because I am a nerdy librarian who thinks 20 million citations is cool.  Or it could be because I missed the party entirely (the bulletin mentions this actually happened in July.) Oh well.

    Happy Belated 20 Millionth! 

    If you want to read a brief history about PubMed, go to the Technical Bulletin.