Ok, I am dancing in my seat saying “I told you there is a problem with PMC as the backdoor to PubMed.” I know it is gloating but librarians get so little to gloat about so forgive me.
Back in 2011 I wrote the post, Backdoor Method to Getting Articles into PubMed: Is indexing so important? At the time I was more concerned about the findability and lack of indexing of PMC articles that found their way into PubMed. It wasn’t until a few years later with the popularity of Beall’s List did I begin to think about the quality of PMC articles now in PubMed. In a discussion on the Medlib-l listserv regarding Beall’s list I mentioned the PMC backdoor again. As I said, ther are “some researchers who see no distinction between PMC submitted journal articles from non-indexed journals and ones that are indexed in MEDLINE. To them it is in PubMed and that is good enough.”
I am so happy that Kent Anderson in the Scholarly Kitchen wrote the post, “A Confusion of Journals – What is PubMed Now?” His post along with articles and communications published in peer reviewed journals Neuroscience, Lancet, and Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation mention the ever growing problems of predatory journals within the profession. Neuroscience and Lancet specifically mention the problem within PubMed.
Unfortunately, many doctors and researchers believe what Jocalyn Clark and Richard Smith write in the editorial piece in The BMJ, “Articles in predatory journals, although publicly available through internet searches, are not indexed in reputable library systems. The articles are not discoverable through standard searches, and experienced readers and systematic reviewers will be wary of citing anything from these journals. The research is thus lost. ”
That is a partially true statement. The articles in PubMed Central are NOT indexed in MEDLINE, HOWEVER they are totally discoverable through standard searches in PubMed. The “research” from that predatory journal is not lost. It is is very discoverable in PubMed.
Personally, I think this is a mess. NLM should not have given its repository the name PubMed Central, it is confusing and just the name muddies the waters. But that ship has sailed. NLM needs to put some serious authority control on PMC quickly. Not only do articles in predatory journals water down what is already indexed in MEDLINE and within PubMed but it could be have significant problems for the treatment of patients and researchers. Fake news seems to be the phrase of the day recently. More than ever people need reliable resources where they can find credible information. Allowing articles from predatory journals into PubMed through PMC creates a credibility problem with PubMed. It is basically like seeing Gweneth Paltrow’s Goop medical advice published on WebMD.
I really hope Kent’s post and the other researcher’s articles get the attention they deserve. I hope it leads others to look at and question the quality of articles allowed into PubMed by virtue of PMC. Then perhaps NLM will look at quality control methods for PMC. If they don’t they run the risk of ruining PubMed. We already use another (pay) database when we must assess the quality of article.