Back Door Method to Getting Articles in PubMed: Is Indexing so Important?
A very good friend of mine is a professor who researches and writes a lot on malaria. He emailed me this morning to tell me that he had recently published an article in a journal that was not indexed in MEDLINE, but he was able to get the citation and abstract in the PubMed database anyway.
His research is funded by the NIH and the article he published is open access, so he made it available for immediate release and submitted it to PubMed Central. Voila, his article, although not indexed, is in PubMed.
He ended the email saying, “You probably knew this but how come we are never privy to this trick.” This is where I am embarrassed to say that I did not know you could get an article published in a journal not indexed in MEDLINE into PubMed by sumitting it to PMC. I had no idea. I knew there were non-indexed articles in PubMed, but I always understood those to fall into two categories, 1. new and waiting to be indexed 2. articles in indexed journals that aren’t medically related…for example Dynamics of magnetic domain walls under their own interia. Science. 2010 Dec 24;330(6012):1810-3 is in PubMed but isn’t indexed.
I had no idea that PMC articles were automatically added to PubMed. I always thought PMC articles were in journals indexed in MEDLINE that were OA. Now, my friend said in his email that he got his article indexed in PubMed. He was wrong, the article is not indexed. If you search for it in PubMed using only MeSH terms or if you are like me, an avid Ovid user, and you don’t often search the Ovid MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations file you are going to totally miss that article.
Early librarian me probably would have been extremely concerned because the article wasn’t indexed. However, how important is indexing when you can get your article in PubMed anyway without indexing? Let’s face it normal people don’t search PubMed correctly. Almost every library user I see searching PubMed is doing their Google style searching in the database. A simple Google search for malaria and my friend’s last name retrieved the article immediately (top result since it is a 2011 article).
The article isn’t indexed in MEDLINE yet it is totally retrievable through PubMed and that is the DOC (database of choice) for biomedical researchers. Researchers’ understanding of the differences of being in PubMed vs. in the MEDLINE database are already extremely blurry. They interchange the two terms (and librarians do too) when in fact there is a technical difference. PubMed and MEDLINE have become the Coke/Pepsi of medical databases. Two different products but people use the terms interchangeably when ordering a cola soft drink. (Don’t even get me started on the Pop vs Soda debate.) As I mentioned, you have an ever growing group of users who do keyword searching on a structured vocabulary database.
So what is the value of being in MEDLINE when you are in PubMed and what is the value of having a journal article indexed when people don’t search that way anymore? All scientists want is for their research to available to be read and cited. Getting an article in PMC does that. Perhaps it is time for us to let the indexing go. Wow I can’t believe I am saying that as a librarian because I love using MeSH to search. But, just because we love something doesn’t mean that its time hasn’t past.
My friend gave me permission to repost his email to the blog, to better understand how he as a researcher feels about the whole thing. (All identifying information has been removed or changed.)
From my end, the NIH really cares that you have a PCMID (and a link to the pubmed page) for all manuscripts on your Biosketch or the paper doesn’t count. At least they are heavily moving in this direction to keep people more honest.
Also who cares if the MESH terms didn’t get indexed; the title, author names, and the entire abstract did. My MESH terms would have been earth shattering terms like, malaria, antimalarial drug discovery, new drugs etc. all of which are in the abstract.
I found it all these ways by searching pubmed.gov for: My name, Part of the title, Sentence from the abstract, and keywords
It is searchable from Google Scholar and is in Ohiolinks now too.
All of which is nice because now people can find it and cite it (infact someone already has). And now that it is in PMC they can read it easily, more so than other articles which are not in PMC or open access.
Basically all he wants is the PCMID and his journal to be findable in PubMed (which it is). As he mentioned he doesn’t care about MeSH. Hmmm something to think about librarians.