Magazine article Online

Peter's Picks & Pans

Magazine article Online

Peter's Picks & Pans

Article excerpt

German Medical

Forum's MEDLINE

CAM Citation Index

Thereference.com

The picks include a MEDLINE version from Germany and a topical MEDLINE subset covering alternative medicine. Ever since the launch of the very impressive and free PubMed, it's been hard to justify other free MEDLINEs for a pick, but the German version and the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine's CAM Citation Index deserve to be picked. The pan is a site that has the guts to call itself "thereference.com" when it consists of merely a few slapdash articles that don't even qualify as half-baked. This does not prevent many compilers from including it among their recommended reference Web sites, which in turn are copied by those who can't imagine life without creating and publishing link lists but not bothering to check what they link to.

the picks

GERMAN MEDICAL FORUM'S MEDLINE

You don't need to speak a word of German to use the German Medical Forum's MEDLINE (http://www.medline.de). Except for the topmost navigational line and the ads, everything is in English, since this site is powered by the KnowledgeFinder (KF) software from Aries, Inc. in North Andover, Massachusetts. This software has been my favorite for a long time because of its outstanding smart search features based on substantial medical linguistic research that go well beyond what other very capable informational retrieval programs such as those of Ovid or PubMed do. Now there is a free unabridged MEDLINE version featuring this high-IQ KF software.

PubMed has had the smartest program for searching free MEDLINE, outperforming many programs used by commercial MEDLINE versions. For example, PubMed automatically adds the preferred MeSH term to the user's query behind the scenes. For the query, kidney stones PubMed adds ki dn ey calculi a MeSH search term. Similarly, if the user enters the term p o s t partum depression or the British term puerperal depression, PubMeddiscreetly adds the preferred MeSH term depression, postpartum to the query. It also maps brand names of drugs into their generic equivalent.

KnowledgeFinder goes further than this. It recognizes the spelling variants in British and American English, and automatically modifies the query-also behind the scenes-by complementing it with the appropriate terms. So searching for pediatric multiple scLerosis will also find the British version, paediatric multiple sclerosis. Does it make a difference? Definitely. The difference is no records in PubMed for the past five years versus a dozen highly relevant records in the KF version of MEDLINE. Of course, professional searchers probably would accommodate the variants in their strategy, but in these days of disintermediation, end-users are likely to ignore the golden rules of professional searching, and just type in familiar terms.

The difference is much bigger when the linguistic and relevance ranking wizardry of KF is applied to a query of multiple words. The query anaesthesia malpractice suits finds a mere two records in PubMed (one French and one German article), while KF yields 200 records (the output limit in KF). At a quick glance 90% of them are relevant or highly relevant. It is quite telling that the 199th entry in the relevance-ordered list is "The Legal Responsibility of the Anaesthetist" with a 60% relevancy rank. I venture that most users would rank its relevance at 100%. At least seven of the last ten records of the 200 are spot on. In case you are wondering if the article "Death associated with anaesthesia" discusses the legal aspects, you should be convinced when you note that malpractice and anesthesia are both major MeSH terms in this record.

The reason for this impressive result is the inclusion of synonyms like professional negligence for malpractice, along with several British and American variants of the root term anesthesia. PubMed retrieves only eight records even when using both British and American spellings, so it is clear there are more tricks involved than a simple equivalency table. …

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