Archive for the ‘NIH’ Category

Thursday #medlibs chat: Disaster Information

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

As I write this Wednesday night, I’m listening to news that numerous trauma and burn patients from the West, TX fertilizer plant explosion are being sent to hospitals all over the area with concerns about toxic gas in the community- a sad heads up to Texas medical library colleagues about the Chemical Hazards Emergency Medical Management (CHEMM) resource from the National Library of Medicine.

Please join us at 9pm Easter/6pm Pacific on Thursday night 4/17 for a #medlibs Twitter disaster information chat. The topic this week was… inspired is absolutely the wrong word… by the Boston Marathon tragedy. There wasn’t supposed to be another major disaster this week! I am very grateful for our medical librarian colleagues from NLM and NN/LM stepping up and pitching in to share resources, information and their stories. More details available at the #medlibs blog including a transcript afterwards and I’ll try curating a Storify of resources afterwards although that may take a few days.

January 18 – Stop Internet Censorship

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Wikipedia’s done it

So has Google (sort of)

I, too, stand against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) (quick infographic of why) although I’m not certain I’ve installed the plugin correctly here to indicate that.

By the way, do not even get me started on the Research Works Act (RWA) or I won’t stop. 2012 is turning out to be the Era of Evil Congressional Acronyms as far as I’m concerned.

PubMed Health review in JMLA

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Alisha Miles wrote a great review about PubMed Health for the recent edition of the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) that is worthy of a shoutout.

Alison Aldrich was the blogger assigned to cover National Library of Medicine (NLM) news during MLA 2011 in Minneapolis and an excerpt from the conference blog on May 17th, which was after the article deadline from what I can assume based on the citation dates in JMLA, is

Next came the moment many of us have been wondering about for a long time. What would NLM have to say about PubMed Health, this mysterious new site with such high prominence in Google Search results? In truth, they don’t have much to say… yet. We know its purpose is to provide health consumers with better access to systematic reviews and comparative effectiveness research. We also now know that Google released it in pre-alpha form long before NLM was ready for that to happen. We don’t yet know if or how it will relate to another prominent NLM consumer health website which shall remain nameless here. Betsy reported that PubMed Health will continue to be developed over the summer, and that further announcements would be forthcoming. Watch your RML’s blog for updates. We’ll be covering PubMed Health for sure.

I still haven’t seen any new news about PubMed Health as of now in August though.

MedlinePlus® Connect Webcast

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

The webcast recording is one of the best explanations of MedlinePlus Connect I’ve seen and lasts for a half hour at

I’m currently on vacation and rethinking a lot of my blogging directions, but (as much as I loathe listservs) had to share this as soon as I saw it post to the one for MedlinePlusConnect (what’s that?) (how to subscribe to that high signal/low noise channel).


The next UMLS Webcast will be held on July 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm US Eastern Time.  The topic is “MedlinePlus® Connect: Linking Patient Portals and EHRs to Consumer Health Information”. MedlinePlus Connect ( allows patient portals, electronic health records (EHR), and other health IT systems to link to relevant, authoritative consumer health information from MedlinePlus Connect accepts requests based on problem codes, medication codes, and lab test codes. It also supports the HL7 Context-Aware Knowledge Retrieval (Infobutton) standard. Stephanie Dennis, MedlinePlus Connect project manager, will give an overview of MedlinePlus Connect, explain how to implement it, and explain the National Library of Medicine’s behind-the-scenes work to support it.

Webcast Information:
. Date/Time:  July 27, 2011 – 2pm US Eastern Time
. URL:
. Requirements:
Adobe FlashT enabled web browser
Speakers or headphones (audio will be broadcast over the internet)
.  Captioning will be provided for this Webcast

They don’t mention if it will be recorded for playback later but I hope it will be. If so I’ll update this entry with a link to the recording afterward. Edit: Thanks Patrick! It will be recorded and included in the list here, but I’ll also post the individual recording link. 🙂

PubMed Health: I don’t know who’s on third

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

As promised in the PubMed Health series (Who’s on first? What’s on second?), I still haven’t seen an official announcement but something caught my eye recently that is noteworthy and appreciated: a connection to MedlinePlus on the PubMed Health topic page!

Below is what the link to MedlinePlus information about diabetes looks like in the right sidebar on the PubMed Health Diabetes page:

Something else also caught my eye that is noteworthy and I want to know more about it – comparative effectiveness results explained as “Evaluating your options: Multi-study review of the strengths and weaknesses of various treatment options”

Here’s how it looks on the same PubMed Health Diabetes page, just below the MedlinePlus link:

Here’s the page for the second comparative effectiveness result listed (click to enlarge image)


I don’t see PubMed Health listed among the topics that will be presented at the NLM Theater during the Medical Library Association meeting in Minneapolis, but do see Comparative Effectiveness Research: Everything You Wanted To Know But Were Afraid to Ask.

I’m not afraid, and I’m taking a look at my schedule to make sure I’m there asking about this at some point!

I’ll likely share what I find out in a post here after MLA as I will be an official MLA 2011 blogger. I will post a summary post here with links to all I’ve written over there later too. Please do stop me in the halls and say hi if you’re at MLA! I’ll be the somewhat tall (5’10” without heels) one looking a little bit dazed and confused, this is only my second full MLA experience.

PubMed: Keep calm and carry on?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

pan·ic –noun

1. a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals.

I hate panic. I’m also not a huge fan of unclear information that adds fuel to panic.

The potential for the Federal government to shut down was a very real situation last week with a lot of unknown ‘what if’ factors that was resolved at the 11th hour. Fear of the unknown often leads to panic – that I understand. Apparently Federal agencies themselves could do little to clearly communicate their contingency plans for what was and wasn’t considered essential. That I’m not so sure I understand, but since I’m not a Federal employee I’m not going to try to figure out why.

What I can do is research for information, which I found and shared last Friday to counter whatever tweets I saw that took on panicky tones about whether or not PubMed would remain online: White House says critical websites won’t be affected by shutdown. Granted this information did not name PubMed specifically by name but one would think that the world’s largest medical library resources used by millions of people a day would be considered critical.

Or are they?

What does it mean when National Library of Medicine contractors, verified by listed names on their Twitter accounts through the staff directory, tweet information like this?

I don’t have the answer.

Others have weighed in better than I about the possibilities implied here too.

What’s on second? PubMed Health

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

To update Who’s on first? NLM and Google health searches (please see Abbott and Costello for my post title if there is a third update about this), today we have a tweet from the NCBI account on Twitter about PubMed Health which now does exist as a central URL resource:







Alisha764 is on it with blog coverage of this – just about every question I have about this resource, she’s asked. Read and see if you have the same ones too.

I’m looking forward to hopefully learning more soon.

Who’s on first? NLM and Google health searches

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

3/2/11 edit – please see What’s on second? PubMed Health for an update.

MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is not a catchy name but is a catchy site for patient health information especially since last year’s redesign. Check out this great tutorial (which would make a perfect narrated screencast) on searching keywords on MedlinePlus right from the start in Google. (hat tip Mark MacEachern)

Most medical librarians are well aware of and promote MedlinePlus as a source of quality, unbiased, advertising-free health information to others. There’s still quite a ways to go in having everyone else be well aware of and promote MedlinePlus, especially since a recent New York Times print Sunday magazine article missed it entirely while cautioning against using WebMD.

In October 2009, Eric Rumsey covered the Google Health One Box listing MedlinePlus, Mayo, WebMD and its own Google Health link first for health information searches. There was an important distinction between Google Health (listing Symptoms first) and MedlinePlus (listing Causes first) even though both were drawing upon the same source medical encyclopedia information from A.D.A.M.

In August 2010, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region (NN/LM MAR) and Michelle Kraft covered the launch of PubMed Health as a source of health information for the public from NLM, noting that Google searches for certain drugs were already leading to PubMed Health pages. There was promise of an NLM Technical Bulletin writeup with more detailed information when it launched but I haven’t seen one to date.

Currently, PubMed Health (that is a direct link to popup information that you can find by clicking the logo on a PubMed Health subject page) does not have a direct URL. If you attempt to backtrack from a PubMed Health information page, say for misoprostol (… seriously not reviewed since 2008?) to, the same information as the main home page ( is displayed. There are no links to PubMed Health from within PubMed itself, MedlinePlus, or other NLM resources that I can identify.

Fast forward to last week, 2011. Without any announcement I can find online, Google Health One Box appears to have vanished and most Google health information searches have a brief blurb on the top and a link to…. PubMed Health, containing A.D.A.M medical encyclopedia information? Eric Rumsey is again on the case with great coverage highlighting this change.

Michelle Kraft (congrats by the way!) was prescient on this one back in August:

I just worry about possible confusion with this new resource.  If it is for consumers then calling it something very similar to an already established consumer database is going to be confusing IMHO.

Even more confusing now is this latest development. Where did the Google Health One Box and the MedlinePlus link go for health information searches? How did this NLM and Google arrangement happen? What is PubMed Health now that it’s incorporated A.D.A.M in addition to the initial pharmacy information? What other consumer health resources are on the horizon for PubMed Health? Why are we supposed to promote MedlinePlus if PubMed Health information is what people will find as a result of Google health information searches?

Who’s on first, MedlinePlus or PubMed Health? Google says PubMed Health: that is what the public is now seeing and we as information professionals need to be prepared to respond to inquiries about information from it. What do you say?

Questionable research: Don’t genuflect at Cochrane

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Above is an evidence-based practice pyramid (Creative Commons licensed) from the University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries page about evidence-based practice resources.

For those not familiar with the EBP pyramid, it is a tool used to teach about research articles in medicine with the most relevant to clinical care towards the top (Cochrane Library and then other systematic reviews of the literature) and least clinically relevant towards the bottom (clinical reference texts, case studies etc). I learned about this approach to research when I was studying health informatics in school and didn’t really give it a second thought. This Is The Way It Is and makes logical sense.

Lately I have really been rethinking that gold Cochrane capstone after the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association (PNC/MLA) meeting in Portland last month.

Dr. Erick Turner’s presentation during the meeting of Selective Publication and Drug Efficacy: Don’t Believe Everything You (Don’t) Read (My Notes, His Slides) is a must-read for medical librarians and others concerned about pharmaceutical research and evidence-b(i!)ased medicine. The presentation gives much more background (charts in the slides) than what was published in the book Unhinged with the information about Turner and his work. The review documents for eight of the twelve antidepressants discussed are housed online in the Oregon Health & Science University Digital Resources Library.

At the end of his presentation one of the first questions asked was about the significance of this information for systematic reviews. He replied along the lines of (from my notes)

We use Cochrane as a search method, people genuflect at that name, but all the unpublished trials were missed. Starting point is published literature, FDA reviews are grey literature. Instead, he goes to the grey literature first to identify a cohort of pre-marketing trials then goes to published results to find them which misses post-marketing trials but questions spun factor.

Definitely read my notes or the presentation slides to get the full context of the spin factor since it’s pretty extreme.

Another Medical Librarian Perspective Along the Same Lines

Why Health Sciences Librarians Should Challenge the Flaws of the Peer Review System by Marcus Banks.

We seem to be on a similar wavelength questioning that which is currently seen as sacrosanct:

Yet, despite the recent provenance and pedestrian function of “peer review,” those two words have become holy totems among researchers and librarians.  In our classes we make sure to point students to the checkbox in various databases that limits to peer reviewed journals.  We extol peer reviewed research and excoriate Wikipedia.  And so on and so forth, all in the belief that “peer review” leads people to wonderfully validated, scientifically rigorous, and profoundly accurate research.

Oh, how it doesn’t. But we’re librarians so what can we do about it? Plenty as he suggests:

If we assume that the peer review system is structurally flawed, what should librarians do about it? Here are some options, arranged from least to most attractive:

  • Worst: Continue to glorify the peer review system
  • Better but still bad: Stop the glorification but go no further
  • Better and now good: Vocally discuss the challenges of peer review system on campus
  • Best: Formally challenge funding models/priorities at NIH and elsewhere that sustain peer review flaws.  If funding streams shift behavior change will follow

Many people would say that the best option isn’t for librarians–for policy types and researchers, maybe, but not for us.  We are here to serve, not to challenge.  I disagree, respectfully and yet strongly.  MLA’s Code of Ethics for Health Sciences Librarianship states that one of our roles is to facilitate “informed health care decisions.”  How can we ethically do this if we know that peer review has systemic flaws?


Redesign of the Office of Dietary Supplements Website

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Just saw the newly redesigned Office of Dietary Supplements website announced via Twitter this morning and am impressed by the easy navigability and clear adjustable font size options.

Screenshot of Office of Dietary Supplements website

The Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets in particular are very helpful resources and I appreciate the inclusion of agency names and home webpage links to the original sources when they are not contained within ODS, such as for Evening Primrose Oil to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

Melatonin leads to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), although an evidence report isn’t the same as a fact sheet. Looking around the other NIH agencies they don’t seem to have melatonin resources that aren’t derived from outside agencies either, and I see that as an opportunity for improvement considering that supplement’s popularity.