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May 02, 2007

FAQ: Why Aren't My Articles Listed?

Q:

I just browsed the mblog entry for the dental faculty publication list, but my recent publications are not listed. One is not even on the PubMed yet! What should I do?

A:

First off, let me describe how these lists are generated.

The Library has automatic searches that run everytime the OVID Medline database is updated. We have two searches, because we found that there was no methodology for one search that was truly inclusive of all our faculty. Both search strategies retrieve very different lists of articles.

The first search looks through all the dental literature published, and limits it to that with primary author addresses in Ann Arbor Michigan. Those are skimmed by the librarian to ensure that the address or names are for people in the School of Dentistry. Since many of our faculty have joint appointments with other schools on campus, we did not want to limit to just publications listed the School of Dentistry for their address. The flaw of this search is that it may include articles by people no longer at the School, but who listed this address before they left, and it will not include articles by faculty who are not listed as first authors.

The second search is a list of faculty names limited to addresses in Michigan. The School of Dentistry provided the Dentistry Library with a list of faculty associated with the School. This was a large search, and obviously can become dated as soon as people leave the school or new people arrive. If you are a new faculty member, please introduce yourself and we will try to add you to this search. The flaw of this search strategy, aside from datedness, is that many faculty names are similar or identical to names of other authors from other institutions. Because of authoring partnerships that cross institutional boundaries is not always possible to verify that two authors with the same last name and initials are or are not different people. Thus some articles might be listed that are by authors not from the School of Dentistry, or articles may not be listed that are from the School of Dentistry.

If you skim the dates of the articles that are listed, you may notice that many of them are a bit older than you might expect. This is because I wait to post them until they appear on Medline.

OVID Medline is often a month behind PubMed, and articles will appear on PubMed first. For dental articles, PubMed can range from immediate listing to up to 18 months post-publication. This depends in part on how busy things are at NLM, and in another part on the prestige and publication practices of the journal.

Basically, some journals provide pre-publication data to PubMed. Those articles will be listed in PubMed almost immediately, and will reach OVID Medline when they are fully cataloged. I don't know for certain, but I suspect that the catalogers might do these sooner since they have partial data and might be faster to complete. For those dental journals that do not provide pre-publication data to NLM, they will not appear in PubMed until after they have been fully cataloged. This can take several months. Some years ago, information available suggested you might wait 18 months before really worrying, but this may have changed since then. In any case, this delay is an excellent justification for hand searching when doing a systematic review.

What can you do about it? At the level of the individual article, you can't do much at all. While PubMed does have a way to contact them, this is useful primarily for reporting errors of the database content -- when there is a typo that is different than what was actually published in the journal, or when the cataloging doesn't match that for other similar articles. More information on how to contact NLM about PubMed is here.

PubMed: Contact the Help Desk: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/contacts/contact_pubmed.html

The most useful action you can take is to encourage the journals in which you publish and the professional associations of which you are a member to provide their pre-publication data to NLM for PubMed.

Posted by pfa at May 2, 2007 06:20 PM

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