PubMed sucks, or the user is broken

Anna Kushnir runs a blog on a high profile platform over at Nature Publishing. Last Saturday she complained about the user fiendliness of PubMed.

I have spent an absurd amount of time on PubMed recently and can say in no uncertain terms that it is making my dissertation writing way more painful than it needs to be. I can hold a paper in my hands, search for two authors’ last names and have PubMed come up with nothing.

PubMed, however is probably the most widely used bibliographic database in the world. Certainly in the world of Medicine. Many libraries run special classes to teach the intricacies of PubMed. We -librarians- have to admit, searching PubMed is not easy.  It is certainly not intuitive. After you’ve found what you searched for, then it is complicated to get the information over to another programme such as Reference Manager or EdnNote. If you succeed in that, you get abbreviated journal title’s, authors with maximally two initials etc….

How surprising was the reaction of Dean Giustini. Well his reaction is perhaps typical for a librarian in general, we go out and teach the user a few tricks. We teach and teach. The database is not broken! It’s the user we need to mend.

I thought Dean would know better than this. Of course he is right in the fact that this complaint on PubMed is an excellent teaching moment. But I would rather stress the message from Anna Kushnir, and that is that searching PubMed is not intuitive. Far from it. Even if you would have had classes some years ago in searching PubMed, that knowledge is now obsolete. That is good for PubMed, they innovate and improve, but when we think that refresher courses in searching PubMed should be high of the lists of Doctors, surgeon and medical researchers, we are speculating on the wrong track. They simply don’t have time for these courses. It is a rat race to keep informed on the progress of their own specialities. Why would they need courses for full time MLIS professionals to search a bibliographic database?

We have to go out there and listen to our users. Anna Kushnir is one of them. Her message is plain and simple, searching PubMed -however good we think it already might be- should become more intuitive. I think we should do a lot better and can do a lot better to build these more intuitive search engines.

I see the post from Anna more as a challenge for our profession, than as a teaching moment.

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With apologies to my English readers.

De posting gaat over mijn Nederlandstalig blog. Wegens een ongekend grote en hevige spam attack op mijn andere domein is het commentaar daar tijdelijk gesloten, en kan ik daar op dit moment ook niet posten. Daarom dit kanaal maar even gebruiken om mijn trouwe lezers op de hoogte te stellen. Via de koppen in de linkerkollom wordt dit wel op die site getoond.

Wat is RSS toch handig…..

New issue of Evidence Based Library and Information Practice available

The latest issue of EBLIP has been published. The new issue contains two full articles (Developing a Comprehensive Search Strategy for Evidence Based Systematic Reviews and Improving Customer Satisfaction: Changes as a Result of Customer Value Discovery), but many evidence based summaries. The latter I find particularly interesting. These summaries give a thorough review of research published elsewhere. A really quick way of catching up with the literature. The title in this issue I couldn’t resist was Too Few Articles in the Journal Literature on Instruction in Academic Libraries are Research-Based.

BTW for those interested, the journal is looking for new editorial advisors. They have an impressive list already, but they are still looking for more hands. What I had not realized is that the journal is double blind peer reviewed. I wonder how many journals in our profession can actually boast that.

ISI Web of Knowledge development survey

Thomson Scientific has posted a small survey on the new Web of Knowledge interface. It only took 5 to 10 minutes to complete. Really worth the effort when you are serious about this product. One of the questions struck me as a bit odd was where they inquired about the necessity of a fully functioning back button on your browser. It struck me as odd since I have heard from marketing people themselves that users are complaining about a not functioning back button. I only get frustrated a couple of times per session in Web of Knowledge when a page has expired once again. Old habits never die. So each time a whistle a foul tone when it happens.

So please take this Survey, and tell them!

The response box for ideas for improvement is a bit small. So please ISI have a look at the following related posts:

Seems that times are changing, and they start listening to their users again!