Exploring PubMed as a reliable resource for scholarly communications services


  • Peace Ossom Williamson Director for Research Data Services, Libraries, University of Texas at Arlington, 702 Planetarium Place, Box 19497, Arlington, TX 76019 http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6229-7514
  • Christian I. J. Minter Community Engagement and Health Literacy Librarian, McGoogan Library of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 986705 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-6705 https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6026-5858




PubMed, MEDLINE, PubMed Central, Scholarly Communications, Predatory Publishers


Objective: PubMed’s provision of MEDLINE and other National Library of Medicine (NLM) resources has made it one of the most widely accessible biomedical resources globally. The growth of PubMed Central (PMC) and public access mandates have affected PubMed’s composition. The authors tested recent claims that content in PMC is of low quality and affects PubMed’s reliability, while exploring PubMed’s role in the current scholarly communications landscape.

Methods: The percentage of MEDLINE-indexed records was assessed in PubMed and various subsets of records from PMC. Data were retrieved via the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) interface, and follow-up interviews with a PMC external reviewer and staff at NLM were conducted.

Results: Almost all PubMed content (91%) is indexed in MEDLINE; however, since the launch of PMC, the percentage of PubMed records indexed in MEDLINE has slowly decreased. This trend is the result of an increase in PMC content from journals that are not indexed in MEDLINE and not a result of author manuscripts submitted to PMC in compliance with public access policies. Author manuscripts in PMC continue to be published in MEDLINE-indexed journals at a high rate (85%). The interviewees clarified the difference between the sources, with MEDLINE serving as a highly selective index of journals in biomedical literature and PMC serving as an open archive of quality biomedical and life sciences literature and a repository of funded research.

Conclusion: The differing scopes of PMC and MEDLINE will likely continue to affect their overlap; however, quality control exists in the maintenance and facilitation of both resources, and funding from major grantors is a major component of quality assurance in PMC.

 This article has been approved for the Medical Library Association’s Independent Reading Program.


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Original Investigation