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This article was written by Hope Leman.
Mednar is here and it is good. Check it out medical librarians, public library staff, academic librarians who do life science searches, busy front-line clinicians, clinical researchers, medical school faculty, power searchers generally in the health sciences and anybody, indeed, who wants quick, authoritative results in health searching. Yet another impressive achievement of the firm Deep Web Technologies, which already has a stellar record of achievement providing the underlying technology of Scitopia.org, Science.gov, WorldWideScience.org and the brand new Biznar, a free, publicly available business research site. Check that one out, too.
Why is the firm called Deep Web Technologies and what is federated search, which is its specialty? Federated search is simply the capacity to search several online resources at the same time. The Deep Web is also called “The Invisible Web” and consists of gray literature and similar hard-to find content, such as heavy duty science and medical databases that the average search engines don’t tend to provide results from. That is where Deep Web Technologies comes in. Professional societies and the big players in federally-funded science search rely on it. It delivers sleek, elegant interfaces and solid search results. I like its stuff a lot. That is why I am up at 4:23 a.m. playing with it rather than sleeping before I have to get ready for my day job at around 7 a.m. Good technology should be exciting and something that compels you to get out of bed to go seek information about subjects you care about. Therefore, scientists, medical people and people who are ill or who love someone who is driven to seek information should take a spin in Mednar and the other products of Deep Web Technologies. They are the must-have tools of today and tomorrow.
Okay, enough rhapsodizing (couldn’t help it — it is that good). Why do I like Mednar so much?
Well, as someone who works in a medical library and spends many happy hours working in the kingdom of medical search tools, PubMed, I am always interested in seeing what else is out there in health sciences search. One thing I liked right away about Mednar was how it easy it was to set up an email alert on the latest results on my subject of choice, in this case my consuming interest amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I have been receiving daily updates of the latest research on that subject from Mednar and they are quite fascinating. Now that might some strike some as not particularly novel or exciting (think Google Alerts), but it is really surprising how few options one has in terms of current awareness of authoritative (where Google falls down) daily bulletins and it never hurts to supplement the services one can get from PubMed. The one glitch in the email alerts is that when I click on some of the options I am taken to the log-in page of a resource I may not subscribe to. But at least I get the title to work with and can use other avenues to learn more about an article I might never have learned about otherwise. And if you follow a rare disease or even a common one that is making your life miserable, you don’t want to run the risk of missing out on key developments.
In that regard, Mednar is an extremely useful complement to PubMed in that there is a lag time before the very latest articles get into PubMed. Everything is vetted to the nth degree before it enters the hallowed halls of PubMed and while that is desirable and necessary, it also prevents timely notice of interesting developments or awareness of perhaps ultimately insignificant but nonetheless interesting, thought-provoking developments. By contrast, Mednar include among its results EurekAlerts and identifies them by the institution (e.g. Brandeis University) or organization (e.g. the American Academy of Neurology) that the press release concerned is discussing so that you don’t click on something of little interest. That’s an excellent way to monitor where the centers of research activity are in certain medical conditions and an easy method of keeping up in an engaging, entertaining way on what is happening now instead of waiting for a meta-analysis to appear in PubMed two years hence. You can learn a lot from press releases. For instance, in my search through the EurekAlerts in my search on ALS I came across this result about a touching article in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, something I might not have encountered otherwise. What I want from a search engine is for it to tell me something I don’t already know or that I would not have learned about from one of its rivals. Mednar does all of that.
Additionally, Mednar provides results by author, which enables users to quickly determine who seems to be the leading authority in a given field or at least someone who has published quite a bit in it.
Mednar also is a forgiving, patient envirnoment. For instance, I tried “proteomics in nephrology” but that resulted in much extraneous stuff. I then tried just “proteomics nephrology” and got tons of useful material. That is the mark of a good search engine. If you bumble and fumble and get nothing, trying different wording improves matters. Mednar definitely is on its way to becoming an outstanding launch pad for medical subject searching and it easy to see why frugal but astute purchases of services for government scientific agencies, demanding overseers of the databases of scientific societies and university libraries turn to Deep Web Technologies for prowess in search technology. Those are not easy audiences to win over and it has consistently done that. This is the state-of-the-art stuff, folks.
I wish had the brains of its CEO, Abe Lederman. I am in jaw-dropping, stupefied awe at the general excellence of the products of his firm. Anything that saves all of us time as we hunt for relevant data amidst overwhelming amounts of information on every conceivable aspect of disease day after day catches my attention and it has been caught today by Mednar. It searches many databases that PubMed and NLM Gateway do not, let alone other commercial search engines. That alone is a public service and I fondly hope that Elsevier and Springer and the other sci-tech publishers will start to see the value in working with innovative superstars in search and enlist them to render their superb content searchable. My wallet is open to good stuff in the sciences if I can find it and Mednar helps me find it. It is up to the sci-tech publishers to decide if they want to find eager, paying consumers of their content by working with Mednar. In the meantime, Mednar is educating us all about databases that we didn’t even know existed. Edifying those of us who like to think we know everything is noble work.
About the author: Hope Leman is a research information technologist for a health network in Oregon and is also Web administrator of the grants and scholarship listing service ScanGrants.
Additional health search resources are listed in the Highlight HEALTH Web Directory.