About “1 AND 2 = 3” in My NCBI

1 10 2008

The PubMed My NCBI feature has been updated. The navigation is entirely different and -in my view- less intuitive and more complex. The increased complexity may relate to the new features, some seeming rather unnecessary (filters), others looking promising: my bibliography, persistent cookies, no limit to the number of saved searches or collections per account (hurray!).

You can find details about the My NCBI changes in the NLM-bulletin and in MyNCBI-help.

For now, I just want to address one point, that hopefully is a “temporary error”.

I noticed it last Friday, thought that it was just a technical error of the kind that frequently occurs these days in PubMed, but will be restored without any notice.

But the mistake (?) is still there. It is about HOW PubMed searches are saved

Before, if you combined two sets, say: “#1 AND #2”, set #3 would be created: #1 AND #2.
If you would save #3 in My NCBI, you would save the entire search behind #1 AND #2, but now only the string “#1 AND #2” is saved. You can easily imagine that set numbers #1 AND #2 are only meaningful if #1 AND #2 are still present and the same as in the original search.
A Dutch colleague just shouted out he got an error message when trying to execute a saved search. Set X was not recognized….

Example.

Suppose you want to find an answer to the following question: Is spironolactone useful (compared to cyproterone acetate for instance) to reduce hirsutism in women with PCOS?

You search for:

  • hirsutism (#1) and spironolactone (#2) (checking that these are mapped to the appropriate MeSH using Details)
  • combine the two sets with AND.
  • Subsequently combine #3 with a narrow filter for the Therapy Domain (filter for RCT’s) in the Clinical Queries.
  • Set #4 (=#3 AND filter) gives 23 results.
  • You save set #4 in My NCBI.
  • But what happens:
    It is saved as #3 AND filter, not as: hirsutism AND spironolactone AND filter.
    Reexecuting the search if the original History is gone yields 0 results (or an erroneous result).

Personally I can circumvent most problems, because I optimize my searches in Word (also nice as safeguard when the PubMed servers are overheated), but for most users this is an unnecessary extra step.

I hope this bug (?, I hope it is a bug) is quickly restored by NLM.

Please inform them by writing to the PubMed helpdesk (at the bottom of the PubMed front page). I will do the same.


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2 responses

8 10 2008
Bug My NCBI repaired « Laika’s MedLibLog

[…] Bug My NCBI repaired 8 10 2008 I’m pleased to announce that the bug in PubMed’s My NCBI, that I pointed out a week ago,… […]

16 10 2008
Another bug in My NCBI? « Laika’s MedLibLog

[…] October 1: the (History) set numbers could not be saved in PubMed’s My NCBI (Saved Searches) … […]

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