New PubMed search site will continue to evolve

PubMedIf you’re a frequent user of PubMed, you have likely already noticed the new website layout and have probably noticed some differences in search options or functionality. The new PubMed was first tested in labs at the National Library of Medicine site in March of 2019 and launched officially in fall 2019, but it wasn’t formally rolled out as the default until May 2020. (The old site is still available for a little longer — at least through the end of October — here.)

The initial response to the new PubMed was … not very positive. People will continue to differ on how well they like the new layout and interface — it’s common for many to be unhappy when a new interface is rolled out on any site — but that’s primarily a cosmetic change. What’s more important is that you understand the functionality and search changes that could affect the results you get and how you are able to conduct searches. For an overview, check out the NLM’s FAQ about the overhaul.

Here are some of the key resources and changes to be aware of.

  • Old PubMed links will redirect to the new PubMed’s entry. (You shouldn’t have to worry about a bunch of broken links in past articles.)
  • Results may be slightly different between the old and new PubMed for reasons related to how the new search technology operates. See the FAQ for details.
  • Searches will return results in the default sort order of “Best Match,” which can be changed to Most Recent, Publication Date, First Author and Journal. Right now, however, if you change your preferences to a different sort order, it may not keep it until the next time you return (though that could change later).
  • Any alerts you have set up should still work as they did before.
  • The PubMed user guide, though lengthy, is a good place to start for detailed questions.
  • The New PubMed: Trainer’s Toolkit contains various helpful handouts that are aimed at trainers orienting researchers to the new site but would be helpful to journalists as well.
  • If you want to get really nitty gritty, this hour-plus-long video discusses how and why Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) change and how they affect PubMed searching.

There are still some subtle changes that have frustrated users and may still change. Drug Monkey, for example, pointed out that you can no longer jump with one click to the last page of a set of results. You have to click on “Jump to page” and then choose which page in the set of results you want to jump to. For really broad term searches, that could be … a lot of pages.

One other thing I noticed while looking for some recent articles about a specific cancer on PubMed was that the site appears to be adding disclosure/conflict of interest statements to study pages below the abstract when that information is available. This is a welcome, long-overdue change, though it appears inconsistently applied at present.

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