Confessions of an addict

by Lorien E. Menhennett

While some of my friends are busy planting and harvesting strawberries, artichokes, or melons to earn coins on FarmVille, I am also likely on the Internet. But not on Facebook. These days, you’re more likely to find me on, a Web site run by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health.

And yes, this is more proof that my brain has been taken over by an alien being. Or perhaps an entire colony of them.

Seriously though. PubMed is incredible. It’s an online database of more than 20 million citations to scientific/medical articles dating back to 1865. Nearly 3 million of those citations include FREE full text. (The vintage-bargain-hound in me loves this.) It’s a fantastic resource if you want to know, say, the role of caveolin 1 in embryonic lung development (something my mentor, Olga, is writing about for a textbook chapter). Just like with Google, you type in your search terms and hualah! Article citations.

Of course, quite often the article I want is NOT free … so I must be satisfied with a mere abstract, or perhaps a less recent (or somewhat less relevant) article. If it’s a matter of life and death (er … success and failure of an experiment, more likely), I can just buy 24-hour rights to read the article from the publishing journal.

It’s that easy. And anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a scientist (or a pre-med student) to enjoy the pleasures of PubMed. For people whose brains haven’t quite mastered the technical language (I include my alien-infested gray matter in this category), reading “reviews” of articles instead of the actual articles themselves is a much easier way of digesting and understanding the information. Just a little tip I picked up from Olga.

So what are you waiting for?