BiomedExperts.com, ListServs and The Wrong Orifice

So, from the start I thought BiomedExperts sounded like a pretty neat idea- a social network wherein personal profiles are built with data from PubMed.

From the FAQ:

“Profiles in BioMedExperts (BME) are generated by extracting and assigning the biomedical concepts from an article to the authors and co-authors that are listed with the published article. We have done this on six million scientific publications from over 6,500 journals. BME currently contains profiles of about 1.4 million biomedical experts from more than 150 countries, representing approximately 12 million connections in the pre-established BME network. BME experts can access the system to revise and/or update their personal details, publications and/or preferences”

Huh. Neat. Definitely worth checking out.Tangent: A medical librarian friend describes it to me as “really just an advertisement for Collexis” and its “INCREDIBLY expensive” products. I haven’t looked into that…but even if that’s true, it doesn’t mean that BiomedExperts can’t be useful.

Before I got around to checking it out, though, a discussion blossomed via the Web4Lib listserv. Gerry MckKernan started things out by sharing the known details.

Tom Peters wrote, quite reasonably:

“…Yes, if this proves successful, I think similar things could be created for other disciplines.”

…to which Thomas Krichel replied:

“and another set of nails on the coffins of libraries.”

Whhhaaaaa…? I was baffled- but It seems I wasn’t alone. Jesse Ephraim made me smile with his reply to Thomas Krichel:

“If something like that is a set of nails on the coffins of libraries,then libraries deserve to die out.

We need to quit thinking of these things as challenges to our domain, and start looking at other ways that we can be useful.

Adaptation and change will be the norm from now on.”

I decided upon reading this that I would like to buy Jesse the beverage of his choosing for being so unapologetically correct.

But Thomas Krichel wasn’t done:

“Tell me, if all biomedical scientists were to use biomedexperts, why would the US government still fund PubMed?”

Why WOULDN’T they? BiomedExperts doesn’t compete with PubMed/MEDLINE. Rather, it RELIES on PubMed/MEDLINE. If Mr. Krichel is going to play chicken little, perhaps he could try actually *looking* at the sky before pronouncing it to be in free-fall?

But this was the part that bugged me the most. Jesse Ephraim had said (rightly, I think) that “[a]daptation and change will be the norm from now on.”

Thomas Krichel retorted:

“Go and tell that to the NLM. I am not sure they will obey, but it’s worth a try.”

Again: Whhhaaaaa…? It is far from perfect, but I think PubMed exemplifies pretty well a tool that is constantly adapting, constantly changing. Some days I wish it changed and adapted less. My point: There are privately-funded institutions that innovate a hell of a lot less. Anyone who works in a health sciences library knows how much the NLM has accomplished and continues to accomplish.

I guess I can’t really blame Krichel for not knowing this. A quick look at his C.V. seems to indicate that he doesn’t work with biomedical literature or in a health sciences library- so he can’t be expected to speak knowledgeably about the NLM.

Only on listservs and blogs can you see supposedly educated people speak completely out of the wrong orifice in this manner.

Anyway. As an example, check out T. Scott Plutchak‘s profile in BiomedExperts.
t_scottprofilebme.png
(Click on thumbnail for full-size image.)

3 thoughts on “BiomedExperts.com, ListServs and The Wrong Orifice

  1. Your post prompted me to go in and take a look at my profile. Couple of things —

    Regarding your footnote — I think there’s some truth to it being an advertisement for the products that Collexis sells — but I think the products that they sell are really pretty cool. They are expensive, and so far, their customers seem to be fairly well-heeled research universities. We’ve looked into what they offer here, and while it would help us address a number of issues that we’re looking at in getting our arms around the totality of our research production, it’s not something we’re going to invest in at this point. But they are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

    As to BiomedExperts.com itself, although the terms of use say that you can be a Visitor or a Member, I couldn’t figure out how to browse the database without registering. Did you find a way to do that?

    Once I registered, the first thing I noticed was that they hadn’t pulled everything out of PubMed that I’ve published in the last ten years. They’re big on their “disambiguation” feature that can sort out the various authors with the same name and decide who is who. One would think, given my last name, that it’d be pretty simple. So how come they missed six out of twenty-one citations?

    One of my publications is co-authored by Bruce Madge, and they did find that one. And yet, although they have Bruce in the database, when they constructed my profile, he’s not included as a co-author. Why?

    The privacy policy states that you can opt out of having email announcements sent to you by checking the appropriate box on your personal information page. Maybe I just haven’t had enough coffee yet, but I couldn’t find anyplace where I was able to opt out.

    My bottom line then (allowing for the fact that I’ve only spent a very few minutes with it and am probably just missing the answers to some of my questions) is that I think it’s very intriguing, has great potential, but is still very much a work in progress. I would like to spend more time with the subject analysis side of it — I just peeked into that and was quite fascinated by some of the topic headings they claim I’ve written about.

    And, by the way, I think you’re absolutely right about Krichel’s comment about a “nail in the coffin”. And as far as NLM goes, he might want to peruse their recently published long-range plan.

  2. The fact that I was aiming at the NLM has some background, that I did not point out.

    I have obtained a license to use the PubMed data to build an author registration system similar to the one in the RePEc author service http://authors.repec.org, which has been a tremendous boost to the RePEc digital library http://repec.org, both of which are my creations. Similarly, an author registration service for PubMed would be tremendous boot for PubMed, and I am willing to run it for them at no cost.

    The NLM not only said that they would not use records from such a service. The made it an explicit condition that I would not even offer these records to them, so they would not come close to the temptation of saying, yes, we could use them to enhance service.

    I am still pursuing work on the creation of such a service. Get back to me privately (krichel@openlib.org) if you want to know more. Use “author service” as a subject line.