Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why do you hate me?

Curses upon you, PubMed! Some days you are the bane of my (scientific) existence.

You show up on my web browser and invite me to search your 19 million+ citations. Which I do. I put in my search terms and await the exciting and informative abstracts (like those featured here). You return 12,000 hits (including nearly 600 reviews), many of which aren't going to help me. So I add another term, which brings it down to 7000.

Sometimes we continue these iterations until there are only a couple of hundred titles for me to peruse. I begin digging through articles. This is slowed down by your recently acquired habit asking me if I am sure that want to resend a form again when I try to go back to the search results from AbstractPlus (maybe it's a Safari issue, but I'm blaming you). Anyway I look at article titles and scan abstracts until my eyes bleed. Occasionally it's like a treasure hunt and I find a true gem. Other times it's more like a dumpster dive. (Could I please apply a bullshit filter?)

Then there are those times when the above iterations take me from 300 to 15 citations with the addition of one little word or set of quotation marks. Which can be great. Definite reduction in eye bleeding. But sometimes you don't include a really important paper. Sure, you give me that option of seeing all 'related' articles-except that often ends up being hundreds of related articles about every keyword mentioned in a citation.

On occasion, after various search iterations, you give me nothing at all. And then I search what I am certain are nearly identical (if not precisely the same) terms 3 months later, and you provide me with citations I've never seen before. It would be fine-if they were published during the time I last searched and not 5 or 10 years ago. Making me feel like an idiot... and a tool.

What really drives me NUTS is when I search the same things with slight modifications-like searching 'plumcot' or 'aprium' instead of 'pluot'-and you give me completely different things. Sometimes I can't seem to regenerate the appropriate combination of words to pull up a reference that I KNOW EXISTS because I've looked at it before and it is indelibly imprinted in my brian.

Why do you do this to me, PubMed?!?

Do you just like to screw with me? Do you simply take perverse pleasure in torturing lowly grad students and postdocs?

Have I not proven myself worthy?
Do I need a secret decoder ring?
Is there some dark, ancient, mystical language that holds the key?
Perhaps a ritual sacrifice would help?

Somehow I think you're not to be sated. Our war shall continue for years to come.


Genomic Repairman said...

PubMed taunts you with minutia while hiding the gold eggs from you.

biochem belle said...

So true. It happened again today!