IUBio

Medline via Internet & Grateful Med

kleinschmidt at mcclb0.med.nyu.edu kleinschmidt at mcclb0.med.nyu.edu
Fri Jul 10 00:48:36 EST 1992


I just went through the procedure of setting up an account with MEDLARS for 
Medline access over the Internet.  As with nearly everything involving the 
government, it is somewhat complicated.  Here's the scoop.

1.  Ask for the 2-page "Online Services Application" (form # OMB 0925-0223).  
Also request the MEDLARS information packet.  Send your request to:
	
	MEDLARS Management Section
	National Library of Medicine
	8600 Rockville Pike
	Bethesda, MD 20894
	Phone: 800-638-8480
	Fax: 301-496-0822

You will receive the online services application (form A) and online billing 
agreement (form B).  NLM offers three ways of paying for MEDLARS services: 
direct payment (due upon receipt of monthly invoices), Credit Card (VISA, 
Master Card, American Express), deposit account (you deposit funds in advance, 
min. $100).  Take your pick.

2.  Send or fax the application back to MEDLARS.  Supposedly, within 5 working 
days, they will send you your user ID and password.
  
The Internet address for MEDLARS searches is:

	medlars.nlm.nih.gov

3.  Once you have your ID and password, you can login directly to the NLM 
computer and conduct your Medline searches online, provided you know how to 
use the rather esoteric MEDLARS command language for direct online database 
searching.  Alternatively, for a mere $29.95, you can get Grateful Med, a 
software package produced by the NLM that makes Medline searching very easy.  
The purchase of Grateful Med also gets you $40 worth of credit for Medline 
searches.  This package is a real bargain: it contains Grateful Med (in both 
5.25 and 3.5 in. diskette formats, a total of 9 diskettes), a helpful "How To" 
tutorial on diskette, and a classy looking User's Guide in a 3-ring binder.  
Versions of this software are available for both MS-DOS machines and Mac's; 
you have to specify which one you want.

Many people including those who use Grateful Med, seem to access Medline and 
the other MEDLARS databases via modem using Tymnet or Telenet.  But since one 
can access the NLM computer now also over the Internet, Grateful Med also 
includes TCP/IP telecommunications software for Internet access from PC's or 
Mac's.  They supply two programs for this purpose, the public domain NCSA 
telnet (which I was using anyway) and something called Wollongong Pathway 
Access.  They also support the Novell Access Method (NASI).  I find the NCSA 
package to be full-featured and very easy to use.  Telecomm setup and 
accessing the network is all automatic; you define your search and hit the Go 
key, anf Grateful Med takes care of the rest of copnnecting you to the LNM 
computer.  The only thing that may not be so easy to set up is the NCSA telnet 
config.tel file.  

Grateful Med is designed to minimize the cost of database searches.  You 
leisurely go through the whole search procedure on your local machine, filling 
in an idiot-proof search template, and only when your search is completely 
defined, does the program establish the Internet link, dive into the bowels of 
the NLM computer, grab the citations you want, send them back to your machine 
at Internet speed, and immediately cut the link.  As a result, connect time is 
minimized.  I haven't seen the service charge schedule yet (it's in the info 
package); supposedly, there are charges for connect time ($24/hr at prime 
time, $17/hr at non-prime time), for total # of citations downloaded, for 
total # of words etc.  But I'm told that Medline access through the NLM 
computer is considerably cheaper than Medline searching on the BRS Colleague 
computers.  So far, I've only put out the $30 for Grateful Med, and this gives 
me $40 worth of free search time.  You can't go wrong with that.  I'll try the 
service, and if I like it and it proves to be a good value, I'll stick with 
it.  I've requested the Direct Payment option, so I didn't have to go through 
the trouble and wait of pushing through a purchase order for a service that I 
may not necessarily want to continue.

Of course, there also are drawbacks in using Grateful Med: you can do only one 
search at a time, and the database is chopped up into multiyear segments, i.e. 
if you want to search the whole period from 1966 to 1992, you will have to do 
this in a piecemeal fashion.  Also you don't know how many citations any given 
search will retrieve; you may bring up 1000 refs. and, not knowing this, have 
them all shipped to your machine, at great cost (but there seem to be easy 
ways around that).  With BRS Colleague, although you're burning bucks 
searching on-line with the clock ticking, at least you will know, at any stage 
of the search refinement, how many citations pile up.

My first impressions of Grateful Med are very positive, it seems to be an 
excellent product.  Within a month, I will know if the rest of the package 
(i.e. the $$ of MEDLARS use through Grateful Med) is as inviting.  I'll let 
y'all know!

You have to order Grateful Med from:

	U.S. Dept. of Commerce
	National Technical Information Service 
	5285 Port Royal Road
	Springfield, VA 22161
	Phone orders: 800-553-6847 or 703-487-4650 (they take credit cards)
	Fax orders: 703-321-8547 (only for credit card or purchase orders)

I received Grateful Med within a week of placing the order by phone.

Anyone on the net who is using Medline via Grateful Med, please post your 
impressions!!

Jochen Kleinschmidt
NYU Medical Center




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