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
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:
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
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
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
NYU Medical Center