Index Medicus

Index Medicus
Producer United States National Library of Medicine (United States)
Disciplines medical science
Record depth Index
Format coverage journal articles
Print edition
Print title Index Medicus
Print title 1879-2004
ISSN 0019-3879

Index Medicus (IM) is a curated subset of MEDLINE, which is a bibliographic database of life science and biomedical science information, principally scientific journal articles. From 1879 to 2004, Index Medicus was a comprehensive bibliographic index of such articles in the form of a print index or (in later years) its onscreen equivalent. It was begun by John Shaw Billings, head of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, United States Army. This library later evolved into the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM). In the 1960s, the NLM began computerizing the indexing work by creating MEDLARS, a bibliographic database, which became MEDLINE. Index Medicus thus became the print presentation of the MEDLINE database's content, which users accessed usually by visiting a library which subscribed to Index Medicus (for example, a university scientist at the university library). It continued in this role through the 1980s and 1990s, while various electronic presentations of MEDLINE's content also evolved, first with proprietary online services (accessed mostly at libraries) and later with CD-ROMs, then with Entrez and PubMed. As users gradually migrated from print to online use, Index Medicus print subscriptions dwindled. During the 1990s, the dissemination of home internet connections, the launch of the Web and web browsers, and the launch of PubMed greatly accelerated the shift of online access to MEDLINE from something one did at the library to something one did anywhere. This dissemination, along with the superior usability of search compared with use of a print index in serving the user's purpose (which is to distill relevant subsets of information from a vast superset), caused the use of MEDLINE's print output, Index Medicus, to drop precipitously. In 2004, print publication ceased. Today, Index Medicus and Abridged Index Medicus still exist conceptually as content curation services that curate MEDLINE content into search subsets or database views (in other words, subsets of MEDLINE records from some journals but not others). This filters search results with a view toward excluding poor-quality articles (such as by excluding junk journals), which is often helpful depending on the needs of the user.


Index Medicus publication began in 1879 and continued monthly through 1926, with a hiatus between 1899 and 1902.[1][2] During this hiatus, a similar index, the Bibliographia medica, was published in French by the Institut de Bibliographie in Paris.[1] The Index Medicus was amalgamated with the American Medical Association's Quarterly Cumulative Index to Current Literature (QCICL) as the Quarterly Cumulative Index Medicus (QCIM) in 1927 and the AMA continued to publish this until 1956.[1] From 1960 to 2004 the printed edition was published by the National Library of Medicine under the name Index Medicus/Cumulated Index Medicus (IM/CIM).[1] An abridged version was published from 1970 to 1997 as the Abridged Index Medicus.[3] The abridged edition lives on as a subset of the journals covered by PubMed ("core clinical journals").[4]

The last issue of Index Medicus was published in December 2004 (Volume 45). The stated reason for discontinuing the printed publication was that online resources had supplanted it,[5] most especially PubMed, which continues to include the Index as a subset of the journals it covers.[6]

Journal selection

Inclusion into the Index is not automatic and depends on a journal's scientific policy and scientific quality.[7] These criteria are evaluated by the "Literature Selection Technical Review Committee" and the final decision is made by the NLM director.[7] The review process may include outside reviewers and journals may be dropped from inclusion.[8]

See also


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