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Alternative Search Engines for the Life Sciences

Posted by on December 9th, 2008 Posted in: Technology

by Hope Leman
Library Technical Specialist
Murray Memorial Library
Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center
Corvallis, Oregon

There is so much for those of us in medical libraries to keep up on: wikis, social networking, Twitter, RSS and on and on. I worry that a basic tool of our trade, the search engine, is getting lost in the whirlwind that is Web 2.0. Here are a few newer search engines in medicine that I have come across while blogging for a search engine review site.


Why do I like Mednar? Because its email alert function works like a dream. Also, it draws upon an interesting mix of databases and is an example of federated search that actually works instead of being a royal pain.

Mednar is a product of the same firm, Deep Web Technologies, that helped create the underlying technology for another interesting science-related site, WorldWideScience.org.


WorldWideScience.org is a major effort to render findable the vast mass of grey literature available in the English language. The term “grey literature” refers to documents and reports that are not formally published. These materials should be harnessed in the interest of scientific progress worldwide. After all, there are brilliant people who may not reside in Cambridge, Massachusetts and brilliant people in Cambridge, Massachusetts who might like to know what their talented peers in resource-poor settings (such as inland China or provincial India) are working on so as to assist them or build on their work to the benefit of science. We medical library people need to use tools that provide us with results from ever greater ranges of sources.


NextBio is it a neat tool for exploring the world of genes. It is also quite innovative in enabling users to join communities and in rendering its tools mobile-search friendly. More and more scientific information is being generated in online communities, and mobile search is the coming thing. Just trying out search engines like these helps us keep tabs on what search startups and big federally funded projects like WorldWideScience.org are up to and adopting and offering.


Vadlo provides a quick way to locate PowerPoint presentations in medicine. There is a huge amount of solid, worthwhile information on a myriad of subjects in the PowerPoint slides of talks by medical professionals. It is a shame that so much valuable information for clinicians has been viewed only, until now, by tiny specific audiences and then filed away. Thanks to Vadlo, this useful material is now findable and viewable on the Web. If a nurse, who is a novice researcher, needs examples of PowerPoint presentations for her first appearance at a professional conference, Vadlo would come in handy for examples to refer her to.

Lalisio Literature

I like Lalisio Literature because it is a handy entry point to the world of open access materials. The open access movement is something we all need to grasp the workings, principles and passions of and exploit to the fullest so as to be empowered to find whatever we can of value in the interstices of the Deep Web and its subset, grey literature. Like Mednar (though not as well), Lalisio Literature enables users to mine the riches of databases and repositories that other search engines don’t always burrow into well if all.

Happy searching!

For more search engine reviews by Hope and others, go to altsearchengines.com.

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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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