by Hope Leman
Guest Blogger Hope Leman: Hope Leman is a Research Information Technologist at the Samaritan Health Services Center for Health Research and Quality, co-founder of Next Generation Science, a staff writer at AltSearchEngines and the Web administrator of ScanGrants. You can find her on NextBio, FriendFeed and Twitter.
Review of Internet Cool Tools for Physicians by Melissa L. Rethlefsen, David L. Rothman and Daniel S. Mojon
Okay, this is going to one of those book reviews full of praise and every conceivable adjective connoting the concept of “must-read.” And don’t be put of by the cutesy use of “cool” in the title—this is a book of substance and not just for physicians, either. Anyone interested in the provision of health information on the Internet should buy a copy of this book and certainly all public libraries should have it on their shelves. Even experienced medical librarians should at least page through it. I can think offhand of quite a number of professionals and students who would benefit from reading it: nurse researchers, pharmacists, physical therapists, dentists, medical students, nursing students, anyone who does any sort of health sciences research. And given the rise of increasingly sophisticated laypeople as typified by the term e-patient there is a need for well-written, authoritative books such as this one that discuss how to find health information beyond Google, MedlinePlus and Wikipedia.
Before I launch into my paean for nearly every aspect of this book, I do have a few grumbles to get out of the way.
First of all, given the time lag these days between when a book is written and when it is published this book is already dated in that neither Twitter nor FriendFeed nor Facebook appear to be mentioned. That is a major flaw in this otherwise superb book. I say “appear” because the book lacks an index, so I could not simply look for the words “Twitter,” “FaceBook,” and “FriendFeed” in the index. The lack of an index is really dismaying and unfortunate in a book whose subject matter is the acquisition of information. Maybe we can blame the lack of an index on the publisher and not the authors. If so, shame on you Springer. We expect better of such a prestigious publisher. Cutting back on book basics such as indexes is penny wise and pound foolish and a no no for publishers who are reputation conscious.
Also, the incredibly rich research tool of ScienceDirect is given all of one paragraph. This is another case in which Internet Cool Tools for Physicians has been overtaken by the march of time. The host of this blog, NextBio, has rendered ScienceDirect immensely more useful and searchable to users. Here is an edifying screencast (that is itself a model of that genre and one that search engine start-ups hoping to build up usership would do well to emulate):ScienceDirect and NextBio
Click here to see what Elsevier itself says.
As someone who revels in the richness of Elsevier’s riches but who has been frustrated over the years by the clunkiness of ScienceDirect I can only say, “Go, NextBio, go!”
These are the kinds of things that can be addressed in the next edition of Internet Cool Tools for Physicians. I am hoping that there will be one, as this is an outstanding book.
Now that I have gotten the grumbles out of the way, I will proceed to the gushing praise part of this review.
One of the wonderful things about this book is that it is a book. Why is that important? Because so much of what physicians and other medical professionals and medical librarians need to know about medical literature searching and current awareness is known by one group by not necessarily by another. As a non-physician, I can’t mosey around the social network for physicians Sermo.
And I may have to learn important developments like that by attending conferences such as Health 2.0 or hoping to learn about them by happening across blog postings and tweets. Far better to invest in a book such as Internet Cool Tools for Physicians and thereby gain a grasp on key technologies, such as the basics of RSS and have a ready reference to suggest to doctors and others in the health sciences who need a comprehensive guide to such important topics.
The book has very concise, busy professional-friendly sections on how to use Google, Google Health and Google Scholar, PubMed and Medline effectively and efficiently. It covers such useful topics as personalized start pages, third-party PubMed tools (that alone is worth price of the book), reference managers (that section is somewhat dated, but all the more reason for this book to be continuously updated and to become a standard text), email alerts, social bookmarking tools, wikis, collaboration tools. Indeed, the book in all of those respects could be read profitably even for those whose primary interest is not medicine.
The authors do such a fine job of discussing leveraging the power of the Web that I wished that they had included a section on searching for grants, scholarships and other types of funding. They could have included the site I help on, ScanGrants, had they done so. (See how I sneaked in a mention of ScanGrants—that is a given in almost everything I write). But seriously, more and more physicians who are not primarily researchers are engaging in clinical research or community/public health projects and info on how to gain funding for such projects would be a useful feature of the next edition of Internet Cool Tools for Physicians.
The next edition should also contain discussion of search engines such as DeepDyve, NextBio, Mednar, Novoseek given that it does discuss their rival, GoPubMed. Also, we need discussion of the rise of the impact of the Smart Phone and the iPhone specifically. There may be applications that may be optimized for or available only on the latter and those will need to be addressed, as will the rise of new services for connecting frontline physicians, researchers and patients via such services as Private Access and services such as Trial-X, which I read about today in the invaluable blog of one of the authors of this book, David Rothman.
Physicians will need to acquaint themselves with the increasing numbers of trial finders because patients are soon going to ask their personal physicians about such things—or bypass them entirely if the physicians don’t seem open to some pretty assertive instances of patient empowerment.
I mention everything I hope to see in the next edition of this book because this book is a contribution to the betterment of health information acquisition and organization. Kudos for the authors for compiling so much information and presenting it in such a clear, straightforward fashion. The title suggests that the book is gee-whiz sophomoric. It is not. It a work of substance and from a purely aesthetic standpoint, it is a pleasure to handle. What a sad commentary on our times that I was actually surprised to handle a book that was a model of copy editing and production.
I wish that this book had been available when I first entered the field of medical librarianship in 2004 and I hope it will be assigned to all library science students. I have just finished my master’s in library and information science, for instance, and can see that reading it would have greatly enhanced the education my classmates and I have just completed.
In short, buy this book.
Guest Blogger Hope Leman: Hope Leman is a Research Information Technologist at the Samaritan Health Services Center for Health Research and Quality, co-founder of Next Generation Science, a staff writer at AltSearchEngines and the Web administrator of ScanGrants. You can find her on NextBio, FriendFeed and Twitter.SHARE