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All of us suffer from significant difficulty in keeping up to speed with the neurological literature. One study suggested that a dedicated doctor would have to read no less than 17 scientific articles a day, in order to keep pace with the medical literature. Quite simply having the time to keep up to date with your own area of subspecialist interest is a significant issue. One solution to this very real clinical problem is a website called PubCrawler (www.pubcrawler.ie). PubCrawler is a free “alerting” service set up by the genetics department of Trinity College, Dublin, that is specifically used for searching through publicly available databases such as Medline and Genbank. Genbank is not exactly the kind of database that the average general neurologist would want to trawl through, but Medline obviously is. The user can set the Medline criteria that one wants to search under, and PubCrawler will email you to notify of any updates in the literature at a preset time. I have used PubCrawler for over 4 years now, I have it set up to perform searches on Parkinson’s disease, multiple system atrophy, and progressive supranuclear palsy on a weekly basis. On a typical week, I will be emailed about 40 citations, which I can quickly skim through (in less than 5 minutes), and select the abstracts that are of specific interest to me.
One criticism relates to the graphical look of the website, which is not particularly appealing, and the user will need to be confident in their use of Medline search criteria. However, these are minor issues, this really is a website that I would strongly recommend to any clinician or neuroscientist. The PubCrawler system may not be perfect (although it comes close), but it must have saved me hours of work in the library. As the website’s logo affectionately states “It goes to the library, you go to the pub”.