Google – and from what I hear in my Problem Based Learning class – also Wikipedia, are standard tools for searching. Those of us who are PBL facilitators are convincing the medical students to switch to more clinically oriented sources such as MD-Consult, Access Medicine or MedlinePlus.gov to locate factual, objective clinical information for their learning issues. And, in any case, it is fun to tease each other about “well, where did you find that information”?… and then to watch the librarian’s face turn red and apoplectic when the answer is ‘Google’! They are becoming expert searchers.
Having said that, however, medical librarians have many different ways and routes for searching for information. Comprehensive, credible, timely, “cite”-able or at minimum, verifiable, trustworthiness built over relationships which span decades, transparency when it comes to source or authorship. These criteria are some of the hallmarks of evidence based medical information.
Any expert searcher will tell you that information is a commodity. Information happens to be the commodity that Google is selling. Many people who use Google daily are not aware of the “back-end” of the Google search algorithm, which factors in many, disparate variables for displaying retrievals on the ‘first-ranked’ list… how many in-bound links there are to an individual page, creating a revenue stream (as in advertising fees paid to Google by companies in order to gain a higher-page rank), metadata (i.e. counting or weighting keywords) or number of hits in comparison to similar internet traffic are only a few considerations which factor into the patented formula. The bottom line: Google is a complex, commercially-tuned search engine… it is not at all altruistic!
For more information about the back-end side of Google:
That is why I recommend reading the recent post (Oct 12 2007) on Web Worker Daily on the topic of Alternative Search Engines. Author Samuel Dean provides an interesting list of eleven alternative search engines to test out for your next research topic.
Note: While working on this blog posting, an email was sent to me from Search Medica… with an invitation to “Search like a Doctor, Not [like] a Patient“. LOL!
Yet another choice in the wide variety of information products to use in 2007. Search Medica calls itself “The Medical Professional’s Online Search Engine” (see the black bar below).
…Uh, does this mean they haven’t heard of Medline?