EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

A blog for medical students, faculty and librarians about their use of evidence based medicine, clinical literature, Web 2.0, sources and search strategies

News, Search Technologies: Give Mednar a Try

Mednar [a federated medical search engine introduced in 2008] promises to become a standard tool of power searchers in the health sciences (e.g., medical librarians, physicians, health care researchers) and for savvy consumer searchers who seek supplements to such standard tools as MedlinePlus or PubMed “.

Quote from AltSearchEngines.com writer Hope Leman, who ranked Mednar as her Number 1 choice in the list published Dec 29 2008 entitled “Top Ten Health Search Engines of 2008


After reading good reviews about Mednar recently, it seemed like a good idea to try it out. Below is a screenshot of what was retrieved on a recent search  for “inoperable pancreatic cancer” using the federated search site:.



Image credit/source: Mednar.com – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009

Once the search is processed, you’ll get a prompt asking if you want to include all sources, which I clicked Yes for.  The search is then reprocessed including all retrievals from those sources searched by the engine.

This screen capture shows some of the MEDNAR ‘top retrievals’ from all sources. It is a good sign that the most hits were found in PubMed:.


Image credit/source: Mednar.com – All rights reserved – Copyright 2009


This fall, I began teaching a Google Scholar class.  One of the exercises I ask the group to do is to compare results from different sources by running searches using identical “same-search-terms”.  Currently Google Scholar and Scirus.com (from Elsevier) are the compare-and-analyze search sites.

The more I use Scirus, which is a free database, the more value I find there for locating material found in what librarians call “the gray literature“. It has been improved a great deal since it was first introduced. If you’re not currently using Scirus, you might want to add it into your tool-kit of clinical research sites.

Here is a quote from the Scirus “About” page:

is the most comprehensive scientific research tool on the web. With over 450 million scientific items indexed at last count, it allows researchers to search for not only journal content but also scientists’ homepages, courseware, pre-print server material, patents and institutional repository and website information…. 

How Does Scirus Rank Results? Search results in Scirus are, by default, ranked according to relevance. It is also possible to rank results by date. You can do this by clicking the Rank by date link on the Results Page.

Scirus uses an algorithm to calculate ranking by relevance. This ranking is determined by two basic values:

  • Words – the location and frequency of a search term within a result account for one half of the algorithm. This is known as static ranking.
  • Links – the number of links to a page account for the second half of the algorithm – the more often a page is referred to by other pages, the higher it is ranked. This is known as dynamic ranking.

Overall ranking is the weighted sum of the static and dynamic rank values. Scirus does not use metatags, as these are subject to ranking-tweaking by users.


480 million websites indexed!  This makes for a lively comparison of results… and as they are projected on the overhead, everyone in the class room can examine (on the big screen) how results are ranked, currency of the retrievals and how results (or links) differ from these two sources. 

Scirus search results for scientific information are (IMHO) better, consistently and over time, than those found via Google Scholar.  And most of the time in this class, I manage to persuade the group to begin using Scirus over Google Scholar.

Academic librarians are reminded every day how fortunate we are, as a group, to have the financial resources that allow us to offer world-class (and costly) subscription information resources to our researchers, clinicians, hospital administrators, graduate students or the general public. There are many  resources available to answer those difficult patient care or research questions. Google Scholar and Scirus are just two of the many resources available.

So will I start using Mednar?  I liked the results well-enough, but won’t give up using the precise technical limits and search filters available in PubMed, or the comprehensive, deep searches available by using the 15,000 journals indexed in Scopus.

But maybe for the next Google Scholar class, we’ll add Mednar to the mix.


Lastly: here is another link from AltSearchEngine.com offering up a three-part primer on the subject of the Deep Web and how federated search engines operate (Jan 12 2009).

Editors note: Deep Web Technologies, which is a for-profit corporation, is the producer of Mednar.  Deep Web also sponsors a blog called FederatedSearchBlog.com.

8 responses to “News, Search Technologies: Give Mednar a Try

  1. Hope Leman January 21, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    Very interesting post. My reaction is that PubMed does what PubMed really well. Mednar is a useful complement because it searches sources not indexed by PubMed. They are complementary. And remember that Mednar is still young. Lots of promise in this baby.

    Nice blog–nice to see Life in the Fast Lane in your blogroll–Mike Cadogan is one bright guy.

  2. creaky15 January 21, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    Thanks for your comments, Hope.

    I am interested in testing out people’s reaction to Mednar in addition to Scirus and Google Scholar next time my class is held. As a searcher, I value getting comments from those who are going to “apply” the citations and knowledge gained from these search sites. In other words, the end-user is the best filter – and we need to learn from those who are actually going to apply that information for actual bench research or patient care… in other words beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    When I redid the site earlier this month, I added several new blogs – Life in the Fast Lane is a gem!

  3. Hope Leman January 21, 2009 at 5:35 PM

    Hi, Creaky–wow. You sure responded quickly. The mark of a superb blogger.

    Here’s a suggestion for your class. On the Mednar site, there is a quite interesting survey asking for suggestions on how to make it better. Now there is an excellent teaching tool for a class on search and a genuine chance for medical librarians and front-line clinicians to help design the medical search engine of their dreams. I have found Deep Web Technologies to be open to input to an impressive extent and it is in the interest of medical librarians and medical providers to critique and support new search engines. That is a real opportunity for us and I encourage teachers of search to provide students with a real world opportunity to shape the future of medical search. I love PubMed. But here is an opportunity to create something new in our field.

    And I will take another look at Scirus–thanks for the prodding on that. Maybe you could compare that and Mednar in a gray literature showdown.

    Actually, I get annoyed with Dr. Mike Cadogan of Life in the Fast Lane—he is always scooping me with the latest in medical search and I am always playing catch up! Just kidding, Doc!

  4. creaky15 January 21, 2009 at 7:25 PM

    This is how I feel about my friend, David Rothman! It is a form of kind competition. Keeps us focused 8)

  5. Hope Leman January 21, 2009 at 8:30 PM

    Ha–I know David too. Too cute that you are both friendly rivals.

  6. Darcy Pedersen January 22, 2009 at 1:05 PM

    Kathleen, many thanks for trying out Mednar! As the product manager, I love hearing feedback on how Mednar “stacks up” against other research engines. While designed to serve as a research base, Mednar is not meant to replace existing sources of information, but to complement them, as Hope mentioned, by increasing information and source discovery. Also, I’d like to point out one distinction between Mednar and Scirus; Mednar does not index anything. Every source included is searched in real-time, as if you went out and individually queried each database, brought back the results, merged, ranked and de-duplicated them (this is what makes our searches a bit slower, as we wait for all of the databases to respond). A real-time search ensures that updates to databases like PubMed, appear directly on Mednar with no lag time. Additionally, you can automate your search by setting up Alerts for frequently searched terms to go directly to your email inbox or RSS feed.

    Mednar is free, but we also offer a premium version with the ability to customize the search sources, fields, look and feel. Since we are currently in beta, any feedback on how we can improve the site, including new sources, is very, very welcome. We really do listen to input and would love to hear the results of your classroom tests!

    Darcy Pedersen
    Mednar Product Manager
    Deep Web Technologies

  7. creaky15 January 22, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    Thanks for your reply, Darcy. Perhaps after using the site for clinical queries, I’ll have better questions to ask.

  8. Pingback: MedLib’s Round, First Edition « Laika’s MedLibLog

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