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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Researcher Reviews Automated Literature Searches of Training Program Graduates

“A key outcome measure of cancer research training programs is the number of cancer-related peer-reviewed publications after training. Because program graduates do not routinely report their publications, staff must periodically conduct electronic literature searches on each graduate. The purpose of our study is to compare findings of an innovative computer-based automated search program versus repeated manual literature searches to identify post-training peer-reviewed publications,” writes Dr. Luz Padilla, instructor in the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

[Photo: Dr. Luz Padilla]

Manual searches using PubMed to find past trainee publications had been performed every six months for the past 15 years by a graduate student or by grant staff for UAB’s Cancer Research Experiences for Students (CaRES) (an R25 grant), discovering 232 cancer-related published articles written by 112 of 543 program graduates. Dr. Padilla decided to automate the collection of this data and performed Scopus literature searches to compare with individual PubMed searches on these same 543 program graduates, discovering that Scopus indicated 304 cancer publications through 2014 (finding 220 had been retrieved manually, 84 new publications previously missed by manual searches, and 12 publications found manually had been missed) and that both methods found a total of 316 publications. Results indicate that the “automated method found 96.2 percent of the 316 publications while individual searches found only 73.4 percent. An automated search method such as using the Scopus database is a key tool for conducting comprehensive literature searches and efficiently collects data that can be used to report to grant institutions as productivity. However, because 3 percent of publications were missed by the automated method, manual searches may still be used occasionally to supplement data. A time-saving feature of Scopus is the periodic automatic alerts of new publications.” Scopus’ alert system allows users to track and maintain data updated on trainees for which alerts are set, without having to search for them again.

Dr. Padilla along with her fellow researchers concluded that even though a training period is required and preliminary costs can be substantial, an automated search proves valuable because of its long-term efficacy. She notes, “Research training program reporting is important to increase standards at which they are held by funding institutions; this may also increase their excellence. Exposing our students in health professions to high quality research training programs may incite them to incorporate research practice in their future career paths.”

UAB co-investigators are department colleague associate professor Dr. John Waterbor; as well as associate professor Dr. Renee Desmond, in the division of preventive medicine, and consultant Dr. C. Michael Brooks, in the School of Health Professions.

“Automated Literature Searchers for Longitudinal Tracking of Cancer Research Training Program Graduates” was published online in October in the Journal of Cancer Education.

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