… is well documented. Consider, for example, the tragic case of the JHU researcher who only searched Medline 1966 forward and so missed an association between the intervention in a study and lung toxicity that had been reported in earlier literature [1-2]. In biomedicine, there is a huge emphasis on recency – and for good reason, science moves fast. The cited half life (a measure of how far back citations generally go) is way shorter in medical fields than in say, math (which is always >10 years). The engineering databases that I use most frequently go back to 1898 and 1884. I also use Web of Science and Chem Abstracts which go back to the very early 1900s (~1908).
But anyhow, Biochembelle, re-tweeted by Scicurious, pointed to an editorial from Nature Reviews Microbiology  that says youngsters today aren’t getting the proper baseline literature because they’re relying on PubMed and Google Scholar. They cite the subject area of bacteriophage biology – developed well before the Medline era. Some researchers in this area have created their own bibliography of articles prior to PubMed, but they are concerned about losing access to the publications as they are moved out of the library to storage.
There are like a ton of things wrong with these statements. First, have they tried Biological Abstracts? As far as I can tell it goes back to at least 1917 (my parent institution has it stored because we have the online version, BIOSIS, and we have the backfile). Second, libraries typically don’t move journal runs off site unless they have the electronic equivalent or at least until they’ve shown that there’s very little if any usage. Many scholars wish more were moved off site – they get free scanning and electronic delivery on those articles instead of having to photocopy themselves! Libraries are also buying electronic backfiles – don’t assume that just because it’s old, we don’t have it online! In fact, some pre-1923 biology texts are freely available in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
My points in a nutshell:
- yes, it is very dangerous to rely on incomplete resources like GoogleScholar
- yes, it is very dangerous to only use recent information
- if you’re at a research institution, you don’t HAVE to rely on PubMed and GoogleScholar, you have access to other resources and it’s no one's fault but your own if you don’t ask your librarian what to use
 McLellan, F. (2001) 1966 and all that-when is a literature search done? Lancet 358(9282),646.doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)05826-3
 Ramsay, S.(2001) Johns Hopkins takes responsibility for volunteer's death. Lancet 358(9277), 213. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)05449-6
 Raiders of the lost articles. Nature Reviews Microbiology 8, 610. doi:10.1038/nrmicro2435