MEDLINE, PubMed, and PubMed Central: How are they different?

Ever wonder what the difference is between MEDLINE, PubMed, and PubMed Central? You’re not alone. While all are part of the National Library of Medicine family, they each have their own characteristics.

MEDLINE is the granddaddy of these three. It started in the 1960’s and now provides the citations of medical-related journal articles back to 1946. It indexes approximately 5,600 scholarly journals from around the world. These journals are selected by an NIH committee. The MEDLINE database can be searched in PubMed as well as other services that license it.

PubMed has been available since 1996. Citations in it primarily come from MEDLINE; in-process citations, some out-of-scope articles, ahead of print articles, and others including citations supplied by publishers. It also includes citations to the books, and in some cases book chapters, in the NCBI Bookshelf.

PubMed Central (PMC) began in 2000. It is a free full-text archive for biomedical and life sciences journal articles. PMC serves as a repository for journal literature deposited by participating publishers, as well as for author manuscripts that have been submitted in compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy and similar policies of other research funding agencies. As you may know, publishers can delay the release of their material in PMC for a short period after publication (often called an embargo). There are reciprocal links between the full text in PMC and corresponding citations in PubMed. Some PMC content, such as book reviews, is not cited in PubMed.

Next month we’ll look at the differences between two other sources of health information from the National Library of Medicine: MedLinePlus and PubMed Health.

More details on the differences between MEDLINE, PubMed, and PMC is available here.