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Core Clinical Journals for the Twenty-First Century

The “Core clinical journals” (CCJ) subset is a special journal category filter in PubMed that limits one’s search to 119 English-language journals considered to be of immediate interest to practicing physicians (rather than journals that are more academic in nature). The CCJ are core titles for hospital libraries as well, forming the backbone of many hospital collections. Originally produced in 1970 in print as the Abridged Index Medicus (AIM), the only update occurred in 1979, when 8 journals were removed and 26 added. A recent analysis of current usage of the CCJ titles in internal medicine highlighted the growing divergence between the information needs of today’s clinicians and those of almost 40 years ago, with only 30% of articles that were used clinically drawing from the CCJ list [Klein-Fedyshin et al. 2014]. Isn’t it time for an update? 

Over the next three years, the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Core Clinical Journals, cochaired by Michele Klein-Fedyshin, AHIP, and Andrea Ketchum, AHIP, from the Health Sciences Library System at the University of Pittsburgh, has two major tasks:

  1. to review and update the list of journals included in the CCJ filter to support hospital librarians in their efforts to provide access to the essential biomedical literature for their physicians and health care providers
  2. to create a replicable methodology to regularly maintain a useful, effective, and responsive CCJ filter in the future

What are the first steps? 

Task 1 requires us to first analyze the topics covered by the CCJ, both in 1970 and in 2016. What are the needs of contemporary clinicians? Where are the gaps? What topics exist in 2016 that did not in 1970? Journals in the CCJ are categorized by approximately 120 National Library of Medicine Broad Subject Terms for Indexed Journals, while articles are categorized using Medical Subject Headings terms. Are these existing categories sufficient? We must consider all these questions. 

In the past few months, MLA members based in hospitals may have seen our survey investigating the most requested or most used journals at each location. The data gathered from these important hospital librarian surveys will contribute to this first step in determining an updated list of both broad subject terms and journals for contemporary clinicians. Other data sources are morning report analyses of journals used, Medicare hospital diagnoses statistics from 2012 and 2013, the New England Journal of Medicine list of favorite journals, morning reports blogs, Medscape diseases list, and so on. 

After the subjects are finalized, the committee will begin to assign journals to each. While the intention is to keep the total number of titles reasonable for quick searching and collection development, the new CCJ list is likely to be larger than 120.  

The Ad Hoc Committee to Review Core Clinical Journals is fortunate to have 11 creative, experienced, and dedicated members, as well as ex officio members who support us in our efforts. We invite MLA members to contribute to the CCJ project: If you have access to data sources showing journals that clinicians use on a regular basis, please contact Michele Klein-Fedyshin or Andrea Ketchum.

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