Lancaster is widely associated with the MEDLARS evaluation--but what was it and why was it so important?
MEDLARS stands for MEDical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System and was developed to computerize the production of Index Medicus, a major printed index to the biomedical literature produced by NLM.
At the time of Lancaster's evaluation, the MEDLARS database contained about 800,000 bibliographic records from January 1964 forward, growing at the rate of about 200,000 records annually.
In their comprehensive history of online information services, Bourne and Hahn (2003) credit MEDLARS as "one of the earliest large-scale online retrieval operations," and describe an environment of tremendous increase in medical research publications and need for more efficient methods of information retrieval.
The first year of MEDLARS operation was characterized by NLM's Deputy Director Scott Adams (1965) as
There was also high interest among the scientific community in computerized access to biomedical information, as evidenced by the publication in Science of a paper on MEDLARS.
Navy Bureau of Ships (Lancaster, 1964) and utilizing procedures similar to those used in the Cranfield studies and later used in the MEDLARS evaluation.
95), also a key characteristic and important contribution of the MEDLARS evaluation.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, while the University of Chicago was experimenting with specialized selective dissemination of information services using printed A&I resources and MEDLARS, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and other institutions were already providing specialized search services as MEDLARS search centers under an NLM contract.
Grateful users could receive a quality literature search from a well-trained searcher in many different locations in much less time and with greater precision than with the old highly restricted MEDLARS service.
Initially, there was no computer time slicing when MEDLINE services first began at the MEDLARS search centers and Regional Medical Libraries.
MEDLARS: The foremost example of a government agency in the field is the National Library of Medicine, producer of the MEDLARS family of over 25 databases.
Called Grateful Med, it is a communications program for IBM PC's and clones thereof, that presents user-friendly interface with NLM's ELHILL retrieval program used in the MEDLARS databases.