How We Manage the Weekly List of MS Papers
Every Friday, MSDF editors use a curated PubMed search to link to every newly published MS-related paper. Here’s how we do it.
Each week, somewhere between 30 and 110 papers related to multiple sclerosis are published in the scientific literature. At MSDF we endeavor to list them all, publishing links to a curated set of each week’s new papers every Friday. Here’s how we do it.
We’re currently using the following PubMed query, which has evolved over the 3 years of MSDF’s existence:
"multiple sclerosis" OR "demyelinating" OR "optic neuritis" OR "acute disseminated encephalomyelitis" OR "neuromyelitis optica" OR "transverse myelitis" OR "NMO" OR "ADEM" OR "experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis” OR “cuprizone” OR “neurodegeneration” OR “myelin” OR “microglia” OR “demyelination” NOT adem [Author]
This query returns many false positives. I read all the titles and most of the abstracts and make judgments about which of those are directly relevant to MS or related disorders. Today, for example, the query returned 139 papers and in my judgment only 58 of them (42%) were truly MS-related. Some weeks the proportion is even lower than that.
I believe the query terms “neurodegeneration,” “myelin,” “microglia,” and “demyelination” are responsible for most of the false positives. “Neurodegeneration,” in particular, returns many references related to other neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, and hypoxia, to name a few. Some papers mentioning those disorders mention MS as well, so we can’t add terms such as “NOT ‘Alzheimer’” to the query.
My judgments on which articles are relevant are often subjective, and I frequently struggle with those decisions. It’s easy to decide relevance when an article actually mentions multiple sclerosis. It’s harder when it mentions only myelin or only Th17 cells. When I’m on vacation, and one of my colleagues is curating the list in my absence, his or her judgments often differ from my own.
If you think we’ve missed an important MS-related article—or have included an irrelevant article—I hope you’ll let me know. And I’m open to suggestions on how to adjust our PubMed query to decrease false positives and false negatives.
Once I’ve chosen which of the articles to include in the week’s list, I then select between two and four of them as Editors’ Picks. Those are the week’s articles that seem to me to be the most important or interesting or intriguing. Once again, I invite readers to take issue with my choices. I’d love to hear about important articles that I have not designated Editors’ Picks or, on the contrary, Editors’ Picks that don’t deserve the honor.
Key open questions
- Which search terms should be added to or subtracted from the PubMed query?
- Is there any way to make the selection of papers less subjective?
- How useful do you find the weekly list of papers?