A Centralized Portal to Free Biomedical Literature: Europe PubMed Central

I was recently alerted to the Europe PubMed Central portal by a post on the Science Intelligence and InfoPros blog, where Herve Basset describes the site as “not only a new Medline“:

Unlike PubMed Central, Europe PMC provides a single point of access to not only full-text articles but additionally the abstracts available through PubMed. The Europe PMC interface also offers novel features and functionality, including links to other relevant content, integrated text and data mining tools and grant reporting services through Europe PMC plus.

Europe PubMed Central is a portal created by the the European Bioinformatics Institute, The University of Manchester (Mimas and NaCTeM), and the British Library (in cooperation with the with the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine), which allows users to search a variety of open access biomedical literature. The portal lists coverage of the following publications:

  • PubMed abstracts (about 22 million)
  • Europe PMC full text articles (about 2.2 million, of which over 400,000 are Open Access)
  • Patent abstracts (over 4 million European, US, and International)
  • National Health Service (NHS) clinical guidelines
  • Agricola records (500,000)
  • Supplemented with Chinese Biological Abstracts and the Citeseer database.

Read on for an overview of how to search Europe PubMed Central to locate open-access biomedical literature, patent abstracts, and even grant information!

Searching Biomedical Literature

From the homepage of the portal, users can enter search queries in the quick search form available at the top of the page. The quick search form acts as a command line interface and accepts a query syntax that includes Boolean operators, truncation operators, quotations (for exact phrases), parentheses, and field qualifiers. See this guide on the Europe PubMed Central website for more information on correct query syntax.

The user may also select the small gear icon beside the quick search form to open the advanced fielded search form. The advanced search form includes the following fields: Title(s), Author(s), Affiliation(s), Publication Year, Journal(s), MeSH Subject(s), or general query term. Users can choose to sort results by date or relevance, and users may also limit searches to specific subsets of data (Reviews, Biological Patents, Doctoral Theses, UK Clinical Guidelines, UK Research Reports, Meta-Analyses, Ran. Controlled Trials, All Clinical Trials, All Practice Guidelines).

Advanced Search form for Europe PubMed Central.

Advanced Search form for Europe PubMed Central.

The hit list page includes the full query listed in the quick search form in query syntax format, and 25 results are listed per page below the quick search form. Users can filter results by all citations or full text articles, and a side menu displays popular content types for the full result set (Reviews, Biological Patents, Doctoral Theses, etc.) which the user can filter by. Results can also be sorted by relevance, date, or times cited. Specific citations in the hit list or the full search can be added to the clipboard using the small clipboard icon beside each result and at the top of the page. Users may also turn the search into an RSS feed, view a list of recent searches, or view the contents of the clipboard from the horizontal menu on the hit list page. Each search result lists the title, PubMed ID, authors, journal citation, and number of times cited, and the user can select the title of the result to view the full document record.

Hit list (with quick search form) for Europe PubMed Central.

Hit list (with quick search form above) for Europe PubMed Central.

The full record view is organized under a number of tabs:

  • Abstract – Basic bibliographic information and abstract for the document, with the option to highlight key terms in the abstract.
Abstract tab of the full record view for an article.

Abstract tab of the full record view for an article.

  • Citations – List of citations cited by the document and a list of all citations that cite this document. Each citation can be added to the clipboard.
Lists of "Cited By" and "Cites the Following" citations under the full record view.

Lists of “Cited By” and “Cites the Following” citations under the full record view.

  • BioEntities – Biological entities annotated by the EMBL EBI and NCBI teams.
  • Related Articles – A list of articles related to the current article, located by comparing subject headings and words in the title and abstract.

If a tab is not available for a record, it is grayed out and unclickable. A side menu beside the full record provides additional options, such as:

  • View recent activity.
  • View all saved material on the clipboard.
  • Return to search results.
  • View the record in a variety of formats (abstract, full text when available, PDF, etc).
  • Export the citation (RIS format).
  • Email the citation.
  • Search by related subjects.

Other Tools

The Europe PubMed Central portal also includes a selection of other tools for locating RSS Feeds, journals, and grants, all available through the top horizontal menu on the homepage:

  • RSS Feed – Select from a list of RSS feeds to follow, related to latest or most popular articles and articles added by a specific funder.
  • Journal List – Browse/search through an alphabetical list of all journals available through the portal. The table listing the journals includes the amount of free access available for each journal and the participation level of the journal.
  • Grant Lookup – Search for grants by name, title, keyword, institution, grant ID, and limit by funder.
Grant look-up tool for Europe PubMed Central.

Grant look-up tool for Europe PubMed Central.


The Europe PubMed Central tool is a valuable supplement to NCBI network of databases, such as PubMed and PubChem.  The tool is a central portal for locating both PubMed abstracts and full-text European PubMed articles, as well as a variety of biological patent abstracts, clinical guidelines, Agricola records, and additional citations from the Chinese Biological Abstracts and the Citeseer database.  This broad range of both patent and non-patent literature prior art is accessible through an intuitive format that includes both command-line and fielded search options.  It would be useful if the fielded search form included a link to the MeSH database so that users could quickly look up MeSH subject headings without needing to navigate independently to the PubMed website.  The European PubMed Central portal may  not be a replacement for the PubMed platform, which is linked to a sophisticated network of NCBI databases and has more advanced search options, but it is an excellent supplement that should be searched along with other subscription and open-access scientific literature databases during a prior art search.

Do you know of other open-access biomedical portals similar to Europe PubMed Central? Tell us about them in the comments!

Patent Analysis from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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