Trip Database Blog

Liberating the literature

Understanding the full-text icons on Trip

Having access to full-text documents is often really important and something Trip supports as best as possible. Most of the higher-quality, secondary evidence, is available as full-text; this is not the case for journal articles.

So, to help users understand what’s available, alongside the title of each journal article is at least one icon to signify what is available: full-text or abstract only. This is slightly complicated by the difference between ‘free’ and ‘Pro’ Trip. The subscription (Pro) version links to a huge number of full-text articles; around 70% of journal articles in Trip link to full-text articles. So, how to understand the icons:

Pro (subscription) users

As you can see from the above the full-text icon appears if we have that in our system, otherwise you simply get the other icon!

Free users

Note, in this situation you can see the ‘Pro’ wording next to the full-text icon to signify that, if you were a subscriber, you’d be able to link to the full-text.

OpenAthens, a quick update (and LibKey)

Things are going well with our integration of OpenAthens into Trip (as announced at the end of last year). We’re on schedule to test from the end of January with a view of rolling this out in February.

Given this was funded by Health Education England (HEE) we are also tying it in with HEE’s purchase of LibKey for the NHS in England – so the two will be released together. LibKey is a great tool to link users with the full-text subscription their institutions subscribe to. Putting it another way, if your institution subscribes to a journal, Trip can see (via LibKey) if you have access to the article in the search results and insert a link directly to the full-text. It’s quick and seamless. We’ve supported LibKey in Trip for over a year and our users love it. When we roll this out we will automatically be adding the link-out credentials to over 250 new insitutions.

Adding new content to Trip

We have just uploaded the latest – manual – upgrade of content to Trip. Trip has two main wats of importing new content:

  • Automatically
  • Manually

Automatically is the easiest and many sites we use have systems to help support our capture of content, mainly via things called APIs. This accounts for around 80-90% of all our content.

Manually is, unsurprisingly, manual and requires us to visit every site – on a monthly basis – to look for new content. This process has been going on since we launched, nearly 25 years ago and we’ve never missed a single month. However, the task has grown considerably and we now visit around 500 sites every month. This has increased dramatically over the years, when we launched we included less than 25 sites. Manual updating takes a week, when before it could be done in less than a day.

This month we added 580 new articles from a large number of global sites, including:

  • WHO
  • NICE (UK)
  • Prescrire (France)
  • ACOG (USA)
  • Public Health Ontario (Canada)
  • RCOG (UK)
  • SBU (Sweden)
  • Public Health Wales (Wales)
  • Agency for Care Effectiveness (Singapore)
  • EMA (Europe)
  • Scottish Medicines Consortium (Scotland)
  • FDA (USA)
  • Canadian Paediatric Society (Canada)
  • James Lind Alliance (UK)
  • National Health Care Institute (Netherlands)
  • Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Norway)
  • Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (Australia and NZ)

The earliest monthly upload I can find is from June 2009 and it’s interesting to see how many of the publishers have fallen by the wayside e.g. Centre for Reviews and Dissemination , NHS EED, Health Protection Agency, NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency, PedsCCM (Note, many are still actually in existence, they’re just not producing the content they used to)!

3-4 weeks off – doing other essential Trip work – till we start the process again. As long as new content is published, we’ll be grabbing it.

A brief look back over 2021 and a look forward

From a Trip perspective 2021 work was led by continued work on the new site. Trip has grown over the years with much of the code very old and very muddled. It was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and we made a decision to recode the site in 2019! As part of that we took on a new main developer (Abrar) who was supported by Phil (our long-standing developer).

The new site was released as a beta (test) version in April 2021 and fully released in July. It has proved to be remarkably resilient with hardly any issues. This is amazing given the size and complexity of the site.

With all the work going on in the background, Trip has continued to help users to find great evidence. We’ve had millions of searches over the year supporting care across the globe. We’re continuing to attract new subscribers, both organisational and individual – a great sign for the future.


Covid-19 dominated the headlines and, since Jan 2020 (first search was 14/01/2020 for ‘Wuhan coronavirus’), Trip had over 550,000 specific search sessions on the topic. Supplying higher quality research evidence, Trip’s focus, was as valuable as ever.

Linked to that, one related topic is that I’m starting to try to make sense of the clickstream data (see Covid-19 search trends, is there a paper in this data?). I’ve no idea where that journey will take me (but feel free to help)!


The release of the new site in 2021 was only part of the story. What we released was the front end of the site – the bit users interact with. Since then we have been working solidly on the back end – the bit responsible for grabbing and processing the content that is added to the search index. Again, a hugely complex task but we’re getting there. And, hopefully, that’ll be switched on sometime between March and May (users shouldn’t notice)!

After that we can start to introduce the improvements that I’ve wanted to see for years but have been put off as we recode the site. Early releases will hopefully be the guideline scoring work, the improvement to search sensitivity and specificity and a revamped advanced search.

25th Anniversary of Trip.

2022 also marks the 25th year of Trip’s existence. I have no idea when it was went live on the internet (previously it was an excel spreadsheet) and the Internet Archive doesn’t help. So, that’s a bit of a damp squib. If we get any time to think we may try to do something to commemorate!

Bye Bye to the NHS

On a personal level, at the end of March 2021, I left the National Health Service (after nearly 30 years). My final job being Lead for Knowledge Mobilisation at Public Health Wales. It’s nice to now be able to concentrate more of my time on Trip.

Covid-19 search trends, is there a paper in this data?

When people search on Trip we record – anonymously:

  • Time and date
  • Search terms used
  • Articles viewed

Given Covid-19 is a hot topic I looked at our logs for Covid-19 related queries and found that we had over 500,000 separate search sessions exploring the topic. I’ve had a quick look through the data and found out a number of things that, to me, appear interesting.

Most popular articles

  • COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) – DynaMed
  • Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for acute care – Ministry of Health, Ontario
  • Infection prevention and control for novel coronavirus (COVID-19): interim guidance for acute healthcare settings – Canadian Government
  • Interim guidance: public health management of cases and contacts associated with novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community – BC Centre for Disease Control
  • COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing the long-term effects of COVID-19 – NICE


Lots of data relating to the first time something was searched for, for instance:

  • 14/01/2020 – the first search for a Covid-19 topic, in this case the search was ‘Wuhan coronavirus’
  • 22/01/2020 – personal protection
  • 25/02/2020 – vertical transmission
  • 02/03/2020 – pcr

‘Timeline’ of a topic

Taking the top seven documents for hydroxychloroquine we charted their popularity over time:

After a very quick burst of interest, attention moved on (probably after people understood the evidence). Imagine if we’d waited 6 months for a systematic review!

Top search terms

  • diagnosis
  • PPE masks
  • screening
  • pregnancy
  • chloroquine

The above are a few examples of the sort of analysis that could be explored. Another one, not yet explored as it’s difficult to do manually, is to explore topics and see what types of evidence people look at. So, if a topic gets very few clicks does that indicate an evidence gap? If they click mainly on systematic reviews is that a good thing?

Overall, I could do the analysis and report it as a series of blogs. But I feel that there’s probably enough material to make at least one paper. Clearly, it’s not your typical journal article, but there are lots of different article types – so it might fit in somewhere!?

So, I’d appreciate any help thinking this through – for instance:

  • What’s the best way of writing this up? In other words, what’s the story behind the date?
  • What sort of journal might like this sort of thing? I was thinking of something like the BMJ (yes, ambitious) or Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.
  • Any other analyses that might be interesting for people.

If you can help then please send me an email


We are very pleased to announce that we have started the process of introducing OpenAthens as a method of authentication to Trip Pro. We have signed the contracts and started the technical steps with a hope to be testing by the start of February 2022 and a roll-out shortly after. This work has been supported by Health Education England.

Currently, organisational authentication is handled principally by IP. This works remarkably well in most situations but it’s not perfect. By introducing OpenAthens we’ll give organisations a further way of securing access to Trip Pro.

Advanced search tip

A few people have been in touch highlighting that the way we support advanced Boolean searching has changed.

In the old site you could create a ‘shortcut’ advanced search by typing in the main search box, for example:

If you do this on the new site, you get a different result:

Can people spot what’s happened? In reality it has treated ‘prostate’ as a title word and ‘zinc’ as title or body of the text. To reproduce the same result as the old interface you need to follow this logic:

I hope that helps people understand what’s going on and provides an insight into the more complex search opportunities.

Deleting ‘Recent’ search activity

A few people have been in touch to ask how to delete their activity in the ‘Recent’ tab. We were never able to give a straightforward/easy answer. Thankfully that has now changed:

As ever it’s great to get feedback as to how we can improve Trip and it’s great to be able to respond!

A bonanza of new guidelines added

Trip’s a leading tool to identify evidence from the global evidence-base. Our guideline coverage is one of the stars and today I’m delighted to have added a large number of new guidelines from sources such as the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Alberta Health Services Cancer Guidelines, International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis and the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism.

In total 436 new guidelines were added from 22 new publishers.

It’s been a lot of work and thank you to those who helped identify these new publishers

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