Trip Database Blog

Liberating the literature

Loads of extra full-text and a new results display to celebrate!

Full-text access is really desirable and it’s something we’re always trying to improve on. Up until now Pro users have been able to access full-text only if it exists on PubMed Central. This meant that 38% of all journal articles linked out to full-text.  We’re now working with an external partner who has some very clever technology and now – in some areas – the link out to full-text is over 80%.

We’ve redesigned the results to help people see these full-text options and so here they are:

Old results

New results

So, what are the changes:

  • If you’re a Pro user the link out defaults to the full-text. In the image above this is clearly marked with (full text) after the document title. There is also the option to link to the PubMed abstract.
  • If you’re a Pro user and we haven’t got a full-text link out we signify this with (PubMed) after the document title.
  • We’ve improved the spacing of the results.
  • The links to tweeting, starring etc have been made more obvious and aesthetically better.
  • If you’re a free user you can clearly see if a full-text is available.


The redesigned results is a great improvement while the massive increase in link outs to full-text is phenomenal.

Clinical Q&As – keeping them relevant

Trip started as a result of my work in running a responsive clinical question answering service for the National Health Service – many years ago.  I have had the pleasure of running a number of such services (alas, not one for a few years) and have kept these questions and answers within Trip.  Unfortunately, these have been neglected: they are often two years out of date and they look terrible:

Click here to see it on the web in all its glory!

This is a valuable resource, knowledge needs from real clinicians not the typical top-down approach to knowledge.  We’ve got well over 5,000 Q&As

As part of this years developments in Trip I’m keen to see if we can help save/update these Q&As.  So, how might we do this? Here are some thoughts:

  • Improve the design – obviously!  But as well as how it looks it might also be functional elements. Currently it’s the Q and then the A – with no structure.  Could we add things like ‘bottom line’?
  • Produce a priority list of Q&As to be updated.  This could be based on a number of elements e.g. (1) How popular is the Q&A (2) How old is it (3) We’re hoping to produce a system to find new, related, articles – so if we find some recent evidence that gets a higher weighting than those with none.
  • Open it up to the community – wiki-style – to edit and update. We’re going to be doing lots of work around the Trip community in the near future and this will lend itself nicely to a wiki-approach.

I’m really excited by this and if it works well we could, one day, allow users to pose questions and get the crowd to answer.


What’s important for our Rapid Review system? RESULTS

We had a lot of interest in our post What’s important for our Rapid Review system? with – at the time of writing – 297 votes.  The breakdown being:

I was surprised by a few results. I wasn’t expecting ‘teams’ to appear so highly and I was expecting ‘citations’ to be higher up.  Further evidence of the benefits of engagement. These will now help us refine our offering.

The general idea being to develop a ‘minimal viable product’ (MVP) to allow testers to try it out and give further insight. Once that’s done we finalise things and release.  I’d like to think we an get the MVP ready by the end of February (March at the latest) and the finished product by the middle of the year…

Blog stats

Not sure why but I thought I’d look at the stats for this blog over the last few years and I’m quite pleased as (a) larger numbers than I was expecting (b) it’s increasing year-on-year!

2016 – 8,172 visitors and 14,316 page views

2017 – 11,577 and 20,641 (a 44% increase in page views from 2016)

2018 – 19,598 and 33,710 (a 63% increase in page views from 2017 and 135% from 2016)


What’s important for our Rapid Review system?

This is the year we build our rapid review system.  In short it’s a step-by-step ‘wizard’ that supports users (either via automation or community support) to rapidly generate evidence reviews. The steps are as follows:

  • Question setting/clarification, including the extraction of search terms.
  • Search and document selection, including various techniques to unearth articles that may have been missed.
  • Data extraction to produce an evidence table.
  • Narrative review including a conclusion or clinical bottom line (to be decided).
  • Review finalisation. All the above parts pulled together to produce an easy to read rapid review.
  • Publication and peer review.

To help us understand where to particularly focus can you select which elements below are really important – please select the 5 most important aspects. If you think we’ve missed something (or have any general comments) please let us know via the ‘Other’ box:

Thank you

Looking back on 2018 and forward to 2019

I traditionally start the year highlighting the impact of Trip. Unfortunately this relies on Google Analytics and for some reason our Analytics disappeared mid-year and Google cannot tell me why or how this happened.  So, over ten years of data gone.  But, tellingly, we’ve not reinstalled it as I never had the time to spend understanding the data and acting upon it.  It reminds me of the Einstein quote “Many of the things you can count, don’t count. Many of the things you can’t count really count.”.

If we look back at the results for 2017 we improved care, globally, on a massive scale.  This year our usage is more likely to be higher than lower – so our impact grows and grows!

But what are the other highlights:

Clinical Guidelines – the National Guideline Clearinghouse was shut down mid-2018 and so, as a premier source of guidelines, we stepped in and further boosted our guideline coverage. We now have unrivalled guideline coverage and we featured recently in this article: National Guideline Clearinghouse Is No More: Keep Calm and Search On.

Automated evidence synthesis – The main fruit from our Horizon 2020 funded project appeared in mid-2018 – our automated evidence mapping work. It’s great to get it out there and we hope to do further work later on this year. I’ve finally submitted a paper describing it so, fingers crossed, that’ll appear in the near future.  This was a lot of work and it’s sad that the KConnect project has now ended.

Cochrane ‘crisis’ – that hit in September. I’ve long been critical of Cochrane so it was perhaps not as surprising to me as to others. Still, it was unpleasant for many and the implications will take time to be realised.

Trip Evidence Service – I was particularly pleased with the release of the Evidence Service as we started Trip to support reactive – manual – clinical Q&A services we were involved in. I still enjoy undertaking rapid reviews to support clinical care/policy. The evidence service was produced to take advantage of our skills and also support others with a lack of access to the time/skills to do the reviews themselves. But still a little way off my dream of working full-time on Trip!

Snippets – A small improvement but one that I was happy to see!

Academic papers – I’m not a big writer of papers but occasionally get involved and these are the stand out ones:

Business side of things – We’ve had a Freemium business model for a few years now and it really has proved our saving grace.  We have no organisational/government backers so we need to earn everything we spend.  It’s both perilous but also rewarding to be so independent. Last year we significantly increased our institutional subscribers and that’s left us in a pretty good financial position.  This has been supplemented by the Evidence Service and also a number of consultancy pieces of work around evidence and automation.


2019 – Plans for this year

Hopefully, by the end of January, we’ll be rolling out two major developments:

  • Mobile app – we’re in the final stages of testing
  • Increased full-text coverage – currently, via our linking to PubMedCentral, 38% of all our journal articles link to full-text (for Pro subscribers). We’re working with UnPayWall and that will see coverage increase to 57%. This is a really important addition and we’re delighted.

We’re already working on a more substantial upgrade which will cover:

  • Community – creating a system to encourage our users to support each other.
  • Rapid review system – using community support and a ‘wizard’ (step-by-step support) to create timely rapid reviews.
  • Clinical Q&A – we’re still working on this but it might well end up looking a bit like Quora for health professionals.

Then, who knows about the second-half of the year! I think we’ll do some further work on the automation project but the rest we’ll see how things develop.  If you have any ideas then please get in touch.

Have a great year

Snippets on Trip

We’ve just released snippets to improve our search results.  Snippets are small, auto-generated, passages of text that appears under the document title:


The aim is to make search more efficient as it helps the user to better understand what the article is about before they click on it.

We understand that snippets aren’t for everyone. In our testing health professionals tended to like them and information specialists less so.  As a result, as you’ll see in the image above, there is an ‘on/off’ switch.

One other thing to note, as they’re auto-generated they can sometimes generate strange results.  In which case either ignore or let us know – we can then better understand how we can improve them.


Ongoing trials and systematic reviews

One of Trip’s strengths is its amazing coverage of content. This ranges from secondary evidence such as systematic review and guidelines through to primary research (ie journal articles) and on to eTextbooks – with much in between.

One of these other areas, which gets relatively little attention, is ongoing clinical trials and ongoing systematic reviews

Ongoing systematic reviews: We include all the ongoing systematic reviews included in PROSPERO; at the time of writing that was over 40,000 reviews.

Ongoing clinical trials: We link to all the trials in; at the time of writing that was nearly 300,000 separate trials. NOTE: this is a ‘Pro’ only feature.

These can be specifically looked for via the Trip filtering system on the right-hand side of the results page:

Do your search and click on the link of interest – it really is that simple!

One really important thing to consider, which was highlighted in this NEJM article is:

As of October 2016, contained more than 227,000 records, and nearly 23,000 of those records had posted results entries; we estimate that results are published in the literature for only half those trials.

If you’re interested in a broad coverage of the literature the content on includes unpublished data. Find it easily via Trip.

Trip Rapid Review System – structure

On the Rapid-Reviews blog I highlighted the decision to create the Trip Rapid Review System (TRRS).  It got me thinking that it’s both about RRs and Trip – hence me mirroring this new post below. I suspect there are different audiences for each blog!

In thinking about the TRRS I see it being a multi-step process supported, where possible, with technology to automate the process as much as possible.  The steps are as follows:

  • Question setting/clarification, including the extraction of search terms.
  • Search and document selection, including various techniques to unearth articles that may have been missed.
  • Data extraction to produce an evidence table.
  • Narrative review including a conclusion or clinical bottom line (to be decided).
  • Review finalisation. All the above parts pulled together to produce an easy to read rapid review.
  • Publication and peer review.

Over time I will expand on each step, highlighting how it could work. It’s good for me to do as I need to think through all the issues and it gives readers the opportunity to give feedback.

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