Government Shutdown Impacts Medical Research and Online Resources

Well, the US Government shutdown is upon us, and has caused quite a stir in the news.

Aside from the political mess currently ongoing, the shutdown has closed down some popular tourist destinations and furloughed multiple Federal workers. However, does the shutdown impact the medical field or ongoing research?

Tentatively, at this current time it appears so, with a longer shutdown more likely to cause visible consternation in the medical field.

A Forbes article highlights that the shutdown will impact medical research at multiple medical schools and teaching hospitals, especially those receiving grants from the NIH. The Association of American Medical Colleges states that research will be slowed and may stop at some institutions.

This may be a bigger deal for those currently heavily vested on Federal funding for their research, applying for grants, and those awaiting approval of grants for their studies. The longer the shutdown, the increased likelihood much research will be pushed back, impeding care for patients and collection of valuable data.

Another concern amongst medical professionals and librarians is the impact the shutdown has had on multiple government run resources. These include PubMed, Docline, NLM, AHRQ, CDC, and the FDA. Most websites are running a banner mentioning that either the websites are currently closed, are operating with decreased personnel, that information may not be up to date, are not maintained, or only certain functions will be ongoing. Several online contributors have put together detailed lists of what organizations are being impacted (and worth a read), such as the Krafty Librarian, Alisha Miles, and Vanderbilt University.

Pubmed Shutdown

So what does this mean? For those in the medical field that rely on these websites to conduct research or locate key articles, there may be some issues. While there are multiple other resources, this could be an impediment for those that rely on these resources on a daily basis.

Those that may be in the process of conducting literature searches may miss out on recently released studies, and risk being ‘Scooped.’ This will become a greater impact depending on how long the shutdown lasts, and how long it takes to update and index the websites once the staff return. In the short term this will be a headache, and in the long term it could turn into a migraine for some researchers.

For myself, with several ongoing papers, I hope for the return of my online tools relatively soon, and would be interested in hearing about your experiences and concerns in the comments below.


Timothy Aungst, PharmD

Digital Pharmacist seeking to integrate technology and mHealth into pharmacy practice and patient care. Assistant Professor by day, blogger and writer by night.

Follow Me

Click to view 1 Comment

One Response to Government Shutdown Impacts Medical Research and Online Resources

  1. Michelle October 2, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    The sort of bright side to this, is the government didn’t shut down PubMed and didn’t shut down Docline. Docline is the way that all medical libraries obtain journal articles they don’t own. Docline is a vast network of medical libraries that loan articles to each other. The National Library of Medicine is closed, so we can’t get articles from them. BUT Docline allows our requests to bypas NLM (or any other institution that might be down) and go to another medical library in the network. Given the size of scale of the network (there are many large academic research institutions with back files), most people should be ok getting articles. The problem comes if a library is requesting an article that is only available from NLM. If that is the case, they won’t get it until NLM opens.
    I am a bit concerned about PubMed if the shutdown goes for a long time. Each article is indexed by real people (who are probably not working right now) and while PubMed has a small staff maintaining it, I don’t think there will be much updating. I am only speculating, but my guess is that the most updating they will be able to do is to upload publisher records into PubMed. These pre-Medline records don’t have indexing and may not have abstracts, making them more difficult to find. Of course that assumes they will/can do that type of update during the shutdown.

Leave a Reply