By P.F. Anderson and LaTeesa James
PubMed special queries are master search strategies on common, important, but challenging health topics, which are usually peer-reviewed. Disability certainly qualifies as a common, important health topic that is challenging to search – and yet, no PubMed special query exists for it.
This oversight is concerning. Put simply, it’s important that disability as a topic is easily identifiable in the scholarly record. While there are specialized databases for the topic, such as NARIC’s REHABDATA, the global research community is most likely to begin with PubMed. Currently, structured vocabulary terms related to disability are scattered throughout PubMed’s medical subject heading (MeSH) trees, often without cross references to facilitate discovery, forcing discovery to largely depend on the unstructured language of whatever words were chosen by the authors to describe their research topics. This lack of consensus and consistency across professional disability terms, categories, and definitions contributes to a lack of comparability, discoverability, and access for disability data as well as research.