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Information Science Abstracts Now Enhanced on Dialog and SilverPlatter
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Posted On August 20, 2001
Information Today, Inc. has announced that the Information Science Abstracts (ISA) database has been reloaded on both the Dialog and SilverPlatter information services. The major enhancements to the file have taken several years of planning and implementation, and the new and improved database now boasts expanded coverage of e-journals, more focused journal coverage, new data fields, and data-quality improvements.

Information Today, Inc. purchased the ISA database from Documentation Abstracts, Inc. (DAI) in 1998 and industry consultant Don Hawkins agreed to take on the project of editing and rejuvenating the file, which had been criticized for problems in currency, coverage, data quality, and consistency. Hawkins assured me that these areas have now all been addressed with the current enhancements to the file. (The original ISA database was started back in 1966 by Professor Ben-Ami Lipetz of the State University of New York. It was purchased by DAI in 1984.)

Additions to the file include titles like Australian Academic and Research Libraries, Archives and Museum Informatics, Bulletin of the Japan Special Libraries Association, CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research, Against the Grain, and many others. ISA has also added recently begun new journals like Portal, Information Retrieval, and Charleston Advisor. The complete list of journals covered is on the ISA Web site (http://www.infotoday.com/isa). In addition, missing years of coverage from major journals have been filled in.

ISA now covers 28 e-journals in information science, which Hawkins says is the most comprehensive coverage in the field. Titles include Ariadne, D-Lib Magazine, First Monday, Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Journal of Library Services for Distance Education, and more.

According to the announcement, Information Science Abstracts covers the world's literature on information science—a field concerned with the theoretical and practical concepts, as well as the technologies, laws, and the industry dealing with knowledge transfer. As an interdisciplinary field, information science records in ISA are drawn from a variety of sources; at present, over 300 journals are indexed and abstracted. Articles are chosen selectively from these journals, based on their relevance to the field. According to Hawkins, titles and articles that were deemed inappropriate for the stated coverage have been dropped from the file.

Hawkins has described the current selection policy for ISA in an article in the January 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, "Information Science Abstracts: Tracking the Literature of Information Science." In it, he defines and maps the discipline of information science, a field that has experienced considerable change over the years (http://www.asis.org).

The ISA database has been expanded to include coverage of topics like knowledge management (KM), search engines, Internet information sources, and the information business. Coverage of relevant topics is enhanced by the inclusion of relevant abstracts from Internet & Personal Computing Abstracts, a database also produced by Information Today, Inc. According to Hawkins, this might include relevant articles on search engines from PC World or PC Magazine, or articles on companies and trends in the information industry from Business Week or Fortune.

A very welcome improvement to the file is the addition of new data fields. The following fields have been added:

  • Author affiliations (corporate sources)
  • Author e-mail addresses
  • Editors of book and conference proceedings
  • Conference location, date, and year
  • ISBNs
  • ISSNs for both print and electronic versions of journals
  • Journal announcements
  • Number of pages in books and proceedings
  • Publisher and place of publication for books and proceedings
  • URLs of journals, authors, publishers, and individual papers
The new data fields don't apply just to newly added records, as I might have expected. The editors have gone back through the file and added the information into the appropriate fields for whatever was supplied. For example, when an author's affiliation, e-mail address, or personal or journal URL could be determined from the source, these were added to the database. In the Dialog version of the file, URLs are provided but are not live links, while in the SilverPlatter version the URLs are clickable links.

The slimmed-down and carefully refocused file currently has about 134,000 records. About 400 records are added in each update, which is done 9 times a year or about every 6 weeks. Hawkins says he welcomes feedback on the recent changes to the file and suggestions for additional titles and improvements. He stressed that "the quality and relevance of the data have been dramatically improved."

In the near future ISA will begin using the ASIS Thesaurus as a source of Descriptors, thus updating and improving this important data element. The development of a new and improved hierarchy of Classification Codes and Subject Headings to accompany the new Descriptor field is also underway. All of these improvements should make access to important information that much easier for information professionals to find.


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.


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