Endangered Database Species 
See the article in  Information World Review  December, 2000. 


Indexing-only database species are the most endangered. No wonder that the Criminal Justice Periodical Index was closed on DIALOG. Such indexing records are just not sufficient these days.


The Dialog Bluesheet may make you think that there are abstracts in this version of the database, although admittedly for less than 10% of the records. Try it, to gauge what percentage of the records have abstracts.


This less than 10% claim turns out to be a gross euphemism. The query S crim?/ab should retrieve  all the records where crime, crimes, criminal, etc. appears in the abstract. Presumably every records from a criminology database. Well, the query retrieves two records. Certainly less than 10%. Actually, less than  0.001 percent of the more than 250,000 records.

And those abstracts are no abstracts by any stretch of the  imagination.


A rich and informative variant of this database with abstract, full text and page image records for many of the journals is alive and kicking on ProQuest.


The indexing-only versions of H.W. Wilson's Library Literature & Information Science  database on DIALOG (left) and on WebSPIRS (right)  have good descriptors but the lack of abstracts puts them on the endangered list.


The version of Library Literature on H. W. Wilson's web site is not vulnerable because 80 of the journals have the full text of the articles for the past couple of years in HTML or the highly legible text-PDF formats. For some of the journals H. W. Wilson offers the only full-text digital version.


Some databases get on the endangered list not only because they get wounded in the fierce struggle for survival, but also because of self-inflicted wounds. MHA is the epitome of the self-endangering databases. Until the early 1980s it was running neck-to-neck with PsycINFO. After IFI/Plenum Data Corporation took over its management, the number of items added started to dwindle.

The yearly update volume plummeted to barely over 3,000 records - less than what PsycINFO adds in a month of updates. Is it because MHA processes only the most important journals of psychology and psychiatry? No, that's not the reason. 


The emaciation of the MHA database is caused not because MHA processes only the top 10 or top 20 or top 50 journals of the discipline. It is because its journal base was decimated, eliminating -among others- 80% of the journals that the Institute for Scientific Information monitors to measure their impact factors.
MHA did not have a single journal from the top 10 or even the top 20 journals (ranked by their impact factor).  PsycINFO covered 454 of the 489 titles reported in the 1999 edition of ISI's Journal Citation Reports section of psychology and psychiatry. MHA covered merely 93 (19%) of those 489 titles as shown from my research presented at the 1999 National Online Meeting.


The Information Science Abstracts (ISA) database also shows a sharply declining trend since 1997. Many of the records for articles and conference papers published in a given year are added to databases in the following year, in this case 1998. That was the year when ISA changed hands, and the journal base and consequently the number of records started to shrink dramatically, too.

This snapshot was taken on November 15th, 2000.
The database clearly withers away because of the total or almost total neglect of essential information science journals


This sample search shows how to test the coverage of the same journal in multiple databases. Variations in journal names within and among databases must be accommodated in the search strategy! In this example there were no variant names for the journal.
Similar searches for other key information science journals prove that there is no mysterious decrease in the information science literature as the editors of ISA intimated in a letter-to-the-editor in Online Information Review 24(1): 93-95. As shown below in an excerpt, professional  abstracting/indexing services did not experience a slowdown in the receipt  of  highly respected journals. They may have paid more for their subscriptions, but obviously the issues kept coming in and being processed.


Juxtaposing the coverage across years of some information science journals by a few databases clearly shows the dramatically declining coverage of essential titles in ISA.  In 1996 most databases had identical or comparable coverage of the sample titles (except for two journals in PASCAL) . The 1997 issues were covered by ISA since the takeover to a significantly lesser extent, and from 1998 onward ISA's coverage nose dived, while the other  databases maintained their substantial and identical or comparable coverage for these and many other journals. Compendex shows some dwindling in 1997 and 1998.


The WebSPIRS version of ISA seems to be even more endangered as it had only a single update in 2000 (as of November 5), and it shows in the result. It has records only for 333 articles published in the first 10 months of the year. The two  other databases with library and information science coverage, LibLit and LISA added more than 4,000 records.

Click here to see the whole screen shot!


Even the extended, 1999-2000 comparison is unfavorable for ISA versus LISA that is not justified by the staleness of the ISA database caused by the single update in 2000 (as of November 5).

Click here to see the whole screen shot!


 This decline is also apparent in such information science topic as bibliometrics that is claimed to be a primary subject of ISA. The ratio of difference remains the same both for keyword searching (#2), and title word searching (#1).

Click here to see the whole screen shot!


The symptoms are the same when searching for other hot information science topics in the entire range of the two databases. 
When searching for current literature, obviously, the gap becomes greater because of the ever shallower coverage of key information science journals and the dropping of many of them by ISA. in the past three years, earning its top position on the list of most endangered database species.

Click here to see the whole screen shot!


Commercial versions of all the government databases are on the threatened list of database species. The free and intuitive versions of the ERIC database, for example, will drive into extinction most of its commercial versions. The same is true for the commercial versions of several other government databases.

Click here to see the whole screen shot!


The free PubSCIENCE database threatens the commercial Energy Science and Technology database, even though the non-U.S. documents are not in the free version.


Even full-text databases are endangered in the commercial biome, like the patent databases that have been among the most lucrative databases. 
The free Intellectual Property Network of IBM/Delphion is not only a masterpiece of design but provides far more options in  delivering patents to your desktop than the pricey IFI/Plenum version on DIALOG with the hefty $5.90 DialUnit fee and the $3.20 display price for the plain ASCII text of the patents. IPN offers for free the full patent in PDF format that includes the so essential drawings. Some premium features are fee-based also on IPN, but you get much bang for the buck on IPN.


The references in the IPN version include not only the previous patents but also the ones that cite the patent being viewed. The information about the citing and cited patents are far more detailed and informative, and they are hot linked to the related patents.


 The expensive  IFI version on DIALOG still does not offer such hyperlinking. In spite of some powerful search features of Dialog, the IFI patent databases may not have a rosy future.

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