Update on the Currency of ISA
See my original SAVVY SEARCHING: Currency article in Online & CD-ROM Review 23(6),1999. 
See the letter to the editor from the Editor-in-Chief of ISA, Don Hawkins in Online Information Review 24(1), 2000.


The letter to the editor ran a little longer than the article it  responded to, still it  failed to convince me that ISA is more current than LISA and Library Literature.

ISA's currency is significantly better than that of its two closest competitors, LISA and Library Literature."... says Don Hawkins.

The randomly selected test journals could be countered with equally randomly selected ones had  the randomization technique been reported in the letter.


The graph shows the proportion of current (1999) year items as well as the alarmingly small total number of  records added to ISA in 1999.

The analysis was done on the entire population of the records added to the databases or the subsets in 1999 up to November 7th.
It is a more objective measure than the questionable random selection of titles.

Update Composition of Databases by Publication Year as of November 7, 1999
* LIS records subset

Click here to see the graph enlarged!


By May, 2000 the currency of ISA has further deteriorated,  moot issue. As of  May 26, 2000 the only update of ISA is the one of January, 2000.
LISA and LibLit  updates are far better.

The other four databases with good information technology coverage had perfect currency. Although you don't judge a database purely by its update banner, it is obvious that there cannot be records for articles published after January, 2000 in ISA.


The banner date may not be conclusive proof by itself but is a suspicious sign.  The  ZD index - an undocumented feature of DIALOG- was introduced following my argument in DATABASE with the then producer of ISA in 1997 about the nominal and actual update dates of ISA.

The ZD index shows the actual days when updates were added. The combined index of the  three LIS databases  provide fine evidence of update whereabouts. It shows that in the past six months LISA (File 61) and Library Literature (File 438) were actually updated six times, and ISA (File 202) was updated only once, on February 1, 2000.



ISA is even more behind its closest competitors on SilverPlatter.

LISA was very up-to-date. It had the May update at the end of the month. LibLit was one month behind. ISA had no updates in the first five months in 2000. Is it possible that online services refuse to load tapes from ISA, or is it more likely that ISA does not provide the updates? In either case the end-users will find stale information in ISA.


ISA is back to its old practice, dumping belatedly in one chunk the updates of a couple of months that were long overdue. On the last day of January, 2000 users of ISA still had to put up with the records in the 199908 updates.

By February 1, when the 1,374 records were dumped ISA looked to be timely, and caught up with the belated updates of October (385 records), December (419 records) and January (570 records)

It is like when the baby sitter does not feed the baby in the morning, at noon,  in the afternoon, in the evening and rams down the food the baby's throat at midnight. The parents have no idea how the baby got her daily intake.





















The UD index and the ZD index  show the update pattern of three LIS databases in 2000.LISA (File 61) had healthy  update rhythm with five updates.  LibLit (File 438) had five updates, too but it was late with the January and February updates.

ISA seems clinically dead again by the end of May. 




It is worth to look at the actual update pattern also in 1999. When were updates due and when were they really added?

The January update (UD=199901) was loaded on  April 9th (ZD=19990409).

The June update (UD=199906) was loaded on October 22nd (ZD=19991022), for example.

Other databases fall behind some times but not like ISA. They  don't deny it, don't come up with lame excuses, and don't brag about their currency left and right.


  Can updating be done perfectly? Yes.


Internet & Personal Computing Abstracts (formerly Microcomputer Abstracts), is the other database of Information Today, Inc. 
It is managed by a different group of people in the very same location where ISA is produced. It has been on time with every update for years.
Interestingly, you don't see the name of the editors of IPCA, let alone editorials and essays from them. They must be busy doing their work, creating very good quality records for more than a thousand articles each month.


This March announcement in Chronolog's What's News  indicates that ISA will cut back its updating to 9 times a year.

It is not news as in 1999 ISA had only 8 updates. 

Until this news, the blue sheet promised monthly updates, ISA promised 11 updates.


It is odd to see the distribution of the monthly updates across the year. Real researchers must have some scientific name for the avoidance of four of the six odd months of the year.


I wonder what would the subscribers of Information Today do if they were to get only 8 issues instead of 11. I also wonder if  I could get away with writing  16 columns a year for Information Today instead of 22 and still get paid for 22.



The nine updates at approximately 6 week intervals is another Promise Impossible.
As of  June 8, 2000 (aka Week 23) ISA had a lonely update.


DIALOG is more realistic when it identifies the updating pattern of ISA as Irregular in the most current bluesheet that was issued on May 17th, 2000.


The editors increasing concern is understandable about the currency of ISA, especially because it
is really poor.
Is the excuse for slow receipt of journals reasonable?


I don't think so. The article that  Hawkins quotes in his essay on the Dialog site affects all database publishers and does not explain the gross delays in ISA. 

The very journal he quotes was published on time and the specific article was available in other online databases much sooner than in ISA. 

Remember, that records for the February, 1999 update  of ISA (when this record became accessible) were added on May 20th to the ISA database, ten months after the article was published. Not a truly smart example just to show a scholarly citation.


Many database producers managed to add records to their databases for this journal in the same year the articles were published.

ISA has no records at all for  articles from the 1999 issues of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing.
Maybe there was none nearly as relevant as the cited article? Or the editors of ISA did not receive any of the issues? Go on.


Others must have not experienced "slow receipt of many journals".

There sure were in 1999 articles from this journal that should have been indexed and abstracted.

These are just two of the articles that are undoubtedly relevant for ISA's stated scope and were added to the Social SciSearch database in 1999 despite the fact that creating the value-added information (cited works) in this database  takes much more time than in ISA.


Another journal shows the same stale nature of ISA and the fact that other database publishers had apparently no problem in receiving the journal Information Sciences

In this case there cannot be the slightest doubt that every article is relevant for ISA.

Unfortunately,  ISA has far the fewest number of records for this journal. But there is worse news.


In 1999 ISA had no records from this quite productive journal.

Other databases have added a total of 359 records (ranging from 45 to 137 per database) in their 1999 updates for articles published in the 1999 issues of Information Sciences. They must have received their journals somehow.


How Important is Currency?

It is certainly a time-sensitive question in more way than one as we shall see.
Columnist Hawkins made a survey of web sites dealing with information quality in 1999 to find what evaluation criteria are the most important in judging information to be credible.


Columnist Hawkins found that  of the 14 sites he analyzed 12 listed Currency/Updating as the single most often mentioned credibility criteria.


Editor-in-Chief Hawkins, of ISA in response to a critical comment about the abysmal updating and the lack of currency of the ISA database asserts in the first issue in 2000 of Online Information Review that

..."currency, albeit significant, is only one consideration that searchers make when deciding which database to use to meet their information needs."...

No wonder. ISA has been updated between January 1 and June 1 one time, on February 1. Obviously, currency and updating (reduced to 9 updates per year to reflect reality of the past) was not the top priority for the file producer. Or if it was we can just guess what happened to other criteria of credibility like publishing a core journal list, covering the core journals, maintaining a reasonable volume of relevant update records, etc.



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