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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2004
DOI:10.5062/F4TQ5ZGJ

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

[Refereed article]

Science and Engineering Sources on the Internet

Selective Webliography for Health Sciences Authors

Mark A. Spasser
Chief, Library and Information Services/Associate Professor
Jewish Hospital College of Nursing & Allied Health Library
St. Louis, MO
mas1200@bjc.org

Introduction

The web is an ever-growing (doubling in size every day, according to Murray and Moore 2000), loosely amalgamated panoply of information resources and services produced by a heterogeneous group of differentially qualified of authors. Google now indexes well over three billion web pages (Google). It is an established role of health sciences librarians to help busy clinicians and other health care professionals cope with "information overload" by helping them locate useful and valuable information resources (Lyons and Khot 2000; McQuistan 2000). One time-honored means of doing so is to prepare annotated bibliographies of such resources, perhaps no more so than to manage such cross-disciplinary topics as writing for publication (Kostro et al. 1993; Parker et al. 1993). Such lists of useful resources, coupled with strategies for updating them, constitute powerful aids to any number of endeavors.

A growing number of web sites offer resources and tools that clinicians can use to help write for publication. The sites include information about style guides, publishing venues, writing tips and tricks, and general and medical reference. They are intended to facilitate the publishing careers of clinicians.

This guide is intended to present a selected list of sites that cover the basic issues of writing for publication in professional medical venues and that provide useful information for health sciences authors who want either help with their writing or information resources that are 'ready to hand' (analogous to the physically located reference library). The subject headings are intended to offer a division of resources into heuristically useful categories. Due to the diversity of subject areas covered by writing resources and tools, this guide can only provide a suggestive core list and is not intended to be comprehensive. This selective webliography focuses on free quality online materials where possible. The primary purpose of this webliography is to assist clinicians and researchers -- health sciences professionals -- with the tasks of identifying, analyzing, and utilizing quality sites when bombarded with hundreds of sites listed by gateways and directories, and in results from search engine queries.

While the intended audience for this resource is the health sciences professional author, researchers and bioscientists will also find this webliography of value. Information on submission requirements is often readily available on individual publisher's web sites (see Instructions to Authors in the Health Sciences below). It may be equally valuable, if not more efficient, to organize your own set of resources on the basis of relevant publication outlets and opportunities for different disciplines.

Methods

These resources were located first by performing keyword and phrase searches in three search engines: Google, Alltheweb, and {Teoma}. As a second and last step, I checked the library sites of several medical schools, such as Washington University School of Medicine and the (Emory School of Medicine}.

To update this list, develop a set of keywords and search strategies that can be used in the search engines mentioned above. Additionally, check medical portals, such as the Hardin Meta Directory (mentioned below). To take a proactive approach, use one or more of the alerting services (e.g., PubCrawler, BioMail) also mentioned below. For all of the above, appropriate keywords and phrases include "health sciences writing," "medical writing," "author resources," and/or variants of the term "publish." (N.B. It's more efficient to search word form variants, using truncation where available. Be aware that there is often a limit as to the number of variants that will be searched.)

A selective list of writing-related resources and tools freely available online includes:

Resources

Portals

According to the ComputerUser.com High-Tech Dictionary, a portal is defined as a web page that is a starting point (i.e., gateway or entrance) for web surfing. Well-known, general interest examples include Infoseek, Excite, Yahoo, Lycos, and AOL. Subject specific portals are often called vortals ("The rough guide" 2002). The portals mentioned below serve as starting points for finding health sciences-related writing resources.

Health & Medical Sciences Information Directories
{http://macedonia.chem.demokritos.gr/search/dhealth/dhealth.html}
Best considered a 'meta portal,' this is a list of portals. This site aims to gather together information in "chemistry related" fields. Resources are included for both novice and advanced Internet users. Resource directories include the {Hardin Meta Directory} and MEDLINEplus. (MEDLINEplus is a very valuable hub, collocating links to vetted databases, current news items, and medical and general reference works). This simple alphabetical list of sites also includes authoritative human-edited directories, such as Academic Info, dmoz Open Directory Project, and {Librarians' Index to the Internet}, as well as search engines, Google, and MedWebPlus (see directly below).

MedWebPlus
http://medwebplus.com
A free service to help you find health sciences information quickly and easily. The goal of MedWebPlus is to give users tools to quickly locate and assimilate good and reliable information covering the entire spectrum of health care. MedWebPlus -- one of the largest health sciences index on the Internet, with nearly 25,000 web links and thousands of offline sources -- has been described as a "healthcare Internet context provider" because it provides the context for users to access content on the web.

The mission of MedWebPlus is two-fold:

  1. to help users locate needed information in a timely and user-friendly manner; and
  2. to ensure the information found is reliable, helpful, and usable.

Guidelines that are used to determine whether to link to a new site include the authority and expertise of the health sciences professionals offering health advice, the presence of clear references to source information, and the consistent accessibility (i.e., stability) of the web site.

The Publishing and Publications section contains a variety of writing-related links, in such areas as abbreviations, clinical protocols, congresses, and case studies, and also includes an extensive alphabetical directory to journals and associations.

BioMed Central - Tools for Authors
http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/authors/
BioMed Central is becoming an indispensable site for all clinicians and scientists not only for the freely available full text of its electronic journals, but also for the other authoring resources it makes available. The "for authors" tab includes a wide range of resources for the health sciences author: a list of BioMed Central journals (the databases which index them), information and tools for publishing in BioMed Central journals, and for publishing meeting abstracts. Even information for starting a new BioMed Central journal are included.

According to BioMed Central, the Tools for Authors page "... brings together details of software and other tools that may be helpful to BioMed Central authors when formatting manuscripts for submission." Most tools are not free, but the page does collocate useful resources for the health sciences author.

MEDWEB@Emory University
{http://www.medweb.emory.edu/MedWeb/SPT--Home.php}
MedWeb is a catalog of biomedical and health related web sites maintained by the staff of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library at Emory University. While MedWeb's primary audience is the academic and research community at Emory, all health sciences authors will find many useful resources. Criteria for linking to web sites include: relevancy -- meets the needs of the Emory University community, with special emphasis on the Health Sciences Center and its affiliates; credibility -- author and/or sponsor of the site is a reputable source for the information; currency -- site is actively maintained; content -- information on the site does not have an obvious bias and the source of the information is clearly stated; and design -- layout of the site is clear and preferably the site searchable.

Browsing the writing section of the site reveals a list of resource categories, including Publishing, Medicine, Nursing, Guidelines, etc. Linked sites include Roster of Physician Writers, European Medical Writers Association, and various chapters of the American Medical Writers Association, and the National Association of Science Writers, all of which collate some information resources for health sciences authors.

Writers Write - Medical Writing
http://www.writerswrite.com/medical/medlink.htm
Writers Write is a one-stop resource for professional writers; "an online information service for writers, editors, publishers, journalists, students and academics." This comprehensive writers' resource is devoted to information about and for publishers, editors and writers. Included are writers' guidelines, writing-related news, access to message boards, and job listings, and articles on all types of writing and editing. Writer's Write has links to reference resources including dictionaries, encyclopedias, government agencies and science and health sites that writers might want to visit.

Resources for Medical Writers are grouped into subject headings, such as General Reference, Books, Government Medical Resources, Medical Reference Resources, Organizations, among others. Medical Reference Resources constitutes an alphabetically arranged list of online medical writing resources for the health sciences author.

Authors Assistant - Becker Medical Library of the Washington University Medical School
{http://aps.wustl.edu/medlib/becker.nsf/76a62013c52d080686256ef50061be62/7c79355014a161c986256f0e00776d8b?OpenDocument}
A well-organized, concise list of vetted resources for the health sciences author, including citation style guides, copyright and publisher information, writing and usage/grammar guides, and such general references as dictionaries, thesauri, and quotations.

Other academic institutions have similar sites, for example, the University of Nebraska Library of Medicine's {Writing and Publishing in the Health Sciences}, the Albany College of Pharmacy's {Writing Assistance on the Web}, and the University of Toronto's Health Writing Centre.

Instructions to Authors in the Health Sciences
{http://mulford.meduohio.edu/instr/}
Perhaps the most important resource in this group, this site published by the Raymon H. Mulford Library of the Medical College of Ohio contain links to web sites that provide instructions to authors for more than 3,500 journals in the health and life sciences. "All links are to 'primary sources,' that is, to publishers or organizations with editorial responsibilities for the titles." While more or less helpful depending on the quality of a title's web site, this Medical College of Ohio site is a great convenience to all health sciences authors.

Style Guides

As anyone who has submitted articles for publication in almost any journal knows, each journal has a required format for manuscripts submitted, including a format for bibliographical references. Style guides (often organization-specific) list rules for manuscript preparation, including citation format, important grammar and punctuation conventions, and manuscript organization.

Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals
According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), "A small group of editors of general medical journals [subsequently known as the Vancouver Group] met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. Its requirements for manuscripts including formats for bibliographic references developed by the National Library of Medicine were first published in 1979."

Multiple editions of the Uniform Requirements have been produced, and the entire document was revised in 1997. Sections are continually updated as needed.

More than one site publishes the Uniform Requirements. For example, the page on the Canadian Medical Association site was last updated on "10 March 2002;" whereas, the page on the ICMJE site was updated "October 2001." (Both pages were accessed December 15, 2002.) This discrepancy may not be substantively meaningful, but, in general, when using web-based information, one must always check its currency. Physicians will be interested in the {American Medical Association Style guide}, which conforms with the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts submitted to Biomedical journals 5th edition, 1997 (see directly above).

National Library of Medicine Recommended Formats for Bibliographic Citation: Supplement: Internet Formats
{http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/br.fcgi?book=citmed}
This is a PDF file (the freely available Adobe Acrobat Reader software is needed to view this document) that describes the recommended formats for electronic references. As noted in the discussion of the Uniform Requirements above, this Supplement effectively functions as an update to the Uniform Requirements.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th ed.
http://www.apastyle.org/
Journals publishing materials at the intersection of the social sciences-psychology-education and medicine may require manuscripts be submitted in American Psychological Association (APA) style. While the complete APA Manual is not available on the web, APA does make the following sections freely available on their APA style web site: Electronic references formats, some style tips, and ethics of publication. There are many sites that offer freely available aids to using APA style (although users must ensure that the aids refer to 2002 5th ed. -- an example of the necessity of establishing the currency of information). For example, a users' guides to the APA Manual 5th ed. can be found at {http://www.jhconah.edu/library/guides_links_toc.html}, {http://www2.liu.edu/cwis/cwp/library/workshop/citapa.htm}, and {http://www.lib.usm.edu/~instruct/guides/apa.html}.

NOTE: Two other style guides may be interest to some physicians and researchers: Council of Biology Editors (CBE) Scientific Style at {http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/researchsources/documentation/cbe_citation/index.cfm} and the American Sociological Association (ASA) Style Guide (abbreviated guide to ASA style freely available) at {http://www.calstatela.edu/library/bi/rsalina/asa.styleguide09262007.html}

Citing Electronic Resources
An increasing number of references are to electronic, largely web-based, resources. A guide to electronic resource referencing from several guides and manuals is Online! Citation Style Guides, which includes APA, CBE, Chicago Style, among others. For submission to biomedical journals, see the National Library of Medicine Recommended Formats for Bibliographic Citation: Supplement: Internet Formats listed above.

Medical Reference

There are many medical references freely available on the web. A couple of the portals discussed above have Medical Reference sections. Due to space constraints, I'll mention only a few that merely suggest the wide range of available resources.

whonamedit.com (Who Named It?)
http://www.whonamedit.com/
This site is a biographical dictionary of medical eponyms that aspires to offer a complete survey of all medical phenomena named for a person, with a biography of that person. According to the site's editors (page retrieved December 08, 2003), whonamedit.com contains 6,573 eponyms described in 3,183 main entries. These eponyms are linked to 2631 persons: 72 female and 2,559 male. Each entry contains synonyms, associated persons, description, and, in some cases, a couple of key references. The visitor can free-text search the entire site, browse eponyms alphabetically or by category, or browse biographies alphabetically or by country.

Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, 7th ed.
{http://www.nap.edu/html/labrats/}
Some health sciences research involves the use of laboratory animals. This National Academies Press (NAP) publication describes guidelines and practices promulgated by the authority Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources, Commission of Life Sciences, National Research Council.

More than 400,000 copies of The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (the Guide) have been distributed since it was first published in 1963, and it is widely accepted as a primary reference on animal care and use. The purpose of the Guide, as expressed in the charge to the Committee to Revise the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, is to assist institutions in caring for and using animals in ways judged to be scientifically, technically, and humanely appropriate. The Guide is also intended to assist investigators in fulfilling their obligation to plan and conduct animal experiments in accord with the highest scientific, humane, and ethical principles. The recommendations are based on published data, scientific principles, expert opinion, and experience with methods and practices that have proved to be consistent with high-quality, humane animal care and use.

More generally, the NAP makes freely available from its site several thousand other books and reference works (many of which are health-related) issued under the auspices of some governmental agency or department. To find publications of interest search the entire database by keyword or browse by category (for example, Medical Sciences, Public Health and Health Care)

Institutional Review Boards (various)
When human subjects are used, each college or university requires that the research be peer-reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure the safe and ethical treatment of experimental subjects. The FDA's Guidance for Institutional Review Boards, represents the agency's current guidance on protection of human subjects of research. It is published as Level 2 guidance in accordance with the FDA "Good Guidance Practices." Institution-specific approaches may be used if such approaches satisfy the requirements of the applicable statute, regulations, or both. While the issues, problems, and safeguards are universal, each institution's IRB has some latitude deciding how to implement procedures. Examples of institutional implementations of mandated IRB policies and procedures include {Washington University Medical School (St. Louis)}, (created by the University of Minnesota), {Fordham University}, and the University of Florida's Health Science Center.

Medical Texts/References in the Public Domain (various)
Several sites make several classic, public domain medical texts freely available. They include the University of Pennsylvania's Online Books Page, {FreeBooks4Doctors}, Bartleby (includes dictionaries, thesauri, "Gray's Anatomy," and many other useful references), and selected publications of the {National Academies Press}.

Medical Search Engines

Specialty search engines (sometimes called vertical search engines or "vortals" ) focus on a particular topic, geographic region, or even a particular file format. There are specialty or topical search engines that focus exclusively on health sciences and biomedical information resources. Medical search engines won't find information about watches or jewelry, but will search out a wide range of medical information on everything from bioethics to clinical research to debates on health care reform. Groups of such medical information search tools can be found at http://searchenginewatch.com/links/article.php/2156231, and {http://macedonia.chem.demokritos.gr/search/health/health.html}.

Specialized medical search engines include Health on the Net's MedHunt (http://www.hon.ch/MedHunt/), medifocus (http://www.medifocus.com/default.asp?assoc=linkshare), Search-22 Medical Search Engines ({http://www.search-22.com/general_reference/health.php}), MedExplorer (http://www.medexplorer.com/), and Medic8 (http://www.medic8.com/index.htm).

Search results from specialty engines are often of higher quality than the results from general search engines because given their more targeted nature, a human editor with experience in the subject (a subject expert) often reviews submitted sites before they're listed.

NLM Gateway
http://gateway.nlm.nih.gov/
The target audience for the Gateway is the health sciences writer wanting "one-stop-shopping" for many of the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) information resources. The current Gateway searches MEDLINE/PubMed, LOCATORplus (NLM's online public access catalog), MEDLINEplus, ClinicalTrials.gov, DIRLINE, Meeting Abstracts, HSRProj, and includes information about document delivery through Loansome Doc (see below). Perhaps, the most important, valuable resource for the health sciences writer is MEDLINE, the premier bibliographic database that contains over 12 million references to journal articles in life sciences with a concentration on biomedicine. The NLM Gateway presents a single interface that lets users search in multiple retrieval systems.

According to the NLM, "One target audience for the Gateway is the Internet user who is new to NLM's online resources and does not know what information is available there or how best to search for it. This audience may include physicians and other health care providers, researchers, librarians, students, and increasingly, patients, their families, and the public."

General Reference

The number of vetted and high-quality general references (many of which are writing related) is staggering, so I'll limit our discussion to a few highly regarded reference portals. These reference web sites (and many, many others) collectively provide health sciences authors with every conceivable writing tool, from dictionaries and thesauri to illustrated encyclopedia, language usage guides, and quotation source books.

OneLook
http://www.onelook.com/
The OneLook site is basically a portal to almost every kind and type of dictionary imaginable, including general, computing, science, technology, and medical. Medical dictionaries and glossaries indexed by OneLook include: Alzheimer's Association Medical Glossary (http://www.alz.org/Resources/Glossary.asp), Dictionary of Cancer Terms (http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary/), Eye Dictionary ({http://ww1.mesvision.com/aboutus_glossary.htm}), HIV Glossary ({http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/Glossary/GlossaryDefaultCenterPage.aspx?MenuItem=AIDSinfoTools}), Alternative Health ({http://www.canoe.ca/AltmedDictionary/home.html}), and dozens of others.

Librarians' Index to the Internet (LII)
http://lii.org/
Offered by The Library of California, the LII is a gateway to vetted web sites that covers every imaginable subject and topic. There is a section on Health & Medicine that is subdivided into such subsections as Diseases, Nutrition, Conditions, and more. These are human-evaluated sites that the health sciences author can trust to be authoritative, unbiased, and relatively current. According to the LII web site, "We have a rigorous commitment to data quality. Every site entered in the lii.org database is reviewed at least twice--sometimes three or four times--before it goes 'live.' An active weeding program keeps us current--while sites change and die all the time, lii.org almost never has more than 100 'dead' sites." Sites are evaluated on their authority, scope and audience, content, design, and function.

ReferenceDesk.org
http://www.referencedesk.org/
Called by many the Internet's best reference source, this portal is directed largely at a research-oriented audience, with sections on finding people and quotations, encyclopedias, government resources, magazines and newspapers, and, of course, medical and health resources. Of particular interest to health sciences writers is the section on English Tools (http://www.referencedesk.org/tools1.html), which brings together dictionaries, guides to grammar, thesauri, etc.

Miscellaneous

Internet Tutorial for the Medic
http://www.vts.rdn.ac.uk/tutorial/medic
This is a tutorial directed toward the physician who is new to the web on how to search the Internet for health-related information. While it has a definite British flavor, it offers many useful pointers and tips to health sciences writers who would exploit the cornucopia of quality information resources freely available on the web. A very useful feature of the Tutorial is the Links Basket, which allows the user to collect links to the sites visited during the Tutorial for later use. Sections of the Tutorial include units on key web sites for medical personnel, Internet search guidance, evaluation criteria, and case studies that illustrate how to use web-based information to support medical work.

Content Evaluation Guidelines
http://www.mlanet.org/resources/userguide.html#3
The Medical Library Association (MLA) publishes a succinct set of guidelines for evaluating information and sites found on the web. While there are many such guides for evaluating Internet information, this user guide is authoritative, clear, and applies equally well to all information resources, whether electronic or print, medical or general reference. For example, the Content Evaluation Guidelines warn that '.com' sites should always be carefully evaluated, especially with regard to the sponsorship criterion.

Alerting Services (various) & Current Awareness
As anyone who must attempt to keep current on any aspect of the medical literature knows, it is an increasingly difficult task. That's where these web-based tools come in. By specifying subject terms, they allow physicians and scientists to be updated on newly published literature relevant to their areas of research. All that's really required is a valid e-mail address. Such current awareness services include PubCrawler at {http://pubcrawler.gen.tcd.ie/}, BioMail at {http://www.biomail.org/}, MDLinx (http://www.mdlinx.com), and Google Alert at http://www.googlealert.com/. Several of these services focus on the MEDLINE database, prompting users to construct MEDLINE searches to be automatically run at regular intervals.

Current awareness sites organize breaking medical news, but usually require the clinician to visit the site without e-mail prompting. One such site is SciCentral: Scan Today's Breaking Research News (http://www.scicentral.com/H-02heal.html). SciCentral collects news from such vetted services as EurekAlert (http://www.eurekalert.org/), and MEDLINEplus (http://www.medlineplus.gov). While some entries are embargoed and others require registration, many are freely available.

Loansome Doc
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/loansome_doc.html
For the unaffiliated (or remotely located) physician writer, this National Library of Medicine document fulfillment service offers a convenient way to obtain journal articles found during searches of the MEDLINE/PubMed database or from one of the alerting services mentioned above. Available to users who have established an agreement with a participating medical library (i.e., the ordering library), the Loansome Doc document delivery service enables users to order articles from lists of citations retrieved from PubMed and the NLM Gateway by sending requests to the ordering library for the full-text documents.

Conclusion

Health sciences professionals need quick access to a variety of information resources to support patient care practice, research, and pedagogy. Without identifying and organizing tools, the sheer volume of such information militates against ready access to necessary resources.

This selective webliography for health sciences authors is intended to gather together useful web-based resources that will facilitate the publication of professional materials. Authoring resources and tools are no exception. In fact, "lists" have been used since the beginning of literacy itself to order, reorganize, and store knowledge in a more useful, more 'logical', way (Goody 1977). It is important to remember that the web is loosely regulated and extremely fluid. Even resources from reputable publishers invariably come and go, depending on changing organizational missions and on who is charged with maintaining them. Information must be checked regularly for timeliness; while rules and procedures -- information -- change, sometimes web pages do not. All that being said, exercising a little common sense and considerable diligence, the web provides an unparalleled universe of high-quality resources literally at the fingertips of any enterprising health sciences author.

References

Brenner, S. 2001. Annotated bibliographies in cosmetic dermatology. Clinics in Dermatology 19:654-8.

Google. [Online]. Available: http://www.google.com [December 8, 2003].

Goody, J. 1977. The domestication of the savage mind. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kostro, B.J. Mudge, C. and Yennie, K.L. 1993. Research series: Part 3 of 6. Annotated bibliography: poster presentation, abstract writing, and collaborative research. ANNA Journal 20: 337-41.

Lyons, J. and Khot, A. 2000. Managing information overload: developing an electronic library. BMJ 320(15 January): 160.

McQuistan, S. 2000. Techniques for current awareness. Part 1: Information overload and the Internet. Journal of Audiovisual Media in Medicine 23: 124-5.

Murray, B.H. and Moore, A. 2000. Sizing the Internet [Online]. Available: {http://www.cyveillance.com/web/corporate/white_papers.htm} [December 8, 2002].

Parker J. Seaby, N. and Hoffart, N. 1993. Annotated bibliography: grant writing. ANNA Journal 20: 63-6, 95.

The rough guide to the Internet, 2003 ed. 2002. London ; New York: Penguin Books.

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