April 24, 2018

SafetyLit: A Free Database It Might Be Useful to Know About | Not Dead Yet­­

Cheryl-LaGuardiaSomeone from the SafetyLit Foundation recently sent me information about the SafetyLit Database via LinkedIn. I hadn’t heard of this resource before, but I took a look (though not an exhaustive one) and saw some interesting material in it. Here’s the description sent to me:

SafetyLit (short for safety literature) is a free database service of the SafetyLit Foundation in cooperation with San Diego State University and the World Health Organization. The SafetyLit site contains no advertising. SafetyLit is operated entirely by volunteers throughout the world. The database contains more than 500,000 records and draws content from more than 16,000 professional journals of 30+ distinct professional disciplines.

So I went to the site to find out more. Here’s what the site tells you is in SafetyLit:

SafetyLit provides abstracts of reports from researchers who work in the more than 30 distinct professional disciplines relevant to preventing and researching unintentional injuries, violence, and self-harm. Among these are agriculture, anthropology, architecture, economics, education, engineering specialties, ergonomics and human factors, faith scholars, health and medicine, law and law enforcement, psychology, social work, sociology, and other fields.

And here’s the site’s stated mission:

The mission of SafetyLit is to provide a free comprehensive, easy-to-use, searchable, Internet-based bibliographic database of scholarly journal articles, technical reports, and theses concerning all issues of safety arising from many professional disciplines and nations. The items will be indexed in a way that access to information by policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and the general public will not be hindered by obscure professional jargon or arcane search terms.

Just to see samples of what’s in there, I did a basic search of the database for “active shooter” and got 23 results, including:

“Active shooter in educational facility,” Downs S. Journal of Emergency Management, 2015; 13(4): 303-326.

An examination of the individual and contextual characteristics associated with active shooter events,” Gamache K, Platania J, Zaitchik M. Journal of Forensic Psychology (open access journal), 2015; 7: 1-20. [note: I added the pdf link from the OA journal site]

“How to avoid having to run—hide—fight,” Sawyer JR. Journal of Healthcare Protection Management, 2015; 31(2): 15-22.

That was pretty interesting, so then I did a Boolean search for “libraries” and “homeless” looking for Textword + Synonyms (a search type the Boolean search here lets you do). I got a number of false drops (literature review articles on the homeless and the “libraries searched” in the review, for instance), but I also got some pertinent material that was the kind of thing I sought, including:

“Measuring the public library’s societal value: A methodological research program,” Huysmans F, Oomes M., IFLA Journal, 2013; 39(2): 168-177.

“Opportunities and challenges for public libraries to enhance community resilience,” Veil SR, Bishop BW, Risk Analysis, 2014; 34(4): 721-734.

“Digital information support for domestic violence victims,” Westbrook L., Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 2007; 58(3): 420-432.

Then I went into the “About Us” section of the site, and found this item in the SafetyLit History story: “The idea for SafetyLit came from a service provided in the early- to mid-1990s by Sandy Bonzo, a librarian with the U.S. CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. That bibliographic update was a printout of article citations from Medline that were indexed with selected MeSH terms relevant to the treatment and prevention of injuries. That valuable service ended in 1995.” So it all began with a librarian.

The end of the “About Us” section includes these disclaimers:

SafetyLit Provides Information—Not Advice

Important: The articles and reports summarized in each SafetyLit Update are NOT screened for quality. The purpose of SafetyLit is to provide its users with information to allow them to identify and find material (of both good and poor quality) that has been published about injury prevention and safety promotion topics. Even when SafetyLit staff believe that there are methodological errors that affect the research findings or when we disagree with the authors’ conclusions and statements of implications, an attempt is made to provide an objective summary of the authors’ intent. Material in the ‘comments’ section of each report’s summary is provided by the author(s) of the report—not by SafetyLit.

So as with many information resources, you’ll be the judge of just how useful SafetyLit may be to you and your researchers. But as a freely available resource, I figure you just may want to know about it. I’d be interested to hear feedback from readers if you do explore it.

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980s, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early '90s (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.

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  1. Great resource, Cheryl. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you for your article about SafetyLit. Allow me to expand a bit on your comments.

    You mentioned that SafetyLit was inspired by a librarian but from its inception to the current day SafetyLit has had librarians involved in planning, implementation and QA. When we received support for special projects we have had librarians as part-time staff or on contract. Currently there are four librarians who are very active volunteers. They prefer to remain anonymous out of concern that their employer may not be comfortable with their efforts. We welcome volunteers — even if their involvement is limited to identifying problems and making suggestions.

    SafetyLit’s focus is on providing a service to entities that cannot afford subscriptions to databases provided by corporations such as EBSCO, ISI/Reuters, ProQuest, etc. In most ways these products provide services that are beyond the scope of SafetyLit. SafetyLit’s users work in U.S. agencies and organizations such as hospital libraries, community colleges, and county agencies such as education, fire, health, law enforcement, and social services. The majority of SafetyLit users are from similar entities outside North America.

    SafetyLit differs from the commercial databases in that our scope specifically is providing information that should be useful to those researchers or practitioners who are working to investigate or prevent unintentional injuries (accidents), interpersonal violence, and self harm. SafetyLit also provides information about the cost of treatment and rehabilitation for injuries if prevention fails and about the costs involved in activities to prevent them.

    We try to minimize the occurrence of false drops by selectively including only those publications that meet our inclusion criteria (http://www.safetylit.org/faq.html). The SafetyLit Thesaurus, although its hierarchy remains in disarray, helps in two ways:
    The SafetyLit query system makes use of our thesaurus USE/OR utility. For example, words like “football” mean quite different things depending upon the location of the author (or the searcher). When searchers enter the term “football” they are taken to a disambiguation screen that allows the query to be for American football, soccer (Association football) as well as Australian-rules football, Canadian football, Gaelic football, flag football, etc.

    We also try to help users query efforts by optionally allowing textword searches to include synonyms of the search concept and receive a return of all of the items that contain any of the synonyms for the topic. For example, there are almost 200 words and phrases that are used by authors to describe “intimate partner violence”; a textword+synonym search will return all of the articles contains any of the terms. We have a similar utility to handle British/American English language spellings. Although we work at including index terms with these records, having the synonym-ring search capacity allows information seekers to find relevant items before terms are added.

    We almost always present author abstracts as-is (except for rare instances where there are systematic misspellings of key terms). We do, however, annotate the abstracts with keywords when necessary to identify the actual topic of the article. In the football case mentioned above, that requires us to investigate the “flavor” of the sport being addressed and include the term within the abstract.

    Likewise, item titles may be changed if the translation to English is faulty. For example, some publishers’ translations in their metadata can be almost decipherable (see: A case report about znfant poison caused by suckling poisoned milk secretool by his mother taking paraquat [PMID 26832715]) without some action. We went to the original Chinese language report and revised this to: “A case report of poisoning to a nursing infant caused by breast milk secreted by his mother who consumed paraquat”

    We do one other thing that few, if any, other databases have implemented. We make great effort to standardize author names. Why? Item ¶14.72 in the Chicago Manual of Style states:

    “Authors’ names are normally given as they appear on the title pages of their books or above their articles. Certain adjustments, however, should be made to assist correct identification. First names may be given in full in place of initials. If an author uses his or her given name in one cited book and initials in another (e.g., “Mary L. Jones” versus “M. L. Jones” versus “Mary Jones” versus “Mary Lois Jones” versus “M. Jones”), the same form, preferably the fuller one, should be used in all references to that author. To assist alphabetization [and disambiguation], middle initials or names should be given wherever known”. The APA provides less specific but very similar instructions Guideline 6.27.

    How is one to know if the M.L. Jones is Mary Lois Jones or Michael Lewis Jones, or someone else?

    SafetyLit strives to provide full author names even when the source document supplies only initials — we consult multiple sources to verify incomplete or ambiguous names. Also, when available, ORCID and VIAF identifiers are provided.

    In an effort to make SafetyLit metadata friendly to personal bibliographic management software, we try to reset all item titles in sentence case. That way, the software can handle casing according to the required style guide. (No software has the capacity to accurately convert title case to sentence case while most can convert sentence case to title case. This last thing is going more slowly than I would like because our priority is adding new items and also items from journal backfiles (our earliest items are from the mid-17th century).

    All of this requires much effort from experts. Please consider joining us as a volunteer or posting part of this message to your online column to convey my request for volunteers.

  3. Thanks for the extra information, David! And, in effect, you’ve just put a call out for volunteers via your comment. I’ll add that folks can get information on how to get in touch with your organization at: http://www.safetylit.org/contact.htm.
    Thanks again for writing.
    Best wishes,