Web Resources for Sex Researchers: The State of the Art, Now and in the Future

Article excerpt

The World Wide Web is widely acknowledged as a treasure trove of information for research of any kind. Researchers at every level of expertise and interest can find Web sites to meet many of their needs, although not all--and often not easily. For sexuality professionals especially, the Web has proven itself to be a useful resource for education and research, and even for rudimentary counseling and data collection. Currently, however, this vast resource is not easily navigated and little of it is adequately indexed in any systematic way, although many specific sexological interests are nicely indexed, and sometimes annotated, in various links pages scattered across the Web.

As a result, finding useful information is often a time-consuming and arduous task, given that the amount of information placed on the Web continues to grow at almost exponential rates. The use of search engines, such as AltaVista.com and Google.com (my usual preferred search portals) is one way to find topics, although typically this strategy is a hit-or-miss proposition. Searching for many of the ordinary expressions encompassing the word sex, for example, is more likely to return a list of commercial pornography/erotica sites than relevant sexuality or sex research information. If you need to do something approaching an exhaustive search (which is no longer possible via the Web because of time limitations), a good site to visit is the Search Engine Watch site (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/) to find links to all of the major search engines, as well as a host of minor specialty ones, with comparative reviews and tips for better searching. There are, however, a number of good sexuality-specific Web sites that can provide effective starting points for targeted searches in sexology, of which several are spotlighted below.

Institutions and Mega-sites

One of the best sites for researchers beginning their quest for Web resources is that of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). Their links page (http://www.siecus.org/links/links.html) provides a pathway to information of value both to the professional researcher and to students and the lay public. Ranging from activism to teen issues to religion to foundations and government and other organizations and statistics, the site is a must-visit for these and more on the Web. In addition, selected articles from the SIECUS Report are available, as well as their well-known annotated bibliographies and fact sheets.

The Kinsey Institute (http://www.indiana.edu/~kinsey/), housed at Indiana University, is another of the obvious Web sites for sex researchers to include in any exploration. It maintains what may be the largest special collection of archives and holdings of scientific, historical, artistic, or literary interest, and other artifacts related to human sexuality. The Library offers an online catalog of many of its holdings, which are noncirculating, but does not index its art or archival collections, although abstracts of some of them are available at the Web site. The Kinsey Institute also provides a listing of database archives--some online, but most not--with links to information about their availability, as well as summaries of its various research projects. Also available here are other documents about the field of sexology, such as di Mauro's 1995 Executive Summary of the Sexuality Research Assessment Project of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) (http://www.indiana.edu/~kinsey/SSRC /sexrealn.html), which addresses the need, barriers, and recommendations for sex research.

While the Kinsey Institute houses probably the largest primary-source sexology collections, others are likely to contain valuable sexuality data buried in their archives. The University of Idaho Library's Repositories of Primary Sources (http://www.uidaho.edu/special-collections/Other .Repositories.html) provides links to more than 4,600 organizations with holdings of manuscripts, archives, and other primary data sources internationally, many of which are beginning to provide online access to some holdings. …