Today, the importance of research in various fields is clear to everyone. When hundreds of thousands of articles in different fields are published each year, resulting in an increase of knowledge at every moment, practitioners run a risk of lagging behind and being backward. The capability of countries to present and publish their scientific research papers represents their scientific development. This is as true in the health sciences as in other fields.
Improved health depends on finding about its determinants and the application of this knowledge in the prevention and treatment of disease. This understanding depends on the dissemination of research findings and the status of existing information. Identification, planning, implementation, and interpretation of individual research studies all depend on ready access to all of the relevant existing research knowledge.
Although global spending on health research currently totals some $60 billion (US), less than 10% of it is directed to the diseases and conditions of 90% of the global population . Many biomédical researchers in developing countries are professionally isolated by difficulties in accessing, generating, synthesizing, and disseminating information. Easy access to reliable health information for health workers in developing countries is the single most cost-effective and achievable strategy for improving health care in these countries . In the medical community, bibliographic databases are widely accepted as the most important source of information. An enhanced opportunity to access and distribute data and information now exists in the rapidly expanding Web infrastructure.
With close to 81 local medical journals by the year 2004 (none of which are indexed in MEDLINE), Iran is faced with a great challenge in trying to improve the quality instead of the quantity of its local medical journals. In recent years, Iran has substantially increased its presence in world science, according to papers indexed by Thomson ISI between 1981 and 2002. That is just one finding in a new Science Watch survey examining the output and impact of a selected group of Middle Eastern nations over the last 20 years. Iran's output in science-although still comparatively small-has dramatically increased in the last decade, more than tripling from the 501 papers indexed in 1996 to a total of 1,830 in 2002 .
From 1991 to 2002, 2,060 articles from researchers working in Iran were indexed in MEDLINE. The number of these articles increased from 44 in 1991 to 508 in 2002. Of these, 85% to 91% were original articles, and this proportion was roughly constant throughout this period. The total number of articles published in the authors' country from 1991 to 2002 was 8,615, 5,122 of which were original articles. The number of original articles and proportion to total publication showed a significant increase in this decade, from 127 to 1,140 and from 36% to 79% .
The number of theses and presentations at seminars also dramatically increased, but access to these, especially journal articles, is very difficult. Researchers in our country have easier access to foreign articles than to the results of domestic researchers because of easy access to MEDLINE and other electronic sites.
With the aim of enabling researchers in the field of health and medicine in our country to gain access to research papers in this field, ParsMedline was designed in early 2003 and became functional in September, the same year. Our long-term mission is to convey data and results of new studies to the scientific community, students, and research centers in particular and our whole society in general. The purpose of the project was to establish a Web-based bibliographic database related to Iranian health and medical research to facilitate access to that information, particularly for improvement of the quality of life of our community.