Magazine article Online

CISDOC, Medlineplus, CISILO

Magazine article Online

CISDOC, Medlineplus, CISILO

Article excerpt

Although I am not a specialist on the topic, I needed to find information about some occupational hazards. Three sources that deal with occupational health and safety caught my attention, and I reconnected with CISDOC. Decades before the internet, in the 1970s, I was involved in a project to create a database from the tape version of the records of CISDOC, the indexing/abstracting database of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Since then, CISDOC (along with several other ILO databases) has become available on the International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS) website for free and from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) for a fee.

One of my picks is the open access web version of CISDOC from ILO itself. The other pick is the Occupational Safety and Health section of the open access MedlinePlus service. The pan is the fee-based CISILO database, a version of CISDOC from CCOHS that serves the same content with a somewhat less capable software than the CISDOC, and which charges $600 (CAD) for a single-user, single language version for it and $900 (CAD) for a bilingual version. This also includes the ILO Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety (which I review in my column hosted by Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, and which is also free from the ILO itself as part of SafeWork, its open access suite of many related databases).

I am not against fee-based databases and have chosen several as picks in this column, notably Ovid's version of MEDLINE for its very smart and elegant implementation and its unique features. However, charging a fee for an implementation that offers less than the free version deserves a pan.

In the maddeningly confusing world of acronyms, it's ironic that the fee-based version frequently gets a better position in most search engine result lists than the free version when searching for ILO CIS.


The ILO has an impressively rich collection of digital documents about occupational safety and health at work and the environment under the name SafeWork (www.ilo .org/public/english/protection/safework). These include policy documents, standards, codes of practice, legislative texts, full-text papers, and training materials.

The bibliographic database CISDOC ( cisdoc) was created to help find information about these kinds of documents. It was then enhanced by many other databases, both directory-style and full-text. Somewhat surprisingly, ILO goes out of its way to advertise the fee-based version of its database suite as much as its own, but the reverse is not true. The fee-based Canadian host does not link to the free editions of the many ILO databases.


The homepage reports about the availability of 65,000 records, but there were about 68,775 bibliographic records in the database as of June 1, 2009--obviously because of the updates since the creation of the information page about CISDOC. The database spans more than 35 years, going back to 1974.

This is a genuinely international database. Although English is still the dominant language of the source documents (38,561 records), followed by French (12,286), German (6,890), and Spanish (4,294), there are also a substantial number of records for Russian (3,081), Portuguese (918), Polish (784), and Japanese (755) documents. The high proportion of Swedish (1,690), and Dutch (1,109) documents reflects the extensive regulations concerning work conditions in Sweden and the Netherlands.

The variety of source document types is also a positive feature, but it is a disservice that no search option is available for searching or filtering results by document type, even though the document type codes consistently appeared in the records in my test queries. The core of the database is represented by 400 journals.

The interface and help file, as well as the descriptors and subject categories, are available in English, French, and Spanish, and often the abstracts are also available in these three languages. …

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