Web Publisher gets to the heart of obesity

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When The National Heart Forum began developing its international databases for obesity studies, it needed a reliable, simple-to-use bibliographic reference management software package, writes Michelle Boness

The UK’s National Heart Forum (NHF) is an alliance of over 60 national organisations working to reduce the risk of coronary disease and related conditions such as stroke, diabetes and cancer. With funding from the Department of Health, the NHF has developed The Obesity Learning Centre (OLC) to support people who work, directly or indirectly, on promoting a healthy weight and tackling obesity. The Information Services also provides a comprehensive range of mainly electronic library services to those working in chronic disease prevention.

The OLC website went live in October 2009 and provides access to three publicly-accessible databases. These have been created as research repositories using Reference Manager and published to the internet using Reference Manager’s Web Publisher feature.

The three databases created by the OLC – NHF Obesity eLibrary, NHF Chronic Disease eLibrary and Obesity Literature – together hold over 900 records, and this is constantly growing.

These repositories do not require registration and are not password-protected. This means that even private individuals can access the data and, to ensure copyright has not been infringed, where copyright permission has not been sought, the database links directly to the source document.

Choosing the tools

Creating such comprehensive libraries was no mean feat. In order to get the most from their research, Helena Korjonen, associate director – information services for the organisation, needed an affordable solution. Having used Reference Manager in other capacities since 1999, this was the obvious choice.

Reference Manager, developed by Thomson Reuters, is a bibliographic reference management software package specifically designed for group working. As such, it is perfect for large groups of people who need to use reference collections at the same time without affecting other users.

‘Because I already knew Reference Manager worked really well, it was a simple solution, especially when it came to sharing large chunks of information,’ said Korjonen. ‘As most academics and researchers already know the tool it was the obvious choice.’

Key to this project is Reference Manager’s Web Publisher feature. As the name implies, Web Publisher allows databases to be displayed, searched and downloaded via the internet. This enables anyone with a web browser to use the references whilst the OLC retains control of the database. The Web Publisher tool has enabled the OLC and the NHF to create their library catalogue and share it with whoever needs access.

‘Web Publisher is a fantastic tool, without which we couldn’t possibly have shared our huge repository of information,’ Korjonen continued. ‘It’s really what made it all possible and I wonder why no-one else seems to use it this way.’

What is especially interesting is that visitors to the site don’t actually have to have Reference Manager in order to access the databases. They are free to search using their own criteria and select which references to view. The users can then select the export style to enable them to download information. Where copyright allows, the database also holds links to documents such as presentations from NHF events, reports in PDF format, information about websites, and abstracts from medical databases with direct links to the original source. It would also work well as an image library.

The other benefit Korjonen has found of using Reference Manager is the cite-as-you-write feature. This allows staff (or anyone with Reference Manager) to compile reports quickly, drawing in the bibliography from the databases. ‘Staff at the NHF are now contributing to the databases, which we can share across the organisation and with other public health information users,’ she said.

The NHF is starting work on another information exchange website, currently called ‘Panacea’. This will include a new database, the PAN eLibrary, which is due to pilot in February 2011. The website and related resources are aimed to support professionals who work in promoting physical activity and nutrition for better public health in both developing and developed countries.

Michelle Boness works for Adept Scientific, a distributor of Reference Manager

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