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EMBASE Classic in Development


Elsevier, producer of EMBASE, announces its plans to build EMBASE Classic, a bibliographic database that will make the EMBASE backfile from 1947-1973 accessible in electronic format for the first time. This fully digitized 27-year backfile will be drawn from 43 Excerpta Medica Abstract Journal print titles, and will include over 1.6 million records from the biomedical and pharmacological literature. It is scheduled for release October 2007.

Part of Elsevier’s ongoing commitment to the preservation of scientific knowledge, the EMBASE Classic release will enable institutional subscribers within the research community to obtain perpetual access to this important information.

Amanda Spiteri, Director of Elsevier’s Pharmaceutical Development Group, commented that, “Feedback from the EMBASE user community clearly indicated the importance of preserving the Excerpta Medica abstract records published in print prior to the advent of the EMBASE online file with records from 1974 onwards. Therefore we are extremely pleased that we will be able to make this unique collection readily available to today’s researchers, students, information professionals and medical historians. Having these records ’alive’ will serve to document the history of the life sciences. It will enable today’s researchers to look back at critical research that has paved the way for advancements in science and medicine.”

The records that will be included in EMBASE Classic date from the founding of Excerpta Medica (EM) in 1946 by a group of Dutch physicians to help “the progress of medical knowledge by making available to medical and related professions information on all basic research and clinical findings reported in any language throughout the world.” Initially EM published 13 abstract journal sections divided along the lines of the medical school curriculum, including anatomy, pathology, physiology, internal medicine and other basic scientific and clinical specialties. More sections were added over time to handle the rapid increase in published biomedical literature and the emergence of biomedical subspecialties. By the beginning of the 1970s EM published over 40. The editors, who screened, selected and indexed articles for inclusion in the EM Abstract Journals and wrote many of the abstracts, were practicing medical specialists. Indexing was based on the full text of the articles, not just abstracts.

In order to build EMBASE Classic a microfilm repository of the 43 Excerpta Medica Abstract Journals issues published between 1947 and 1973 is currently being scanned. EMBASE Classic will include coverage of articles published in more than 3,000 source titles and more than 90% of records will include abstracts. The current EMBASE record format will be followed as closely as possible including DOIs for linking out to full text where available.

The 43 Excerpta Medica titles that will be incorporated into EMBASE Classic will include the 13 original abstract journals, as well as later additions covering specialties such as Cancer, Cardiovascular Medicine and Obstetrics & Gynecology. The growing literature on drugs will be represented by the sections on Pharmacology and Toxicology (originally bundled with Physiology and Biochemistry), as well as the important Adverse Reaction Titles begun in 1966.

Powerful thesaurus tools will be available for every search. EMTREE, Elsevier’s Life Science Thesaurus, also used for indexing EMBASE, will be implemented across the file for precision retrieval. The thesaurus contains over 52,000 preferred terms and more than 210,000 synonyms.

Historic medical terms have been identified and will be added to the current version of EMTREE. For example, the pre-penicillin era drugs oxophenarsine (tradename mapharsen) to treat syphilis and thiazosulfone (tradename promizole) to treat leprosy and tuberculosis will become EMTREE terms.


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