Handbook 2001 for the Development
of the Virtual Health Library
the MsWord file
BIREME/PAHO/WHO, april 2001
The purpose of this handbook is to guide the implementation of
the Virtual Health Library (VHL) in Latin American and Caribbean
countries and Spain, as well as in specific thematic areas. The
guidelines aim to strengthen and expand the operational capability
of the VHL and should thus be evaluated, adopted, and implemented
according to specific local conditions in each country and in
each thematic area.
The handbook's contents draw on previous work in VHL development,
particularly "Handbook 1999 for the Development of the Virtual
Health Library" - http://www.bireme.br/bvs/reuniao/doc/guia1999_3.htm.
The handbook aims to reflect the experience and progress achieved
thus far in designing the VHL as a common space for producers,
intermediaries, and users of scientific and technical information
in health, as well as in the definition of policies and procedures
for VHL implementation, and more specifically in the methodologies
for creating and handling information sources.
1. The VHL in perspective
The VHL operates under the Internet information and communications
Internet users have and demand direct online contact with networks
of information sources and with other users, in a dynamic context
transcending the limits of geographic space, time, size, and extension
that have characterized access to information products and services
operated within the physical constraints of traditional libraries
and documentation centers.
Internet provides users with the unique power to radically increase
their individual and collective decision-making capacity based
on up-to-date information. Meanwhile, information producers and
intermediaries are under pressure to offer new, more efficient,
and more attractive options for dissemination, interaction, integration,
mediation, and navigation with a wide variety of information in
order to respond to the growing demand for information from the
broadest possible range of user communities in diverse contexts.
Health in particular is one of the most frequent themes that Internet
users work with and search.
In the VHL, the convergence of producers, intermediaries, and
users of scientific and technical information is expressed in
practice as a dynamic information network, created and operated
through a cooperative and decentralized approach with explicit
The Internet information and communications paradigm is universal,
in that it applies to all areas of knowledge and all countries
in their different stages of social and economic development.
The Internet has provided the first real possibility of universal
and equitable dissemination of up-to-date scientific knowledge.
However, progress in Internet coverage requires targeted public
policies and especially significant investments in information
and communications technology infrastructure and in the creation
and operation of networks for provision and access to local, regional,
and international contents. Major segments of the population,
particularly the developing countries, are excluded from Internet
access and contents. In other words, their decision-making capability
based on up-to-date information is reduced as compared to the
Internet-using portion of the population. Overcoming this phenomenon,
known as digital exclusion or the digital divide, is crucial for
social development and especially for health. The VHL helps overcome
the digital divide in the health field.
The VHL is thus an integral part of the flow of scientific and
technical health information in the Latin American and Caribbean
countries and Spain, continuously helping expand and strengthen
this flow with the goal of equitable and universal access to relevant
sources of information for health development. To overcome the
digital divide it is not enough to provide access to international
information sources. Digital inclusion means enjoying the local
capability to operate information sources based on local contexts
and which are linked to the mainstream international flow.
The basis of VHL lies in the fact that access to scientific and
technical information is a determinant and essential factor, indispensable
to social development.
Health-related decisions have their efficiency increased and
their uncertainty decreased when based on the best evidence provided
by current scientific knowledge, applicable to specific contexts.
Consequently, to promote health development it is indispensable
that scientific information in different media, packages, and
languages permeate health-related activities, including decision-making
in health planning, management, research, education, services,
and care. The VHL will contribute to the creation, consolidation,
and functioning of scenarios in which health decisions are increasingly
based on scientific and technical information.
The VHL is both an evolution and legacy of more than 3 decades
of cooperative work to expand and strengthen the flow of scientific
and technical health information in Latin America and the Caribbean
under the leadership of PAHO, through BIREME. From the beginning,
this cooperative work has been renewed continuously based on new
models for managing, organizing, and handling information.
The VHL proposal was presented by BIREME at the 6th Meeting of
the Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Information System
held in San José, Costa Rica, during the 4th Pan American
Congress on Health Sciences Information on March 23-28, 1998.
The proposal was approved unanimously by System members, together
with the San José Declaration Towards the Virtual Health
Library - http://www.bireme.br/crics4w/frconcl.htm
The 1st Regional Coordinating Meeting of the VHL was held from
November 30 to December 3,1999, at the PAHO headquarters - http://www.bireme.br/bvs/reuniao/doci/recomend_eng.htm
At this meeting, BIREME presented the original Spanish-language
version of Handbook 1999 for the Development of the Virtual Health
Library as a document with the basic guidelines for implementing
the VHL. Recommendations agreed upon for developing the VHL are
based on the following principles:
- The pursuit of equitable access to health information
- Promoting alliances and consortia for maximizing resource-sharing
- Promoting cooperative work and exchange of experiences
- Decentralized development and operations at all levels
- Development based on local conditions
- Establishing and applying integrated mechanisms for evaluation
and quality control
In July 2000, BIREME organized a meeting to evaluate the VHL
in London, during the 8th International Congress on Medical Librarianship
(ICML), when progress in both the member countries and specialized
areas was presented to a major international forum.
This Handbook is being launched during the 2nd Regional Coordinating
Meeting of the VHL in Havana, Cuba, on April 23-24, 2001, prior
to the 5th Regional Conference on Health Sciences Information
(CRICS), once again promoting a regional exchange of ideas, experiences,
and evaluation of the difficulties and progress with VHL in the
It has thus been 3 years since the VHL proposal was launched.
During this time, the cooperative VHL model has spread to virtually
all countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the majority
of which have already begun activities to implement the VHL. As
of early 2001, at least 5 countries have made significant progress
in implementing the VHL model. There have also been noteworthy
developments in specialized health areas within the VHL. In the
Region as a whole, the VHL has been consolidated as a PAHO strategy
for technical cooperation in scientific and technical health information.
In the technological field, progress has been made in producing
methodologies and tools. Specifically, all of BIREME activities
are now aligned to promoted and develop the VHL. The adoption
of the VHL by Spain under the leadership of Instituto Carlos III
has meant a major recognition of the initiative by that country
and has expanded the flow of information in Latin America and
the Caribbean, especially in the Spanish language. This consolidation
of the VHL is essential for promoting the convergence of national,
regional, and international initiatives on health information
issues. Such convergence is crucial to the rational use of resources,
avoiding duplication of efforts and different initiatives for
the same purpose.
Planning and implementation of the VHL considers 3 major periods
- During the first period (1998-2001), what has prevailed has
been the scenario called "setting the VHL in motion",
basically involving the dissemination and adoption of the VHL
paradigm, linking and coordinating collaboration among information
producers, intermediaries, and users with the objective of launching
the cooperative operation of information sources, highlighting
the realignment of existing information products and services
for operation within the VHL context. Setting the VHL in motion
has occurred simultaneously at the geographic level and in thematic
areas. During this period, promotion and training have characterized
the technical cooperation activities.
- From 2001 to 2003, what will predominate will be the scenario
known as "the VHL gaining its own momentum", whose
main characteristics are to strengthen and expand the decentralized
nodes in the network of information sources and the emergence
of the virtual space of the VHL. This period is expected to
witness significant growth in the number of new institutions
and/or information sources independently incorporated into the
VHL, both at the geographic level and in the thematic areas.
Integrated operation of the network of information sources and
the promotion and networking of new initiatives and players
should characterize the activities in technical cooperation.
- Finally, beginning in 2003 the prevailing scenario will be
the VHL constituting a (self) reference for scientific and technical
health information in the Region. The fundamental characteristic
of this ideal scenario will be the consolidation of VHL as a
common virtual space for the task of health information producers,
intermediaries, and users. During this period, technical cooperation
in scientific and technical health information will acquire
its own dynamics which will coincide with the very operation
of the VHL.
Building the VHL and the decentralized operation of information
sources and their integration as a network is performed at the
geographic and thematic levels:
- At both the national and regional geographic levels, the VHL
foresees and requires participation by all countries in the
compatible operation of their information sources, in a network
with other member countries. The priority is to create more
advanced and efficient forms of coordination and organization
to foster broad, active participation by the institutions that
produce, intermediate, and use information in the VHL, establishing
and operating National Coordinating Committees for the coordination
of the VHL as well as drafting, implementing, and monitoring
national plans to set the VHL in motion. Projects and programs
should be implemented for technical cooperation among the countries,
with the goal of making full use of the synergetic strengths
of the countries as a group.
- At the thematic level, VHL evolution makes use of the potentialities,
strengths, capacities, resources, and initiatives characterizing
the information structures in thematic health areas and which
favor the creation, development, and operation of specialized
information source networks. PAHO's Regional Programs and Specialized
Centers play a fundamental role in the promotion, implementation,
and operation of thematic areas in the VHL at the regional and
subregional levels. Thus, for example, the Pan American Center
for Sanitary Engineering and Environmental Sciences (CEPIS)
plays the leadership role in technical cooperation for the development
of the health and environment area, the Pan American Institute
for Food Protection and Zoonoses (INPPAZ) in food protection
and zoonoses, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America
and Panama (INCAP) in nutrition, and the Latin American Center
for Perinatology and Human Development (CLAP) in maternal and
perinatal health, etc. Other regional institutions related directly
or indirectly to health are invited to participate in the VHL.
At the national level, the development of specialized areas
within the VHL will have the active participation of government
institutions, especially health promotion programs, research
centers, scientific and professional societies, nongovernmental
organizations, etc. Operation of thematic areas in the VHL is
also assisted by Advisory Committees consisting of representatives
of institutions that produce, intermediate, and/or use scientific
and technical health information.
The VHL is developed at the geographic and thematic levels using
a complementary approach.
Overall, the VHL is shaped as an integrated virtual space. A crucial
aspect in the VHL implementation strategy is to steadily increase
its political, administrative, and technological sustainability.
Thus the need for decentralization, development of local capabilities,
and shared use of economic resources and infrastructure.
The adoption and implementation of the VHL definitely poses a
huge challenge for institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean.
First, operating a network of data sources using an electronic
format in the VHL demands an increasing command over advanced
information methodologies and technologies. Second, the VHL requires
expansion of the range of alliances to promote convergence among
information producers and intermediaries in a common space for
operating the flow of scientific and technical health information.
Meanwhile, there is a radical process of de-intermediation. On
the one hand, what predominates is the user's initiative in direct
interaction with information sources, and on the other, the demand
for information sources whose contents, structure, accessibility,
and presentation add value to the user's time.
As a result, there is a predominance of managed access to electronic
information sources in the VHL and on the Internet in general
as compared to the traditional model of local ownership of collections
Overcoming such challenges is an intrinsic part of the VHL. Part
of building the VHL is to develop capabilities in the command
over new information and communications technologies by all players
in the information flow.
It is extremely important that there is no turning back on the
change introduced by the Internet in general and the VHL in particular!
Institutions that produce and intermediate information and fail
to promote this change in their modus operandi will fail
to serve their users efficiently and will see their leadership
and survival threatened. Resistance to change in defense of outmoded
operational models can penalize the user community by restricting
its access to information sources in the Region, running against
the international trend.
Adopting and implementing the VHL at the geographic and thematic
levels has shown that it is possible to evolve towards the new
paradigm. In general this process has taken the following path:
- Linking and establishing an agreement among the institutions
that produce, intermediate, and use health sciences information
by adopting the VHL model. In general, one or more institutions
take the leading role in the networking process.
- Establishing a VHL Advisory Committee aimed at coordinating
the cooperative work, defining and orienting the quality criteria
for information sources in the VHL, setting priorities, establishing
the division of responsibilities in the cooperative operation
of information sources, monitoring and evaluating the VHL's
overall performance and that of each of the information sources,
etc. The Advisory Committee represents and provides authority
to the VHL as a space for scientific and technical information.
It acts as a VHL editorial board. An operational coordinating
body or executive secretariat should be established, in general
represented by an institution with the capability (in political,
institutional, and economic terms, as well as that of human
resources and information technology) to take the leadership
in operating the VHL. It is up to the coordinating body or executive
secretariat to foster the effective functioning of Advisory
Committee, organizing regular meetings and performing the VHL
coordination and promotional functions as agreed upon by the
Committee. Whenever necessary and or convenient, the Advisory
Committee may decide to share the coordination tasks and to
rotate for a period of time among the different institutions.
The Committee also plays an advisory role and coordinates the
- Drafting a plan for development of the VHL. The plan orients
the cooperative work and defines the specific objectives, expected
results, and institutions responsible for each of the information
sources operated in the VHL. The plan should describe the specific
projects for one or more information sources in detail so as
to facilitate their decentralized implementation. The plan may
include a matrix for sharing responsibilities, indicating the
coordinating and member institutions of each information source.
- Creating and operating a VHL page serving as a portal or site
for the coordination and integration of the specific network
of information sources, whether at the national, regional, or
thematic level. The VHL page should be operated by the institution
or institutions in charge of the operational coordination and
under the assistance of the Advisory Committee. The page should
follow the standard VHL model, which is promoted by BIREME,
to ensure its integrated functioning within the VHL sphere.
For example, its sections should include a description of the
VHL, the Advisory Committee, and minutes of the Committee meetings,
in addition to identifying and integrating specific information
sources, etc. The standard model for the VHL portals or coordination
sites will evolve with experience and with technological advances.
At any rate, each country should have a national page in the
VHL including all the country's information sources. The same
applies to the VHL thematic areas both at the national and regional
levels. Conceptually, each of these portals can and should operate
progressively as a portal for all or part of the VHL. In other
words, as a common space, the entries or portals to the VHL
- Decentralized operation of the network of information sources
at the national or regional level. Each information source is
operated by one or more institutions, in all cases with a specific
institution in charge, which should report periodically to the
Advisory Committee on its development. The network is dynamic,
so that new modalities of information sources appear regularly.
This VHL modus operandi stimulates cooperative, democratic,
and decentralized development. The individual information sources
constitute nodes that integrate and intertwine to form the VHL
network of information sources.
The VHL architecture organizes and structures the information
sources based on their characteristic types. The architecture
facilitates the identification and operation of information sources
and facilitates cooperation both in the division of labor and
its integrated operation, including retrieval of decentralized
sources and dynamic links among them. The architecture also promotes
Internet transition of traditional sources originally produced
on paper or in isolated electronic format. Finally, the architecture
creates a common language, including methodologies and tools for
the decentralized operation of information sources.
Under the VHL architecture, an information source is any resource
that responds to a demand for information by users, including
information products and services, persons or networks of persons,
computer programs, etc. The architecture is currently organized
in 6 types of information sources:
- secondary sources, including all indexes, databases, and directories
whose records make reference to health-related primary sources,
organizations, and events. Also included are information services
associated with these sources. In broad terms this set is reminiscent
of the reference units in the traditional library;
- primary sources, including the fulltexts according to the
classical types of scientific literature (journals, monographs,
theses and dissertations, etc.), as well as other and new original
sources of hypertext and numerical data;
- tertiary sources, generated with added value based on primary
and secondary sources and having didactic and support objectives
for decision-making in different user communities;
- selective dissemination of information which updates users
based on specific profiles of interest. This source of information
is also a mechanism for providing VHL information to user communities
that lack or have constraints on communication via the Internet;
- news and communications among persons, including discussion
lists, forums, and virtual communities in general; and
- integrating components that ensure the integration of decentralized
VHL information sources, like the DeCS terminology and catalogs
of information resources and common methodologies.
Part of building the VHL is the development, adoption, and adaptation
of the tools to operate information sources under the VHL architecture.
Based on the implementation strategy and in the VHL architecture
of information sources, BIREME has drafted a preliminary list
of indicators for evaluating VHL development at the national,
regional, and thematic levels, focusing on the following:
- Advisory Committee established and functioning
- Coordinating institution(s)
- Development plan
- Matrix for division of responsibilities (Appendix 1)
- Information sources operating in current mode
- Infrastructure and technological resources
This list of evaluation indicators (Appendix 2) should be improved
in the near future as it is adopted and modified as an instrument
for control and evaluation by the VHL Advisory Committees. Online
publication of periodical results of the evaluation will help
publicly highlight the problems and difficulties as well as gains
and advances achieved by member countries and specialized communities
in developing the VHL.
2. Production of information sources in the VHL
VHL content is a collection or network of information sources
on the Internet. Information sources are created and operated
under the principles of cooperation and decentralization. These
VHL principles aim to develop local capabilities in the operation
of information sources and to help expand and strengthen the health
sciences information flow in the Region. The continuing development
of local capability in the operation of information sources will
help contextualize the VHL contents to respond efficiently to
local demands for information.
The VHL architecture aims to ensure that information sources
produced through this decentralized approach will be connected
in a network and thus maximize their visibility and accessibility
while avoiding duplication of work. Information sources should
thus be created, organized, structured, and fed according to compatible
methodologies developed within the VHL context, under BIREME's
coordination. Each source has its elements or data fields defined,
along with the coding standards, data entry and tagging, and content
selection criteria. The methodologies include computer programs
that facilitate their implementation.
An underlying premise of the VHL methodologies is that the production
of information sources is decentralized, under the coordination
of an institution designated by the VHL Advisory Committee, whether
at the national level or for a thematic area. The coordinating
institution is responsible for the integrity of the information
source and its compliance with the corresponding methodology.
An important characteristic of the production of information
sources in the VHL is quality control of its contents, preservation
of collections, and guaranteed access to documents in electronic
format or on paper.
In short, production of information sources in the VHL includes
the following dimensions:
- Criteria for content selection from the information sources.
For example, the Guidelines for Selection of Documents in LILACS;
- Information sources are organized in one or more electronic
files, and each of their units is structured in elements or
data fields. For example, the LILACS bibliographic format, the
- Content of the elements or data fields follows standards
for coding, cataloguing, tagging, etc. For example, content
indexing fields should comply with the DeCS terminology;
- Local, national, subregional, or regional production of an
information source should come under the responsibility and
coordination of an institution with the function of ensuring
data integrity and compliance with the respective standards.
Production can include periodic transfer of records among local
units and the respective coordinating unit. For example, the
LILACS database is coordinated by BIREME at the regional level,
the LIPECS database is coordinated by the Central Library of
Universidad Cayetano Heredia at the national level, the MEDCARIB
database by the University of West Indies, Jamaica, at the regional
level for the English-speaking Caribbean, etc.
- e. The VHL Advisory Committee at the national or thematic
level is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the production
of information sources.
It is suggested that the National Advisory Committee define the
responsibilities in the development of information sources and
prepare a matrix of specific projects to be developed in the country
or thematic area, identifying the institutions involved in each
project and their levels of responsibility (coordination, participation,
2.1. Production of secondary information sources in the VHL
This section deals with the production of traditional secondary
information sources, realigned to operate in the VHL, within the
architecture of which the first type of information source is
Secondary information sources are defined as:
- databases, catalogs, or bibliographic indexes referencing
documents and texts in general whose contents are recognized
as scientific and technical health literature related to Latin
America and the Caribbean;
- directories referencing health-related institutions and organizations,
specialists, scientific research projects, development projects,
events, and courses in Latin America and the Caribbean.
2.1.1 Bibliographic databases
The main objective of bibliographic databases operated in the
VHL is the bibliographic control of health-related scientific
and technical production in the Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The databases thus reference all types of documents: journal articles,
books, theses and dissertations, papers presented at scientific
meetings, technical and scientific reports, projects, and nonconventional
The LILACS database (Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences
Literature) was the first bibliographic database developed by
BIREME, starting in 1982. In the Latin American and Caribbean
Region, various regional and national bibliographic databases
were subsequently created and operated using the LILACS Methodology
to organize, structure, feed, and maintain bibliographic databases
and are known as LILACS System databases.
The program used under the LILACS Methodology to feed the bibliographic
databases is LILDBI (LILACS Bibliographic Description and Indexing),
developed by BIREME, either in DOS or Internet/Web, available
as of 2001.
The LILACS database, coordinated at the regional level by BIREME,
is the result of a cooperative effort by more than 400 Cooperating
Centers from 37 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
For the LILACS database in each country, the national or thematic
VHL Advisory Committee designates the coordinating institution
that should identify and select Cooperating Centers to participate
in activities involving the identification, selection, bibliographic
description, and indexing of the national scientific production
in a specific area of activity (institutional, geographic, or
thematic). The VHL should renew and strengthen the existing networks
for feeding the LILACS.
Scientific production indexed by the LILACS database comes basically
from the following document-producing areas:
- Academic area (universities, faculties, schools)
- Research institutes
- Scientific societies
- Governmental area and health services (Ministries, Health
Secretariats or Departments, hospitals)
- Nongovernmental organizations
- International agencies
It is suggested that Cooperating Centers be identified in these
institutions or in related institutions that establish mechanisms
for compiling and processing the literature produced by them.
It is recommended to identify a proportional number of Cooperating
Centers among the various types of information producers mentioned
above in order to guarantee a broad coverage of the scientific
and technical literature produced in the country.
To become a Cooperating Center the institution should have the
available human resources to compile, select, process, and index
the bibliographic documents, computer equipment allowing installation
of the LILDBI application, and leadership in the area so as to
establish contacts with institutions for the identification of
relevant scientific literature.
From the onset the Cooperating Centers commit themselves to select
and process the scientific and technical literature and send the
records to BIREME regularly and in updated form. It is suggested
that the country's Cooperating Centers share responsibilities
so as to allow for a broad coverage of the national scientific
production while avoiding duplication of efforts. The Cooperating
Centers should also commit themselves to record the location of
the processed documents in order to guarantee access to them.
The Cooperating Centers receive training in the LILACS Methodology
from the coordinating institution or BIREME, in addition to the
LILDBI application in CD-ROM which allows them to begin processing
documents for LILACS.
Each Cooperating Center receives a code and password from BIREME
to install the Methodology. The LILACS Methodology CD-ROM includes
the LILDBI program and the respective manuals and handbooks:
- Handbook for LILACS Database Document Selection
- Handbook for LILACS Database Journal Selection
- Manual for Bibliographic Description
The LILACS flow for feeding documents is as follows:
- Each Cooperating Center processes documents and enters records
in a local database according to its area of activity, using
the LILDBI and complying with the respective selection criteria;
- The entered records should be sent periodically by the Cooperating
Centers to the national or thematic coordinating institution,
which in turn can create and maintain a national or specialized
database. The coordinating institution should monitor the updating
and quality of LILACS document indexing as well as decentralization
of document indexing in the country (distribution of journal
titles, types of documents, thematic areas, etc.);
- After updating and quality control, the coordinating institutions
validate the records processed by the Cooperating Centers, maintaining
the identification of the Cooperating Center that processed
the record in the respective field, and they send those that
comply with the LILACS selection criteria to BIREME.
It is important to highlight that the national databases may
have selection criteria that differ from the LILACS criteria.
In this case, when these records are processed, the Cooperating
Centers should identify to which databases they belong in the
respective data field. This identification is necessary for the
Cooperating Center to be able to select and send to LILACS only
those records which comply with that base's specific criteria;
- The records may be sent by the Cooperating Centers directly
to BIREME, as long as they simultaneously guarantee that the
records be sent to the national databases.
With the LILDBI application, the Centers can create their own
local databases with their own document selection criteria (for
example, to register the existence of their collections). In this
case, the Cooperating Centers should be familiar with the procedures
for updating and maintaining bibliographic databases, and in case
of creating new data fields, they should be familiar the formats
and structure of the database indexes.
The Documentation Centers at the PAHO Regional Offices and Specialized
Centers use the LILDBI Methodology to create local databases with
the existence of their collection and collaborate with the LILACS
database, with the records produced by the Sub-Regional and Country
Offices or Specialized Centers or relevant documents for technical
In 2000, based on the records entered in the LILACS and PAHO
databases by the Documentation Centers at the PAHO Sub-Regional
and Country Offices and Specialized Centers and by the Headquarters
Library, BIREME created a Collective Catalog of Existing Collections
in the PAHO Documentation Centers (OPPAC). This Collective Catalog
allowed to save time in entering the local collections from the
Documentation Centers, facilitating the identification of document
collections produced by PAHO in the Latin American and Caribbean
188.8.131.52 Specialized databases
Using the same LILACS Methodology, regional or national Specialized
Centers which may or may not belong to PAHO can create specialized
databases on relevant health themes, based on distinct selection
criteria. These databases in the LILACS System not only use the
same methodology but also complement the LILACS database on specialized
The responsibility for defining the range of specialized databases,
establishing a flow for feeding data and keeping the VHL up-to-date,
belongs to the database coordinating institution, as determined
by the Advisory Committee for each thematic area.
In order for the coordinating institutions of specialized databases
to make them available in the VHL, BIREME developed a search interface
- the IAH interface - which will be described in greater detail
later in this Handbook.
184.108.40.206 SciELO/LILACS Integration
In the VHL, the bibliographic databases and references should
be generated and developed automatically based on the fulltexts
themselves from the scientific production they index, and the
fulltexts should allow for links between the cited documents and
the VHL databases. This integration is possible for all the databases
in the LILACS System.
Thus, the SciELO library sends the databases files in LILACS
format prepared from the tagging of fulltexts from journals with
the bibliographic description data fields, which are imported
in the databases in LILACS format, automatically generating the
respective records in the bases. All the Cooperating Centers need
to do is complete the records with the fields corresponding to
the indexing of the documents.
SciELO/LILACS integration is completed at the moment of access
to the databases:
- it is possible to reach SciELO from LILACS using the field
corresponding to the document's Internet address (URL) which
is filled in with the specific address of each article from
the SciELO journals;
- likewise, from SciELO it is possible to reach LILACS based
on the bibliographic references for the journal articles,
with links generated automatically, comparing them with those
of the databases.
2.1.2 Collective Catalog of Scientific Journals
The VHL includes collective databases of scientific journal collections.
The scientific journal collection database coordinated by BIREME
is the SeCS base, or Health Sciences Serials, produced cooperatively
by the Cooperating Centers.
The SeCS database records bibliographic data for scientific journals
from the health sciences area indexed in the LILACS and MEDLINE
databases, as well as the respective collections from the Cooperating
For the description of the titles and collections, the SeCS application
is used, developed by BIREME and distributed to Cooperating Centers
as part of the LILACS Methodology. Each month the libraries update
their SeCS collections and send the respective data to BIREME.
The main objectives of the SeCS are visibility and accessibility
to existing collections in the libraries and their shared use,
seeking rationalization and efficient access. The database is
integrated into the SCAD (Cooperative Service for Access to Documents)
in order to help automatically locate the library which has a
given journal or issue and consequently help transfer photocopy
requests to the libraries cooperating in the Service.
220.127.116.11 Contribution to the SeCS database
It is suggested that the Cooperating Centers commit themselves
to recording at least the respective existence of journal titles
indexed in LILACS that are under their responsibility. For example,
if Cooperating Center "X" has the responsibility for
indexing journal "Y" for LILACS, this center should
also assume the responsibility for sending the record of its collection
of journal "Y" to the SeCS database. This guarantees
that every journal indexed in LILACS will have at least one collection
described in the SeCS database and will thus also guarantee access
to fulltexts of articles through SCAD.
The Cooperating Centers receive training in the SeCS application
either from the SeCS coordinating institution at the national
level or from BIREME.
Each Cooperating Center receives a code and password from BIREME
for installing the application and a manual for its use, included
in the LILACS Methodology CD-ROM.
The SeCS flow for feeding information is as follows:
- Each Cooperating Center records the existence of the scientific
journal in its collection of LILACS journals whose indexing
comes under its responsibility, using the SeCS application;
- Cooperating Centers should periodically send the entered records
to both BIREME and the SeCS coordinating institution at the
national level, if the country has a Collective National Catalog.
It is important to highlight that the Cooperating Center can
use the SeCS application to record its entire journal collection,
generate its catalog, generate lists of missing issues, and use
all the collection management functions available in the application.
Nevertheless, for the purposes of the SeCS database, only the
collections of journals indexed in LILACS and/or MEDLINE are relevant.
These titles should be identified at the moment of recording the
bibliographic description, using the respective data fields (related
systems and SeCS number).
18.104.22.168 Portal for scientific journals
In addition to the bibliographic description of journal titles,
the Portal for scientific journals contains information on the
availability of the journal's electronic version and the mode
of access to the fulltext. Thus, users can link from the Portal
to the electronic description of the journals and to the description
of the collective catalogs, when available.
The VHL Portal includes information on the journals indexed in
MEDLINE and LILACS, as well as some other titles that are relevant
to VHL thematic areas, like adolescent health, toxicology, and
public health, with links to collections in the SeCS database.
The Portal can also be found through a national and/or thematic
VHL, either as a link to the regional VHL site or through a personalized
search form. For example, the national VHL portal may list only
that country's journals. The portal for a thematic VHL can include
journals from the respective thematic area, like the VHL Portal
on Adolescence (http://www.adolec.org/).
Directories are databases with records on researchers, institutions,
events, courses, projects, etc. Each directory requires the definition
of the necessary data fields to record the respective information.
Feeding the directories is totally decentralized and should thus
follow the compatible methodology for the creation of VHL directories.
In the near future, VHL at the national, regional, or thematic
level should allow users themselves to enter data in the directories.
One or more institutions designated by the National Advisory Committee
will be responsible for validating records entered by users and
for maintaining and updating directories in the VHL.
Directories created under the database concept are not merely
lists of addresses, since the directory search interface allows
for selection and access through different data fields.
Directories can be operated at the thematic, national, or regional
22.214.171.124 Directories of Specialists and/or Researchers
Directories of specialists are developed by and for specialized
areas in the VHL. Their objective is to provide information on
professionals working in different thematic areas, including where
they can be found (complete addresses, identifying the States
or Provinces) and their areas of work or specialties.
In general, directories of specialists are created from the registers
of Professional Boards or Associations and should if possible
be integrated with the curriculum vitae databases of the National
Scientific and Technological Research Councils.
Feeding the directories of specialists is decentralized and can
be done by users themselves on the Internet.
The institution in charge of the directory should validate the
records entered by users and enter them in the database, monitoring
the quality of the available information.
Directories of researchers are developed at the national level
and aim to provide information on researchers working in the different
thematic areas and where they can be found (complete addresses,
identifying the States or Provinces).
Directories of researchers are created from database records
in the respective National Scientific and Technological Research
Councils and other institutions supporting scientific research.
The project entitled CVLACS (Latin American and Caribbean Health
Sciences Curricula Vitae) is developing a methodology to register
resumé data for researchers, based on the Lattes Platform
of the Brazilian National Research Council, CNPq (http://www.cnpq.br/lattes).
This project is a joint initiative of the PAHO Health Research
Program, BIREME, and CNPq/Brazil.
126.96.36.199 Directories of Institutions
Directories of institutions can be developed at the national,
regional, or thematic level. Their objective is to provide information
on the health institutions in the countries, their complete names
and acronyms, administrative hierarchies, physical addresses including
identification of the country, State, Province, city, etc., and
areas of research and/or other activity, with links to the institutional
In general, directories of institutions should be created on
the basis of records from various health-related national, State,
or regional associations. In particular, directories of research
institutions should be integrated with the databases of the respective
National Scientific and Technological Research Councils and other
institutions supporting scientific research.
As with other VHL information sources, an institution should
be designated by the National Advisory Committee to be in charge
of updating and maintaining the directories of institutions in
Feeding the directories of institutions is decentralized and
can be done by the institutions themselves that access the VHL.
The form for entering or updating data should be available in
the national, regional, or thematic VHL. The institution in charge
of coordinating the directories of institutions should validate
the incoming records and enter them in the database, monitoring
the quality of the available information. This institution will
also be responsible for maintaining and updating the database
of directories of institutions in the VHL.
The national VHL sites should mainly record the institutions
in that country, allowing for searches by State, Province, city,
type of institution, and area of activity.
Regional sites should integrate with the national directories,
with searches allowing for selection by country, type of institution,
and area of activity. The institutions in charge of the regional
directories should also enter data on international or regional
institutions working in the country or relevant to the country
or respective thematic area.
188.8.131.52 Research Project Directories
Research project directories can be developed at the national,
regional, or thematic level and aim to provide information on
research projects under way or completed in different areas of
Health Sciences as well as the various groups of researchers.
In general, research project directories should be created on
the basis of records from the respective National Scientific and
Technological Research Councils and other institutions supporting
scientific and technological research in the countries, and insofar
as possible should integrate with national databases of curricula
vitae of the researchers and research institutions. An example
of integration is the Lattes Platform of the Brazilian National
Research Council, CNPq.
In this sense, BIREME is considering the adoption of the SHARED
as a solution for mediation and integration of information sources
for institutions, researchers, and research projects.
Feeding the directories of projects is decentralized and can
be done by the research groups themselves on the Internet. Therefore,
it is important for research project directories that the form
for entering or updating data be available in the VHL. The institution
in charge of coordinating the research project directories should
validate the incoming records and enter them in the database,
monitoring the quality of the available information. This institution
will also be responsible for maintaining and updating the project
database in the VHL.
The projects should be classified as "under way" or
"finalized". Interim or final project reports should
be entered in the bibliographic databases and as fulltexts in
the VHL. The research project directory should establish a link
to the bibliographic database and/or to the fulltexts of the reports,
when they exist. An example is the integration of the CNPq/Brazil
curricula database with SciELO and LILACS.
184.108.40.206 Directories of Events
Directories of events can be developed at the national, regional,
or thematic level. Their objective is to provide information on
scientific events (congresses, seminars, conferences, etc.) from
the health area promoted mainly in the Latin American and Caribbean
countries, in addition to dates and venues, with identification
of the country, State, Province, city, etc., program and thematic
areas, with links to the sites for the events when they exist.
As with other information sources in the VHL, an institution
should be designated by the National Advisory Committee to take
charge of updating and maintaining the directories of events in
Feeding the directories of events is decentralized and can be
done by the institutions themselves that promote the events. The
form for entering or updating data should be available at the
national, regional, and/or thematic VHL sites. The institution
in charge of coordinating the directories of events should validate
incoming records and enter them in the database, monitoring the
quality of the available information. This institution is also
responsible for maintaining and updating the events database in
Insofar as possible, proceedings or papers from scientific events
entered in the events directories should be recorded in the LILACS
database and/or in the specialized database corresponding to the
theme of the event. In this case, links should be established
between the events directory and the bibliographic databases,
as well as to the fulltexts of the papers, when they exist.
Events already held should be available for consultation in the
events database with a selection allowing for back searches.
220.127.116.11 Directories of Courses
Directories of courses can be developed at the national, regional,
or thematic level. Their objective is to provide information on
health-related courses and other academic activities, promoted
mainly in the countries of the Latin American and Caribbean Region,
with dates, location, identification of the country, State, Province,
city, etc., course program and thematic areas, with links to the
course sites, when they exist.
Feeding the directories of courses is decentralized and can be
done by the institutions themselves that hold the courses. The
form for entering or updating data should be available in the
national, regional, or thematic VHL. The institution in charge
of coordinating the directories of courses should validate the
incoming records and enter them in the database, monitoring the
quality of the available information. This institution is also
responsible for maintaining and updating the database of courses
in the VHL.
Courses already held should be identified in the database as
past courses and should be available for consultation in the course
database as a selection option, for example, for users who may
interested in their programs.
3. Fulltext production in the VHL
Fulltexts are published in the VHL in different formats, including
HTML, PDF, Word, etc. However, the preferred methodology is to
treat the texts using text-structuring languages like SGML and
XML, as with the SciELO Methodology for publishing electronic
BIREME is preparing extensions of the SciELO methodology for
other types of literature, like monographs, theses, dissertations,
congress proceedings, legislation, etc.
The expectation is to generate collections of structured fulltexts
with the possibility of retrieval based on the various bibliographic
elements (like author, title, abstract, etc.), establishing dynamic
links with other information sources and measuring statistics
on use and citations.
The fulltexts should always be referenced in the bibliographic
3.1 SciELO Model for Publication of Scientific Journals
The SciELO Model - Scientific Electronic Library Online - www.scielo.org
- is oriented towards the publication of scientific journals on
the Internet, with an emphasis on the Ibero-American countries.
The SciELO Methodology is the first component of the SciELO Model.
The second component is the SciELO site, which operates decentralized
collections of selected scientific journals based on established
criteria, and the third component is the SciELO Network, integrating
the individual SciELO sites.
The SciELO Methodology includes a set of policies, standards,
guidelines, procedures, and tools for performing the functions
of evaluation and selection of journals, as well as the preparation,
storage, publication, preservation, and control of the use and
impact of scientific journals operated through the SciELO sites.
Development of the SciELO Methodology is the result of a collaborative
project involving BIREME, FAPESP (São Paulo State Research
Foundation), and editors of Brazilian scientific journals, launched
in 1997 and adopted subsequently by other countries from the Region.
In the health area, the SciELO Model operates within the VHL sphere,
and the SciELO Methodology constitutes the common methodology
for publication of scientific journals on the Internet. The methodology
has or considers extensions and adaptations for other types of
literature, like monographs, theses, dissertations, etc.
In the SciELO Model, the methodology is applied to establish
and operate collections of electronic journals organized according
to a geographic and/or thematic scope. A particular collection
operated on the Internet constitutes a SciELO site. Examples of
SciELO sites operating at the national level in all areas of knowledge
are: SciELO Brazil (http://www.scielo.br)
and SciELO Chile (http://www.scielo.cl).
Examples of SciELO sites operating at the national level and restricted
to health sciences are: Costa Rica (http://www.scielo.sa.cr)
and Cuba (http://www.scielo.sld.cu).
SciELO Salud Pública (Public Health) (http://www.scielosp.org)
is an international SciELO site that operates a selected collection
of Ibero-American scientific journals in public health, besides
including the PAHO and WHO bulletins.
It is important to note that the SciELO Methodology can be applied
to the operation of any individual journal or collection of journals.
However, establishing a collection recognized as a SciELO site
requires that the titles be selected according to quality criteria
specified in the document "SciELO Criteria: criteria, policy,
and procedures for scientific journals to enter and remain in
the SciELO collection" (http://www.scielo.org/metod.html).
Journal collections that fail to comply with SciELO quality criteria
may operate on the Internet utilizing the SciELO Methodology,
but in this case they are not recognized as SciELO sites.
For implementation of the SciELO site, refer to the "Handbook
for Installing SciELO sites" at http://www.scielo.org/metod.html
3.2 Other fulltext documents
The VHL should progressively operate with collections of fulltexts
for different types of literature, including single texts.
In the case of monographs, the collections are preferably operated
by the producer or intermediary institutions, like Ministries
of Health, scientific research and research support institutions,
universities, etc. These institutions should establish editorial
committees to review and monitor the quality of papers published
on the sites. These papers should also be referenced in the VHL
Collections of theses and dissertations in fulltext should preferably
be operated by the institutions where they have been presented,
at the national or thematic level.
Fulltexts of legislation should be operated by the institutions
that publish them, like Ministries or Secretariats of Health and
also intermediary institutions that guarantee that updated texts
4. Integrating components of the VHL
The VHL space is defined by the network operation of decentralized
information sources. The network is made up of defined static
or dynamic links among the information sources, as well as by
the responses by information sources to content searches and navigation.
In the latter case, the network is built on the basis of response
capabilities by information sources to requests for content. Use
of the terminology or controlled vocabulary to describe the information
sources as a whole and the records they contain is the VHL mechanism
to maximize the capacity to respond to content requests.
Integration and definition of the VHL space as well as referencing
sources external to the VHL is provided by use of the DeCS vocabulary
(Health Sciences Descriptors), the LIS (Health Information Locator),
and the sets of common methodologies for operating information
4.1 DeCS - Health Sciences Descriptors
The VHL controlled vocabulary is the DeCS (Health Sciences Descriptors),
which operates in a database in 3 languages, Spanish, Portuguese,
and English. Its basis, in terms of a terminological body and
structure, is the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) of the National
Library of Medicine (NLM), allowing its participation with the
Portuguese and Spanish language terminology in the Unified Medical
Language System (UMLS) of the NLM. DeCS contains more than 25,000
entries, including the terms from the MeSH as well as terms added
by BIREME for the description and retrieval of information sources
in public health and homeopathy. In the area of public health
it contains more than 6,000 terms and covers specific areas like
health services administration and health sector reform, environmental
sciences with terminology in sanitary engineering, environmental
health, natural and manmade disasters, etc.
The DeCS database is coordinated by BIREME, and its ongoing development
aims to serve all the thematic areas in the VHL. Suggestions for
new terms or changes in terms in the DeCS can be provided individually
using the option "suggested new terms" in the DeCS Server
in the regional VHL site. In addition, a complete review of a
thematic area can be performed by a specific project in a specialized
area of the VHL.
Suggestions for new terms in the DeCS, both individually and
in a given thematic area, can be sent to BIREME, which submits
the suggested terms to approval by experts collaborating in terminology
development. Inclusion of new terms in the DeCS database should
follow the same hierarchical structure of the terminology and
the same principles for creating terms.
BIREME is developing the Geographic DeCS, a specific section
for identifying the geographic and administrative divisions of
the various Latin American and Caribbean countries. Its production
is decentralized, with the Cooperating Centers helping record
the geographic and administrative divisions of the respective
An area for "Health Terminology" with a link
to the DeCS Server in the regional VHL site can be included in
the national VHL or in the thematic VHL areas.
4.2 LIS - Health Information Locator
Reference catalogs for information sources both inside and outside
the VHL space are operated by the LIS (Health Information Locator).
LIS allows for the description and retrieval of information sources
in a mode compatible with international standards. It is possible
to operate catalogs covering different geographic areas, like
country territories and groups of countries both inside and outside
the Region. It is also possible to restrict the operation to thematic
LIS is the health area information source portal on the Internet,
principally for sources operated in the countries of the Latin
America and Caribbean Region and Spain. The purpose of the LIS
is to contribute to the visibility and accessibility of information
sources produced in the Region, selecting technical and scientific
contents on the existing Internet sites according to quality criteria,
describing and indexing them with a common methodology and the
DeCS terminology to facilitate navigating in the VHL.
The content of LIS databases consists of meta-data describing
information sources on the Internet, based on the GILS (Global
Information Locator Service), adopted as the model by the Global
Information Society Program and the Dublin Core.
Data entry to LIS is decentralized, and as in other VHL sources,
the National or Thematic Advisory Committee in each country should
designate an institution in charge of managing and maintaining
it. Validation of the information resources registered in the
LIS can be done by specialists selected by the institution in
charge of the LIS.
The LIS can be developed at the national, regional, or thematic
level. Information resources can belong to one or more levels,
and the LIS types are identified when the information resource
An important characteristic of the LIS is that it records all
the existing scientific and technical contents in the sites, in
addition to recording the institutional sites. For example, a
Ministry of Health site can contain as many records in the LIS
as its content sites (publications in fulltext, bibliographic
databases, health indicators, etc.), beginning with the record
of the institutional site.
National LIS sites in the VHL should mainly record the information
resources produced by the country, while the regional thematic
sites should mainly record information resources of regional interest
produced in the Latin American and Caribbean Region.
The Regional LIS in the VHL integrates the regional, national,
and thematic LIS, besides recording resources from relevant health-related
international or regional agencies in the Region.
The LIS Methodology was developed jointly with the National Center
for Information in Medical Sciences, Ministry of Public Health,
5. Cooperative Online Access Services
VHL cooperative information services can be grouped as follows:
- Search in information sources
- Selective dissemination of information
The services are operated in the national, regional, or thematic
5.1 Search in information sources
The bibliographic databases and general or specialized national,
regional, and international health references that are realigned
for operation on the Internet and with access available to the
general public can be included and targeted from the national
and/or thematic VHL webpage, under the item "scientific literature".
To have this search service available from the webpage of a national
and/or thematic VHL, there are two possibilities:
a) include the search form directly on the webpage, according
to the instructions indicated on the site http://www.bireme.br/iah/link.htm.
b) set up a link to the VHL search system for each available
National and/or thematic databases generated cooperatively and
that follow quality control criteria should also be available
for access through the national and/or thematic page, if possible
using the same IAH search mechanism developed by BIREME.
5.2 Document access services
The increase in published scientific production, greater ease
of access to bibliographic indexes, increased demand for access
to fulltexts, and decreased purchasing power by libraries are
some of the elements in the current library environment that directly
influence the maintenance and development of collections in general.
Thus, access to fulltext of documents referenced in the VHL bibliographic
databases at the regional, national, and thematic levels is obtained
- direct link to the electronic text, when available; or
- link to a document photocopy supply service.
For electronic access, it is recommended to form consortia among
libraries. Access to paper collections uses SCAD (Cooperative
Service for Access to Documents), which is the VHL service for
searching and supplying full documents and articles by sending
photocopies via post, fax, or e-mail.
Integration of the bibliographic databases with SCAD requires
some adjustments and definitions, for example, to which library
one transfers the request for a document and the parameters for
identifying the document's data.
5.2.1 SCAD in the VHL
SCAD is a management system for bibliographic exchange between
libraries and information users, operating through the Internet
in a client-server mode. It involves libraries with important
collections and that have the infrastructure to offer the document
supply service to other libraries or end users by mail, fax, e-mail
The VHL SCAD is integrated with the bibliographic databases and
the collective catalog SeCS (Health Sciences Serials) and is operated
under the coordination of BIREME. This integration allows for
automatically generating a document photocopy request, including
transfer of the identifying bibliographic data and location of
the document in one or more libraries cooperating in the service.
The VHL offers SCAD to any library or professional from the Latin
American and Caribbean Region who is a registered user of the
5.2.2 National SCAD
The implementation and operation of this service at the national
level is complex, since it requires a high degree of organization
and integration of libraries, an agreement defining the service's
operating policy, an agreement on common fees, standards, and
procedures, etc. In addition to these organizational and policy
aspects, the infrastructure needed to operate and maintain the
service involves other requirements, such as:
- Central administration: the service must operate under a Center
or Institution with proven leadership on issues related to document
access, like interlibrary loans and bibliographic exchange services.
This Center is responsible for the service's policy issues,
including the fees for services, development of cooperative
plans and agreements, definition of a hierarchy, and submittal
and transfer of requests for documents and identification of
sources; definition of standards, norms, and procedures; compilation
of statistics; preparation of manuals and guidelines for using
the service; and overall coordination of the service. It is
recommended that the SCAD be installed on an Internet server
in the coordinating institution;
- Institutional resources: a document access service presupposes
the existence of documents and collections in libraries. To
organize a document access service involves designating a library
or libraries in charge of systematically acquiring and storing
documents and/or specific collections. This relates more directly
to a policy for developing collections, but it is important
to guarantee broad, organized, and rational availability of
the existing scientific and technical information resources
in libraries cooperating in the service;
- Identification and location of the documents: when a specific
document is requested, there should be tools in place to allow
for the document's bibliographic identification and its location
in one of the cooperating libraries. It is important that there
be a collective catalog or tool allowing for the identification
of journals/issues, whose integration with the system allows
for the automatic generation of requests, including their location.
In the case of national and thematic bibliographic databases,
it is possible to have a specific field identifying the library
responsible for recording the document/article, which theoretically
is where the document is located;
- Technological resources: an available UNIX, NT, or LINUX-type
Internet server is needed to operate and manage the service,
preferably installed in the Central Institution in charge of
coordinating and maintaining the service. All the libraries
and users of the service need is Internet access. Cooperating
libraries, that is, those that will be responding to requests,
need both Internet access and resources to make photocopies
of the requested documents/articles, mail and fax service, and
preferably a scanner and a software allowing electronic transmission
of documents (for example, Ariel);
- Fees, billing, and payment system: there are always costs
involved in reproducing and sending documents, and these costs
can be transferred to the requesting parties. A fees policy
should be set in agreement with the libraries cooperating in
the service so as to provide for common fees and to allow for
the implementation of a clearing system for requests between
the cooperating libraries. In addition to setting fees for the
service, it is important to provide mechanisms for billing,
control of payments received, etc.
To implement the National SCAD System, a pilot project is recommended
based on a selection of 5 libraries at most. For a period of 6
months, this group should:
- explore the SCAD System;
- define policies for the service, including rates, billing
policy, mean service time, identification of the libraries,
and whether the service will be provided to individual users
and/or other libraries;
- define standards and procedures for the service;
- prepare work procedures (pertaining to the service as a whole,
help texts, and a system manual);
- review and adapt the texts to the Spanish language;
- define mechanisms for generating bills and payment controls;
- draft a project for implementing SCAD at the national level.
BIREME is committed to:
- provide support and technical assistance for implementing
- configure the SCAD system according to definitions in the
pilot project (fees, codes for libraries, links to databases,
- transfer documentation used for SCAD implementation and user
- prepare instructions for SCAD configuration, operation, and
5.3 Selective Dissemination of Information
Selective dissemination of information is a VHL service designed
to alert user-subscribers to the new information sources included
and/or referenced in the VHL, according to defined thematic profiles.
The VHL will develop a network of profiles for themes and specialties,
with the objective of responding efficiently to the needs for
professional updating of specialized communities or those interested
in specific themes. The profiles will be adjusted as they are
used. User subscription to services involving selective dissemination
of information and the process of recommending and/or defining
new profiles will be performed online. The alerts will be sent
to users through Internet services like e-mail, the Web, and PUSH.
The DSI methodology is currently under development at BIREME.
Initially it will be applied to bibliographic databases and subsequently
to the different types of information sources in the VHL.
Handbook 2001 BVS 2001