(excluding Zoological Record)
By Beth Ten Have
Senior Product Manager, Clarivate Analytics
Since the inception of Biological Abstracts in 1926, its editors have sought literature from around the world that documents new and emerging research in the life sciences. The history of BIOSIS coverage policies and selection processes has been detailed most specifically by Freedman1, as well as by Steere2, who explained the procedures in the context of the larger history of BIOSIS. This work continues today in the process of identifying and selecting materials for the BIOSIS databases BIOSIS Previews and Biological Abstracts.
Two Levels of Selection
Selection for BIOSIS databases occurs at two levels: first at the journal (or source) level, where journals are evaluated and accepted for coverage, and secondly at the journal issue level as issues of a journal are received, when specific items within an issue are chosen for inclusion.
At the journal level, the BIOSIS editorial group evaluates a title for coverage on three aspects:
- Editorial content and publication attributes
- Geographic origin and scope
Once a source journal is accepted for coverage, guidelines are established for item selection based on the content of that source. Many sources are “cover-to-cover,” meaning that nearly every item from the journal will be included in BIOSIS coverage. Other sources are “non-cover-to-cover,” where certain sections or types of items are not selected. At the issue (or item) level, certain items are excluded.
Selection at the Source Journal Level
Like editors for most database publishers, particularly in the sciences, the BIOSIS editorial group must balance the selection of new journals with the ever-increasing abundance of publications. Pulled from over 5000 serial titles, approximately 600,000 items are added to BIOSIS Previews annually. New as well as current journals and other serial sources are evaluated by the BIOSIS editorial group according to three broad sets of factors.
BIOSIS defines biology, or the life sciences, very generally as the study of all living organisms, emphasizing their identification, internal processes, environmental interactions, and applications. Zoology, microbiology, and botany, as well as interdisciplinary and applied areas such as agriculture, biomedicine, biochemistry, pharmacology, veterinary science, and biotechnology are also included. Journals in disciplines that are closely aligned with biology are also monitored. These disciplines include geology, energy, hydrology, oceanography, forestry, chemistry, and physics.
Journals focusing on the more applied aspects of human life sciences are excluded in areas such as patient care, nursing, healthcare and hospital administration, medical education, and legal medicine. Journals that focus on medical practice and technique, such as surgical journals, are also excluded.
Editorial Content and Publication Attributes
BIOSIS covers research publications in the life sciences and, hence, does not monitor magazines, newsletters, and publications that are considered “popular” or “newsy”. Publications must be peer-reviewed, and the editors and editorial boards must be representative of the publication’s subject area. The journal’s editorial roster must also display diversity of institutional affiliation and geographic base.
Furthermore, it is important that the source be regular in its publication schedule and that its contents are timely. Journals should be able to demonstrate that they are, or will be, published according to their intended schedules.
The presence of abstracts or summaries in languages represented by the Latin alphabet is also a consideration. The BIOSIS databases contain only English-language abstracts. Therefore, at times, the Clarivate Analytics editorial staff translates into English for the BIOSIS databases abstracts and summaries that are originally written in non-English, Latin-alphabet-based languages.
Clarivate Analytics staff does not currently translate abstracts or summaries presented in Cyrillic or Asian languages. Hence, journals that present abstracts and/or summaries only in Cyrillic or Asian languages are not accepted for coverage.
Geographic Origin and Scope
BIOSIS prides itself on its history of broad geographic coverage. From the first issues of Biological Abstracts, BIOSIS has included research reports from around the globe. Journals that have an international scope are given priority over national or regional publications. As new titles are evaluated, their geographic origin and scope in relation to their subject focus are carefully considered.
Coverage of Non-journal Material
In addition to source journals, BIOSIS Previews also has significant coverage of patents, meetings, and books.
Current patent coverage is based on patents granted in the life sciences by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Patents are selected based on their patent classification and topical area. Abstract text, provided by the inventor(s) in the patent application, is provided for patent items.
Meeting coverage is an important part of BIOSIS Previews. Each year, 33% of the items in BIOSIS Previews are related to meetings. Generally, meeting material is received within issues of journals in BIOSIS coverage or as supplemental issues to source titles. More often than not, these are presented as sets of abstracts from presentations (including poster sessions, panels discussions, etc.) of a scientific meeting.
Meetings are covered in BIOSIS Previews in one of two ways. For substantial, core meetings, a BIOSIS Previews item is created for each meeting item presented in the source. For shorter meetings or those that are not in a core subject area, a single item is created with a “meeting summary” provided by a Clarivate Analytics editor.
Books are also an important source of material for BIOSIS, even though they make up the smallest percentage of BIOSIS Previews within a given year, generally about 1%. Many of the books covered fall within series, and are classified as “serial books” and considered “serial sources”.
Another group of books contains conference proceedings, and the smallest group of covered books is best classified as monographs. Books selected for coverage are covered in their entirety, either with an item for each chapter or a single item that describes the book as a whole.
A Note About BIOSIS Coverage of Biomedicine
A substantial portion of BIOSIS coverage is in the biomedical subject areas. Selecting this literature for coverage presents its own kind of challenge. Assuming that all of the other criteria are present, deciding which biomedical titles fall within scope becomes a matter of determining which titles meet a research-orientation criterion.
The factor which defines appropriate clinical medicine titles is determined by whether the emphasis is on experimental, research-oriented clinical studies or on the practice of medicine. BIOSIS does not cover journals that emphasize clinical practice, such as the practice of medicine, patient care, or practice related techniques. Nor does it cover allied health-related titles. However, a journal that emphasizes research but contains the occasional article about practice still qualifies for inclusion. When issues of such titles are received, the practice-focused articles are excluded from coverage.
Another consideration when evaluating journals in biomedicine is whether the journals are indexed and abstracted in other databases. Many, if not all, BIOSIS customers have access to PubMed®/MEDLINE®, so consideration of PubMed coverage factors into whether biomedical journals will be included in BIOSIS.
Selection at the “Issue” Level
Once a journal title is accepted for coverage, other selection criteria are applied during the processing of its issues. This is done in order to direct the appropriate literature to the appropriate BIOSIS products and to apportion the proper amount of material. These criteria are both subject- and item-type based.
The subject orientation of articles within many journals in active coverage does not always fit the scope of subject areas consistent with the BIOSIS mission. Articles that are not about topics in the life sciences are excluded. For example, BIOSIS does not include articles on the topic of theoretical physics from the journal Science, while articles on life science are included.
Within journal issues, consideration is also given to the type of item. The following items are included as long as they fall within the scope of the life sciences:
- Original research articles
- Short communications
- Meetings abstracts and papers
- Letters of a scholarly or research nature
Items that are routinely excluded include:
- Book, product, and software reviews
- Abstract publications, with the exception of meeting abstract issues, collections, and books
- Administrative procedures
- Biographies and obituaries without value to the history of biology
- Discussion sections
- Legal and legislative documents or accounts about them
- News items
- Reprints of previously published works
Collections of meeting abstracts undergo an additional selection review. There are, unfortunately, many sets of meeting abstracts that cannot be covered in their entirety. Since most of the meeting literature is included in journals, a selection process is necessary to distinguish those meetings that are, and are not, to be included. In this process, meetings are searched for prior coverage to maintain consistency of coverage, which is a priority.
BIOSIS includes errata if they are published in the journal and affect information that are included in the BIOSIS database, such as titles, author names, bibliographic data, and significant errors in the abstract. Errors committed as we process the journals are also corrected, as is the indexing, when such errors are brought to our attention. However, this errata and retractions policy does not currently extend to meetings and books, primarily because of processing considerations.
- Freedman, B. Growth and Change in the World’s Biological Literature as Reflected in BIOSIS Publications. Publishing Research Quarterly, v11 (3) 1995
- Steere, W.C. Biological Abstracts/BIOSIS: The First Fifty Years(New York: Plenum Press, 1976)