Oxford Historical Treaties; Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences | Reference eReviews, February 15, 2015

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Oxford Historical Treaties
Oxford Public International Law;
opil.ouplaw.com/home/OHT. To request a free trial email oxfordonline@oup.com for customers in North and South America and institutionalsales@oup.com for all other inquiries.

By Cheryl LaGuardia

CONTENT Oxford Historical Treaties (OHT), part of Oxford Public International Law (OPIL), is a full-text online file of the Clive Parry Consolidated Treaty Series, a comprehensive collection of bilateral and multilateral treaties of all nations that were concluded between 1648 and 1919. PDFs display treaties exactly as they appear in the print series. The Oxford University Press (OUP) website notes, “Treaty titles and introductory information are discoverable via deep tagging and XML data, and searchable by treaty party, Consolidated Treaty Series (CTS) citation, and date or date range.”

As OHT is part of OPIL, it is cross-searchable with some of the press’s other products, including Oxford Reports on International Law, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, and Oxford Scholarly Authorities on International Law. OHT also boasts the Oxford Law Citator, providing links between related cases, articles, and additional materials within OHT, other OUP online resources, and selected third-party websites. The Citator lets subscribing users of OUP online law services find “a definitive citation for a piece of legal information, find other things that discuss or mention something, and find other items in the same subject area or from the same jurisdiction, and link onward to reliable full text of relevant sources, on OUP services or the wider web.”

usability OHT’s main search screen is easy to navigate, with a simple search box at the top right; a link to perform an advanced query (offering Boolean searching by citation, date, title, or full text) beneath it; and below both a toolbar that lets you browse all, browse by content type (multilateral or bilateral treaties), and browse by treaty party (working through the five geographic regions of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania). Below the toolbar, a central space offers a monthly editorial (contextual commentaries on specific treaties, types of treaty, and historical trends) complemented by an attractive image, followed by site news. To the left is a column providing access to OPIL products and the editorials; at right is a column highlighting ways to “Get To Know Oxford Historical Treaties” (monthly editorials, digital brochure, browsing all content, signing up for a live demo) and links to Public International Law News. Users can also create easily a personal profile within the system, in which they can store “Content” and “Searches” for future reference. This feature is readily available via a link above the search box.

I began with a search for “Westphalia,” which found 57 results, the first of which was the Treaty of Peace between Spain and the Netherlands, signed at Münster, ­­ 30 January, 1648 (OUP reference 1 CTS 1). The treaty record’s information provides the date ratified: 18 April, 1648; the content type: bilateral treaties; the date in force: 25 May, 1648; and the date signed: 30 January, 1648. These essential pieces of information were followed by a comment giving historical context for the treaty and noting, “Though not formally a component of the Peace of Westphalia (and thus, strictly, anterior to the present series) this Treaty is included here because of its general importance in European affairs of the succeeding decades.” Following the comments were links to Latin- and French-language PDFs of the document. Both PDFs were remarkably easy to read.

I performed another search for, “peace of Westphalia” and recovered 33 results, which included the Alliance between Mayence, Trèves, Cologne, Münster, the Palatinate, Bremen, and Brunswick-Luneburg, OUP reference 6 CTS 267, for which the German PDF text was provided. When I clicked on the Oxford Law Citator from within this document I received the full title of the document, the document’s full citation, a list of all the parties to the treaty, and the date signed.

Back at the toolbar, I tried to browse all 16,192 results but didn’t search by content type (with only two content types I didn’t see the point). My browse by treaty party within Europe returned 13,409 results so wasn’t the best choice for me. One of the options in the left-hand column offered “date” as a limiter, but it only went back to the year 1700. This left me with 860 results, but since the search found what I wanted, I was satisfied.

pricing OHT is available for either an annual subscription or onetime perpetual access purchase. Subscription prices are tiered based on the size of institution and the level of access and start at $1,398 for single user licenses. Onetime perpetual access purchases start at $7,200, with an annual hosting fee that is waived with any active subscription to another OUP Law Online product. (Compare this to the cost of the print series, which is available from OUP for $13,995, with $800 for international shipping.)

VERDICT Based on the content, the presentation, the power of the search engine, and the price, it’s hard to imagine why any academic library serving significant numbers of legal and history scholars wouldn’t subscribe to this product. Law school libraries should arrange a trial of the database, as should firms dealing in international law. Highly recommended.

Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu

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Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences
Elsevier B.V.; www.sciencedirect.com.

To request a free trial email refmods@elsevier.com.

By Bonnie J.M. Swoger

content Elsevier has a long history of publishing science reference books. The rise of the Internet and freely available reference sources has challenged all reference ­publishers to make their content more up-to-date, interconnected, and dynamic. With this product, Elsevier hopes to do just that. Their Reference Modules are online collections of articles from a variety of publications hosted within the well-known ­ScienceDirect platform. While there are already modules on earth systems and environmental sciences, as well as chemistry, molecular sciences, and chemical engineering available in the market, Elsevier’s most recent offering covers biomedical sciences.

This module compiles peer-reviewed articles from several Elsevier publication types including journals and encyclopedias. There are articles on a variety of biomedical topics such as embryology, genetics, microbiology, neuroscience, nutrition, physiology, pharmacology, public health, toxicology, virology, and much more. Released this past December, the new module contains both updated articles and content. Vitally, older articles have been checked for accuracy and updated to reflect recent research. Each article includes the original publication date as well as the most recent date the article was updated or reviewed.

The Reference Module for Biomedical Sciences is not just a collection of online reference books; articles from all works have been combined into a single topic-based searchable hierarchy. Among the top-level subjects are the areas mentioned previously as well as others on topics such as developmental biology and medical microbiology.

At the time of review, the Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences offered 4,803 articles, which are categorized as introductory or advanced. Users can filter for either type as they browse. Approximately 21 percent of articles are classified as “advanced.” Each article has an individual digital object identifier (DOI) for easy citing and retrieving and most can be viewed as either HTML or PDF versions. Although some articles are quite brief, others are more detailed and comprise a robust bibliography or a “Further Reading” section, including links when possible.

Because this product is part of Science­Direct platform, it includes some of the same features as ScienceDirect journal content. A list of recommended articles on a similar topic appears on the right-hand side of the screen, although the relevance of these recommendations were questionable. Links are also provided to “Related Book Content,” but this could be confusing to potential users since many of the links lead to articles in the online encyclopedia, outside of the Reference Module.

usability The reorganization of content from multiple works into a single topic-based hierarchy not only makes articles easy to find but also means the collection is more searchable. Users don’t have to guess which encyclopedia to look in as they can simply click on the relevant topic.

The topic list appears on the left-hand side of most pages within the module, including all articles and some search result lists. Users can then drill down into the articles by selecting subtopics and sub-subtopics. With each click, a list of relevant articles appears, along with one or more featured articles on the subject. The results appeared to be sorted by relevance, but this is not indicated anywhere.

The file contains two search functionalities that return similar results but operate differently, which could be confusing to some users. Just beneath the module title, at the top of the list of articles is a small search box with the prompt “Search within this module.” As the user digs deeper into the subject hierarchy, the search box at the top of the results list changes, allowing one to search within the topic they are exploring with the option, “Search within this topic.” While I can understand the usefulness of these changes, I was tripped up several times when I wanted to start a new search. Because I didn’t read the prompts, the search didn’t behave in the way I expected. If a researcher works in this way, the results list is simple. Users can toggle between sorting by relevance or date and can filter by article level (introductory or advanced). There are no additional filtering options available.

Alternatively, users could elect to search via the search box at the top of the page. For those familiar with the ­ScienceDirect platform, this is similar to the search box on that resource’s home­page and each journal page. By default, the search is set to only mine within the current reference module, indicated in one search field as “This Journal/Book.” If this search box is selected, the query retrieves the same number of results but will have more filtering options available. In this results list, users can restrict by year (considered the date of the most recent update or review), publication title, or topic.

A link to the ScienceDirect advanced search is available, but users might struggle to perform an advanced search within the Reference Module for Biomedical Sciences as they would first have to select the “Reference Works” tab, select the link for “A Specific Reference Work,” then scroll through an extensive list to find the appropriate Reference Module.

Because the Reference Module is on the ScienceDirect platform, many of the tools from ScienceDirect are available. Users can add reference articles to lists, along with journal articles or export citations to a variety of citation managers such as RefWorks and Mendeley.

pricing The cost of Reference Modules is determined by institution size and full-time employees and varies by subject matter. The Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences starts at $4,800; the module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences, and Chemical Engineering starts at $8,400; and the module in Biomedical Sciences starts at $11,000.

VERDICT This product combines high-quality reference sources into one platform for a much easier user experience than many reference ebooks, yet the high cost of the collection will unfortunately put it out of reach for many of the academic institutions that may find it useful. Institutions should also weigh the relative value to end users of reference works over other full-text content as prices continue to rise considerably.

Bonnie J.M. Swoger is the Science and Technology Librarian at SUNY Geneseo’s Milne Library and the author of the Undergraduate Science Librarian blog, undergraduatesciencelibrarian.org. Readers can contact her at swoger@geneseo.edu


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