PAIS International on CD-ROM – Reviewed Fall 1994

Reviewed by Cheryl Naslund, SUNY at Binghamton July 1994

(Incorporates some findings from an earlier [1992] draft review prepared
by Pauline Manaka.)

PAIS International on CD-ROM, 1972-. Public Affairs Information Service,
Inc., 521 West 43rd St., New York, NY, 10836-4396, (212) 736-6629. The
PAIS database is also available through other distributors, including SilverPlatter,
Data-Star, DIALOG, OCLC, RLG and other vendors. The PAIS on CD-ROM database
indexes publications from 1972-present. Updates are issued quarterly on
a single cumulative disc. An annual subscription costs $1600 ($1405 to
full subscribers of PAIS International in Print) and includes unlimited
telephone assistance in formulating search strategies. Approximately 350,000
items are indexed, with approximately 16,000 new items added annually.

PAIS (Public Affairs Information Service) indexing is an important tool
for librarians and users interested in legislation and public/social policy.
Because PAIS is a well-known source that has been available for more than
75 years, the Bibliography Committee decided that an update of new and
improved features found in the CD-ROM version of the index would be more
useful than a full Committee review.

PAIS provides bibliographic access to public and social policy materials
bearing on contemporary public issues, legislation, public administration,
and the making and evaluation of public policy. Local, state, regional,
national and international issues and perspectives are included. PAIS is
particularly strong in its breadth and selectivity of coverage. Materials
must be primarily of public interest and not solely of interest to practitioners
or specialists. Historical works (World War II and later) are included
only to provide historical development of a current issue. PAIS uses stringent
selection criteria and careful indexing to link important literature on
background, statistics, demographics, analysis, and opinion from mainstream,
minority, and unconventional perspectives to subjects spanning the social
and political spectrum. Emphasis is given to factual and statistical analysis
over speculative or argumentative presentations. PAIS successfully selects
publications that are truly informative and represent the full range of
positions on controversial subjects. PAIS indexers studiously avoid trivial
and redundant entries. With an emphasis on the academic market, PAIS selects
materials with extensive bibliographies capable of supporting further research.
Coverage of the writings of prominent public figures is also a noted PAIS
strength.

Six languages are covered: English (80%); French (7%); German (6%);
Spanish (3%); Italian (2%); and, Portuguese (2%). A significant percentage
of English language materials originate in English-speaking countries outside
the United States. U.S. publications represent 70% of the articles in the
database, with 30% published elsewhere in the world. Overall, periodical
articles provide 65% of the indexed materials with monographs accounting
for 34%, although 1993 statistics indicate 57% and 43%, respectively. Of
particular benefit is coverage of the reports of public and private organizations,
pamphlets, microfiche collections not available in hard copy, and government
documents.

Sixteen hundred journals are scanned regularly, but complete coverage
of any single journal or publisher is not attempted. Book coverage in PAIS
is particularly strong with 7,000-8,000 titles indexed annually. Priority
is given to systematic investigations of specific policy issues, comprehensive
overviews of a range of positions or approaches to a subject, and reference
books. Coverage of statistics, particularly on trade within and between
countries is specifically included. Newspapers, textbooks, and popular
publications are excluded from PAIS indexing.

General selection criteria also apply to the coverage of U.S. and foreign
government documents. However, U.S. congressional hearings, U.S. committee
prints, and reports or studies of other federal agencies are normally included.
Greater emphasis is placed on subjects of national concern and problems
common to many localities than on issues restricted to regional or local
interest. Though all state and local documents may be indexed, coverage
is strongest for New York, New Jersey, California, and New York City. Selection
criteria for foreign government documents are comparable to those used
for U.S. documents.

PAIS offers retrieval of citations via an index of subject headings,
a controlled on-line thesaurus, or free-text searching. Specific field
searching is also supported. The thesaurus and subject headings index are
each available with a single keystroke. The thesaurus includes alphabetically
permuted terms and cross-references. The subject headings index includes
the number of occurrences of each subject term and also the number of records
containing that subject heading. Cross-references now automatically appear
when a term with cross-references is selected from the subject headings
index. In a few select cases, the number of cross-references is cumbersome
and free-text searching may be preferable.

The abstract-like notes of PAIS are lengthier in the CD-ROM version
than in the print version and generally allow one to successfully evaluate
the relevance of the material for one s own purpose. They typically include
a description of the subject content, the format (case-studies, reports,
edited essays, speeches, etc.), and the data (statistical, demographic,
etc.). In addition the notes allow free-test searching of new terms and
those used in the vernacular before they are selected for inclusion in
the thesaurus. A comparison of searching using free-text rather than thesaurus
terms yielded a 5-10% increase in search results. This has important implications
for searching, particularly where terminology is controversial and popular
terms fail to be included in the thesaurus. U.S. materials are indexed
within one to two months of publication; indexing of non-U.S. publications
tends to be slower owing to longer transit times. Complete ordering information
including costs is available with a single keystroke using the on-line
PAIS Directories of Periodicals and Publishers.

PAIS on CD-ROM is an excellent source for access to diverse and in-depth
information on contemporary public and social policy issues, although theoretical
information of interest to specialists is not included. The note field
of PAIS, describing contents of monographs, is quite useful and unique,
and its indexing of statistical sources and directories is also appreciated
by many users. International coverage is good, though coverage of Latin
American issues, particularly abroad, and Spanish language materials, in
general, might be improved.

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