Reviewed by JoEllen Broome
Zach S. Henderson Library
Georgia Southern University Statesboro, Georgia
June 20, 2005
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Cost Information for the OCLC FirstSearch Service: There are two purchase options for PAIS. One is an annual subscription made by an individual institution or through a consortium arrangement with pricing based on the number of FTE students at a particular institution or on some range of FTE students in a consortium. The second is a per-search option where the institution purchases in blocks of five hundred searches as needed.
This is a review of the Public Affairs Information Services (PAIS) databases as offered online by OCLC.
History and Homage
The year 2004 marked the 90th anniversary of the Public Affairs Information Service. The fact that the visionary founders of this remarkably long-lived service were social science librarians should be a point of pride for all. It started in New York City in 1914 as a non-profit publisher of digests and bibliographies developed for a growing body of new public policy literature. For an interesting historical overview of PAIS by Bonnie Ryan see the Winter 2004 issue of Social Science Division Bulletin. A successful relationship with the Economics Division of the New York Public Library began in 1919.
The weekly Bulletin of the Public Affairs Information Service became the chief product, and its publication pattern of quarterly cumulations was followed by an annual volume that was precedent-setting. The variety of publications indexed became an early distinguishing characteristic of PAIS. According to Ryan, “Materials indexed include monographs and book chapters, articles from the popular press and scholarly journals, grey literature, publications from organizations and associations, government documents and English language materials published in other countries” (Ryan, 2004). Imitators in other fields such as education and psychology now have this breadth, however such an all encompassing approach to materials worth indexing is not the prevalent model even today.
Non-English language materials added from 1972 forward coincided with the issuing of a separate Foreign Languages Index that included works in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish (Ryan, 2004).
Merger Mania Latecomer
The shuffling of products (databases, electronic journals, etc.) that often occurs during the merger and divestiture antics of owner/providers and the parallel drop/add predilections of vendors creates havoc for librarians. During the twentieth century, PAIS survived as a highly regarded entity untouched by these corporate machinations in the library world. Then in 2000, two non-profits– OCLC and PAIS — merged in what was promised, via press releases, as a cost effective arrangement with ambitious plans for joint projects. Near the end of December of 2004, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts announced that it was the newest owner of PAIS International and PAIS Archive (developed under the auspices of OCLC). As presently understood, CSA will continue to publish a print version in addition to the online databases though it has not stated an intention to publish a CD-ROM version as reviewed in an ANSS Currents issue published in 1994. Why is it important to be aware of this recent and quick succession of partnerships? The corporate changes may affect the quality and reputation of PAIS. While the contact information, product interface, and searching protocols, understandably change, so too might the quality of customer/technical support and the pricing structures that seem to rise but never fall. But personnel changes may prove the biggest concern of all. For example, the former editorial staff of nine seasoned librarians housed in the New York Public Library greatly benefited from a long term relationship with that august public institution (Ryan, 2004). No more; the CSA editorial offices are now located in San Diego. Nine of the 14 Social Science editors currently employed are assigned to PAIS, but none of them are librarians (six have B.A. degrees while the other three hold M.A. degrees). Furthermore, each has been assigned other duties in addition to PAIS. In the near future ANSS Currents may require yet another review of PAIS in its next incarnation.
PAIS via OCLC/FirstSearch
The OCLC FirstSearch version of PAIS, available at the reviewer’s institution, will be evaluated for coverage of cultural anthropology and sociology. It is also for sale by the new owner on the CSA Illumina, Silver Platter (until February 2006), and Dialog platforms. Of the two disciplines, anthropology is covered less comprehensively. For this reason it is important to uncover the hidden value of this database for anthropology researchers. Because the coverage of sociology in P AIS is well established, my review of its content is briefer .
Scope, Coverage and Currency
According to the CSA home page (http://www.csa.com), the PAIS International database contains references to some 540,100 journal articles, books, government documents, statistical directories, grey literature, research reports, conference reports, publications of international agencies, microfiche, Internet material, and more. Newspapers and newsletters are not indexed. The above count includes records incorporated from the P AIS print Foreign Language Index which began publishing in 1972. It merged with the P AIS Bulletin in 1990. As a result, there are publications from over 120 countries throughout the world. In addition to English, some of the indexed materials are in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Dates of coverage are 1972 to the present, and the database is updated monthly.
PAIS International’s companion database, PAIS Archive, is the retrospective database. Similarly packaged, PAIS Archive offers selective subject and bibliographical access to periodicals, books, hearings, reports, grey literature and so on. At this time, Part I of the conversion project, containing over 850,000 records covering the years from 1937 to 1976 is available. Part II of the project covering 1915 to 1936 is slated for completion by late Fall 2005. Readers may recall that this retrospective conversion project was announced during the P AIS/OCLC partnership but never fully materialized.
Neither PAIS International nor PAIS Archive is a full-text database. Each provides citation information, an abstract and descriptors based on established subject headings that may lead to related article sets. For both there are links to external resources with holdings information and some full-text sources like JSTOR. Holdings information is conveniently imbedded in the databases through WorldCat which allows for identifying local library ownership of a given monograph or serial. If holdings are unknown, there is a direct link to the home catalog for an immediate title search by the user which can then be incorporated into an electronic Interlibrary Loan form offered by his or her institution.
Indexing and Subject Access
At the most basic level by doing a simple keyword search, PAIS International provides descriptors with each bibliographic entry. These suggest acceptable subject terms assigned by the PAIS indexers and can be used to link to related sets of articles within the database. Advanced and Expert searching offer further capabilities. In the Advanced search mode under “Subjects” resides the PAIS Thesaurus. Clicking on it and entering a word, anthropology or word stem with truncation, anthropolog* leads to a list of appropriate terms with an “Expand” option for more specificity –country by country for example. One learns by entering the concept cultural anthropology that the preferred Thesaurus term is ethnology, which is also true for races of man and social anthropology.
Searching in Expert mode offers an additional icon for an “Index” which gives article counts next to the chosen concept— anthropology—231. The Thesaurus option is available in this searching mode as well. Both controlled vocabulary points of entry help the researcher refine the search strategy to obtain better results. In P AIS Archive a special feature called “Historical Descriptor” appears with each bibliographic entry. Since this is a retrospective database, knowing about unfamiliar or dated terminology, or about gradations of meaning that differed historically for a term still in use, like culture, may be helpful or even critical for a successful search. Subject headings assigned to the archival database reflect the historical nature of the entries as well. For example, administration of justice or manufacturing and heavy industry are archaic concepts for the contemporary PAIS International but remain useful for the retrospective companion database.
Cultural Anthropology in PAIS International and PAIS Archive
Public officials, diplomatic historians, public interest advocates, environmentalists, public administrators, academics, businessmen, government researchers in medicine or science, sociologists and economists are a few of the natural constituents for these databases. In addition, cultural anthropologists may find rich troves of information in them as well.
In PAIS International, searching a series of significant terms netted these results: anthropolog* 366; cultur* 11, 205; ethnic* 6300; and ethno* 551. For example, searching the truncated keyword anthropolog* brought up an interdisciplinary entry entitled, “Making sense of hell: three meditations on the Holocaust,” from a 1999 issue of the journal, Political Studies. The abstract explains that political analysis examined what made the Holocaust possible while sociology and anthropology looked at the uniqueness of the Nazi persecution of Jews during WWII. Another sample entry is from a 1998 Portuguese language monograph, “Indigenismo e terrtorializacao…” The English abstract describes it as a study of forces used to subject and control indigenous tribes in Brazil. In PAIS Archive, similar searching yields the following numbers: anthopolog* 277; culture* 5045; ethnic* 636; and ethno* 86.
As the two publications cited above demonstrate, PAIS coverage of cultural anthropology does not include core publications. An excellent article, “Journals of the Century in Anthropology and Archaeology,” that appeared in Serials Librarian in 2001 includes a list of major anthropology titles and none are indexed in PAIS. Nevertheless, there is enough information on cultural anthropology in the two databases to recommend them as worth consulting.
Sociology in PAIS
The same PAIS constituencies listed above for anthropology are appropriate for sociology. The features described above, such as graduated searching levels, the thesaurus, and holdings information, are in place for subject-specific searching in sociology. In P AIS International, searching a series of significant keywords with public policy implications netted these results: sociology* 6605; aging 1523; crimonolog* 478; crime and criminals 3193; demograph* 7277; environment 8164; violence 4905.
For example, a crime and criminals search brought up a citation for a 2004 article entitled, “Forcasting crime and narcobusiness: Iraq after the war” from the journal Conflict, Security & Development. The following monograph citation resulted from a simple search using the keyword demography: “Does voting technology affect election outcomes? Touch- screen voting and the 2004 presidential election,” published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2005. In PAIS Archive, searching the same word string netted the following results: sociology* 6220; aging 772; demograph* 1068; crime and criminals 1723; criminology* 963; environment 1733; violence 701. A crime and criminals search brought up a 1975 article, “White racism, black crime, and American justice…” in Phylon. Searching the keyword sociology brought up an article from Journal of Political and Military Sociology entitled, “The future of ROTC on the small college campus.” Finally, a 1975 SuDoc monograph authored by the U.S. House Select Committee on Aging looks at “Pension problems of older women…” It would seem that national concerns of thirty years ago are amazingly similar to headline issues now facing the country, and are no doubt of equal interest to today’s library researchers in sociology.
A somewhat dated but still useful article by a professor of sociology that appeared in the ceased ALA publication Footnotes reinforces the value of P AIS to sociologists. The author evaluated the quality of 58 journals in the field and ranked them by two objective measures –core influence and total influence. The top ten titles from his rankings were searched via the Source line in PAIS, and the result was that six out of the ten top titles are indexed in both PAIS International and PAIS Archive. (There is, however, a slight difference in which of the ten top journals are indexed by both PAIS International and PAIS Archive because some titles ceased publication). This result serves as an informal but worthwhile indicator of the value of PAIS to sociologists and researchers in closely allied fields. PAIS is a database of choice, ranked in the first tier to be consulted along with Sociological Abstracts, Annual Review of Sociology Online, or Social Sciences Index.
The reputation of PAIS for high quality and its longevity make it a preferred resource in the social sciences. The design of the databases in FirstSearch is excellent since it provides the searcher with the Thesaurus and Index features. PAIS databases are user friendly. They would not rank as first-stop or the top choice for cultural anthropology because major journals in the field are not included. Rather, they would be good candidates to be included in a group of resources to check at the outset of a research project, or one that called for casting a wide, interdisciplinary net for any and every source connected to a topic of interest.
Allen, Michael Patrick, “The Quality of Journals in Sociology Reconsidered,” Footnotes, November 1990:4-5.
Golderman, Gail M. and Bruce Connolly, “Going Global”, Library Journal (1976) part Net connect, Winter 2002, 40-46. This is a review of several databases, including Columbia International Affairs Online, International Political Science Abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts, as well as PAIS.
Ogburn, Joyce L., J. Christina Smith and Gregory A. Finnegan, (2001), “Journals of the Century in Anthropology and Archaeology,” Serials Librarian, 39(4), 69-78.
Ryan, Amy, “PAIS Celebrates 90 Years of Service to Libraries,” Social Science Division Bulletin, Winter 2004 at http://www.sla.org/division/dsoc/Bulletins/Winter%202004/