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  • News from the National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature (NRCBL) and the National Information Resource on Ethics and Human Genetics (NIREHG)

The website of the Kennedy Institute's Library and Information Services (LIS) offers a variety of timely, comprehensive resources supporting bioethics research. Simply visit the LIS home page at: to enter a virtual world of information on all areas of bioethics, including environmental ethics and emerging issues in science and technology. Following are a few highlights of recent developments along with search tips for those who wish to explore the ETHXWeb and GenETHX databases on their own. Please remember that there is no fee for custom bibliographies; simply complete the online form provided on the website to ask the reference staff to prepare a bibliography for you or help you with search strategy.

Indexing the Genetics Literature for the Genethx Database

A new initiative to assign indexing terms to the genetics literature began in May 2007 with financial support from the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute. NIREHG bibliographers produced a supplement to the Bioethics Thesaurus that contains 72 genetics-related Keyword Descriptors (subject terms in a controlled indexing vocabulary). Some of these Keywords—e.g., CLINICAL GENETICS, GENETIC ANCESTRY, GENETIC DISCRIMINATION, GENETIC RELATEDNESS TIES, and HUMAN GENOME DIVERSITY PROJECT—are, as far as we know, unique to any thesaurus.

By December 2007, more than 1,100 documents in the GenETHX database were indexed with Keyword Descriptors from the Bioethics Thesaurus. These documents also were indexed, as appropriate, with non-Thesaurus Keyword Identifiers (proper nouns, including the names of persons, agencies and other corporate bodies, laws, court decisions, and geographic names) and Keyword Proposed Descriptors (terms under consideration for inclusion in future editions of the Bioethics Thesaurus). Eventually, all GenETHX documents selected for inclusion in the Bibliography of Bioethics will be indexed, thereby providing very [End Page 399] precise retrieval of relevant information on the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetics research and applications. For more about this project and how to search by keywords, please see:

Expanded Quickbibs

We encourage those who prefer to access bibliographic information in a hurry to explore QuickBibs, customized topic-specific searches of the ETHXWeb and GenETHX databases. Scores of QuickBibs may be used as starting points for performing research on topics such as Abortion, Eugenics, Genetics, Nanotechnology, Organ Donation, Reproductive Technologies, and Stem Cell Research. These searches are freely available from the LIS home page at: "RETRIEVE a bibliography on a bioethics topic."

Tips for Searching the Ethxweb and Genethx Databases

Search Tip #1: Expand Your Searches with an Author Search

If searching a topic produces limited results, and if a researcher has the name of even one author, sometimes more citations can be found by doing an author search. To do this, type in the author's last name and limit the search to the author field. One example is Veatch[au]. This search will retrieve other citations written by Veatch that may be relevant and missed earlier in a topic search. This search strategy may also produce the names of coauthors, which then can be searched as above by the author's name. Searching by author's name in the ETHXWeb database also is useful if an article has footnotes and references, which can be used as the sources for more names of authors.

Search Tip #2: Limit Your Searches to Audiovisuals, Case Studies, Empirical Research, Etc.

If you are looking for particular formats, remember to use the pull-down menu on the "Advanced" search screen. For example, to retrieve audiovisuals about ethical issues in genetics, enter 15.+ (to represent the genetics category, using the "+" to expand the search to all sub-categories on the classification scheme) in the "Primary Subject" box and select: "Audiovisual Material" from the "Publication Type" pull-down menu. Click on the "Search" button to retrieve 66 relevant items.

Alternatively, you may want to search for materials written from a particular perspective. Keep in mind the subject caption [sc] field label. Subject captions are limited to the following: an = analytical, cs = case studies, em = empirical, le = legal, po = popular, and rv = review; these abbreviations now...