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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Information: Needs for the Future


Krys Bottrill

The four central questions surrounding the use of information are: where to find it; how to find it; how to present it; and how to maintain information availability and information literacy. It is usually assumed that the main source of information for most scientists is the peer-reviewed journal literature. Traditional journal publishing is beset wit h a number of problems. Although electronic publishing might possibly solve some of these, it in turn introduces new problems. Further problems arise with respect to secondary sources which, in some cases, are being supplemented by electronic archives of full-text documents. One fundamental question that arises when considering any large collection of documents or of records about documents is whether or not to index them, and how to index them. The pros and cons of free-text searching versus the use of controlled vocabularies are discussed, as is the importance of harmonising the Three Rs-related terminology of existing and proposed thesauri. However, there is a further problem that documents pertinent to the Three Rs are not always indexed from this point of view. Authors need to be made aware that, if the information is not provided in the abstract, there is no easy way to identify and retrieve this document from a database. Small specialised databases on the Three Rs in relation to specific subject areas could provide a further solution, especially if they provided references to conference proceedings and book chapters, which are not usually found in the large bibliographical databases. The provision of training in the use of information resources, and the establishment and maintenance of these resources, require investment of money and professional skills. Finally, the future of Three Rs information depends on a recognition that this in an important topic which deserves more than lip service.