Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Health Sciences Online

A colleague today asked my opinion of the new Health Sciences Online resource. As I'd never heard of it I took a look.

It claims to be "the first website to deliver authoritative, comprehensive, free, and ad-free health sciences knowledge", however I've worked on several projects making that claim over the last few years...

HSO launched in September 2008 as a virtual learning center with browse and search functions covering top-quality courses and references (over 50,000 at present) in medicine, public health, pharmacy, dentistry, nursing, basic sciences, and other health sciences disciplines. It is supported by the Canadian and British Columbian governments, the World Health Organization, NATO’s Science for Peace Program, the Annenberg Physician Training Program, and the Ulrich and Ruth Frank Foundation for International Health. The founding collaborators include CDC, World Bank, the American College of Preventive Medicine, and the University of British Columbia.

Although it is more international in scope (and probably has more money), the approach of making high quality relevant resources easy to find on a browsable and searchable web site was the one we used in the OMNI and NMAP projects for UK higher education nearly ten years ago. OMNI and NMAP now form part of the Intute service and similar functionality and resources can be found in parts of the UK NHS's National Library for Health.

What I can't see in HSO, and were important aspects of NMAP and OMNI, was a clear public statement about the selection criteria being used for the inclusion of resources - I have asked HSO about this, but have not received a response yet. I've also asked about the way in which the resources are displayed and whether there are particular biases eg towards US materials - it will be interesting to see what they say.

It will be interesting to see how the HSO service develops and whether we will see increasing synergy or competition between the various sites providing these sorts of services. I also wonder, as the World Health Organisation is one of the supporters, whether this is seen as being a step along the road to a controlled .health top level domain on the world wide web.

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  • Two points - the North Americans do exhibit more 'effectively' and ability to market what they are doing, giving a positive spin that may not be totally justified.
    The other point re 'WHO involvement'is that WHO is a very large organisation and the link could be through one (part) of it - it probably does not explicitly state that! or the source may be (considering) becoming part of the project that makes material freely available from 100 publishers to Developing Countries (ref Y Kwankap at Medinfo2007).
    I have used OMNI etc for years - its position is well known to actual users; perhaps the point is to try and map out all the sources that operate these features for the benefit of the domain asa whole? Has anyone got a PhD student in Knowledge Management who might be interested ????
    Dr Jean Roberts

    By Blogger Jean R, at 8:45 am  

  • Comment emailed on behalf of Dr. Erica Frank, the founder of Health Sciences Online

    Thanks for your comments. I'm the Founder and Executive Director of
    Health Sciences Online, and I'm sorry I'd not seen your comments
    earlier to address them.

    I believe we do have a unique mission of the global democratization of
    health sciences knowledge, and we've hand-collected >50,000 free
    courses, references, and texts across the health sciences.

    And while we do have a lot of collaborators, this site is the results
    of seven years of primarily volunteer efforts.

    Regarding finding our selection criteria, once at, click
    on "About HSO" and then "Criteria" to see our inclusion criteria.

    And regarding WHO's HINARI, we are a separate initiative, though I've
    worked with them in the past.

    Let us know if you've other questions --


    Erica Frank, MD, MPH

    =Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia
    School of Population and Public Health, and Department of Family
    =Founder and Executive Director, Health Sciences Online,
    =Founder and Principal Investigator, Healthy Doc = Healthy Patient
    =Immediate Past President, Physicians for Social Responsibility
    =Research Director, Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addiction
    =Professor and Senior Advisor, Preventive Medicine Residency Program
    Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Emory Univ. School of

    By Blogger Rod, at 9:51 am  

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