Comparative Analysis of Select Databases in Life Sciences

Comparative Analysis of Select Databases in Life Sciences

Purnima Joshi (K. C. Law College, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India)
DOI: 10.4018/ijicthd.2013100105

Abstract

Biology, the study of living beings, probably began with the transition from the original ‘animal man’ or ‘naked ape’ to ‘psychosocial man’, some 40,000 years ago. It developed immensely over the centuries to a very advanced discipline - the Life Sciences. An understanding of the basic biological processes requires an all sided approach and knowledge of the fundamental principles of all sciences. Because of this, the recorded information is also varied and scattered over many disciplines. As the research activity in Life Sciences increased, the publications also increased rapidly. Technological advances, especially Information Technology, revolutionized the information sources. Electronic information sources opened comprehensive stores of information to anyone with a computer terminal. This paper is an attempt to look at the variety of electronic information resources relevant to the field of Life Sciences. An attempt is also made to describe the characteristics and comparatively analyze twenty five selected databases from the vast number of available databases in this subject area.
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Introduction

Modern biology is very closely related to the disciplines of Chemistry, Physics, Agriculture, Medicine, Geology, Archaeology and Anthropology. Sometime during the formation of these affiliations and advanced research, the term Life Sciences emerged. It was first used probably by G. W. Hunter in 1941 in the title of his book, “Life science: a social biology”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), “Life Science is any of the sciences (such as Zoology, Bacteriology or Sociology) which deal with living organisms or such sciences collectively”.

Life science is broadly divided into two categories:

  • 1.

    Study of biological structure and function: which includes – Morphology, Physiology, Taxonomy, Biophysics, Biochemistry, Genetics, Ecology, Cytology, Embryology, Paleontology, Molecular biology;

  • 2.

    Study of types of living organisms: which includes – Zoology, Botany, Microbiology, Physical Anthropology.

In addition, Life science may also include applied subjects like Agriculture, Fisheries, Silviculture, Sericulture, Eugenics and Genetic engineering.

An understanding of the basic biological processes requires an all sided approach and knowledge of the fundamental principles of all sciences. Because of this, the recorded information is also varied and scattered over many disciplines

Electronic Information Sources

Technological advances, especially Information Technology, revolutionized the information sources. Manual searching for information in the vast multitudes of the sources had become a back-breaking and an eye-straining exercise due to the sheer volume of the available literature. Moreover, in case of printed publications, there is always a time lag between generation of information and its access by users, which may be further increased due to publication delays. To overcome this problem, searching for information online became a viable alternative because it enabled quick and easy searching of pin-pointed information and there is no time lag between generation of information and its posting on the Web. Electronic information sources opened comprehensive stores of information to anyone with a computer terminal. Various types of electronic information sources with their example are listed in Table 1.

Table 1.
Various types of electronic information sources with example
Type of Electronic SourceExample
E-journalsJournal of Biological Chemistry at http://www.jbc.org
Conferences and MeetingsWWW Virtual Library at http://conferences.rpd.net/
Library catalogueshttp://www.library.ucla.edu/catalog/melvyl.html
Patents and Standardshttp://patentsuspto.gov/
Reference sourcesEncyclopaedia of Life Sciences at http://www.els.net
News serviceBio Online at http://www.bio.com
Contents pages of periodicalshttp://uncweb.carl.org
http://www.elsevier.nl/estoc/
DatabasesMolecular Biology databases at http://molbio.info.nih.gov/molbio/db.html
E-booksBiology Hyper textbook at http://library.gmu.edu/resources/sci/lifesci.html
Internet based education (practical)Molecular Biology Cyber Lab at http://www-itg.lbl.gov/vfrog/
Theses and Dissertationshttp://etd.vt.edu/etd/

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