BIREME launched the new Health Science Descriptors (DeCS in its Portuguese acronym) website on September 18, during a web conference attended by 390 people from 28 countries in the Americas (22) and Europe (6) regions.
For 34 years, DeCS has played a fundamental role in the management and access to information and knowledge in Health Sciences. Produced by BIREME/PAHO/WHO, it is a controlled vocabulary organized hierarchically and derived from the thesaurus Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), produced by the National Library of Medicine of the USA (National Library of Medicine, NLM). DeCS is the translation and extension of MeSH in Spanish, French and Portuguese, used to index, search and retrieve technical and scientific literature available in the information sources of the Virtual Health Library (VHL).
With a modern layout in accordance with W3C accessibility standards, the new DeCS website presents a new friendly interface, where it is possible to have access to the same content in four different languages. A single linearly arranged menu makes navigation easier. Also, a single search box allows you to search in all four languages, regardless of the interface language. The default search is for a whole word, whether it is at the beginning, middle or end of the term.
The way of interacting with users has also been improved. Forms are now available through which it is possible to quantify and qualify such interactions. DeCS users continue to ask questions and criticisms, suggest corrections, include terms, in addition to requesting the download of the database for inclusion in search engines.
One of the most relevant modernization actions was the new way of presenting descriptor records. In accordance with MeSH, the terms within a record are separated by groups of concepts, and the relations that these concepts have with the descriptor are indicated. Thus, in a record, there is always a nuclear concept, which is the descriptor itself. Its alternative terms may belong to the same scope or to more or less broad scope in relation to the descriptor.
The new portal also provides access to the 1999 to 2019 online editions of the vocabulary and a PDF guide for guidance on how to search the site.
In addition to the NLM, which governs annual updates, BIREME/PAHO/WHO has the support of the following partners in the development and updating of DeCS/MeSH:
- Facultad de Medicina de la Universidad de Chile for the translation of concepts into American Spanish;
- Instituto de Salud Carlos III for the translation of concepts into European Spanish;
- Institut National de la Santé et de Recherche Médicale, INSERM, that provides the translation of MeSH concepts to French; and
- L‘Université de Rouen, Normandie, for the translation into French of concepts in exclusive DeCS categories.
DeCS/MeSH, as a common language in health sciences, is used by information science professionals in the process of indexing documents in the main bibliographic databases available in the VHL, becoming the tool that guides indexers, allowing them choose the most appropriate terms that represent the subjects of the documents. At the same time, DeCS/MeSH is the instrument that facilitates the search, dissemination and access to technical and scientific output in health for all users.
The launching, moderated by Diego González, Director of BIREME, was presented by Jarbas Barbosa, Assistant Director of PAHO/WHO and Sebastián García, Director of the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health at PAHO/WHO. The introduction of the new platform was led by Renato Murasaki, Information Technology Manager and Ana Cristina Espíndola, Information Analyst, both from BIREME. There was an extensive discussion and question and answer session that enriched the event.