Currently, a large number of bibliographic databases are accessible online. The most important databases for medical purposes include MEDLINE, EMBASE, CANCERLIT, TOXLINE, BIOS and SCISEARCH, each with several million indexed articles. As the key database for the medical sciences, MEDLINE published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine can be accessed through PubMed 1. EMBASE 2, an index based on Excerpta Medica, is particularly valuable for retrieving literature in the field of occupational medicine and consequently also in maritime medicine. Most indexed references contain abstracts and an increasing and high proportion provides free access to full-text articles. Google Scholar 3 is a valuable resource for articles and scientific reports that are not indexed in MEDLINE.
The maritime research institutes (see section below) list their publications on their own websites and frequently provide links to their reports and articles. Valuable scientific material can also be accessed from research institutions with a broader scope, such as occupational health and safety, e.g. the websites of NIOSH at the Centers of Disease Control in U.S.A 4, HSE in Britain 4 and CCOHS in Canada 4. International bodies such as the ILO 4 and WHO 4 provide legislative material and scientific reports that can be downloaded. The IMO website 4 is a particularly important source of background material to maritime health and safety.
Only a few scientific journals are solely or particularly devoted to maritime medicine. The most important of these is the English-language quarterly journal International Maritime Health 4, which is the official journal of IMHA and published by the Institute of Maritime and Tropical Medicine in Gdynia. Medicina Marítima addresses in particular hispanofrancophone colleagues 5. Accepted languages are Spanish, English and French. All abstracts are in English.
Other journals, which covers maritime medicine, include Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Service with the main focus on naval and military issues, Actual Problems of Transport Medicine published by the Ukrainian Research Institute for Medicine of Transport, Chinese Journal of Nautical Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine, and Japanese Journal of Marine Medicine.
Many additional scientific journals deal with issues of relevance to the maritime environment and to the health and safety of seafarers or fishermen.
Politics and Practice in Health and Safety, Safety Science, Journal of Telemedicine and Journal of Travel Medicine are examples of journals that are particularly devoted to specific subjects (such as politics, safety, health telecommunication, and infectious diseases, respectively) but also cover themes that may apply to maritime medicine. Many journals on occupational and community health also regularly publish papers of relevance to maritime health and safety.
Other journals focus on the maritime setting with their main readers being professionals in the maritime sector such as mates and captains. These journals include The International Maritime Human Element Bulletin and the WMU Journal of Maritime affairs. While less focused on diseases of seafarers, these journals address issues relating to human resources, culture and safety.
Each scientific journal peer-reviews submitted manuscripts to secure scientific soundness of published articles. Journals are ranked by their ‘impact factor’, which is based on the number of citations from the articles. Researchers aim to publish in journals with a high impact factor. Consequently, important articles on maritime health may appear in journals that are not dedicated to the topic.
Important sources of information include encyclopedias and databases dealing with occupational health and safety such as the ILO Encyclopedia and CISILO database that can both be accessed on the internet 4, and textbooks of occupational medicine such as the practical handbook of Koh, Seng and Jeyaratnam, which is accessible on line 6. Additional resources on occupational health can be accessed on the Internet but downloading may carry a fee.
“Research methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners” by Ranjit Kumar can be downloaded for free 7. In addition to textbooks on medical statistics 8,9, Wikipedia is currently developing a web-based Introduction to Medical Statistics 10 besides the more elaborate Wikipedia version of Medical Statistics 11. In many cases, however, quantitative studies would favour from assistance by a statistician or an epidemiologist.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has described uniform requirements for manuscripts 12 and authors should adhere to these.
Literature references can be managed by several commercial programs, which are designed for storage and retrieval in adapted formats. References can be downloaded directly from internet-based literature databases and include abstracts and keywords. Popular computer programs include Reference Manager 13 and End Note 14.