Puzzled, she contacted the manager of the database, Johns Hopkins' Debbie Dickson, who replied in an April 1st e-mail that the university had recently begun blocking the search term because the database received federal funding.
"We recently made all abortion terms stop words," Dickson wrote in a note to Gloria Won, the UCSF medical center librarian making the inquiry. "As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now."
There was no notice of the change on the site.
Dickson suggested other kinds of more obscure search strategies and alternative words to get around the keyword blocking.
"In addition to the terms you're already using, you could try using 'Fertility Control, Postconception'. This is the broader term to our 'abortion' terms and most records have both in the keyword fields," she wrote.
She also suggested using a euphemistic search strategy of "unwanted w/2 pregnancy." But the workarounds don't satisfy critics of the censorship.
"The main function of their site is keyword search, and if you use a phrase that contains the word 'abortion,' it ignores it," notes Melissa Just, the library director at the cancer research institute and hospital named City of Hope in Duarte, California. Just followed the conversation on a listserv and said she was outraged when she found out about the censorship incident. |U.S. Funded Health Search Engine Blocks 'Abortion' - Wired|
As a librarian, much of my time is spent working with different ontologies.
Ontology is both a branch of philosophy and a fast-growing component of computer science concerned with the development of formal representations of the entities and relations existing in a variety of application domains. Ontology has been shown to have considerable potential on the level of both pure research and applications. It provides foundations for diverse technologies in areas such as information integration, natural language processing, data annotation, and the construction of intelligent computer systems.|National Center for Ontological Research|
Popcite has chosen to deny reality by lobotomizing its ontology.
Apparently this was in response to pressure in the form of complaints from the Bush administration about medical literature related to abortion.
University administrators of the world's largest scientific database on reproductive health blocked the word "abortion" as a search term after receiving a complaint from the Bush administration over two abortion-related articles listed in the database.
"The items in question had to do with abortion advocacy -- the two items dealing with abortion were removed following this inquiry, and the administrators made a decision to restrict abortion as a search term," said Tim Parsons, a spokesman for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland.
The blocking of the keyword "is a decision that the dean does not support in any way," he added, and the administrators are unblocking the search for the term right now. |Overreaction to Bush Administration Complaint Prompted Block on 'Abortion' Searches - Wired|
While they've reversed the action, it still offends me that librarians would cave like this.