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Updated 2:15 PM December 9, 2008




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HIV/AIDS literature archive online

View the digital Jon Cohen Aids Research Collection >

In conjunction with World AIDS Day Dec. 1, the University launched a searchable, online trove of AIDS-related literature gathered by a prominent science writer.

The materials digitized and organized by the School of Information and the University Library includes transcripts of government meetings, obscure documents from across the globe and investigative reports from government agencies, among other items.

The database is a beta version of the digital Jon Cohen AIDS Research Collection. Cohen, a correspondent for Science since 1990, has written extensively about the epidemic for decades. The items in this online archive came from 36 file drawers of raw materials behind his articles and his 2001 book "Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine."

This beta version contains 600 items. The full database will have 6,000 documents, or 230,000 pages of records. Cohen's notes are not included. But the archive does include documents he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, speeches and proceedings from major AIDS conferences, case law, abstracts and news articles, and dozens of other categories of data. These materials are full-text searchable.

"Archives are the materials that form the meat of history," says Elizabeth Yakel, an associate professor in the School of Information who currently leads the project.

While finished products such as books and articles already are on the Web, and more are being added every day, archives are the next frontier.

"This is really the wave of the future," Yakel says. "Right now, very few archival collections are fully digitized. When it is complete, this collection will really provide you with a whole context, rather than just little pieces."

Researchers expect the full Cohen archive site to be complete in mid-2009.

Cohen sees the new Web site as a resource for anyone interested in HIV/AIDS, such as those infected with HIV, as well as journalists, policymakers, lawyers, academics and non-governmental organizations.

"The files have proven to be a terrific, unique resource for me, and I think many people could benefit from them," Cohen says. "There also are loads of historical documents that may interest people in the future. Many of these documents would be extremely difficult to obtain elsewhere."

For 70 percent of the records, the University obtained copyright permission to display the actual documents to the general public. In the other 30 percent of cases, general public users can see only a citation.

"The University of Michigan Library is proud to play a role in bringing this important collection online, and in particular, to have done so in collaboration with the School of Information," says John Weise, senior associate librarian who is working on this project.

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