The CABI CABPESTCD
A plant protection information system on CD-ROM
For several years, the CD-ROM medium has been available as a means of delivering scientific and bibliographic information. However, it has not immediately been widely used, firstly because the equipment (CD-ROM disk drive to be attached to a microcomputer) has been rather expensive and secondly because only very limited numbers of publications were available on CD-ROM, at rather high prices. This situation has now changed considerably: CD-ROM disk drives are purchasable for less than 2000 FRF and the variety of publications on the market is much greater.
CD-ROM is a remarkable data storage medium: CD-ROMs are storage platforms for all kinds of information whether in audio (music CD), video (laser disk), text or combinations of all (multi-medium). The disks have an average storage capacity of 500 Mbytes (over 500 million characters or approximately 250.000 typewritten pages).
CABI was one of the first agricultural information services to discover CD-ROM, and published CABCD in 1989, a set of CD-ROM disks containing the entire CAB Abstracts data base since 1984 on CD-ROM, with annual updates thereafter. Now, in 1992, a subset of these CAB Abstracts is available on a CD called CABPESTCD, dealing only with plant protection (entomology, plant pathology, nematology, pesticides, weed science, vertebrate pests and biological control). It contains over 430.000 abstracts, and additionally goes back to 1973, providing 11 extra years of coverage for the plant protection field. All the CABI CD-ROMs are retrieved with the SilverPlatter Information Retrieval System, a well known software product which is also used in other CD-ROM products such as the AGRIS data base of FAO.
Content of the data base
CABPESTCD is based on exactly the same data base as CABCD, for the years when the disks overlap. Its information is also identical with that used to publish the CABI abstract journals (especially, for plant protection, Review of Applied Entomology, Review of Plant Pathology, Nematological Abstracts, Weed Abstracts and Biocontrol News and Information). This information has been highly regarded by plant protection experts for many decades. The advantage of the CD-ROM presentation is that it covers 18 years of abstracts on one disk, which can be searched in a single operation.
Use of the data base
Searching is easy via a menu system, looking for keywords in the whole abstract or in its ;individual fields (author, title, text ...). Choice of keywords is facilitated by reference to an Index, or more specifically by use of CABI Thesaurus terms (used since 1984 as controlled-vocabulary descriptors of each abstracted article).
The time saved by carrying out a literature search via CD-ROM is enormous. Practically in seconds, the user has a list of abstracts on his computer screen which he can download or print. The EPPO Secretariat has been using CABCD extensively since 1991 for literature searches, and the huge task of revising the EPPO Data Sheets on Quarantine Pests would have not been accomplished in such a short time without the aid of this system.
The cost of CABPESTCD is high (3640 GBP for the archival disk 1973-1991 and 1300 GBP for the 1992 update). For a user holding the data in no other form, such a price is, however, a reasonable charge for the enormous volume of information provided. For the EPPO Secretariat, which already holds some of the journals and CABCD, the same information, and for the disks the same software, has to be paid for several times over. As the CD-ROM market expands, this kind of situation cannot continue. Perhaps future pricing could follow the example of updates of computer software, whose cost to the purchaser depends on the earlier versions he already holds. In fact, CABI does propose a 20% discounted package for CABPESTCD and the five crop protection review journals.
For a user already holding the journals, the benefit of the CD is greatly facilitated access. For a user with CABCD, it is the addition of the pre-1984 abstracts and the convenience of having 19 years of crop protection abstracts on one disk. For the EPPO Secretariat, the question of saved time and efficiency of the staff certainly justifies buying CABPESTCD. Probably, it will also be the best choice in future.
As already pointed out, CABPESTCD has the same content as the CABI journals and CABCD. This is certainly one of the world's most extensive and best collection of abstracts on plant protection. However, it does only constitute a selection from the plant protection literature, and one cannot assume that every plant protection article from the journals declared to be covered will be included. The EPPO Secretariat has examined the coverage of several journals from continental Europe, including Bulletin OEPP/EPPO Bulletin, and confirmed that coverage is partial and sometimes rather arbitrary. Certainly, cost must make it impossible for the review journals to be comprehensive, and for every article to be abstracted with the same detailed attention. We feel, however, that the CD-ROM medium should be an opportunity for a new product, not identical in content with the journals, but exploiting its potential for holding a large number of entries in a very small space. Perhaps CABI can consider such a new approach.
For the EPPO Secretariat, having the CAB abstracts in a computer-accessible form is a very efficient way to deal with our everyday work. It is also our opinion that CD-ROM will be the main medium for handling large amounts of data in coming years. This has been confirmed by discussions at EPPO's recent conference at Esl”v (SE) on "Computer-assisted advisory services for plant protection". We are therefore convinced that Plant Protection Services and Research Institutes in the EPPO region will follow this path and will obtain the necessary equipment. In this context, CABPESTCD will be a very valuable and rapid tool in their daily work.
Since budgetary problems are common in national and international organizations, change-over to CD-ROM as a medium could be accelerated by more reasonable pricing of the actual CDs and their updates.
EPPO Secretariat, Paris (1992-12)