Better access to literature on bananas

Inge Van den Bergh Friday, 25 October 2013

The first issue of Musarama (a discontinued INIBAP newsletter not to be confused with ProMusa’s image bank) compared looking for articles on bananas in books of abstracts to gold panning. Finding nuggets of information became easier with the publication of bibliographies on bananas, such as the ones inserted into Musarama starting in 1988. Three years later, the Musalit database was set up but these were still early days for the Internet. Musarama continued to be the only outlet for bibliographical records until Musalit joined the web in 1998. From that point on its search interface remained more or less the same, even as online searches were becoming increasingly powerful. But who has the time and patience to sift through the 194,000 hits of a Google Scholar search on the word bananas to find the valid ones, let alone the relevant ones?

The new version of Musalit that ProMusa recently put online provides better access to documents and improved search functionalities to help users navigate the database’s close to 15,000 records.  In addition to offering more search fields, the new interface also makes it possible to refine the results of a search by language, author, keyword or type of document, to name only a few. Users can also produce bibliographies by selecting records and exporting them in citation format, as well as save a search as a unique URL. The results will be automatically updated with any new record matching the search criteria. Users should also find it easier to keep up with new publications by regularly checking the recent literature page. The various functionalities and their use are explained in the Help page.

As before, Musalit continues to provide direct access to all the Bioversity International publications on bananas for which a PDF is available (including those previously published by INIBAP). Other open-access publications, including RTB publications on banana, are available through a link to the publisher’s website. We are also in the process of ensuring that all the open-access and restricted-access publications that have become available from the Internet after their inclusion in the database are linked from their Musalit record. Currently, about a quarter of the records are linked to an open-access document.

In keeping with the CGIAR’s commitment to open access reflected in a policy document approved by the Consortium Board earlier this month, Musalit also started making available the post-prints of publications behind paywalls, along with a link to the PDF on the publisher’s website. The first post-prints that were uploaded follow an agreement between Bioversity and the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) to make publicly available the post-prints of articles from joint ISHS-ProMusa symposia one year after their publication in Acta Horticulturae.

Musalit also continues to be connected to Musacontacts and other ProMusa resources. I invite everyone to ‘test-drive’ the new Musalit and send me your feedback or use the comments feature below. If you have published papers on bananas, you can also take this opportunity to verify that they are all recorded in Musalit. If you want to add a reference, correct an error in a record or provide missing information, contact Leïla Er-Rachiq at l.er-rachiq@cgiar.org.

Musalit is maintained by Bioversity International on behalf of ProMusa, with funding from RTB. Refitting it drew on the skills of several people in the Montpellier office. I would like to thank Leïla, Max Ruas, Thomas Vidal, Anne Vézina, Claudine Picq and Karen Lehrer, for their time and efforts. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the precious technical assistance of Simon Haïoun-Viet. Lastly, Musalit wouldn’t be what it is today without its early supporters, organizations such as CTA, IDRC, CIRAD and UPEB, and two of the documentalists who worked on it over the years, Guido Ponsioen and Gaston Boussou. Musalit’s makeover is a fitting tribute to 25 years of helping banana scientists strike gold.