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Islamic Medical and Scientific Ethics (IMSE) Collection
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Islamic Medical and Scientific Ethics (IMSE) Collection

Many of the items we bring you each week deal with our in house projects. Whether it is a new collection we are developing, a weekly program that has become a favorite or just an exploration of a great service we provide. These are all vital to what makes the Bioethics Research Library such a vibrant part of the bioethics community, but we would be remiss if we did not also occasionally highlight our larger, collaborative projects.
This week we are going to learn a little bit about our Islamic Medical and Scientific Ethics (IMSE) collection and show what can be accomplished when two libraries, thousands of miles apart, come together to create a truly unique resource.
In October of 2009 the Bioethics Research Library (BRL) in Washington D.C. and the School of Foreign Service Qatar Library (SFS-Q) in Doha, Qatar were awarded a three year grant to develop information services utilizing the expertise and collections of both libraries in the field of Islamic Ethics. The original three year award was granted by The Qatar National Research Fund and, since that time, another three year award has been extended. The first three years saw the creation of the IMSE online resource, the establishment of a permanent Islamic Bioethics collection in Qatar, and a conference held in Doha that invited leading experts from all over the world to come together and share knowledge and ideas on how to continue providing access to the growing field.
For the Bioethics Research Library this was an opportunity too great to pass up! With an already established Islamic collection, the ability to create online resources to highlight what was already held and gain access to scholars and experts all over the world was very exciting. For the SFS-Q library this was an opportunity to help bring a little bit of Georgetown to the Qatar campus by leveraging what has always been one of the strengths of Georgetown University, but could also be done in a way that would provide access to the wider community.
Check out the Islamic Medical and Scientific Ethics online research guide to explore the collection
The scope of the collection would follow the already established guidelines the BRL uses for all of its acquisitions.
From its inception, the BRL has never taken a position on any specific issue, whether controversial or not, but instead strives to collect material representing all perspectives from as many reputable sources it can. This underlying belief is a fundamental aspect of the BRL culture and allows us to provide our students and scholars access to materials so they can form their own opinion. Materials that had been collected by the BRL prior to 2009 followed these guidelines and so it only made sense that new materials would follow suit. Books, journal and newspaper articles, and web documents primarily made up the collection, but there were also audio-visual materials and legal documents. The one thing missing from the BRL’s collection were materials written in Arabic, Farsi, and other languages. The BRL had mainly collected materials written in English, German, and Dutch, but with SFS-Q as a partner the scope of the collection could expand to find and document materials in additional languages.
fifthcentinformedconsentf1largeThe IMSE project identifies both classic and contemporary resources. The IMSE collection heavily focuses on the development of science and the religious ethics behind it. There is also a historic perspective that the collection covers. Included in the collection records is an early version of informed consent document. This written consent document from the Ottoman era dated from 1539. It is thought to be the first written consent in medical history. The original document is from Gaziantep, Turkey, formerly known as Aintab, in the Ottoman Empire.
The online resource the two libraries were able to provide patrons records that utilized a brand new subset of keywords established for the project. The subset was created and added to the Bioethics Thesaurus, which is a controlled vocabulary of approximately 1,500 Subject Headings that are used by trained indexers to index the literature of bioethics in general and, now, of Islamic Medical and Scientific Ethics. The subset, in particular, is valued tool for ensuring patrons are able to search the IMSE database and find materials relevant to their searches.
I know you won’t be surprised to find out that many of the issues that are popular topics among scholars in the United States and Europe are the same topics important to Islamic scholars. Our librarians have identified more than 3,000 writings (and growing!) on Islamic perspectives on abortion, death and dying, genetics, health care delivery, human experimentation, organ transplantation, and reproductive technologies. The database also includes search tips, a history of the project, and a run down of the sources our staff looks at to acquire new material.
The second three year grant was awarded to the BRL and SFS-Q after winning the prestigious award of the Best Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences, Humanities, and Islamic Studies Research Program of the Year at Qatar Foundation’s annual Research Forum in October of 2012. The second three year project was awarded to continue to add and develop the resources of IMSE and an additional grant was awarded to develop the world’s first Encyclopedia of Islamic Bioethics.
Working collaboratively has created many wonderful experiences and the BRL is always interested in working with partners to maintain and develop resources for the bioethics community. The IMSE project is truly a testament to what can happen when two libraries come together and use the resources of each to reach an audience that had not been reached before.
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