Tobacco industry documents: comparing the Minnesota Depository and internet access
- Correspondence to: Dr Edith Balbach, Community Health Program, Tufts University, 112 Packard Avenue, Medford, Massachusetts, USA; keyword: tobacco document searching
- Received 13 June 2001
- Accepted 29 September 2001
- Revised 24 August 2001
Objective: To assess the comparability of searches conducted on two publicly available tobacco industry document collections: hard copies housed and maintained by a neutral party in the Minnesota Depository and electronic copies available through tobacco industry maintained websites.
Methods: We conducted a set of searches in Minnesota and then conducted the same searches using the industry websites. We matched documents by Bates number, weeded out duplicates, and coded documents that were unique to either collection as major, minor, or trivial.
Results: Among hundreds of documents produced by several searches, we found only four unique major documents in the Minnesota Depository. By contrast, we found 62 unique major documents using the websites.
Conclusion: These results suggest that researchers can rely on industry websites while waiting for improved access resulting from searching, indexing, and document storage administered by the tobacco control community. Searching the tobacco industry websites is at least as good as searching in Minnesota and may in some instances actually be better. Four smaller subcollections, however, can only be searched by hand in Minnesota.
↵* It is theoretically possible to search the 4B index (used to index the Minnesota Depository) on the website maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to order documents one finds there from the Depository without actually going to Minnesota. But this is a slow way to search the Depository because of the delay in seeing documents. Because of the high number of unimportant documents retrieved by any search, the ability to scan the documents immediately and copy limited numbers of them is important.