Demise of the RECAL Bibliographic Database

The closing of the RECAL Information Services and its associated library in December 2007 means that the world has lost a valuable resource for access to English language information on a wide range of P&O topics. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Heather Smart and her colleagues at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland for their 21 years of dedicated work reading, summarizing, and indexing more than 83,000 articles about prosthetic and orthotic devices and rehabilitation published between 1900 and 2007.


Example of a search of the 80k records in the RECAL Database, which reveals within seconds 35 articles on microprocessor controlled prosthetic knees.
Example of a search of the 80k records in the RECAL Database, which reveals within seconds 35 articles on microprocessor controlled prosthetic knees.

Loss of this clinical resource will make the transition to Evidence Based Practice more difficult for our profession because many of the documents that have been annotated in the RECAL bibliography were never indexed by Medline or any of the other medical databases. Even today, many articles with important information about the practice of P&O, including peer reviewed publications such as the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics, are not being indexed. This makes this knowledge "invisible" to the electronic searcher, and substantially increases the risk that it will be overlooked by future scientists and researchers.

Closing of the Information Services library also means that it will no longer be possible to obtain copies of historic, out-of-print articles for a modest fee. As a RECAL subscriber for many years, I have found it to be an invaluable source for clinical information as well as for citations to review during the preparation of academic publications. A recent investigation into the use of suction suspension in prostheses showed that almost one third of the articles from the original suction socket era were no longer available from medical libraries in the United States. Information Services had every single item immediately available and promptly faxed copies.


Annotations summarize the contents of each article and provide detailed citations.  Until the Information Services library closed, subscribers could request copies of arcane or hard-to-find articles by fax or mail.
Annotations summarize the contents of each article and provide detailed citations. Until the Information Services library closed, subscribers could request copies of arcane or hard-to-find articles by fax or mail.

On a more positive note, the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics at Strathclyde has agreed to host The RECAL Legacy, which is the entire bibliographic database, at cdlr.strath.ac.uk/recal/. The search engine doesn't seem to be as powerful and user-friendly as the original, but perhaps this is a start-up glitch that will soon be remedied. Ironically, it may that having free universal access to this unique P&O resource will increase worldwide appreciation for the tremendous usefulness of this contribution by the Scots to our profession.



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