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SafetyLit Logo (registered servicemark) 2012.png
Preventing Injuries By Providing Information
Producer SafetyLit Foundation, Inc. (United States)
History Initiated in 1995
Languages English
Providers Journal publishers, conference organizers, etc.
Cost Free
Disciplines Agriculture, anthropology, archaeology, architecture, biology, business & public administration, chemistry, consumer product testing, criminology, demography, dentistry, economics, education, engineering specialties, epidemiology, ergonomics, faith scholarship, fire suppression & prevention, forensic specialties, genetics, geography, geology, history, industrial design, interior design, journalism, law & law enforcement, literature, mathematics, media studies, medicine, meteorology, nursing, occupational safety & hygiene, oceanography, pharmacology, philosophy, physics, physiology, political science & policy, psychology, public health, social work, sociology, sports & kinematics, statistics, theology, toxicology, transportation, urban planning, and other fields.
Record depth Index & Abstract
Format coverage Journal articles, reports, conference proceedings, theses
Temporal coverage Mid- 17th century (1665) to present day
Geospatial coverage Global
Number of records Over 510,000 records (Aug 2016)
Update frequency Daily
Print edition
Print title SafetyLit Weekly Update Bulletin
Print title 1995-present
(available online 2000-)
ISSN 1556-8849

SafetyLit (short for "Safety Literature") is a bibliographic database and online update of recently published scholarly research of relevance to those interested in the broad field of injury prevention and safety promotion.[1][2] Initiated in 1995, SafetyLit is a project of the SafetyLit Foundation in cooperation with the San Diego State University College of Health & Human Services and the World Health Organization - Department of Violence and Injury Prevention.[3]


Like the US National Library of Medicine's (NLM) PubMed system, SafetyLit is a free service that is distributed without commercial messages. There are many online literature databases. Most are subscription-based, costly and are available only through a library.[4] Typically, these databases focus on a specific scientific discipline. For example, PubMed has a bio-medicine focus, PsycINFO focuses upon behavioral issues, Compendex on engineering, etc.

While other bibliographic databases can focus upon the publications of only one or two professional disciplines, it has been known since the early 20th Century that issues relevant to safety research and policy development arise from many distinct disciplines.[5][6] Thus, SafetyLit draws its content from many disciplines. Articles are selected that are relevant to the issues of injury prevention and safety promotion from over 16000 scholarly journals (as of January 2016) in the physical, biological and social sciences, as well as engineering, medicine, and the applied social sciences. SafetyLit also indexes selected doctoral theses and relevant technical reports from government agencies and NGOs.[7]


The idea for SafetyLit came from an electronic mailing list service provided in the early-1990s by the librarians at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). This bibliographic update was a print-out of article citations from Medline that were indexed with selected MeSH terms related to the treatment and prevention of injuries. This free service was provided at a time when searching Medline was quite costly. The NCIPC update service ended in 1994, about one year before the National Library of Medicine began providing an experimental version of PubMed.[8][9]

To help fill the gap from that loss, SafetyLit began in early 1995 as a simple email message sent to about 20 people who were affiliated with the CDC-funded state Disability Prevention Programs[10] in Louisiana and a few other U.S. states. As more and more people learned about SafetyLit, the mailing list expanded. By the end of 1998 the updates were circulated to more than 5000 addresses. By the close of 1999 the address list had expanded beyond 15,000.[8]

During 1999, several publishing companies began supplying their journal article citation and abstract data to SafetyLit and the journal sources expanded far beyond what was available through PubMed. In 2001 the SafetyLit update service moved from a series of lengthy flat-file newsletters to a database-driven dynamic website. The email newsletter became a simple announcement that a pdf version of Update Bulletin is available on the SafetyLit website. With that improvement, an archive database with search capacity was established. From that time forward, each week brought the addition of about 300-400 recently published articles and more than 250 articles from the back-files of journals that published relevant material.[7]

In mid-2013, to sustain the contents of the languishing VioLit database, SafetyLit formed a partnership with the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV), a research program of the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS) at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The VioLit database, had items related to preventing youth violence with most records including a thorough review written by CSPV experts. The VioLit expanded article reviews are being added to existing SafetyLit records where there is overlap of the database contents and VioLit items that had been missing from SafetyLit are being added.

In mid-2014 the static parts of the SafetyLit website became available in 17 languages (with localization) by expert translators. The content of article summaries is available in many languages through machine translation (Google).[11]



Although SafetyLit began with a focus upon articles from scholarly journals, in early 2013 it expanded to include books (and book chapters) and the gray literature (academic doctoral theses, reports from scientific research groups, working papers, etc.).

Scholarly Journals[edit]

Information about the 16,000-plus serials indexed in SafetyLit is found in the SafetyLit Journals Database that lists journal title and current publisher, title abbreviation, both the print and electronic International Standard Serial Number (pISSN and eISSN), the range of years the journal has been published, the journal's previous or subsequent titles, and a link to the journal's pages on the publisher's website. Each journal listing includes a link to the OCLC WorldCat find item in a nearby library service.[12]

SafetyLit draws from journals that publish material that has been subjected to peer review. Most articles in SafetyLit are written in the English language or contain titles and abstracts in English. However, the abstracts of some non-English articles are included after translation to English by staff or volunteers. Titles and abstracts in the original language are retained. SafetyLit staff and volunteers regularly hand-examine (issue by issue) more than 3800 current scholarly journals from many nations to find relevant material.[7] Other journals are scanned at least once per volume.[13][14]

Gray Literature[edit]

In mid-January 2013, SafetyLit announced that it was accepting submissions of academic doctoral theses on relevant topics (see below).[15] In early February of that year, more than 150 theses from 18 universities had been added.

How items are selected[edit]

SafetyLit includes summaries of "scholarly" reports, conference proceedings, and journal articles about injury occurrence and risk factors. More specifically, items are considered relevant if they concern any of the pre-event or event elements of the Haddon Matrix; the epidemiology of injury and injury risk factors; or the financial, personal, or societal costs or consequences of the any injury or risk factor.[16]

Although items are screened for relevant content, SafetyLit makes no attempt to screen for quality. The nature and rigor of the peer review process at one journal may be quite different from other journals.[17] The same may be said for academic programs, book publishers, government agencies, etc. The SafetyLit site contains the following statement:

The purpose of SafetyLit is to provide information to allow users to identify and find articles (both good and poor) that have been published about injury prevention and safety promotion topics... An important part of professionalism is to identify flawed publications and counter the flaws by commenting upon them in a letter to the editor of the journal where the article was published. Further, the best knowledge today may become outdated tomorrow. Although published corrections and errata are included [in SafetyLit when available], the older articles with inaccuracies are not removed from the site. These out-of-date items may be useful for authors or researchers who are examining the progression of scientific or social thought on a topic.[8]

There are several very good bio-medicine databases that index articles about the assessment and the medical and surgical treatment of injuries (i.e. Medline, EMBASE, Scopus). Thus, in general, articles concerning medical treatment for injuries or complications of medical care are excluded except when the article also contains information on one of the inclusion criteria. Similarly, articles that focus upon routine road or building repair and maintenance are excluded except when those articles are relevant to safety. SafetyLit also includes reports on other topics that may help a reader to make decisions about research or prevention strategies and priorities.[8]

SafetyLit Services[edit]

SafetyLit Weekly Update Bulletin[edit]

The Weekly Update Bulletin is a pdf document containing citations of about 400 new items.[7] Clicking on the title of the item will provide more detail such as an abstract or a link to the full text if these are available. Items are listed under 38 interest categories.[18] The purpose of the categories within SafetyLit is to make it easy for subscribers to the Weekly Update Bulletin to limit their content only to the topics that are within the sphere of their interest.

Items are assigned multiple categories based upon the answer to the question,[16] "Might someone with an interest in (category) find this article useful or interesting?" For example, a journal article concerning a physiological basis for deep emotional depression could be assigned to the Suicide and Self-Harm category even if suicide is not mentioned in the article text.

The contents of the weekly update are available 4 ways:[13]

1. A PDF file is posted each Monday before 0100 UTC to the SafetyLit website ( The current and past versions of the Weekly Update Bulletin may be found via the 'Browse archives' link from the SafetyLit homepage. The PDF file contains bookmarks that allow a reader to jump directly to any category without needing to scroll through 50-plus pages of citations to get to their category of interest. Those who wish to do so may subscribe to an email notice that will alert them when the bulletin is available at an earlier hour.

2. The new week's citations and abstracts are available in html format at 0100 UTC each Monday by clicking on the 'View current abstracts' link from the SafetyLit home page. (After this time the previous week's material is only available by viewing the appropriate PDF file on the Browse Archives pages or by searching the database.) From here it is possible to scroll through all the week's citations and abstracts or to check selected tick boxes to limit the scope of articles to certain interest categories.

3. A frequent SafetyLit user may avoid the need to tick or un-tick category select-boxes by registering and signing up for a personalized custom listing of articles. This 'My SafetyLit' option allows a user to record the category or categories they want to view each week. Users may allow their browser to automatically log them in and effortlessly view only the citations and abstracts that match their custom setting.

4. Each of the SafetyLit categories is available via RSS feed. A feed with an unduplicated listing (without categories) of all articles is also available. This allows readers to receive new articles throughout the week as they are entered into SafetyLit or at any interval (from immediately upon posting up to once per month) that they desire.

SafetyLit database archive[edit]

The SafetyLit database contains more than 495,000 journal articles (as of 2 September 2015) with more than 400 articles and 50 gray literature items being added each week.[7][14] The database may be searched by author name or textword using the basic search screen or, if the advanced search screen is used, by author name, author ORCID ID number, textword (with wildcard characters and truncation), hybrid textword+synonyms, or journal using Boolean operators.

The textword+synonyms search uses the SafetyLit Thesaurus to allow a query to take advantage of synonym ring and hierarchical term searching. The synonym ring function allows a searcher to use a single textword such as 'baby walker' to substitute for doing a series of regular textword searches using the 15 other terms by which the device is known. The entry of a single term in the textword+synonym box will produce a listing of all articles with text containing any of the synonyms for that term.

The search system recognizes ambiguous English language query terms and offers more focused options. (See below.)

SafetyLit Thesaurus[edit]

The SafetyLit Thesaurus is the basis for hybrid textword+synonym search capacity. There are often many synonyms and spelling variants for potential search terms. New terms and synonyms are added weekly. Work on the SafetyLit thesaurus is not finished, so the full hierarchical search system is not yet complete. However, some term hierarchies such as geographic area names are available for searching. For example, an index term search using ‘Australia’ will find articles that contain the words ‘Canberra’, ‘Adelaide’, or ‘Perth’, even if the SafetyLit records do not contain the word ‘Australia’. The SafetyLit Thesaurus is built on a modified version of TemaTres open-source software.

The thesaurus-aided search system also allows for word-sense disambiguation. For example, a query using the term "football" will return a disambiguation screen [19] that provides for the selection of any of several options for the various game types (American football, Association football (soccer), Australian-rules football, Canadian football, Flag football, Gaelic football, etc.) each with different rules and player protection.

Availability of search results to bibliography management software[edit]

All resources found from a query of the SafetyLit database are directly available to the free Zotero reference management software. Records may also be downloaded in RIS, ENW, and BibTeX formats for import into other software such as EndNote, Mendeley, Papers, etc. The metadata for each SafetyLit record is silently available in COinS, unAPI, and Google Scholar/Highwire Press metadata formats.


Researchers and policymakers who address controversial safety-related issues have been targets of threats or violence for hundreds of years from those with strong feelings who wish to obstruct certain knowledge for the basis of evidence-based policy.[20] More recently, researchers and their institutions have come under attack for work in the areas of firearms and motorcycle helmets.[21][22] These sorts of things are known because they have been the subject of editorials in journals and even print and broadcast news stories. However, providers of scholarly information such as SafetyLit have also been harmed by those who disagree with part of its content.[23] Some SafetyLit readers write letters to the agencies and organizations that provide funding for the project. Others take more extreme action to make their point. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have been made against the SafetyLit servers. Other attackers organized their interest groups to subscribe to the SafetyLit email service and then to label the SafetyLit messages as unsolicited spam by using their internet service providers' automated reporting process. This in an unsuccessful attempt to block all users of that ISP from receiving SafetyLit email messages.

Some of the topics that bring the most complaints are not what might be expected:[23]

The single most controversial subject that generates the most letters are citations to articles that complainers believe promote bicycle helmet wearing. Throughout the years 2006-2011, SafetyLit received an average of 16.4 complaints each week that the Update Bulletin contains a citation to an article about bicycle helmets. (Articles about helmet laws are not counted here. Instead, they are included below under 'nanny government'.)
The second-most controversial topic is any article concerning brain or spinal cord injury prevention. These complaints come from those who take an extreme view on issues of the rights of persons with acquired disabilities. They argue that efforts to prevent central nervous system injuries suggest that persons who have experienced these injuries are less valued than persons who are uninjured.
  • Articles about 'nanny government' laws or regulations (14.3 complaints per week). These are complaints about issues such as: building codes; motor vehicle design standards and regulations (e.g. air bags, helmet laws, speed limits, cellular telephone prohibitions); consumer product risks and regulations.
  • Articles they believe are biased in favor of firearm control regulations (14.1)
  • Articles they believe are biased in opposition to firearm control regulations (11.6)
  • Articles about an ethnic group or population they do not like (8.3)
  • Articles about suicide prevention (5.2). The writers believe that suicide can be a good and rational choice—even for adolescents.
  • Articles that reference psychology, human behavior, and risk-taking (5.0). The writers believe that these are biased in favor of psychology and psychiatry, professions they believe are a threat to basic human rights and a danger to society.
  • Articles about intimate partner violence (4.8). Correspondents say the problem is exaggerated, that most reported cases are lies, or that most times the physical aggression was provoked and deserved.
  • Articles about alcohol and the risk of traffic crashes (4.7). The writers argue that people who drink and drive rarely have crashes and, when they do, it is not necessarily related to alcohol or that, for the many drivers who are tense and highly strung, alcohol relaxes them and they drive more safely.


  1. ^ Pless, I.B. (2003), "Is this journal really needed?", Injury Prevention, 9 (4): 145–146, doi:10.1136/ip.9.4.289, PMC 1731036free to read, PMID 14693884 
  2. ^ Nilsen , Per (2004), "What makes community based injury prevention work? In search of evidence of effectiveness", Injury Prevention, 10 (5): 268–274, doi:10.1136/ip.2004.005744, PMC 1730145free to read, PMID 15470005 
  3. ^ WHO Department of Violence and Injury Prevention. "VIP Home". World Health Organization. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  4. ^ Burnett, Gary; Jaeger, Paul T.; Thompson, Kim M. (2008), "Normative behavior and information: The social aspects of information access", Library and Information Science Research, 30 (1): 56–66, doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2007.07.003 
  5. ^ Tenney, E.A. (1962). "Historical Background". The Highway Jungle. New York: Exposition Press. pp. 19–26. 
  6. ^ Lawrence, D.W.; Guard, A.; Meier, A.; Laflamme, L. (2006), "Developing the injury prevention and safety promotion thesaurus, international English edition: An interdisciplinary tool for indexing and searching for research literature. Progress report 1", Safety Science, 44 (4): 279–296, doi:10.1016/j.ssci.2005.10.006 
  7. ^ a b c d e "About SafetyLit: Source Statistics". SafetyLit Foundation. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d "About_SafetyLit". Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Canese, K. (2006). "PubMed Celebrates its 10th Anniversary!". NLM Technical Bulletin (352): e5. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  10. ^ "Louisiana State Office of Public Health, Injury Research and Prevention Section, Disability Prevention Program". Louisiana Department of health and Hospitals. Archived from the original on December 9, 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "SafetyLit Translated From English To 16 Languages". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "SafetyLit Journal Source List". Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Oliverio, Stephanie M.F.; Lawrence, David W. (2011), "SafetyLit: A bibliographic service for injury prevention", Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, 44 (4): 279–296 
  14. ^ a b "SafetyLit Home Page". Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "SafetyLit Thesis Project" (PDF). Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "SafetyLit FAQ". Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  17. ^ Armstrong, J. Scott (1997), "Peer review for journals: Evidence on quality control, fairness, and innovation", Science and Engineering Ethics, 3 (1): 63–84, doi:10.1007/s11948-997-0017-3 
  18. ^ "SafetyLit Categories". Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "Disambiguation Example". SafetyLit Search System. SafetyLit Foundation. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Rosenstock, Linda; Lee, Lore Jackson (2002), "Attacks on science: The risks to evidence-based policy", American Journal of Public Health, 92 (1): 14–18, doi:10.2105/AJPH.92.1.14, PMC 1447376free to read, PMID 11772749 
  21. ^ Jones, Marian Moser; Bayer, Ronald (2007), "Paternalism and its discontents: motorcycle helmet laws, libertarian values, and public health", American Journal of Public Health, 97 (2): 208–217, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2005.083204 
  22. ^ Kassirer, Jerome P. (1995), "A partisan assault on science: The threat to the CDC", New England Journal of Medicine, 333 (12): 793–794, doi:10.1056/NEJM199509213331209 
  23. ^ a b Lawrence, David W.; Patel, Nilam B. (2008), "Attacks intended to block access to information", Injury Prevention, 14 (2): 78–79, doi:10.1136/ip.2008.018622 

External links[edit]