How you can search for radiation literature
With the advent and expansion of the internet more scientific information related to radiation and health is being put into the public domain and a growing number of organisations are becoming involved in promoting and reacting to new research claims. With so much information available it is often difficult to judge which research claims should be taken seriously and which may be misleading. Often scientists are reported as claiming conflicting ideas. So how should the general public know what to believe?
The scientific community uses a system to decide which research results should be published in reputable scientific journals called peer review. Peer review subjects scientific research papers to independent scrutiny by other qualified scientific experts (peers) before they are made public. This helps to ensure that research conforms to high standards of scientific practice and that conclusions may reasonably be drawn from the work undertaken.
When looking at the research into radiation and health, various disciplines of science, including biology, epidemiology and medicine, as well as physics, engineering and social sciences, need to be considered. More information on the different types of studies is available from this fact sheet How is Scientific Evidence Assessed?.
Government bodies also often conduct their own review of the scientific literature in an attempt to obtain an overall summary or consensus position. This may be done in order to develop safety standards or simply to evaluate a new technology from the point of view of public health. These reviews are often published without the formal peer review of a scientific paper but nevertheless will usually have undergone considerable examination by experts from diverse fields, and will sometimes have undergone a public comment process as well.
In some countries, notably USA and Australia, websites from government bodies and educational institutions are usually distinguished by URLs with .gov and .edu in their web addresses.
Funding of Research and Conflicts of Interest
Information from a wide variety of sources may be obtained and used providing its source is taken into account when evaluating it. The importance of the source depends on the type of information. Statements of judgement and opinion are more likely to be subject to biases and undue influence than are bare statements of research results. It is important to realise that no-one is completely unbiased and personal interests, pre-held views and even personal gain can be associated with all areas of society.
Many publications require authors of scientific papers to declare conflicts of interest and sources of research funds. Some writers will dismiss completely research funded from industry sources but others will see as appropriate industry-funded research.
Many projects are set up so to provide “arms-length” funding whereby the funds come from industry but there are procedures in place aimed at maintaining the independence of research decisions.
PubMed is a database of biomedical journal articles developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the US. It is a text-based search and retrieval system so key words like “radiofrequency” and “mobile phone” will show bibliographic information of available literature on the subject. The database is located at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed
RWTH Aachen University in Germany runs a database of literature related to electromagnetic fields research, called EMF Portal. This database offers text-based search like PubMed as well as search by different topics. The database is located at: http://www.emf-portal.org/
Google Scholar is another text-based search and retrieval system available on the web that provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles. Google Scholar is located at: http://scholar.google.com.au/
Governmental radiation protection authorities provide updated information usually in the form of fact sheets and reports. Some of these are:
- Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear safety Agency (ARPANSA)
- Public Health England
- Swedish Radiation Protection Authority
There are several scientific organisations which specialise on the issue of EMF and health. Regular updates on the latest research are usually posted on their websites. Some of these are:
- World Health Organization International Electromagnetic Fields Project
- International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection
- Bioelectromagnetics Society