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Improving access to Industry and tobacco control resources

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Karen Butter, M.L.
Award Cycle: 2011 (Cycle 20) Grant #: 20CA-0107 Award: $138,267
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: California Research Award

Initial Award Abstract
This project will enhance the research infrastructure in California critical for comprehensive investigation into tobacco-related diseases and tobacco use and control. This proposal is a request to continue funding a research resource not a request to fund research.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Library has a long history in collecting, organizing, preserving and disseminating tobacco industry documents with an emphasis on issues in California. This project, Improving access to industry and tobacco control resources will add high-value, at-risk materials to the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL, and improve the searchability of documents to support research by scholars, high school and college students, public policy makers, and advocates.

The specific aims of this project are to:

1. Collect, preserve and make accessible tobacco industry documents
The project will collect new industry documents as they become available using processes that we have developed to date, in part with TRDRP funding. As a result of a federal court ruling in 2006 that the tobacco industry violated the RICO Act, the industry will continue to make all documents from health-related litigation publically available until at least 2021. The project will obtain the documents from web sites hosted by the major US companies and will add them to LTDL. This allows researchers to search one rather than many web sites. In the past three years an average of 222,000 documents have been added to LTDL annually so it is likely that a similar number will be added in the future. These documents will be an additional source of information for researchers investigating issues such as how the industry designs and market products to vulnerable populations and how they attempt to prevent or ameliorate tobacco control measures. The project will also make available for immediate viewing over 2,000 video tapes, largely compilations of television news reports on issues of importance to the industry since the 1970s that were collected by the Tobacco Institute.

In order to continue to add the documents in an efficient and resource-conserving way, LTDL’s software infrastructure must be updated. We will also take advantage of new technology when we do this reengineering.

2. Collect, preserve and make accessible resources relevant to tobacco control in California
Documenting and analyzing both historic and evolving tobacco industry strategies to counter tobacco control activities in California can serve as the basis for recommendations to create effective public policy. Current tobacco control attempts include the February 2012 ballot initiative, the California Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research Act Proposition (a proposed cigarette tax increase of $1.00 to be used for cancer research and reinvigorating the California Tobacco Control Program), local campaigns to restrict smoking in multi-unit housing and outdoor areas, and restrictions on the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. Preserving and making accessible information about these and other efforts will provide researchers with important data about strategies and tactics of both reformers and the industry.

In the past five years information is increasingly found on websites, blogs and other Web 2.0 electronic media. The project will acquire this new kind of data about contemporary California tobacco control issues, preserve it and make it accessible in LTDL. We will also digitize portions of paper-based historical tobacco control collections acquired with a previous TRDRP grant and make them available to researchers all over California, and the world.

3. Improve search, discovery and visualization of industry and tobacco control documents
Researchers face a daunting task to identify documents pertinent to their hypotheses from LTDL’s 61 million pages of industry documents. Using innovative programming tools the project will upgrade LTDL’s functionality, allowing researchers to more efficiently find relevant documents among the millions available and to find resources to support tobacco control activities in California.