São Paulo, March 20, 2023. Due to the dynamics of knowledge production, the revision of thematic categories of the Health Sciences Descriptors (DeCS) thesaurus is a continuous need in the context of terminological updating.
Regional guidelines for the construction and management of controlled vocabularies suggest that the addition of new terms to a controlled vocabulary should be validated by committees of specialists, and that the modification of terms or their relationships should be based on criteria that include the replacement of infrequently used terms with others of greater specificity. Among such criteria is the quantity and nature of the records indexed in databases. Improving the specificity of terms contributes to the discovery of new information resources and the selection of the most appropriate terms for searching and retrieving information.
The Homeopathy category was launched in the 1990 edition of DeCS, in collaboration with experts from the Associação Paulista de Homeopatia. It is one of the five exclusive thesaurus categories and is managed by BIREME/PAHO/WHO, independently of the Medical Subjects Heading (MeSH) thesaurus of the US National Library of Medicine. Its more than 1,900 descriptors are used in the indexing of articles and documents in the area in the databases of the Virtual Health Library (VHL), among them Homeoindex. The Homeoindex database, specific for Homeopathy themes, has almost 13,000 documents and gathers publications in Portuguese, Spanish, French, English, Italian, German and Esperanto.
The Homeopathy category was revised more than 10 years ago. Today, the category has 1,912 descriptors, 1,645 exclusively from DeCS and 267 descriptors from MeSH, which also provide structure to the thematic area.
DeCS/MeSH is organized in order to represent the semantic relationships among its terms by categorizing its concepts. In each category, descriptors are hierarchically ordered from the most general to the most specific, and each descriptor may be represented in at least one position in the hierarchy and may be located in as many points as appropriate.
Considering the evolution of the language, it has been observed the outdating or inadequacy of certain relationships among descriptors of the Homeopathy category, as well as the low or null use of others. For this reason, since October 2022, BIREME has carried out monthly online discussions for proposition and accompaniment of the technical adjustments in descriptors, supported by specialists in this area of knowledge that include health professionals, pharmacists, and librarians.
In these sessions, activities are proposed for adaptation to the norms of representation of concepts in thesaurus, technical corrections to the current relationships of superordination or subordination in the hierarchies of concepts, revision of descriptors, as well as their scope and indexing notes, which respectively delimit the conceptual area covered by a given descriptor and are used to guide the act of indexing itself.
The incorporation of minor spelling and ordering changes will be done continuously throughout the period stipulated for the revision and may be included in any future editions of DeCS, since the vocabulary is dynamic and updated annually. The deadline, however, for full incorporation of the structural changes is limited to the 2025 edition (expected to be released in the first semester of 2025) of the DeCS/MeSH controlled vocabulary.
The DeCS multilingual thesaurus was created by BIREME/PAHO/WHO in 1986 from MeSH, to serve as a unique language for indexing and retrieving scientific and technical literature specific to the Latin American and Caribbean region from the information sources available in the Virtual Health Library.
In addition to the terms from the 16 MeSH categories translated into Spanish, French and Portuguese, five categories exclusive to DeCS were developed by BIREME/PAHO/WHO: Science and Health [SH], Homeopathy [HP], Public Health [SP], Health Surveillance [VS] and Traditional, Complementary and Integrative Medicines [MT].