A researcher recently discovered something odd: she couldn’t use “abortion” in a keyword search Popline, a standard database on reproductive health hosted at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. What the–?
Turns out, it’s now a stop word. Like “a” and “the.” Something you want excluded from a search. What the–?
Turns out, federal funding can’t go to anything that supports abortion, and the database gets funding from USAID, so to keep the database from being stopped itself …
There are workarounds to find the 25,000 or so records in the database that deal with the topic, but … shhhh! We can’t talk about it.
I waited a bit before posting this, thinking it had to be a … I don’t know, a late and not very funny April Fool’s joke. But the joke’s on us.
UPDATE: the other shoe has dropped. Here’s a press release from the Dean of the JH School of Public Health:
Statement Regarding POPLINE Database
I was informed this morning that the word “abortion” was blocked as a search term in the POPLINE family planning database administered by the Bloomberg Schoolâ€™s Center for Communication Programs. POPLINE provides evidence-based information on reproductive health and family planning and is the worldâ€™s largest database on these issues.
USAID, which funds POPLINE, found two items in the database related to abortion that did not fit POPLINE criteria. The agency then made an inquiry to POPLINE administrators. Following this inquiry, the POPLINE administrators at the Center for Communication Programs made the decision to restrict abortion as a search term.
I could not disagree more strongly with this decision, and I have directed that the POPLINE administrators restore “abortion” as a search term immediately. I will also launch an inquiry to determine why this change occurred.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and not its restriction.
Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH
Dean, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Okaaaaay….. that’s good, but it does seem a not unreasonable response to being told certain information does not belong in a database on reproductive health because it’s against the party line. So – will any more shoes drop? Or should I say sabots…?