BIREME celebrates 40 years of cooperation efforts for the democratization of health knowledge and information in Latin America and the Caribbean

Virtual Health Library


International Networks

Regional Networks

In 2007, BIREME Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information - celebrates 40 years of existence, fully dedicated to the improvement of health in Latin America and the Caribbean, through democratization of access and use of information and scientific knowledge, duly updated and relevant for research, education, health promotion and healthcare.

BIREME was established in Brazil, in March 1967, thanks to an agreement between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Brazilian Government - represented by the Ministries of Health and Education, the Secretariat of Health of the State of Sao Paulo and the Federal University of Sao Paulo. BIREME is located in the University campus.

Upon the consolidation of the Internet as the main medium for sources and flows of scientific and technical information, BIREME's action in 2007 covers all Latin American countries, most Caribbean countries, Spain and Portugal. A total of more than two thousand institutions are directly or indirectly related to the development, production, operation and use of the VHL (Virtual Health Library) and its complementary regional and international networks, chiefly SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online). These networks currently operate millions of accesses to their sources of information per month.

As a specialized PAHO center, BIREME technical cooperation has definitely contributed to the development of policies, programs, standards, methodologies, technologies, projects, products, services, events as well as scientific and technical information on health, in cooperation with international, regional and domestic organizations.

During the last four decades, BIREME has kept pace with the state-of-the-art in scientific information, adopting, adapting and developing technologies, standards, processes, products and services for the countries within this region. At the same time, it has significantly contributed to the continuous strengthening and improvement of national and regional skills and to promote visibility, quality and impact of scientific information produced at local, regional and national levels. An ever greater collection of products, services and events, which are cooperatively produced in the Region, is integrated in the world flow of scientific and technical information.

The most relevant feature of BIREME lies in its networking, where national institutions actively participate based on their political, cultural, social, economic and physical infrastructure. BIREME's action has radically expanded the inclusion of national institutions and communities in producing, operating and using cooperative products and services for scientific and technical information. The VHL, for example, operates with open and universal access to LILACS (Latin American and Caribbean Literature on the Health Sciences), SciELO, MEDLINE and the Cochrane Library, which are the main sources of information for records on scientific literature on health produced at the national, regional and international levels, and which have research and navigation interfaces in Spanish, English and Portuguese. The collection of full texts provided in an open-access mode is progressively increasing.

Therefore, this year BIREME will be promoting several commemorative events and will be publishing a special portal dedicated to its fortieth anniversary. For this purpose, BIREME relies on the active collaboration and participation of officials and professionals of all institutions that participate in the networks VHL, SciELO and ScienTI (International Network of Information and Knowledge Sources for Science, Technology and Innovation Management), of its users as a whole, and its suppliers who are jointly responsible for BIREME unique performance and track as a public health heritage in Latin America and the Caribbean.

VHL promotes equity in scientific and technical information

The VHL (Virtual Health Library) is BIREME technical cooperation model in the information and communication paradigm for the Internet and the Web, and its main feature is users' direct action to produce, operate, publish and access sources and flows of information.

The Internet and the VHL promote a restructuring of the scientific flow of information, with convergence of players; be them producers, intermediaries and users of information. Libraries and librarians converge, for example, with the online electronic editions and with editors and publishers, just like producers converge with information sources in national health systems, education and research. VHL is a space for convergence and interoperation of products and services. For this purpose, the VHL is designed around national and thematic forums, which incorporate national institutions and communities, promoting their inclusion in regional and international networks.

VHL operation is complemented by other regional networks, such as SciELO, ScienTI, Iberian American Cochrane Network, Campus Virtual de Saúde Pública [Public Health Virtual Campus], etc, and also by international networks, such as the GHL (Global Health Library) and ePORTUGUÊSe, which are promoted by the WHO - World Health Organization.

BIREME promotes products and services generated within these networks as public, regional and global assets. This fosters collective inclusion, construction and development of the networks and their information products, services and events.

The VHL model covers three main dimensions:

In 2007, the VHL network will be expanded to cover all of Iberian America, with more than 2000 institutions operating VHL's products and services directly or indirectly, through dozens of national, thematic and institutional portals.

The following networks complement the VHL:

SciELO Network (Scientific Electronic Library Online) - network of institutions supporting scientific research and communication. The countries which account for more than 80% of the Iberian American scientific production already operate national and thematic collection of quality scientific journals with approximately 400 titles in open-access modality, with more than 8 million articles visited each month. This is certainly one of the most important open-access collections of scientific journals in the world;

ScienTI (International Network of Information and Knowledge Sources for Science, Technology and Innovation Management) - a network of national counsels of science and technology with the participation of the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), OAS (Organization of American States) and UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) and research and development groups. It operates directories of researchers, institutions and projects. Adopted by the majority of South American countries, as well as by Mexico and Portugal, this network will be expanded to the Central American and Caribbean regions within the next few years.

ePORTUGUÊSe Network - The Network of Sources of Information and Knowledge on Health for the Portuguese Language Countries - led by the WHO, and having as one of its main action lines the adoption and implementation of Virtual Health Libraries (VHL) in eight Portuguese-speaking countries in the world: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe and East Timor;

GHL - Global Health Library - The Global Health Library is an initiative led by WHO which relies on BIREME support for its development. The GHL aims at organizing, indexing, inter-relating and making available international, national and local sources of information, including those sources available in the Regional WHO offices' libraries. GHL will be based on regional initiatives. Thus, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the VHL will be GHL regional instance.

The collective creation of VHL and other networks is definitely advancing the cooperated work in the production and use of scientific and technical information sources and flow in the area of health.

Know more about BIREME:

PACKER, Abel Laerte. A construção coletiva da Biblioteca Virtual em Saúde. Interface (Botucatu). [online]. mar./ago. 2005, vol.9, no.17 [cited March 3rd, 2006], p.249-272.

Silva Márcia Regina Barros da, Ferla Luis, Gallian Dante Marcello Claramonte. Uma 'biblioteca sem paredes': história da criação da Bireme. Hist. cienc. saude-Manguinhos. [online]. 2006 [cited March 04]; 13(1): 91-112

BIREME celebrates 39 years providing information and knowledge on health

2003 - BIREME celebrates 36 years

2002 - BIREME celebrates 35 years

Model of the Virtual Health Library

VHL events, meetings, and the CRICS series

Commemorative events

- Directors of WHO and PAHO in Brasil (photos)

- SciELO 10 years (hotsite)

- 40 years BIREME (photos)

40 years BIREME: march was the month of anniversary

On 28 March 2007, a commemorative meeting to the 40 anniversary of BIREME was held in the Central Library of UNIFESP. For more details access:

- article published at Newsletter BVS 071

Rede BVS