Hint: Look for
A good quality publication will make the date of the information about genetic testing explicit. Evidence and policies for genetic testing can change and it is important that information includes the latest developments in knowledge and practice. Although DISCERN cannot be used to assess how “up-to-date” the information is (as the rate of change will vary with each genetic condition and test), it does enable you to assess whether the age of the information is explicit. This may lead you to question whether the information is current and to seek further information about the most recent developments.
Rate the publication according to how clearly it indicates the age of the information. The hints guide you to look not only for the age of the publication itself, but also for the age of its content. The publication cannot be older than the sources of evidence used, whereas the sources of evidence can be much older than the publication. Therefore, in order to score highly on Question 17, the dates for the sources identified in Question 16 should be clear - you should be cautious about giving a high rating to a publication that has rated 1 on Question 16.
Dates will be found either in the text or in the details of the bibliography or reference list (see Examples for Question 16). Sources such as journal articles should provide the date of the issue when the article was first published. If the source is a website or online reference, you will need to look for an indication of the age of the content – by applying similar questions to that source. If tracking down a date for the information proves difficult, this may lead you to conclude that it is unclear.
Books usually list the date of publication (copyright date ©) on one of the title pages. Leaflets should also provide a publication date. Websites should provide a publication date for the site (often found on the home page), and should also give the date of any updates on relevant sections within the site. A revised publication has been substantially changed or updated since the publication (copyright) date and may therefore include more recent information. A reprinted publication will not contain new information and should therefore be rated according to publication (copyright) date.
Be wary with online information, as revisions and updates often only involve changes in presentation or mechanics (e.g. graphics, navigation, links). A Web page that was “updated” yesterday or appears very different from the last time you visited may still contain content that has not changed in a very long time! For these publications, you will need to consider whether there is any additional detail about the scope of revisions and updates, including any updating policy as outlined in Hint 3.
An updating policy will tell you how new material is incorporated within a publication, and what it consists of. At present, there is no consistent method for presenting this detail. It is often found in the producer’s editorial policy in printed and online information. Websites may also include this information under descriptive or legal sections relating to the producer or site, including About Us or Terms and Conditions. It is also becoming common to publish a date for a scheduled review alongside the copyright or recent review date on a web page: this provides some clues to the information currency and the producer’s updating policy.
Remember: although the dates of the sources may be clear and the publication gets a high rating on this question, it is possible that the information on which the sources is based is not “up-to-date”. Question 17 will enable you to judge whether the dates are explicit, but not whether the information is current.
The end of the publication includes a reference list as follows:
The bottom of the back page of the leaflet also displays the following:
© 2006 The Health Authority. Due for revision February 2008.
Example (ii) Inherited Cancer (Website) – continuation of Question 16 Example (ii) (all details fictitious).
Sources in the text:
The Website itself:
©2003 Content last reviewed 30th May 2005.
Page last modified 15th March 2006
A maternity hospital leaflet for parents provides information on neonatal screening. It includes a brief description of the conditions being detected and the test procedure, which is a blood spot test. The final page ends as follows:
This information was compiled by staff at The Maternity Hospital using research evidence.
© The Maternity Hospital 2004
Additional rating notes: there are no sources mentioned anywhere in the leaflet. The only date available is the copyright date indicating when the leaflet was first published.
The home page of a local charity website contains a footnote Copyright 2001, Last updated March 2006. There is no detail anywhere on the site to indicate what the updating involved. The only source mentioned is a news article from an international health bulletin board - a link takes you to the online article whose only date details are Posted 13 January 2005.
A leaflet produced by a genetic testing company is on display in a local pharmacy. It provides detailed information about several genetic conditions with onset in adulthood, including background effects, causes and available treatments. It describes the tests the company produces that are on sale direct to the public and gives the company’s contact details. It states that people with these conditions can now live longer thanks to recent breakthroughs in testing and treatment. There are no cited references and no dates given anywhere in the leaflet.