Mission statements and role documents of medical schools in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia have been examined on their Internet Web sites and categorised in purpose, content and presentation. The format and content are highly variable, but there is a common vision of three integral roles, namely, education, advancement of knowledge and service to society. Other frequent themes include tradition and historical perspective, service for designated communities, and benchmarking to accreditation standards. Differences in content reflect variable interpretation of the notion of "mission", and local or national characteristics such as institutional affiliations, the types, levels and organisation of medical education, relationships with health systems, and extent of multi-professional education. Outcomes data and measures of medical school performance referenced to the institution's stated missions are rarely encountered. Mission documents placed on the Internet are in the public domain. These Web sites and documents and linked information constitute a valuable new resource for international exchange of approaches and ideas in medical education and generally in academic medicine. Routine inclusion of outcome or performance data could help to demonstrate the community roles and social accountability of medical schools This paper proposes that partial standardisation of these Web documents could enhance their value both internally and for external readers. A generic descriptive statement template is offered.