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Magazines > Information Today > December 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 11 — December 2004

DEPARTMENT
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR


Federated Searching Fact Check

Regarding Péter Jacsó's October 2004 article "Thoughts About Federated Searching" [page 17], there are a number of corrections I need to make.

Statement: The author tested and benchmarked WebFeat 3.

Fact check: The author never tested WebFeat 3. This may actually represent a first in the library industry; the first time a product has been reviewed without actually using it. This should not come as a surprise, however, as vaporware has been offered and sold in our industry for years. It was only a matter of time until vapor reviews made their debut.

Statement: The author states that "There are no options for sorting or deduplication" available in WebFeat 3.

Fact check: As has been previously reported in Information Today, Library Journal, and other leading industry publications, WebFeat 3 offers a new dynamic results display capability, enabling users to select from an unsurpassed array of merge/sort/deduplication modes on-the-fly.

Statement: Jacsó writes: "WebFeat's Prism 3 was usually the fastest in my tests, but this may be because it does not prune the records for several of the test databases, nor does it optimize their formatting in the results returned by the native search engines."

Fact check: WebFeat 3 does, in fact, offer extensive results parsing and formatting capabilities, which may actually be customized by each library—libraries can determine which fields to display as well as the "look and feel" of their presentation. Best of all, contrary to the author's speculation, results formatting has no impact whatsoever on WebFeat performance.

In addition to these features, WebFeat 3 offers sophisticated usage tracking and reporting, alerts, LC and MeSH thesaurus, export to EndNote and ProCite, and links to all major OpenURL link resolvers, as well as MyWebFeat, enabling users to personalize their federated search experience. The new WebFeat 3 enhancements are in response to WebFeat user group meetings held over the past 2 years with major public, academic, state, corporate, and government library clients.

As Mr. Jacsó's article suggests, there is tremendous confusion regarding the capabilities of federated search engines. Those who have written about it have focused almost exclusively on examining the bells-and-whistles features of these products, without reporting the far more critical issues of database compatibility, not to mention the hassle factor involved in installing and maintaining these systems. Despite the press' well-intentioned efforts to educate and advise libraries on this powerful new technology, the best advice remains: Try it before you buy it. This is the smart way to not only compare features of competing products, but also to ensure that they are fully compatible with all library databases. Not surprisingly, those academic, public, state, corporate, and government libraries who have performed this basic due diligence have all made the identical vendor choice—a fact we encourage you to check for yourself.

—Todd Miller
President, WebFeat
Old Brookville, N.Y.

 

The OA Battle Marches On

Richard Poynder's historical review of open access (OA) in your October issue is one of the most balanced accounts of this topic. Steve Harnad, the crusader-hero of this movement, should feel happy that his subversive proposal could not be subverted by the BOAI, an initiative born in his country of birth. With the governments of the developed world taking positive interest in the movement, it is sure to leapfrog. As the battle marches ahead, it is sure to throw up new players and more questions. Will the research journals take your Information Today model or author-pays model, or will they coexist with Harnad's original but inherently contradicting version of "author archives for free distribution and publisher continues to publish" model? I am curious to find answers and see what develops from Poynder's Part 2 in this series.

More contradictions are likely to emerge as the battle turns into a war, particularly with the author-pays model. Decisions on where to publish may move from author to institutions. This could be a long-term threat to the time-honored tradition of academic freedom that authors in the scholarly world enjoy. Will they compromise this freedom?

There is another interesting side to the OA movement that I can predict. Most of the scholarly journals that constitute the $6 billion market today were started by not-for-profit professional societies over the last few centuries. A large number of these journals eventually were sold to publishers like Elsevier, Springer, and Blackwell. Commercial journal publishing today is a result of these societies, whose members are scientists and scholarly authors. The next generation of author-paid journals, be it the SPARC/PLoS model or the BMC model, will drive the movement up to a point. After some time, someone like Elsevier or Springer will buy them! The heroes of the OA movement like Steve Harnad forget the reality of the world—the sustainable model eventually will have to be a commercial model, whether it is run for profits or nonprofits.

The OA movement has its social roots and merits. Let the movement not lose steam by getting obsessed with wondering why someone should make a profit at the author's expense.

—N. V. Sathyanarayana
Informatics (India), Ltd.
Bangalore, India

 


Got something on your mind? Disagree with anything you've read lately? Send your Letters to the Editor to jeichorn@infotoday.com.
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