Online Information 2002
Sci-Tech Publishers Show Resiliency
at Online Information 2002
by Jim Ashling
The changing face of the Online Information conference
may mean that more and more services condense into fewer
and fewer large stands, while some services come and
go with the vagaries of the economy or changing technology.
The big sci-tech publishers and secondary servicesin
particular, the not-for-profitand society publishershave
remained remarkably resilient over the event's entire
history. I stopped at a few of their booths, but first
went to a new challenger to see what threats are being
posed to the die-hards.
Current Science Group's BioMed Central was launched in 2001
to provide free access to peer-reviewed biological and medical
research. Its income is generated from an author publishing fee
of $500 and institutional publishing licenses that are based
on the number of researchers at an institution. These licenses
cost from $1,500 to $7,500 per year.
BioMed Central is rapidly increasing the number of titles it
publishes. It now produces more than 80 journals, plus the Current
Reports series. Many claim that the organization is a specialist
in online journal creation, especially in niche areas. Some titles
are being tracked by ISI, and impact factors will be generated
within a year or so. In addition, BIOSIS is including BioMed
Central titles in its coverage.
The Web site carries news items, advertising, and plenty of
flag-waving for other "free" publishing bodies or lobby groups.
I found on the site that 72 institutional members have signed
up and that just fewer than 1,900 articles have been published
so far. Two journals selected at random, BMC Genetics and BMC
Neuroscience, had about 50 articles each, which I suppose
is about twice their average. The Journal of Biology,
described as "an international open access journal that publishes
articles of exceptional interest" has produced two issues, with
one research article in each.
BIOSIS has introduced a no-fee, interactive life science portal
called BiologyBrowser (http://www.biologybrowser.org).
It provides moderated discussion forums; selected Web links;
news; and other free resources, including such reference tools
as The Index to Organism Names and the Zoological Record
Thesaurus. The site is intended to be a home for life science
researchers that will enhance BIOSIS' reputation as an all-round
biological information resource.
CABI Publishing has revised and updated its Crop Protection
Compendium. This is the latest in a series of three titles to
become available on the Internet, in addition to CD-ROM (http://www.cabi.org/compendia).
The other titles are Animal Health and Production Compendium
and Forestry Compendium. The latter has also been newly updated
for 2003. Funding for each title comes from an international
development consortium of companies, government agencies, and
research institutions that between them have invested $8 million
to produce these services. More than $4 million has been invested
in the Crop Protection Compendium alone.
The Crop Protection Compendium is an encyclopedic, interactive
database that brings together information on pests, diseases,
weeds, and their enemies as well as details about crops and the
countries in which they occur. The consortium members are entitled
to multiple copies or a site license according to the size of
their investment. Others may purchase a site license or alternatively
buy the CD version at $600 for institutions or $100 for individuals.
The interlinking of information is impressive. For example,
one can select a crop that's suitable for a specific location,
find its pests, and determine appropriate means of their control.
Data is presented attractively in text, maps, photographs, charts,
and tables. With more than 2,000 copies distributed in 80 countries,
CABI has found an original way to introduce a successful, well-funded,
and self-sustaining service that works for developing countries
as well as corporate giants.
Physics, of course, saw some of the earliest ventures into
subscription-free, full-text article access with the introduction
of arXiv.org, the Los Alamos (now Cornell) e-Print server. So
what is the archive's impact on the physics societies?
Institute of Physics Publishing (IoPP) says that after 10 years
of arXiv, its closest journals are growing quicker, selling more
subscriptions, and getting cited more than ever. Since 1997,
IoPP has experimented with a free publication, the Journal of
High Energy Physics (JHEP). However, starting this year, new
material in the journal will be available to institutional subscribers
for $900. Formerly financed by the International School for Advanced
Studies, with contributions from a number of other organizations
within the community, IoPP has now taken responsibility for this
Meanwhile, IoPP's New Journal of Physics (NJP) continues to
be solely supported by author article charges and is free to
online readers. It remains to be seen whether NJP follows JHEP
back down the traditional subscription road in the future. All
IoPP electronic services can be found at http://www.ioppublishing.com/online.html.
As with others such as Elsevier and ACM, IoPP has decided to
digitize its historical journal archive. Access to content that's
older than 10 years will be available in 2003 for an additional
$550 annual subscription fee. But for a one-time cost, the 18741992
archive can be purchased for a digital library, with annual updates
IoPP has also added a new bibliographic database to its Axiom
collection. Polymer Library (formerly Rapra Abstracts), which
offers more than 800,000 records covering rubber and plastics,
is now available. In addition, Axiom now has facilitiesincluding
text-to-speech readers and Braille print-offsthat can be
used by searchers with sensory disabilities.
The American Institute of Physics generally confirmed IoPP's
experiences with the impact of nonconventional publication services
and economic models. In particular, no adverse effects on subscription
trends have been noticed. One bright point regarding subscriptions
among a number of STM publishers was last year's significant
increase in subscription sales in China.
Not content with simply adding historical data, Chemical Abstracts
Service (CAS) is adding subject and chemical substance indexing
to online records that correspond to Chemical Abstracts, dating
to the first issue in 1907.
CAS reported during Online Information that more than 50 percent
of the organic and inorganic chemical substances recorded in
the CAS Chemical Registry System during 2002 were derived from
patent documents as opposed to journal literature and other publications.
This finding highlights a trend evident since at least 1998 in
which an increasing percentage of substances of this type have
been reported for the first time in patents.
Thomson Derwent has released Derwent Analytics (http://www.derwent.com/analytics),
a new statistical research tool that allows users to extract
business intelligence from World Patents Index. Based on the
CAS patent-information finding, this service should be useful.
Derwent Analytics is a data-mining and visualization software
product that's powered by Search Technology, Inc.'s VantagePoint.
When used with Derwent patent records, it can analyze patterns
and trends that reveal competitors' research and business strategies.
User-defined analyses provide cleaned lists of patent authors,
affiliations and keywords, co-occurrence matrices, and mapping
In April, IEEE plans to release the IEEE Biomedical Engineering
Library, an online collection of nearly 40,000 full-text IEEE
articles and papers on biotechnology and biomedicine. These resources
have been selected from the organization's periodicals, conference
proceedings, and standards. This collection will join the IEEE
Information Technology Library online subscription collection,
which includes articles about computing, communications, signal
processing, and circuits and systems (http://www.ieee.org/products/onlinepubs).
In 2001, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA) widened its scope
with the purchase of R.R. Bowker's Books In Print family of products,
which includes Ulrich's Periodical Directory. In early 2003,
CAS will be releasing an analytical tool called the Worldwide
Serials Analysis System. This service enables a librarian to
compare his or her own journal holdings against Ulrich's core
list of 50,000 titles or its full list of 150,000.
The titles can be listed by publisher, category, impact factor,
whether or not they're refereed, and whether or not they're electronic.
There are also links to tables of contents. This collection-management
tool will be available on a site-license basis for a price that's
not yet been determined. Although in beta at Online Information,
CSA planned to launch the service in January at the 2003 ALA
Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.
With its involvement in another collaborative project, CSA
will enter the disciplines of communication studies, criminology,
political science and international relations, and sociology.
These fields may have rather different characteristics than high-energy
physics or biomedical engineering, but the concept is transferable.
CSA has teamed with Sage Publications to launch Sage Collections
in early 2003. This resource comprises four collections of electronic
journals in each of the previously mentioned disciplines. It
will feature 75 journals with 20,000 articles and backfiles of
up to 20 years.
The collections are loaded on the CSA platform and include
hypertext links from cited references to other Sage articles
as well as links from CSA Sociological Abstracts and CSA Worldwide
Political Science Abstracts. The service offers thesaurus-based
keyword indexing from a hierarchical thesaurus that has been
created for each discipline. This has all been achieved through
a partnership with MEI, a California company that provides services
and software development to publishers. MEI licenses Nstein's
Nserver Suite and Taxonomy Builder, which can generate automatic
indexing terms for documents using Nstein's Computer-Aided Indexing
Sage has published journals in the social sciences since 1965,
but until now has not moved into electronic delivery. This collaboration
brings the company up-to-date with all the features that are
expected for electronic journals, along with full integration
with an A&I platform.
In general, the sci-tech sector seems pretty healthy. The traditional
players are continuing to enhance their core products by adding
historical data, improving links between full text and A&I,
releasing new retrieval and analysis tools, subsetting, publishing
value-added multimedia reference works, and engaging in collaborative
activities within and beyond the sci-tech community.
Many publishers are showing an increased willingness to listen
to their users and even to create products in collaboration with
user institutions. All of the products that I saw take serious
amounts of time, money, and publishing expertise to develop and
maintain. As one publisher representative said, "Information
is too costly to be free."
Jim Ashling runs Ashling
Consulting, an independent consultancy for the
information industry. His e-mail address is email@example.com.