The Latest News About Elsevier, BIOSIS,
By Paula Hane
Following the usually quiet news period during the last half of December,
January started off with a flurry of company and product news, much of it timed
for ALA's Midwinter Meeting, held Jan. 914 in San Diego. In fact, it
seemed like a press release competition. My e-mail in box was stuffed with
multiple announcements from some companiesseven in 1 day from one organization.
But some of these were fairly minor news items, such as database enhancements,
added full-text journals, and incremental improvements. Not that each one wasn't
important to someone, but some just weren't up there on my Excite-O-Meter.
The following are several news items that were.
I was pleased to see Ingenta announce the first visible functionality that
demonstrates the behind-the-scenes work it has been doing. For the last 18
months, Ingenta has worked on a massive re-engineering project to integrate
the data platforms of its two systems, ingenta.com and ingentaselect.com (the
old CatchWord). It recently debuted a unified alerting system for the two services
and promised to have a beta version of an integrated interface soonpossibly
by the time you read this (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040112-2.shtml).
MuseGlobal introduced a new level of personalization with an optional MuseSearch
product that allows extensive customization down to the individual metasearch
user. (The base MuseSearch product offers customization features down to the
user class/department level.) Individual user preferences can be set to provide
a personalized interface, selection of search sources, and metasearch functionality.
Such attributes as number of results to be returned for each source, the number
of results displayed per page, the de-duplication algorithm, and the method
of sorting can be directly specified by the user.
Gale announced that it has an exclusive deal to distribute Corbis Images
for Education in the U.S. and Canada. The database will be available by subscription
to academic and public libraries. Corbis Images for Education contains approximately
400,000 images from Corbis' vast image collections, including more than 200,000
images from the renowned Bettmann Archive, 10,000 images from its Fine Art
Collection, and tens of thousands of images from its nature, science, space,
and various commercial stock collections. Corbis will continue to sell its
Design Collection to art and graphic design-oriented schools and colleges as
well as license its images for professional and commercial use from its own
ProQuest Information and Learning announced that it would soon release Literature
Online Third Edition, featuring a major redesign more tailored to the needs
of library users and administrators. Literature Online comprises 25 literature
collections of primary works that are available individually by subscription
or by purchase of permanent access. ProQuest also added to several of its full-text
drama collections and announced the first release of Twentieth Century Drama.
During the ALA Midwinter Meeting, Jay Jordan, OCLC president and CEO, and
Cathy De Rosa, OCLC vice president of corporate marketing, officially presented "2003
OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition," a report published by OCLC for
its membership. The academic-sounding title does not begin to hint at the riches
contained in this comprehensive review. It examines the global issues surrounding
research, learning, and community as they relate to the future of libraries
and other knowledge organizations.
The report provides a high-level view of the information landscape from the
perspective of the "information consumer." It's based on interviews with more
than 100 knowledge experts around the world who represent a wide variety of
organizations. Their input, plus extensive research, yielded a wealth of insights
on the real, day-to-day issues that face information professionals. OCLC said
that it created the report to both inform and stimulate discussion about future
strategic directions. To view the full report online or to order a print copy,
visit http://www.oclc.org/info/escan/e. (For more information, see the NewsBreak
Thomson Acquires BIOSIS
Last fall, Barbara Quint reported that following 5 months of searching for
a partner, BIOSIS had entered into final negotiations for acquisition by Thomson
Corp. (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb031027-1.shtml). The companies
have now announced the completion of the deal but did not disclose the terms.
Thomson is acquiring all the publishing assets: Biological Abstracts, Inc.
and BIOSIS, the life sciences abstracting-and-indexing service.
The BIOSIS information services and their employees will become part of Thomson
ISI, a business unit of Thomson Scientific and Healthcare. James Pringle, ISI
vice president of product development, will be general manager of BIOSIS. The
BIOSIS product line will be integrated within ISI Web of Knowledge. According
to Christopher Pooley, senior vice president of marketing and strategic alliances
at Thomson Scientific, ISI did not distribute all the BIOSIS files, so this
will add key databases like Zoological Record. He also said that Thomson ISI
would continue to support all existing distribution channels and aggregators
of the BIOSIS files.
BIOSIS joins other Thomson Scientific businesses, including Derwent Information,
Current Drugs, ISI ResearchSoft (the developer of three bibliographic software
programs), TechStreet (a provider of full-text industry standards and specifications),
and Wila-Derwent (a supplier of patent, trademark, and industrial design information).
The BIOSIS board of trustees will continue to operate under the interim name
of The J.R.S. Foundation. According to Joel Baron, BIOSIS' strategic adviser
and board spokesperson, the foundation is named for J. R. Schramm, the first
chairman of BIOSIS. The new mission statement for the foundation is "To facilitate
understanding of the living world by helping researchers, educators, students,
and others to access information relevant to the life sciences." Baron said
this could take a number of forms, including research grants, grants to third-world
countries for information access, funding to other foundations, etc.
Elsevier Journals Status
In mid-November, I reported that Cornell University Library was canceling
about 200 Elsevier journals, the Harvard libraries planned similar cuts, and
the University of California system was still in down-to-the-wire negotiations
with Elsevier for its 2004 journals
Since then, a representative from Harvard confirmed that the university is
canceling approximately 200 Elsevier subscriptions for 2004. Half of these
are duplicate subscriptions, and the other half will no longer be available
at Harvard libraries. In addition, the libraries are switching to e-only or
print-only for another 75 or so titles. According to an e-mail from the representative,
the cuts might not be the last:
We've succeeded in reducing our overall expenditures, but the reductions
aren't sufficient to meet our longer-term budget targets due to the sharply
higher fees that Elsevier has imposed.... Unless Elsevier is able to rethink
its approach to pricing for customers that can no longer sign on to the "big
deal"and we sincerely hope that it willthere is a strong likelihood
that we will have to cancel more Elsevier journals in 2005.
Just before ALA Midwinter, Elsevier announced that it had signed a 5-year
agreement with the California Digital Library "after several months of intense
negotiations." The company said the negotiations had been challenging but that "the
tone of the discussion was professional and cordial throughout." The announcement
specified that the agreement "provides over 300,000 University of California
(UC) undergraduates, graduates, researchers, faculty, and staff with access
to the UC list of subscribed titles, all Cell Press titles, and Elsevier's
entire collection of backfiles for all subject areas, back to Volume 1, Issue
1, which alone comprises 3 million articles."
According to a Jan. 7, 2004, letter sent by the Faculty Senate to UC faculty
members, the contract negotiated with Elsevier offers the UC community access
to about 1,200 scholarly journals, while UC loses access to about 200 titles
in 2004. The letter says, "The 5-year contract accommodates the university's
deteriorating budget situation without sacrificing access to the titles selected
by each campus."
However, despite the success in securing an acceptable contract, the letter
says that the real task now facing UC and other academic institutions is "to
address the crisis inherent in a scholarly communication process that is economically
no longer sustainable." The UC Academic Council has established a Special Committee
on Scholarly Communications that will soon begin an "analysis of alternative
publications methods for both scholarly periodicals and monographs; methods
of evaluating and ensuring high-quality publications that can be used in academic
promotion and tenure; the most appropriate business model(s) for publications;
and possible effects on scholarly societies of different publication methods,
among topics related to scholarly communications."
Visualization Gets Noticed
After several years of hearing about the promise of visualization tools and
interfaces, it looks like we're moving beyond the simply "interesting and cool
technology" stage to some solid, useful implementations. Last fall, I reported
on Antarctica Systems' upgrade to version 4.0 of its Visual Net software, which
provides a map interface to all kinds of information. Visual Net is being used
to get information out of big databases (like those built using IBM) or SQL
software as the interface for some enterprise resource planning installations
and inventory systems. It's also being applied in some search environments,
such as libraries, government applications, and search engines.
Companies like ClearForest and Inxight are also providing practical applications,
often partnering with other technology companies. I recently reported in a
NewsBreak about the debut of Grokker 2 (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb031222-3.shtml),
a desktop software application from Groxis, Inc. that's available for just
$49. Grokker 2 organizes and provides a visual map of search results, making
it easy to discover, explore, and organize the information. The maps use size,
shape, color, and order to present information in a dynamic contextual setting.
Grokker can search the Web, Amazon, and PC or networked hard drives.
KartOO recently announced a new version of its free visual search tool. KartOO
is a metasearch engine that presents results in a series of interactive maps
using FlashPlayer. In my initial look, the capabilities didn't seem to be that
much of an enhancement over text-based searching, but another feature in the
new version is interesting.
KartOO now offers personalization of results according to a searcher's interests
and previous searches. An information management system called the Kapitalyser
remembers the search words, sites visited, and successful requests. Users have
permanent access to this history and can manipulate and manage the information
and then view the corresponding maps. In addition, the company offers KartOO
Watch, a monitoring system that provides alerts for new sites of interest,
keywords used in sites, or changes in Web pages. Users can see the changes
at a glance on thematic maps. This new tool warrants closer examination.
And there's more to explore visually. TheBrain Technologies has a personal
product and an enterprise knowledge management platform that feature its knowledge-mapping
technologies. It also provides the free WebBrain.com site that lets users search
the Web visually or browse through a map of the Open Directory categories.
(Beware. While exploring, it's easy to get carried away and lose track of time.)
Mini or Maxi Tools
Vivísimo, a search engine that uses clustering technology to organize
results into folders or categories, has launched a new MiniBar. No, it's not
one of those costly add-ons found in hotels, but a compact version of its handy,
full-featured ToolBar. The MiniBar takes minimal space in a browser (but only
works with Internet Explorer) and coexists with other engines' toolbars. Both
the ToolBar and MiniBar give users access to Vivísimo's metasearch engine
from any site on the Web. They also offer handy shortcuts like drag-and-drop
and right-click searching, plus keyword highlighting and pop-up blocking.
With so many toolbars now available, such as those from Google, HotBot, Yahoo!,
and others, users can have one or more favorite search engines. For help in
sorting them out, including an excellent discussion of advantages and problems,
see Greg Notess' On the Net column in the January/February 2004 issue of ONLINE.
The Google Report
Not a month passes without some news from Googlenot to mention media
hoopla, especially as the search engine king inches closer to its planned IPO.
Things are certainly getting interesting, with Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Google
jockeying for the dominant position in Web search. But I must admit that Google
recently introduced a number of nifty search enhancements.
In December, Google launched some handy search-by-number options, such as
the ability to search UPS and FedEx tracking numbers as well as patent numbers.
In January, Google expanded these number shortcuts to include U.S. area codes,
UPCs, vehicle identification numbers (VINs), and more. Typing an area code
into the Google search box will show a map of that geographical region at the
top of the results page. It's not an exact representation of the area-code
region, but it does provide an orientation. Typing a U.S. Postal Service tracking
number into the search box will provide a direct link to the USPS Web site
and information about the status of a package.
I particularly like the travel information, which is easily accessible from
the Google search box. In December, Google allowed users to get information
on weather conditions and general flight delays by typing in an airport's three-letter
code and the word "airport"for example, "DFW airport." It has now added
direct links to flight-status information. Users can simply type the airline
name and the flight number, such as "United 12." For information on these and
other Google search features, see http://www.google.com/help/features.html.
And don't forget to check out the features and options at the competitor
sites. Yahoo! also offers shortcuts to search for weather, maps, definitions,
and flight status. At press time, it had just introduced a beta version with
improvements to its News Search. More on that later.
For the latest industry news, check http://www.infotoday.com every Monday
morning. An easier option is to sign up for our free weekly e-mail newsletter,
NewsLink, which provides abstracts and links to the stories we post.
Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.'s news bureau chief
and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.