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Magazines > Information Today > February 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 2 — February 2004

NEWSBREAKS UPDATE
The Latest News About Elsevier, BIOSIS, and More
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. 9–14 in San Diego. In fact, it seemed like a press release competition. My e-mail in box was stuffed with multiple announcements from some companies—seven 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 soon—possibly 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 site.

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.

OCLC Report

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 at http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040119-2.shtml.)

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
(http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb031117-1.shtml).

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 will—there 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 Google—not 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 phane@infotoday.com.
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