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
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 librarylibraries
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 choicea fact we encourage you to check for
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 worldthe 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.
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