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Magazines > Information Today > February 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 2 — February 2003
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 services—in particular, the not-for-profitand society publishers—have 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.

BioMed Central

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 ( 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

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 ( 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, 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 electronic-only journal.

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

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 available thereafter.

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 facilities—including text-to-speech readers and Braille print-offs—that 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

Thomson Derwent has released Derwent 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 functions.


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 (


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 tools.

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
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