Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

A Publisher Comments on the Elsevier-Google "ScienceDirect" Deal

By Dennis D. McDonald

A friend of mine is employed by a major international publisher of abstracting and indexing information and specialized research collections. His company targets the academic and library markets.

I wanted to get his comments on my blog post Why Google Scholar Adding Elsevier “ScienceDirect” Data is Significant. In that post I speculated on the deal where Elsevier will be providing Google Scholar access to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect service.

He and I have talked before about how Google Scholar competes in some markets with more specialized subscription based services — such as his. This was why I wanted to get his reaction to my post.

Here are his main points:

  • Google search access to Elevier’s ScienceDirect service could have an impact on the market for “STM” information — Scientific, Technical, and Medical — but not necessarily on other non-STM areas such as the humanities and social sciences. The content in these areas is far less accessible in the electronic form that Google requires for crawling.
  • Companies such as my friend’s provide more professional editorial control over the content of its delivered abstracting and indexing information and its research collections than does Google. Google provides access primarily through algorithmically selected search output. The result is that the two types of services provide differing support for interactive searching and discovery.
  • My friend noted that undergraduates especially are used to Google and that the resources accessed through Google Scholar might very well be adequate as starting points for the types of research they need to perform. He thought that more specialized searching and discovery, however, such as that supported by the content and analysis delivered by his company’s services, would still tend to be needed for more professional researchers.

I asked what he thought of the “social networking” potential of a service such as Google which could, behind the scenes, identify person-to-person and institution-to-institution links for the resources it pumps through its search service.

That’s fine in theory, he said, but actually accomplishing that in an entirely automated fashion — which is how Google would likely to attempt doing it — is a non-trivial technical problem given all the variations in identity information and the lack of authority. He felt that the involvement of the actual individual in creating and maintaining an accurate profile would be necessary and this might require substantial resources on Google’s part, especially as they have proven unable to successfully develop such services in the past.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Dennis D. McDonald

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Why Google Scholar Adding Elsevier "ScienceDirect" Data is Significant