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BIOSIS Sold to Thomson Scientific
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Posted On October 27, 2003


Five months after announcing its search for a partner [see "BIOSIS Looks for a Partner," [http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16701], Biological Abstracts' board of trustees announced that it had entered final negotiations with Thomson Corp. The deal would involve the sale of publishing assets for both Biological Abstracts, Inc. and BIOSIS UK, including the Zoological Record. Reportedly, 18 potential bidders—from both for-profit and not-for-profit concerns—approached BIOSIS, and, after winnowing the bidders down to four, the board selected Thomson Scientific. The Thomson ISI business unit (and Philadelphia base for Thomson Scientific) currently carries BIOSIS' files on its Web of Knowledge service. Other components of Thomson Scientific include Derwent and Current Drugs.

James H. Beach, chairman of the BIOSIS board, explained the board's choice to finalize negotiations with Thomson ISI: "Thomson ISI has a history of providing quality services to the global community of life science researchers in both academic and corporate markets. Of the many potential bidders we considered, Thomson ISI seems best prepared to successfully manage and enhance BIOSIS publishing services, while increasing the products' dissemination in the life science research community."

The takeover by Thomson would include a strong partnership arrangement with CAB International, a leading not-for-profit life sciences abstracting service based in the U.K.

For more than 25 years, BIOSIS has produced abstracting products that cover life sciences research using its own specialized indexing and coding system. Current databases include BIOSIS Previews, Biological Abstracts, Biological Abstracts/RRM (Reports, Reviews, Meetings), and Zoological Record (published jointly with the Zoological Society of London).

Linda Sacks, BIOSIS' senior vice president of product development and marketing (and one-time director of electronic information services at ISI), expected the sale to conclude by the end of the year. The due diligence process was underway at press time. Sacks was very optimistic and looked forward to the opportunity to expand.

Christopher Pooley, senior vice president of strategic marketing and planning at Thomson Scientific, assured me that Thomson is committed to carrying out the BIOSIS board's goals of broadening distribution. Though Thomson will impose "the financial sense to keep out the negative aspects of ‘coopetition,'" they do not plan to shut down any current outlets for the product. Instead they hope to "leverage corporate marketing sales, especially in the pharmaceutical area."

Pooley says the BIOSIS/ISI/CAB International alliance has the potential for producing substantial cost savings as well as new products and market services. Addressing the substantial overlap in journal coverage among the three concerns, he has already assigned "our best and brightest to the project. We are not creating the Department of Redundancy here." He indicated that the alliance might result in a "super-record" that would merge the input of each organization's indexing approach. Pooley was ardent in his devotion to eliminating duplication and waste. "If I can't figure out something better than [three separate systems], I should be out shoveling snow somewhere." Pooley saluted the BIOSIS board for its impressive leap of faith in recognizing the potential of going with a for-profit concern.

New, emerging technologies that can reduce production costs for abstracting-and-indexing services as well as expand the utility of taxonomies and coding systems for handling the growing area of "Net-only" content may have contributed to Thomson's interest in BIOSIS and other secondary services. Time—and future Infotoday.com NewsBreaks—will tell.


Barbara Quint is contributing editor for NewsBreaks, senior editor of Online Searcher, and a columnist for Information Today.

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