Ovid Technologies, an operating company of Wolters Kluwer Health, has opened its array of medical, scientific, and academic research databases to the federated search technology of MuseGlobal, Inc. Together the partners will offer corporations and academic and medical institutions both locally hosted and external Web site options for integrating cross-database searching from more than 1,300 databases on more than 200 platforms. The scalable service will handle data sources ranging from commercially available databases (whether on or off the Ovid system or its subsidiary, SilverPlatter Information), in-house databases, and open Web sources. The new federated search solution should be available within the first quarter of 2005.
Administrative tools and support (e.g., customization and branding) will facilitate implementation within client enterprises for those selecting the locally hosted option; limited branding and interface changes will also be available on the Web-based option hosted on Ovid servers. Pricing will vary depending upon the number of database connectors chosen and the amount of customization.
According to Rossella Proscia, Ovid's director of international customer development and marketing, the strategy behind Ovid's decision to offer:
a federated search solution to the market stems from the fact that we see our user base expanding more and more, well beyond the realm of information managers. The new user base is undoubtedly familiar with simpler search models (Google) and often does not know where to find subject specific information amongst the library's offerings. So, we decided to develop a federated search tool to offer users the ability to discover the bibliographic databases that are out there. It seems to me that many companies are trying to address the same problem of searching, in different ways. We felt that, rather than creating a large, general database with few common limits and a combination of indexes, it was better to keep resource discovery/federated searching separated yet linked to in-depth database searching. In addition to this, federated searching adds the benefit of integrating locally held resources, databases, Web pages, etc. So ultimate control about what gets searched stays with the institutions, not with us. In sum, federated searching comes for us as a well pondered answer to today's issues.
Customized branding includes options for adding logos, style sheets, etc., and changing interface design—e.g., nonstandard fonts and foreign-language characters. MuseGlobal supports multilingual interfaces such as Spanish and Chinese. The in-house or local version of the service will allow for more extensive customization and branding than the ASP (application service provider)-packaged solution hosted on Ovid's servers.
The decision to offer both modes rose, according to Proscia, from the "specific market rationale of trying to offer a scalable solution. The centrally hosted option will drive down costs." Jed Gilmore, vice president of sales at MuseGlobal and relationship manager for the Ovid agreement, expects that: "In most cases, if an organization has significant internal data and concerns with connections going in and out, it will choose the local option. On the other hand, the academic and medical institutions might be happier with a more cost effective hosted option."
Details of the offering will become clearer closer to the launch date. Kate Noerr, CEO of MuseGlobal, explained that MuseGlobal already has in place some 1,300 individual database connectors with more than 200 platform or host systems, such as Ovid. Noerr described the service: "We build a connector to a platform, e.g., Ovid, and then within that to each individual database. Each connector needs extensive mapping. We handle content providers of all sorts."
Open Web sources also have MuseGlobal connectors. I asked Proscia what would happen if a client using the Ovid/MuseGlobal federated service chose a free service, such as the NLM's PubMed Central instead of Ovid's Medline service. She said that it would accept the customer's choice. "The only advantage we want to retain in presenting this service is the advantage of offering a solution, of understanding content and how customers want it. We do not plan on giving our own databases unfair advantage," said Proscia. She pointed out that the free link services already available from Ovid (links@ovid) and its subsidiary, SilverPlatter (SilverLinker), already reach out to open access sources, such as PubMed Central, HighWire Press, the University of Lund, etc. Noerr indicated that MuseGlobal already has connectors to Yahoo! Search and Google and is looking at Google Scholar.
In marketing the new service, Proscia indicated that the company would first focus on "customers who have expressed interest in universal linking solutions; second, on our broader customer base in the world." Proscia hoped that the new service would renew and re-commit Ovid to serving the academic market, particularly the European academic market, where it is particularly strong. The price for the new service will vary depending on the number of resource connections and the level of branding, but Proscia expected the minimum price would be about $5,000.
Federated searching continues to experience growth. MuseGlobal recently released a consumer-oriented metasearch project that demonstrates its advanced capabilities called MuseSeek (http://www.museseek.com). EOS International, a library automation service, just announced an arrangement with WebFeat, another federated searching provider, to offer its own federated service.
Marc Solomon, principal of the AttentionSpin Advisory Group, commented: "Content aggregators are starting to realize that not all project-relevant content comes in subscribable form. Efforts like Ovid's federated search initiative are designed to neutralize the ‘where' issue that confounds the library community and elevate the ‘why' and ‘how' considerations driven by the researchers themselves. The MuseGlobal deal expands the aggregation model so the Ovid customers can decide which portion of the ‘hidden' Web they wish to make visible and what aspect of the search experience they wish to enhance for their own internal customers."