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Elsevier Upgrades ScienceDirect
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Posted On April 17, 2008
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Elsevier has announced that it will be launching some improvements to its ScienceDirect service (www.sciencedirect.com), which provides access to the publisher’s STM full-text journals and ebooks. The changes will include navigational improvements in screen layout, four options for filtering existing search results, and access to article comments, ratings, and social bookmarking options supplied by Elsevier’s free 2collab service (www.2collab.com). Some of the changes went into effect this week; the rest should appear shortly. The improvements will occur across all the ScienceDirect package options and incur no additional charges. Newly appointed vice president of product management for ScienceDirect, Rafael Sidi, describes the changes as driven by "customer demand." Speaking of customer demand, one could only wish that all publishers would supply as extensively detailed product descriptions as Elsevier does for ScienceDirect at http://info.sciencedirect.com. ("Yes, Virginia, there are price sheets.")

The new navigational improvements include preview tabs on the results page and the table of contents that let searchers quickly view article abstracts, figures and graphs, and reference citations. No longer do searchers need to reload a page for each article that catches their interest. When viewing a full-text article, a toolbox feature lets searchers quickly click to key functions: Cited By, Download PDF, E-mail Article, etc. When asked whether the email feature allowed users to send articles to outside institutions with Elsevier licenses, Sidi responded, "They can email it, but the recipient couldn’t download the article unless they had a subscription." When queried, jestingly, as to whether this was another job for cut-and-paste, he said, "I believe librarians don’t want bad user behavior. They are excellent at teaching users how to protect copyright."

An "inline" reference preview shows links to referenced articles as the cursor passes over them in the body of the article. If available and authorized, the links can take the searcher directly to the referenced paper. No longer do searchers have to go to the bottom of an article to reach the citations. Sidi pointed out that searchers can reach non-Elsevier content through link resolvers. They can also now view the number of times articles were cited in Scopus, which includes citations for the articles it covers as well as the abstracts.

Searchers can use a results filtering option that appears in a section on the left of the screen to narrow an existing result set by content type, source title, date, and topics. Most of these new improvements are available now.

In November 2007, Elsevier launched an online collaboration platform called 2collab. (For details, see Paula Hane’s NewsLink Spotlight, "Elsevier Creates Social Spaces for Researchers," http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=40102.) Even on Sept. 17, 2007, during the beta phase, a 2collab product developer announced that one of the project’s first goals was "integration with other Elsevier applications—such as ScienceDirect, Scopus. … For example, on ScienceDirect we would like to display the comments, ratings, and tags posted by 2collab users for relevant articles."

The addition of social bookmarking for articles and opening discussions on ratings and tags added by researchers is still scheduled for "a phased release over the coming months," according to the upgrade announcement. When completed, each article page will carry comments, ratings, and tags added by readers. The services supplied by 2collab already exist in Scopus. They allow both private (invitation only) and public groups.

At full power, i.e., assuming licensed subscriptions to all the content available, ScienceDirect carries some 9 million articles from more than 2,500 journals, along with some 6,000 books, including major reference works, handbooks, and ebooks in the hard and social sciences. It also links to articles from some 2,000 STM publishers through CrossRef DOIs. According to Sidi, backfiles for journals go to "volume one, issue one."

In improving their product lines, some confusion may arise over which product does what, which contains what content, and which would make the best match for different buyers. Scopus carries just the abstracts and citations from articles supplied by 4,000 publishers, according to Sidi, while Scirus tracks scholarship on the open web. Some overlap may occur for abstracts supplied by Elsevier journals. Recently, Elsevier launched the new illumin8 service in partnership with NetBase. (For details, see the NewsBreak, "Elsevier and NetBase Launch illumin8," Feb. 28, 2008, http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=41084.) This new service encompasses content from all the other Elsevier lines—abstracts from Scopus, full text from ScienceDirect, patent coverage, and open web coverage (though not from Scirus). However, Sidi points out, the coverage of journals in illumin8 is only for recent years and "illumin8 is solutions-oriented for the corporate R&D market. ScienceDirect is for the academic, government, and corporate market."

Sidi asserted, "We are becoming more agile in our product development, more attuned to how customers are acting. We are responding quicker to market forces."


Barbara Quint is senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

Email Barbara Quint

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