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Elsevier Launches SciTopics—Now a Fully Developed Research 2.0 Resource
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Posted On January 19, 2009
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This week, Elsevier (www.elsevier.com) is officially launching its Scirus Topic Pages under the new brand name SciTopics (the new URL is www.scitopics.com). The company says that this is now a fully developed product, not just a beta offering, and this is the "right moment" to bring it to a broader audience. The newly expanded SciTopics offers additional functionality and features and a new look and feel for the information and collaboration web resource designed for the scientific community. It has also reached a healthy critical mass, now offering some 650 live topic pages with many more in draft format.

Scirus Topic Pages made its debut in June 2007 (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=36744). In the last year and a half, Elsevier worked closely with its users and editors, monitoring feedback, tweaking the platform, and improving the editorial process. The main improvements, according to company representatives, are in the workflow processes and in quality controls. (For a visual comparison, see the screens with the page for Evolutionary Economics—from an early Scirus Topic Page to the current SciTopic page.)

The new SciTopics is a free, online expert-generated knowledge-sharing service for the research community that offers scientific, technical, and medical knowledge (STM) on a variety of subjects. Designed to complement the traditional peer-review process, the site allows invited experts to develop topic pages offering research summaries with the content moderated through 14 subject editors to ensure high standards and relevancy. The easy-to-use, wikilike resource aims to give authors a platform to showcase their works and to facilitate scholarly debate.

"While inclusion in a traditional peer-reviewed journal is still regarded as the ultimate signal of scientific integrity, authors are looking for faster, more informal, dynamic, and interactive ways to publish their thinking on issues and highlight their research," says Christine Erb, product manager for SciTopics. "We are excited to introduce SciTopics as a free solution to help researchers, authors, and editors locate information quickly and collaborate with other members of the scientific community."

Elsevier stresses that the tool takes advantage of the speed and interactivity of sharing information on the web, but it also addresses the problems of data overload and quality and accuracy of information. It leverages the fast-paced nature of the web, "while narrowing the scope of content and offering the peace of mind that comes with authoritative and moderated material."

SciTopics presents an expert summary on a topic with links to the latest, most relevant journal literature and web sources—pulled together conveniently onto a single page, along with the opportunity for site members to post comments. Using keywords selected by the author of the topic page, Elsevier provides links to the most recent and most cited published articles on the subject through Scopus (www.info.scopus.com), Elsevier’s abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature. Keywords are also used to identify links to relevant web results and news through Scirus (www.scirus.com), Elsevier’s science-specific search engine. These external links are updated each time the page is viewed. Authors of the topic pages also usually offer a list of references and suggested web resources. Authors and editors also monitor the linked content for relevancy and precision.

Authors may also post a profile page that includes affiliation, contact details, and a list of his or her publications. Elsevier says the new SciTopics allows more visibility for authors.

SciTopics is one of two Elsevier "Research 2.0" initiatives—the other is 2collab (www.2collab.com). For a background, see the Nov. 1, 2007, NewsLink Spotlight, "Elsevier Creates Social Spaces for Researchers" (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=40102). The initiatives were designed to support academic library communities and their researchers with advanced Research 2.0 tools. The resources create social spaces in which researchers can work together. Both tools offer platforms for shared knowledge to be leveraged for information discovery and evaluation. Registered users of SciTopics can also click to bookmark a page from SciTopics in their collection of bookmarks in 2collab. Elsevier representatives say they plan to implement even tighter integration and collaboration between the tools.

Research tools are really making inroads into the fabric of the web, though Elsevier representatives say they still hope for a much greater awareness and adoption in the research communities. So to the researchers and academic librarians who support them—if you like these tools, tell your colleagues. And let Elsevier hear your comments and suggestions for improvements.

For more discussion of resources and tools, see the Sept. 4, 2008, NewsLink Spotlight, "Research Sharing Gets New Tools and Goes Trendy" (http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=50584).


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

Email Paula J. Hane
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