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CSA Files Return to Dialog—Sort Of
by
Posted On June 13, 2005


The sign in the Thomson Dialog (http://www.dialog.com) booth at last week's SLA annual conference in Toronto looked unequivocal. It announced that more than 30 CSA (Cambridge Scientific Abstracts; http://www.csa.com) files would be rejoining Dialog, with CSA Technology Research Database, CSA Aerospace and High Technology Database, and METADEX being available immediately. The CSA Technology Research Database is, in fact, a metafile that aggregates databases in engineering, high technology, and materials research. Under the new agreement, custom CSA report templates, e-journal links, and links to related research materials will be available. Both David Brown, Dialog DataStar general manager, and Matt Dunie, president of CSA (right), seemed happy about the rapprochement, a sharp contrast with the positions of their respective companies only a few years ago.

CSA removed its files from Dialog and DataStar in 2002. The largest contingent, 19 files in all, was taken off at the end of September 2002; other files were withdrawn earlier that year (see http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=17086). At the time, CSA also pulled files from other pay-per-view search services, such as EBSCO, Ovid, and SilverPlatter. In the intervening 2-plus years, CSA has grown its database portfolio though a series of acquisitions (the most recent being PAIS) and licensing agreements, and the company also introduced a new platform it calls Illumina (see http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16301). Originally considered a niche player in science and technology, CSA now covers the social sciences, including library science, as well as the arts and humanities.

With its new platform, CSA has at times redefined its definition of databases by bundling some individual databases into subject areas and calling those bundles databases. On Illumina, for example, the CSA Technology Research Database subdivides into CSA Engineering Research Database, CSA High Technology Research Database with Aerospace, and CSA Materials Research Database with METADEX. Each of those subsets includes individual databases. CSA Engineering Research Database includes ANTE: Abstracts in New Technologies and Engineering, CSA/ASCE Civil Engineering Abstracts, Earthquake Engineering Abstracts, Environmental Engineering Abstracts, and Mechanical & Transportation Engineering Abstracts. The others operate similarly. It's too early to say, in practice, how the CSA files will look as they rejoin Dialog. From the evidence of the first three, it seems a mixture of bundled and independent databases.

When removing its databases from Dialog and others in 2002, CSA also staked out its territory as a provider of information to the academic library community. It had little to no interest in the corporate and government markets. This was frustrating to information professionals such as Alcoa's Earl Mounts, who complained in the January/February 2005 issue of ONLINE ("Heavy Metal: A Survey of Online Sources for Metals and Materials") that, "Since METADEX is no longer searchable on Dialog, there is no way to search it in conjunction with other Dialog databases to de-dup the results." Now METADEX is back.

Or is it? The announcement of the new content agreement between Dialog and CSA states, "More than 30 CSA files of scientific and technical research are being added to Dialog services throughout 2005." When it names the three databases now available, it adds that they are "for subscription." This means enterprise customers of Dialog will have to negotiate a price to gain access to the CSA databases rejoining the system. It's not as easy as typing "BEGIN 32" to search METADEX. (File 32 is both the new and prior file number for the database.) CSA is also building a small international sales force to sell directly to corporations and government entities.

Transactional customers of Dialog will not have access to CSA data. They will be unable to access the files. Of course, even non-Dialog customers can gain temporary access to CSA files through its well-concealed BiblioAlerts service (http://www.biblioalerts.com/biblio/36hour.asp). For $39 (charged to a credit card), searchers have unlimited access to some CSA data for 36 hours. Those with an occasional need for CSA data find BiblioAlerts to be a real bargain—if they can find it. There are four subject areas from which to choose: High Technology and Materials Science (including METADEX) searches across 12 databases, Environmental Sciences & Pollution Management includes 15 databases, Biological & Medical Sciences (including MEDLINE) has 18 databases, and Social & Political Science searches 3 databases.

A major disagreement that surfaced in 2002 was that of linking. CSA's Matt Dunie published an "open letter" to customers in the September 2002 issue of Information Today that proclaimed, "CSA is terminating relationships with aggregators and content providers who refuse to allow mutual customers to link to data which they own or license." That issue seems to have been resolved, now that Dialog has more linking capabilities than it previously did.

According to Cynthia Murphy, Dialog's marketing SVP, negotiations have been in the works for some time. Given the previous acrimony between the two companies, it's encouraging to see them working together once again.


Marydee Ojala is the editor-in-chief of Online Searcher magazine, chairs WebSearch University, and is Program Development Director for Enterprise Search Summit.

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