Fachinformationszentrum (FIZ) Karlsruhe (http://www.fiz-karlsruhe.de) and Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) Hannover (http://www.tib.uni-hannover.de) have announced their plans to provide a central full-text server for electronic documents and metadata in science and technology. The GetInfo search engine, scheduled for launch in April, will open searching of full-text sci-tech sources to users across the Web. While searching will be free, the companies plan to charge for full-text deliveries. GetInfo is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research as part of its digital library program. While it will begin with a focus on German-language material, a FIZ Karlsruhe representative said that it plans to expand to international coverage by the end of the year.
FIZ Karlsruhe is a nonprofit organization set up to provide online information services for research and development. It partners with the Japan Science and Technology Corp. (JST) and the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) in the U.S. to produce STN International, the leading sci-tech service in traditional online. However, according to a FIZ Karlsruhe representative, the heavy subsidization from the German government has led the company to keep this joint venture a German operation. Nonetheless, it does plan to offer access to GetInfo services and content through STN International in the future, though exact plans are unclear as yet.
The announcement of the new service pointed to the challenging transition occurring in scientific publishing as documents move from print to electronic formats. The service will track down electronic documents dispersed on servers at publishers, learned societies, research institutes, and libraries. As a central access point, GetInfo is intended to offer comprehensive and stable archived access. It will open up access to relevant specialist publishers and gray literature not readily available through commercial book channels. A single search will reach numerous other servers with a standard interface available in German and English.
If possible, GetInfo will display documents electronically, either through links or through documents stored on its server. If not, it will offer integrated online ordering through the FIZ and TIB document ordering services. The FIZ representative told me that the company definitely plans to track material available on preprint servers. It also plans to build links between publications, though, at present, it has made no arrangements to work with the Publishers International Linking Association's (PILA) CrossRef service.
In supplying full-text backup, GetInfo will rely in large part on the services of TIB Hannover, partner in the GetInfo project, as well as the FIZ AutoDoc Internet service, which delivers full-text electronically, by fax, and by mail. TIB Hannover is the German Central Special Library for Technology and Science covering all fields of technology and basic science, in particular chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics. The library collection includes 5 million volumes, microforms, and CD-ROMs; 18,600 journals; conference proceedings; patents; standards; dissertations; and electronic publications. It also specializes in gray literature, encompassing research and technical reports, and serves as a depository library funded by the Deutsche Forschungs Gesellschaft (DFG). The GetInfo service will not only use the TIBOrder-Online service for supplying print copies but will also create full-text access to the gray literature.
The GetInfo service fully intends to integrate material from commercial publishers and has an active marketing program to reach them. It promises help in marketing publishers' products to customers from business, industry, major research institutions, and universities, while handling the burden of customer administration and billing—in particular, pay-per-view access.
Details of the pricing structure for the new service had not yet been worked out, beyond the commitment to free searching and viewing of titles and abstracts, while charging for full-document delivery based on fees set by individual publishers or copyright holders. The FIZ representative indicated that the company hoped to make sure that if material existed "free" on the Web, it would still cost the same when delivered by GetInfo. The Web site indicated it planned to offer a number of alternative price options—e.g., fixed-price agreements for major customers, subscriptions for heavily used journals, and pay-per-view.
In an interesting aside, the GetInfo service will even offer to digitize and archive documents supplied by authors or publishers. The FIZ representative told me that the digitization and archiving service is primarily intended to help small, highly specialized publishers. However, the GetInfo site has a full page encouraging authors to store their documents directly on GetInfo servers, offering them reliable, secure, and stable access with no broken links, indexing and searchability, and referencing of papers in "the major databases of the GetInfo cooperation partners." This would indicate that GetInfo could become an international sci-tech service with much the same promise of breaking through traditional publishing channels as the National Institutes of Health's PubMed Central.
To track this interesting development, check http://www.getinfo-doc.de.