CSA Acquires Aerospace Database from American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Posted On September 18, 2000
For over 30 years, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA; http://www.aiaa.org) has built a leading megabase of indexed, abstracted citations to the published literature in the field. In August, it transferred ownership and production of the Aerospace Database and its print version, International Aerospace Abstracts, to Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA; http://www.csa.com). The database has already been available on CSA's Internet Database Service (IDS) platform since 1997. At present, it also appears on several other hosts, specifically CINECA, DIALOG, Korea Information Network Services (KINS), SilverPlatter, and STN, as well as on internal institutional networks through license arrangements (e.g., with NASA). CSA will continue to produce and support the database out of the New York office. Tony Lenti will continue to head that operation, although with a much reduced staff size.
The Aerospace Database from Aerospace Access contains over 2 million records selected from a wide range of subjects and sources reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the aerospace field. Subjects include aeronautics, astronautics, chemistry and materials, engineering, geosciences, life sciences, mathematical and computer sciences, physics, social sciences, and space sciences. Currently, the Aerospace Access service produces over 60,000 records a year drawn from journal articles, conference papers, books, and technical reports including those issued by NASA, other U.S. government agencies, international institutions, universities, and private firms.
CSA already has 62 bibliographic journals built from 11 major research databases, including the data from Materials Information, another secondary publisher acquired in CSA's aggressive acquisition strategy. According to CSA president Matt Dunie: "The aerospace products fit perfectly with our current publishing program, especially complementing our titles in the materials sciences. We are committed to maintaining the high-quality standards used to produce the database, and we plan to work closely with AIAA in producing new information products for the aerospace community and other high-technology researchers."
The acquisition includes the database and the printed abstract journals; no AIAA primary publications came with the deal. It also gives CSA an office in New York where the current operation has a 3-year lease.
AIAA, the largest international society in aerospace engineering and sciences with some 30,000 individual members and 50 corporate members, considers the development an expansion of a partnership with CSA. "CSA has proven their ability to build and maintain databases as a secondary publisher," said AIAA executive director Cort Durocher. "Our members can rest comfortably knowing that the Aerospace Database is in good hands and will be produced by a company that specializes in such products." Other AIAA staff stated, and Dunie confirmed, that it expected member discounts and new products and services to come from the arrangement. At present, AIAA is building the Aerospace Resource Center (ARC), which will offer access to the Aerospace Database and other resources to its members and the industry at large.
CSA's Internet Database Service currently offers access to over 50 databases covering materials science, environmental sciences and pollution management, biological sciences, aquatic sciences and fisheries, biotechnology, engineering, computer science, sociology, linguistics, and other areas.
Users with whom we spoke seemed comfortable, even optimistic, about the change of owners. One representative from a major government customer said that, as far as he knew, nothing would change. Lynn Ecklund, of Seek Information Service, said, "As far as this acquisition, I think CSA is a good choice. Maybe they can promote the Aerospace Database and increase awareness and usage of what is a very underestimated and underused database." Robert Jack, writer, consultant, and longtime aerospace technology searcher, said, "CSA could do a better job than AIAA, if they have the will, if they apply themselves."
As to the will, CSA has moved swiftly to make its operations more economical. The official takeover occurred on August 23 and was followed by major staff cuts. However, according to Tony Lenti, as much as 80 percent of the former staff are still involved, though some are in freelancing roles. Lenti expected to see some possible consolidation of operations with similar CSA databases in the future (e.g., Materials Information's files). He considered that the database would expand its customer database by reaching CSA's Internet Database Service (IDS) subscribers, while bringing some of its existing subscribers to CSA as well.
CSA represents an interesting story in the field of secondary publishing. In an era of full text, it has grown vigorously by providing abstracting-and-indexing (A & I) services. Not a year seems to pass without CSA making two or three acquisitions of some A & I entities. So far this year, it has also acquired Physical Education Index and Aqualine. Dunie indicated that the company may not provide the biggest megabases in different fields, but claims, "We're the best in the world in our niches. Our business has tripled in 3 years, doubled in the last 2." Not including Aerospace Database, CSA's IDS service carries some 11.6 million records with links to over 5,200 full-text titles. CSA has begun negotiating with the Publishers International Linking Association's (PILA) CrossRef program.
Dunie attributes the company's success to its sales program and, in particular, to its early realization of the revolutionary impact the Internet would have and its commitment to an Internet platform. He proudly points out that CSA registered its domain name in 1993, one of the first 4,000 domain names given. In 1994, when it committed the company's future to the Web, Dunie said: "The money we saved on our electric bills alone from closing the print shop paid for our investment in the hardware that put us on the Internet. In fact, we made a profit. It was the project that transformed our business."
The biggest problem CSA has, according to Dunie, is that "no one knows who we are; they know our products but not us." In 2001, CSA plans to work on solving that problem with a publicity campaign to build its brand name. Dunie believes in the future of secondary publishing services, pointing out that no one library subscribes to all the titles that people want or need on the Web or off. People still need indexes to identify the material they need from the 40,000 to 50,000 journals in the world. However, CSA's abstracting-and-indexing doesn't only cover print. It has a Web resource database with over 100,000 records, whose entries it feeds into a current awareness service. Searches on CSA's own system trigger checks of the Web database as well, though it doesn't necessarily offer these records to outside services.
Dunie expects to streamline operations at Aerospace Access by using skeleton records generated from other units of the operation already covering journals and having the Aerospace Access service add its indexing terms. CSA also needs to update the old software and modernize production, according to Dunie. Once CSA has gotten more efficiency into the operation, Dunie thought it might add a third or fourth production line. In any case, it seems that the venerable Aerospace Database has found a good home.