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Windows Live Academic Search: The Details
Posted On April 17, 2006
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Microsoft promises to identify all published article with the marking "Published Version" to ensure "that users know which result is the official version" as opposed to those drawn from "other sources such as a Web-crawl." When multiple versions of an article exist, it always links the top search result to the publisher's Web site. Though the publishers have the option to provide Microsoft with the full abstract, first 140 characters from the abstract, or nothing, they must guarantee that nonsubscribers can at least see the full abstract as it appears on the publisher's Web site. Publishers with PDF files or OAI-PMH standard repositories should have no problems, but if some technical difficulties occur, Microsoft promises to work through them.

Amy Brand, director of business development at CrossRef, commented that "Just as CrossRef makes cross-publisher linking more feasible because it takes away the need for bilateral linking agreements, CrossRef can help ease the way for the indexing of academic full text by streamlining publisher-search engine interactions." CrossRef already has a standing relationship with Google. In fact, early in 2004, CrossRef had planned to create its own service, CrossRef Search, in cooperation with Google. (See " CrossRef Search Uses Google to Provide Full-Text Access," However, said Brand, "Many publishers were taken by surprise when Google Scholar launched because they had been working with Google cooperatively on CrossRef Search, and the new service essentially superseded our pilot. Google clearly had its own plans and didn't want to wait for the publisher consensus-building process to run its course." In contrast, according to Brand: "Microsoft had the benefit of watching the Google-publisher relationship play out in public. They were very careful to engage the publishing community in the design of the Live Academic Search beta—we had our first meetings with them a year ago—and in coming to terms and conditions for access to publisher content."

In general, Brand considered that Windows Live Academic Search would appeal to scholarly publishers. "Scholarly publishers are interested in having their content found wherever researchers may be searching. Most have come to terms with the grouping of multiple versions of the same work in search results and in this respect would only be concerned to prevent indexing of unauthorized—in violation of copyright—copies or postings of their publications."

Craig Van Dyck, vice president of operations, Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishing at John Wiley & Sons, saluted the importance of CrossRef in the process and agreed with Brand's view of publisher attitudes. "Speaking for Wiley," said Van Dyck, "Wiley believes it is in everyone's interest to establish as many standards as possible so multiple parties don't re-invent the wheel and users have the best experience. CrossRef is a forum for attempting to establish those standards, agreed upon rules of the road." Van Dyck enjoyed working with Microsoft: "We're pleased with the relationship, including the technical side and the overall cooperation. We're offering pay-per-view options for all our material and have no plans to discontinue. Some of the really old backfiles don't have pay-per-view, but that's a really small percent."

The Competition's Reactions

Anurag Acharya, developer of Google Scholar, waxed lyrical about the arrival of a new player into his "search space." "It's entirely positive," he said. "We all share the same problem, how to make all information easy to find. The more we can all do together, the better it is for the knowledge of the human race. It is fantastic that they are doing this. There is no question that their version will improve. More people all over the world will discover more knowledge." He did defend Google Scholar's own relations with publishers. "In most cases, we are crawling the full text. If we can give publishers better service, it's in publisher's interest to make things better as well as Google Scholar's."

Acharya indicated that some of the features Microsoft is touting in its promotional material are already used by Google Scholar—e.g., linking to library patron access, coverage of all authors, etc. Danielle Tiedt, general manager of Windows Live Premium Search, was very proud of Windows Live's ability to spider down through the full text of journal articles from publishers, in particular the large collection of Elsevier journals. Acharya pointed out: "We include abstracts and citations for Elsevier articles. We index abstracts from repositories like PubMed and others and citations from our automated extraction of citations from full text. Based on this, we believe we are able to return most if not all impactful articles from all publishers. At this point, we don't index Elsevier full-text articles."

But in some areas, Acharya applies a different philosophy than Windows Live Academic Search's designers do. For example, he wants to keep working on the relevance ordering of search results, to improve the default, rather than offer users control of sorting options or date ordering.

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

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