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New Image Search from Elsevierís SciVerse ScienceDirect
Posted On November 18, 2010
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Searching for images in SciVerse ScienceDirect has just gotten as simple as the point and shoot camera. With the launch of its new Image Search functionality, Elsevier provides STM researchers a visual entry way into millions of journal articles and ebooks. Available to subscribers at no additional charge, Image Search spans more than 15 million figures, including 5 million tables, and several thousand videos from trusted peer-reviewed full-text sources in ScienceDirect.

Image Search is currently only an option within SciVerse ScienceDirect, from either the quick, advanced, or expert search forms. Selecting the Image Search radio button and entering search terms starts the process. Search terms located within the image caption or the 20 words preceding or following the image in the article full text are ranked by relevance. No additional metadata or tags have been added to the images at this time.

Rafael Sidi, vice president of product management for Elsevier’s SciVerse ScienceDirect says, “We will eventually bring more intelligence to Image Search by offering interlinking between images, tables, and videos, as well as add other features that enhance the user experience. In the future, we plan to also expand multimedia search capabilities to SciVerse Hub.”

Viewing and navigating the results offers a variety of features including:

  • 24 results per page in thumbnail view (tables do not have thumbnails)
  • Changing the results sort order from relevance to date
  • Faceted limiters, allowing the selection or removal of the individual image types—tables, figures, and videos
  • Image thumbnails, which enlarge (for images and tables) and start playing (flash videos) with the hover of a mouse
  • Image captions with links to “view within article,” retrieve full text, and find similar results in the thumbnail view
  • Hovering the mouse over the caption displays the complete bibliographic data for the source article.
  • Mark/store functionality to organize results for download/export. Caution: the image thumbnails enlarge quickly, so getting the mouse to the radio box to mark individual image records for exporting can be a bit tricky.

ScienceDirect Image Search provides easy access to download the images, tables, and videos. One option is Table Download, a new API developed by Elsevier as part of its applications platform. This API offers users one click access to download table data into a CSV file compatible with Microsoft Excel and similar programs. Researchers wishing to use any of the copyrighted data from SciVerse ScienceDirect should make requests through Rightslink or the Elsevier Global Rights Department at

With the myriad search functionality already available in SciVerse ScienceDirect, one may wonder why Elsevier decided to focus on Image Search. According to Sidi, “Image Search was developed in response to users’ feedback and represents another example of the steps Elsevier is taking to speed scientific search and discovery by improving researcher workflow.”

Sidi described a discussion he’d had with engineers at Honeywell while interviewing researchers. When asked which tools they use in their search process, they responded with Google image search. The researchers added, “Viewing the images associated with articles can help us understand if they are relevant to the problem we are trying to solve.”

Researchers are thrilled with the new Image Search functionality. One researcher stated, “I thought Google’s option for image searching was the best. ScienceDirect improves it significantly. Enlarging images without actually clicking on them is very useful.” Another researcher, also a frequent user of Google image search said, “Here we know the source of the image and the reference, which is very valuable. In Google images, someone may have borrowed from elsewhere, and therefore the proper credit may not be given to the original source.”

For me, I see a huge benefit to visual searching, particularly for those who prefer visual learning techniques and those who may be searching in their non-native language. During my Image Search experience, I watched the excision of the fluorescent sentinel lymph node, an interview with an author, and a rotating 3D structure and, much to my surprise, downloaded a chart for making paella to boot! The ScienceDirect Image Search certainly proves that a picture is worth a thousand words!

Sue Polanka, head of reference and instruction at the Wright State University Libraries, blogs at No Shelf Required Blog.

Email Sue Polanka

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