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ProQuest to Open Content Through Google Scholar
Posted On April 7, 2015
Because of its history of abandoning wonderful but fewer-than-billion-user information services, some totally unconfirmed and somewhat panicky rumors have spread that Google might be questioning the value of Google Scholar. Now, one of the most established and enduring library vendors, ProQuest, has announced that it will be sending the full texts of scholarly journals, conference presentations, and working papers to Google for inclusion in the widely used Google Scholar.

The scholarly articles and documents for which ProQuest will make the full text available for Google Scholar to crawl and to index cover the following subject areas:

  • Business (Accounting & Tax, Banking Information, Career and Technical Education, Asian Business, European Business, and Entrepreneurship)
  • Social Science (Criminal Justice, Education, Library Science, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Social Science, and Sociology)
  • Healthcare (Family Health, Health and Medical, Health Management, Nursing & Allied Health, and Public Health)
  • Technology (Engineering, Pharmaceutical, Telecommunications, Advanced Technologies & Aerospace, and Military)
  • Science (Agriculture, Aquatic Science, Atmospheric Science, Biological Science, Computer Science, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Materials Science, and Science)
  • Humanities (Music, Performing Arts, and Arts & Humanities)

Any Google Scholar user will be able to find relevant items from ProQuest in search results, but authorized users with IP addresses that designate them as connected to institutions licensing specific sources from ProQuest will be able to fetch the full-text articles and content as well. ProQuest has the Summon Service for discovery, and it contributes to Ex Libris Group’s Primo and other major discovery services (but not EBSCO Discovery Service). The company also has other existing relationships with Google, including a curtailed experimental delivery of dissertations. According to Allan Lu, ProQuest’s VP of research tools, services, and platforms, most of the dissertation coverage through Google represents just dissertation abstracts with the exception of a minor collection in Google Books.

Getting ProQuest’s Content Into Google Scholar

All the details of the new data flow are not known yet. Users should expect to see ProQuest content appearing in Google Scholar search results sometime in August 2015, with all content available sometime in the fourth quarter of 2015. ProQuest content will update weekly. The company is sifting through its many subject-oriented data collections to extract the scholarly journals and conference content. This will not include anywhere near all the scholarly content in ProQuest, however. What could be more scholarly than dissertations? And they are not included. Nor will the massive collections of primary source material such as 18th- and 19th-century archives, parliamentary papers from the U.K., or any of the scholarly books in ebrary go into Google Scholar—at least not yet. But then Google itself doesn’t always port all the scholarly works from Google Books into Google Scholar.

When using Google Scholar, users who are recognized as authorized will receive full-text content from ProQuest bearing the logo of the library or university doing the licensing. (Libraries will not have to set up their own Google Scholar profiles.) Users who are not recognized as authorized will go to a landing page with an abstract or an image of the first page of the item of interest. From there, Google Scholar may direct them to publisher websites or alternative versions of the content. ProQuest also supports institutions in expanding their licenses to cover alumni. In 2012, ProQuest even launched an end-user service called Udini, but has now decommissioned it. Udini was not targeted at a scholarly market specifically, but it contained a lot of scholarly journal content. Priced with a freemium policy, Udini, like Google Scholar, was open to any web user.

ProQuest’s Focus on ‘Ease of Access’

Although some might think that Google Scholar is a low-cost competitor to pricier discovery services such as Summon, ProQuest seems to focus on getting its content to the users who have a right to it by whatever route the users choose to take. “At ProQuest, we design our solutions for ease of access for our end-users and customers. That often means teaming with other providers of research tools to make our solutions more valuable and compatible,” says Kurt Sanford, ProQuest’s CEO. “Our relationship with Google is the latest example of actions we’re taking to make it simple for researchers to access content in their libraries no matter where they start their research.”

Future expansion (e.g., “fetch” access to full text by users outside licensing institutions) may depend in part on data collected from the Google Scholar partnership. According to James Phimister, VP of strategy at ProQuest, the company expects to gather insightful data from the Google Scholar collaboration about success with particular content types. It’s going to be a “learning experience.” Future possibilities for Google partnering, says Phimister, might include ebooks from ebrary. Lu mentions that the pay-per-view approach, which could open ProQuest content to the world, was “one strategic direction, but they need to see if it makes sense as a viable revenue source before we invest in such ecommerce.”

Phimister comments that ProQuest will “evaluate the option as the relationship evolves. Additional volume will factor in the decision. We are hopeful it brings more people to ProQuest. We want users to get to us.” Lu adds, “If traffic starts flowing from Google Scholar to the ProQuest platform, we’ll be able to see what portion of user requests we are not able to fulfill now. If we see users at our doors not from our customer institutions, users we have to turn away, we’ll know the type of traffic we have turned away and consider other viabilities.”

To get back those panicky rumors about Google Scholar’s continuing health, a reassuring article in Nature on the occasion of Google Scholar’s 10th anniversary in November 2014 featured an interview with co-creator Anurag Acharya. Apparently, the panic can be traced to the removal of Google Scholar from the drop-down menu of options on Google’s homepage in 2012. Acharya said there is nothing to worry about, since most Google Scholar users already know where to go and don’t need help with homepage transitions. Although he admitted that Google Scholar makes no money and has limited advertising potential, he also said it doesn’t cost that much to run and that folks at Google like it because they are all ex-academics. Whew!

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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