WorldWideScience.org, the global science gateway, has gotten a lot of press recently. Last month, China joined the WorldWideScience Alliance, the organization that is primarily sponsored by ICSTI, and that manages the gateway, and China contributed access to some of their science content to the application. This was a huge deal. Brian Hitson, OSTI’s Associate Director for Administration & Information Services, and I co-authored an article on OSTI’s blog explaining just why this was significant. (Note: OSTI is the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information. ICSTI is the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information.) Adding to the attention was this blog article by Hope Leman in AltSearchEngines which opened my eyes further as to why the global expansion of WorldWideScience.org is a really big deal.

Before I further unleash my enthusiasm, though, I need to disclose that I consult for both OSTI and for the company that built the search engine behind WorldWideScience.org, namely Deep Web Technologies. And, Deep Web sponsors this blog. Biases aside, I always try my best to provide value to readers even when I’m writing about Deep Web. This article is no different. And, I’ve invited federated search vendors to contribute guest articles to this blog. Carl Grant has taken me up on the offer and I’m currently twisting some arms hoping to get more vendor articles.

WorldWideScience.org is doing something very important. It is opening the eyes of American (and global) researchers to the fact that many nations perform critical research. And, it is hopefully helping all of us to see that it’s a good thing that researchers in different nations have a different perspective on many things than Americans do.

I was struck by this paragraph in Hope Leman’s review of WorldWideScience.org:

Now here is an example of why [WorldWideScience.org] can lead to improvements in the quality of life for the ill worldwide. One of the results I got for ALS [Lou Gehrig's Disease] was from the journal Internal Medicine published by the Japanese Society of Internal Medicine. Now, I am quite interested in Japanese views of ALS, given that they have a much higher rate of full ventilation of patients than is true in the US. That is an interesting phenomenon in itself, suggesting that Japanese caregivers and clinicians have a greater willingness to care for patients under these often demanding conditions. And the article I found, “Salivary Chromogranin A: Useful and Quantitative Biochemical Marker of Affective State in Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis,” might sound arcane. But it actually had the very moving conclusion that it is imperative that ways of measuring mood be found for ALS patients, many of whom lose the ability to speak and some of whom become locked in. “Useful biochemical markers of the affective state in advanced patients have not yet been developed.” What a wonderful world we live in where search engines like WorldWideScience render findable scholarship produced in societies not one’s own that sets you to thinking about issues that had not before entered your ken.

I believe that Hope is a medical librarian which is why she was able to recognize and appreciate the value of the Japanese research paper she found through the portal. (I want to give a plug to a site that Hope gives a lot of attention to, ScanGrants. The site lists grants and other sources of funding in support of health related research, programs, and study.) It was Hope’s blog article that inspired me to write mine, in part to thank her for making the brilliant - and embarrassingly obvious - point that no one country has all the answers. Plus, American laws, policies, and national priorities for funding research limit us in ways that may not limit other nations with different laws, policies, and priorities.

Hope wrote another blog article, just today, exploring some of the Ten Science Search Engines discussed in yet another blog article (which I’ll get to in a little bit.) In researching Deep Web Technologies for today’s article, Hope discovered a portal that Deep Web built for the Department of Defense and wrote this:

I tried the tool mentioned because I was curious to see what results on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis would come up in this, the DOD’s Defense Technical Information Center’s new online research portal, given that veterans appear to have a higher incidence of ALS than the general population. I got an interesting result from the National Research Council Canada Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information and it is nice to see results from WorldWideScience.org already appearing so helpfully in results in various search engines. This portal might be of interest to veterans and their family members who wish to investigate the possibility that health problems might be connected to military service. It is certainly something those in the defense industry will employ.

Again, Hope is making the point that performing research beyond customary places is critical. Not many of us would automatically search databases aggregated by the Department of Defense. Yet, when people’s lives and their well-being are at stake, it’s wise to look in the non-obvious places.

My reference a few paragraphs ago to ten science search engines is to an article by Karen Blakeman in her blog in which she tells her readers of a list of nine (readers pick the tenth) science search engines. The list appears in the “spineless?” blog and was compiled by Roddy MacLeod, Senior Subject Librarian at Heriot-Watt University Library. About his picks, Roddy says:

There are several very good science/technology search engines. These will usually give much more focused search results than Google.

Deep Web is very excited that they built five of the nine engines that made the list: Scitopia.org, Science.gov, ScienceResearch.com, WorldWideScience.org, and Science Accelerator. Note that OSTI hosts three of the five science portals: Science.gov, WorldWideScience.org, and ScienceAccelerator.

I’m very excited to see this much attention given to science portals. While no single portal can provide access to all content, it’s certainly much more convenient to search a few science portals than to have to search hundreds of individual information sources. Plus, there’s a fair amount of federation of portals happening. The DoD application that Hope discussed, DTIC Multisearch, searches WorldWideScience.org, which in turn searches Science.gov. And there’s more federation of science portals coming. I recommend you read “Divide and conquer: federating many sources” to better understand how portals get federated into bigger portals.

We’re in exciting times. Those who are looking for important answers to today’s critical problems have more global and diverse resources available than ever before.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 9:53 pm and is filed under viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or TrackBack URI from your own site.

One Response to "Science portals: It’s about diversity and hope"

  1. 1 piektideIlled
    December 19th, 2008 at 10:24 pm  

    good resourse Anyway by sight very much it is pleasant to me

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