Is there a future for conventional abstracting and indexing services?


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Presentation by Lutishoor Salisbury (University of Arkansas) at the 2010 IAALD Congress - 26-29 April 2010, Montpellier, France

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  • Young people are portrayed as a multi-tasking generation, reliant on digital juggling of their daily activities and commitments. This flexibility of everyday life is most often portrayed in positive and celebratory terms, conveying a sense of an individual young person being free to choose who they interact with, when and for what purposes. In this way they are seem to benefit from a distinct individualisation of everyday life that are driven specifically from digital technology use.
  • While the capabilities of the digital natives are most often presented in a positive and celebratory light, some commentators are beginning to contend that the increase autonomy stemming from digital technology use may also lead to the disadvantaging and disempowerment of them through a set of “risks” and “dangers of technology use. And as Kleen points out that the current generation of school children “is taking search engine results as gospel” thus fostering a “younger generation of intellectual kleptomaniacs, who think, their ability to cut and paste a well-phrased though or opinion makes it their own ”
  • Shrinking library budgets is a trend no one wants to see, but nonetheless one that is real for many institutions of higher education around the world. Many libraries faced stagnant or reduced operating and materials budgets for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and the near future will likely bring additional budget pressures. This trend will push librarians to evaluate cost/benefit effectiveness of access to resources to support programs at their institutions. Use will be a driving factor in this scenario. The worldwide tally of Open Access mandatory policies in October has reached the 100 th milestone , a nd there are more than 1500 repositories listed in OpenDOAR. This means that more and more Universities have announced their intention to implement plans that will make free, easily accessible research knowledge available to a world wide audience via their Institutional Repository --- more our patrons will discover these full text articles on the web.
  • The purpose of indexing and abstracting services, now commonly referred to as databases , has been and still continues to be bibliographic control and organization of knowledge in some manageable way that quickly enables researchers to identify useful information in broad disciplines. They serve a useful purpose in providing a methodological and systematic approach to the bibliographic control to the literature of a field.
  • They provide comprehensive coverage of all types of material that are usually disciplined oriented. Many of these databases have international coverage and English translations of foreign language sources, thereby exposing the researchers to valuable research that may be taking place in other parts of the world that may have the potential to further their own work They have very streamlined indexes which allows users to focus their search once they have found the relevant keywords and can serve a recall as well as a precision device. In the case of authors, it allows one to quickly retrieve all the works by a particular author, that is of course, if the names are standardized. Want to find out which institution is working in a certain area --- searches useful for the undergraduate students to find appropriate graduate school , or for the researcher to find colleagues for collaboration. – look no further than these databases These databases allow us to do repeatable searches and the expectation is that the information to be always there Most of these databases are easily accessible through the web, most but not all with unlimited no of simultaneous users.
  •   In the academic environment, there are generally three levels of potential users. These are the undergraduate population, graduate students, and faculty and researchers. Undergraduate students have very different information needs than faculty and researchers, unless they are engaged with research with a professor. They need to find a few articles to write a persuasive speech to justify a lab report. So it is not surprising in a pre-test given to biological sciences undergraduate students in the fall 2009, that 25% of the students identified Google/Google Scholar as their first preference as the source to locate information . The problem here is the potential for a lack of information literacy skills. Thus, I would strongly advocate that information professionals while learning to co-exist with Google and other easily accessible information sources should also learn how to leverage the strengths and weaknesses of these sources to entice our users to the sources that they should really use. Critical to our success in reaching out to these students would largely depend on how well we convince faculty of the value of information literacy and library instruction to engage students and to provide research skills that have lifelong applicability.
  • In this same class, the biological sciences undergraduate students were taught the techniques of finding and evaluating information in three class sessions each of one hour duration. At the end of three sessions, students were given a post-test and asked again to identify what will be their first choice of information source for the assignment that they had to complete for the class. These skills included: how to think about and identify the concepts in a research question, determine what keywords to use to represent these concepts, how to use Boolean logic ( and, or and not ) in formulating good search strategies, understand that records are more or less equivalent to a citation (but with abstracts and descriptors), and that records are made up of fields. They can then refine their searches (broaden or narrow) by restricting the retrieval to specific fields and by using the thesaurus. Hands-on practice sessions with specific examples were used to reinforce these techniques to find information using Biological Abstracts, CABI abstracts, Web of Science, Google Scholar, and Google. Students conducted the same search in each of these databases, and discussions followed comparing and contrasting the results of the retrieval. A special effort was made to leverage moments to show the relevance of what they were missing when they restricted their search only to Google, Google Scholar or other similar search engines to find the most relevant information. At the end of three sessions, students were given a post-test and asked again to identify what will be their first choice of information source for the assignment that they had to complete for the class.
  • After instruction, there was a 23 percent increase in the number of students who responded that in the future they will use library database as their TOP CHOICE when deciding among information sources. A similar pattern of pre- and post-test was shown for students in a Fundamentals of Chemistry class, but this class met for only a one and half hour session. After instruction there was a 9.6 percent increase of the students whose FIRST preference for information source eventually became the use the Libraries’ databases. Implictions -- the more you teach and explain, the more they will be directed to the real and comprehensive resources that exist.
  • The question that must be asked then is do we need indexing and abstracting services (databases) in the agricultural sciences, and in the other areas of science and technology, in light of the ample free resources that our users are exposed to? I do believe that discipline-oriented databases will be around for a long time, some in very different and sophisticated form. This prediction is almost certain to be realized because of the purpose that they serve in the scientific communication process where many serious researchers cannot survive in their fields without them.   Most of these researchers search databases for many reasons . Among them are to: keep abreast of the literature in their fields (often relying on their alerting services), find a specific piece of information like a method of analysis, survey the literature when starting a new project, apply for a grant, review a grant proposal, identify a research project for a dissertation topic, and, primarily, to avoid duplication. Comprehensive information is also very useful to identify collaborators for research projects, grants or patent applications. Many of these databases are comprehensive in coverage with a huge retrospective file . For example, the CABI abstracts, which is the most recognizable comprehensive database in agriculture, has coverage going way back to 1910, has nearly all its records accompanied by abstracts in English, and provides coverage that is worldwide. It also includes the full text of many conference proceedings, most of which will be difficult to find otherwise .  
  • The days are long gone when users will use information systems that are not user-friendly and easy to use and provide ample discovery and research tools . Our users are accustomed to using search engines where they can find something of relevance. Depending on the motivation, some may accept that something as enough just because it is effortless. Of necessity, a large number of databases are starting to mimic searching capabilities similar to Google/Google Scholar in order to try to give the user the same experience This is absolutely necessary since if patrons do not use the expensive subscription resources , especially in this age of transparency and ample statistics on use, libraries may be forced to discontinue subscription. Here is the new CABI interface
  • To mimic the same experience that users are accustomed to, CABDirect has two modes of searching, a basic search box and then the advanced search box, giving the user the option to choose the most relevant. Like Google Scholar, the results of the retrieval are ranked by relevance, but in CAB database it has the option of also sorting the records by date . Both systems have advanced searching features which will allow the more sophisticated user to refine searching. However, CABDirect has other features that are user-friendly, for example, the ability to refine a search based on faceted display of the record by many fields. In addition to linking to the library’s resources, CABDirect allows the user to find those open-access articles or other materials that are freely available on the web by making links available from every record to Google/Google Scholar. This feature is especially useful since many libraries still do not know how to harness the vast resource of open-access material freely available on the Web so that their users can find it easily and effortless. This database has also provided the range of resources for active researchers such as building their own database in the MyCABDirect, RSS feeds and alerting features.
  • I believe that discipline oriented databases in the sciences will continue to exist for a long time to come but there will be lots of value added which will attempt to bring the user to the resource and keep him or her there. There will be sophisticated mechanisms for relevance ranking . We know why students go to Google Scholar, their ranking system shows the user the first few records that are most relevant so the user gets hooked and wants to explore further. Related searchers by author, title, subject should be the norm so that a user just have to click on a link to find similar searches in any number of free or subscription databases --- it will be more like a one-stop shopping once a user start from a known trusted source Sophisticated Faceted searching will become the norm for research together with systems in place to splice and dice the retrieved information Many ways to visualize the retrieved set will make users more comfortable in manipulating the information and allow discoverability to happen spontaneously.
  • Thesaurus and controlled vocabulary will work in the background and a user query will be automatically translated into controlled vocabulary for comprehensive retrieval --- the user should not have to worry about the specific vocabulary -- essentially smart searching that are truly smart Error recognition --- “did you mean” --- one that gives the right spelling automatically --- in databases will be the norm and is expected. Cited references will become common as well as related records based on references will go a far way to aid discovery and keep patrons in a database There will be mechanisms to create bibliographies on demand according to a variety of citation styles The web has many open access material available but I do not believe that librarians have figure out how to make this findable and easily available for their users. Database vendors can substantially help here since they know which specific papers are open access because an author has paid for it. In every case this url should be available and findable in the record, from a journal that is indexed.
  • There will be integrated tools for bookmaking, saving and sharing information from a database. This will allow space for researchers to comment on the usefulness, or flaws of a specific paper and available for all to see and use. [primarily to share with colleagues, but for everyone to share] There will be a variety of alerting mechanisms in addition to those that exist today. In a user defined search , there will be mechanisms for helping a user decide on a search strategy, a user will be informed of the most downloadable or most viewed paper related to the query and there will be automatic referral to these --- automatic current awareness or Have you seen this one? Topic clouds will display the keywords that are pulled to display the results of a search, enabling each to be searched individually or in combination with any number of words to aid discovery. Last but not least, increasingly, databases will also have to embrace the incorporation of the changing mobile access technology as the norm .
  • What are some current barriers to the use of these databases:  The cost of these discipline-oriented databases has been increasing, and some databases have gone completely out of line with the rate of inflation, thus making some of them beyond the reach of libraries. Because of this high cost, institutions are constantly evaluating their resources in light of their focused research areas, the accessibility and availability of other useful freely available resources, and their patron’s searching and information-seeking behavior based on use statistics. There is also the case, where libraries are purchasing the same content several times from the same vendor without discounts for different format, then there is the overlap of databases --- same information in several databases -- some in very significant amount. The database vendors will also have to rethink their policy of access based on seats . They should consider providing unlimited access to their resources since users get frustrated when access is blocked because seats are not available within the time span that they have available or are thinking about a topic . And so they will use alternatives instead. Since every use is recorded and usage pattern by the local community are continually dictating renewal decisions, low-use databases will eventually lead to a canceled subscription.
  • Is there a future for conventional abstracting and indexing services?

    1. 1. IS THERE A FUTURE FOR CONVENTIONAL ABSTRACTING AND INDEXING SERVICES? Lutishoor Salisbury [email_address] IAALD XIIIth World Congress, Montpellier, France, April 26-29, 2010
    2. 2. OVERVIEW __________________________________ <ul><li>Information Landscape </li></ul><ul><li>Purpose and use of abstracting services </li></ul><ul><li>Needs and characteristics of the different level of users </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Undergraduate students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Graduate students and researchers </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. OVERVIEW ___________________________________ <ul><li>Publishers’ Response to the “googlization” of information </li></ul><ul><li>Necessary future enhancements </li></ul><ul><li>Impediments to use </li></ul>
    4. 4. INFORMATION LANDSCAPE - USERS ___________________________________
    5. 5. THE DIGITAL NATIVE – MYTH AND REALITY _____________________________________________ <ul><li>Challenged the popular assumption that the current generation of children and young people are innate, talented users of digital technologies. </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Selwyn, Neil. 2009. Aslib Proceedings , vol. 61(4), p364-369 </li></ul>
    6. 6. <ul><li>Promote a realistic understanding of young </li></ul><ul><li>people and digital technology with a view to </li></ul><ul><li>supporting information professionals </li></ul><ul><li>Review of the literature </li></ul><ul><li>Study limited to young people and digital </li></ul><ul><li>technology in information sciences, education </li></ul><ul><li>studies and media/communication studies </li></ul>
    7. 7. <ul><li>Multi-tasking generation </li></ul><ul><li>Digital juggling </li></ul><ul><li>Free to choose who they interact with, when and for what purposes </li></ul>THE EMPOWERED DIGITAL NATIVE __________________________________
    8. 8. <ul><li>Risk and dangers of technology use </li></ul><ul><li>“ the capacity of young people to learn is compromised by a general inability to gather information from the internet in a discerning manner” </li></ul><ul><li>Current generation of school children “is taking search engine results as gospel” thus fostering a “younger generation of intellectual kleptomaniacs, who think their ability to cut and paste a well-phrased thought or opinion makes it their own ” Kleen A. 2007 The cult of the amateur. London: N. Brealey </li></ul>THE DISEMPOWERED DIGITAL NATIVE __________________________________
    9. 9. FREELY AVAILABLE DATABASES/RESOURCES -- SAMPLE _____________________________________________ <ul><li>PubMed ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>AGRICOLA ( </li></ul><ul><li>AGRIS ( </li></ul><ul><li>CRIS ( </li></ul><ul><li>CARIS ( </li></ul><ul><li>ERIC ( </li></ul><ul><li>AgNIC ( </li></ul><ul><li> ( </li></ul><ul><li>WorldWide Science Alliance ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>Free full-text - DJOA, repositories, etc. </li></ul>
    10. 10. OTHER FACTORS _____________________________________ <ul><li>Shrinking collection budgets </li></ul><ul><li>Open Access mandates – </li></ul><ul><li>100th Open Access Mandate Reached! </li></ul><ul><li>OpenDOAR lists more than 1500 repositories </li></ul>
    11. 11. PURPOSE AND TRADITIONAL USE ______________________________________ <ul><li>Organization of information </li></ul><ul><li>Bibliographic control </li></ul>
    12. 12. CHARACTERISTICS ______________________________________ <ul><li>Comprehensive -- all types of material </li></ul><ul><ul><li>discipline oriented </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>mission oriented </li></ul></ul><ul><li>International coverage </li></ul><ul><li>Translations of foreign material </li></ul><ul><li>Indexes </li></ul><ul><li>Thesaurus </li></ul><ul><li>Perpetuity and repeatable searches </li></ul><ul><li>Web accessible </li></ul><ul><ul><li>unlimited access vs seats </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. WHO USES THEM AND FOR WHAT PURPOSE ================================ <ul><li>Undergraduates --- more inclined to use search engines </li></ul><ul><li>Lack of awareness of information sources </li></ul><ul><li>Co-existing with Google - leverage strengths and weaknesses to teach information literacy skills </li></ul><ul><li>Role of instruction and faculty cooperation in making use of relevant and complete resources </li></ul>
    14. 14. STUDY ================================ <ul><li>Biology undergraduate students </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-test </li></ul><ul><li>Instruction for three sessions, 50 minutes each </li></ul><ul><li>Assignments in each session </li></ul><ul><li>Post-test </li></ul>
    15. 15. 3 sessions – hour each 23 percent increase – top choice -- library database One session – 1/12 hours 9.6 percent increase – top choice --- library database
    16. 16. NEEDS OF RESEARCHERS ____________________________________ <ul><li>Graduate students </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Beginning of new research </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Need for comprehensive information </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Grant application </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Dissertation research </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Faculty and researchers </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Need to publish or perish </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Novel research </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Grant applications </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Patent application </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Advance a research, method, etc that has already been done </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
    17. 17. BASIC VERSUS SOPHISTICATED SEARCHING MECHANISMS IN DATABASES <ul><li>Automatic inclusion of common search words when a control word is searched </li></ul><ul><li>Discovery methods --- improved user acceptance and their ability to find useful information easily. </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to analyze the information to aid discovery and to study the literature in many other ways </li></ul><ul><li>Use of federated search and discovery tool </li></ul>
    18. 18. CAB DIRECT DATABASE 1910- Searches free text Automatic truncation Sort by relevance
    19. 19. TRENDS ________________________________________ <ul><li>Discipline oriented databases in the sciences and agriculture will continue to exist </li></ul><ul><li>Added value --- indispensible resource - push the undergraduate as well as the sophisticated user </li></ul><ul><li>Sophisticated relevance ranking </li></ul><ul><li>Related searches - author, title and subject </li></ul><ul><li>Automatic display of related searches based on subject </li></ul><ul><li>Faceted searching </li></ul>
    20. 20. TRENDS ______________________________________ <ul><li>Thesaurus and control vocabulary seamless and work for us in ways we have never seen before </li></ul><ul><li>Error recognition --- spell checking --- do you mean --- the norm rather than the exception </li></ul><ul><li>Bibliographies on demand, automatic export in variety of formats, suggested citation format in records </li></ul><ul><li>Cited references link out to documents </li></ul><ul><li>More open access inclusion of information </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis of information </li></ul>
    21. 21. TRENDS ______________________________________ <ul><li>Integrated tools for bookmarking, saving and sharing information </li></ul><ul><li>Space to make comments or to tag on papers </li></ul><ul><li>Variety of alerting mechanisms </li></ul><ul><li>Mobile technology compatibility </li></ul><ul><li>Most downloadable article based on keywords </li></ul><ul><li>Have you seen this article? </li></ul><ul><li>Similar keywords across databases in similar subject areas </li></ul><ul><li>Topic clouds to highlight latest research </li></ul>
    22. 22. BARRIERS TO USE ____________________________________ <ul><li>Costs </li></ul><ul><li>Seats limitation </li></ul><ul><li>Information literacy instruction – survival!! </li></ul>
    23. 23. QUESTIONS? =================================== <ul><li>Lutishoor Salisbury </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Ph: 479-575-8418 </li></ul>