Thursday, 28 November 2013

Am I bovered, though?

There have been a few rumours flying around that Thomson Reuters, who own the well-known database 'Web of Knowledge,' were going to withdraw the contents of their database from Primo Central - known to you and I as the 'Articles & more' quick search in Library Search - and other aggregator services such as Summon and Ebsco.

Without trying to denigrate Web of Knowledge at all, my response to this was "Do I look bovered?"  The fact is that most (if not all) the content would still be included from other sources (Elsevier, JSTOR, etc), so it would make little difference. 

In any case, for most of the subjects I support, the existing 'Articles & more' (with or without Web of Knowledge) is of dubious benefit, and I prefer to direct students either to an alternative aggregator (namely Google Scholar) or (and this is my preference) to good quality specialist databases - namely Proquest Art databases, JSTOR, or Art Full Text, or FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals.

The reason for Thomson Reuter's apparent hesitancy with regard to aggregated search was said to be that they wanted users to use their interface as their primary search environment for authoritative search.  And I can see why.  Web of Knowledge is unique amongst multidisciplinary databases in that their principal feature is how few, rather than how many journals it indexes.  They pride themselves on quality, and exclusivity.  In the sciences in particular, this is a great advantage, making this a leading databases in science - and in particular for systematic reviews.

Within the arts and humanities, Web of Knowledge, is used much less frequently, despite there being a specific index for arts & humanities (the Arts & Humanities Citation Index).  This currently indexes only 82 art journals (I think only three of these are specific to photography) and only 33 journals in the areas of film, radio and TV.  So, quite limited;  however, as these are reckoned to be  the most influential journals in the relevant field (by the panel appointed by Web of Science to decide these things) it is worth looking to see which are the chosen journals.

Subsequent to the rumours, Web of Science has issued a statement confirming that they are in fact not withdrawing their records from Primo Central.  They have also announced that they will be collaborating with Google Scholar to provide seamless movement to and from Web of Knowledge, which will be interesting (and might help revitalise both).  This is a neat collaboration given that an early article setting out the principles of Google’s algorithm back in 1998, cited Eugene Garfield - founder of ISI, who originally developed Web of Knowledge.

Web of Knowledge will also be launching a new interface early next year, which should make searching their current - rather difficult - interface easier.  I look forward to it.

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