Magazine article Information Today

PubSCIENCE Joins the Endangered Species List. (New Break)

Magazine article Information Today

PubSCIENCE Joins the Endangered Species List. (New Break)

Article excerpt

PubSCIENCE, a database produced by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) in partnership with the Government Printing Office and several scholarly publishers, faces almost immediate closure. A notice posted to its Web site (http://pubsci.osti.gov) announced the DOE's proposal to discontinue PubSCIENCE because private-sector companies such as Scirus and Infotrieve offer comparable services. The comment period ended on September 8. OSTI estimates it will take several weeks to tabulate the hundreds of comments received.

Scirus is owned by Elsevier Science and is powered by FAST. It searches across the Web and journal literature, purportedly with a bent toward scientific data. Infotrieve is a document delivery company that specializes in science, technology, and medicine. The long-term viability of both can be called into question, as Scirus is close to being a demonstration site for FAST's technology coupled with Elsevier's content. Infotrieve, as a privately held, smallish company, is subject to the vagaries of global economic conditions. Did the government consult with these companies before citing them as the reason to possibly shut PubSCIENCE down? "No," says Wes Crews, Infotrieve's CEO. "We didn't know about it until we saw the notice, but we're pleased that the government recognized we have a better value proposition than they do."

PubSCIENCE launched in October 1999 with the mission of providing free Web search capabilities for journal article abstracts and citations in the physical sciences. Reading the abstract is free, but hyperlinking to the full text generally involves paying for the article. The collection contains over 1,200 journal titles from 35 publishers, including both professional associations (American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, American Society for Microbiology, Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics) and private publishers (Blackwell Science, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Nature Publishing Group, Springer-Verlag, and Taylor & Francis Publishers, Ltd.). A few university presses also contribute to the database. Clearly modeled after PubMed, PubSCIENCE wanted to attract scientists and the general public to its information. Noting that the U.S. federal government funds 80 to 90 percent of scientific researc h and development, DOE touts PubSCIENCE as a significant taxpayer benefit.

The private sector never saw it that way. Since its inception, PubSCIENCE has been a target. Database producers and some scholarly publishers felt threatened by the free availability of peer-reviewed scientific information. The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) is on record as opposing what it sees as unfair competition from the government. In testimony on July 11,2001, before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs on the E-Government Act of 2001 (S.803), SIIA said, "The Department of Energy's PubSCIENCE presents an ongoing example of the inappropriate role of government in providing access to nong-government information."

David LeDuc, SIIA's director of public policy, reacted to the imminent closure of PubSCIENCE with pleasure, adding that his association "looks forward to the resolution of this issue." He was unclear, however, about the decision process, stating that since there were still several weeks to go in the comment process, it's too early, he believes, to unequivocally declare PubSCIENCE inoperative.

On this issue, LeDuc is in agreement with the DOE itself. …

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