Magazine article Information Today

Should PubSCIENCE Go the Way of Caesar?

Magazine article Information Today

Should PubSCIENCE Go the Way of Caesar?

Article excerpt

Friends, information professionals, fellow taxpayers! Lend me your ears. I come to bury PubSCIENCE, not to praise it. And I'm not using that trick of Antony's, who praised Caesar in his eulogy. I do think that PubSCIENCE should be killed. As Brutus said, "Hear me for my cause" to find out why.

The Global View

Clearly, I'm in the 25-percent minority who-according to a recent Information Today, Inc. Snap Poll (http://www.kmworld .com/resources/itipolls/index.cfm?action= viewpoll&Poll_ID=16)-agrees with the idea. Library associations issued alerts that described PubSCIENCE as an "extremely important" database and distributed boilerplate letters to senators that fiercely opposed its discontinuation. It is for sure an uphill battle, but it may be worth the fight to channel the readers' energy (and the congressional appropriations) to support other, far more worthy government databases. Even if PubSCIENCE gets appropriations-or more likely, gets discontinued but not removed-it wouldn't be prudent to support it, let alone use it in lieu of the much better alternatives.

I'm not going to elaborate on what a staunch supporter I have been of the free (or "prepaid," to borrow Marylaine Block's far better term) government online information services. What I am against is earmarking appropriations for government databases that in the past have basked in both the glory and money, but that did very little to enhance their content and services.

Seven Reasons Not to Weep for PubSCIENCE

1. It has only half the claimed unique records. PubSCIENCE is built on a 960,000-- record subset of the Energy Science and Technology (ES&T) database, which it refers to as the DOE (Department of Energy) Database. The other subset of about 368,750 bibliographic records is submitted by publishers who cooperate with the DOE's Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI). This would be more than 1.3 million records (as opposed to the "over 2 million" claimed in many documents). The number of unique records in PubSCIENCE, however, may hardly exceed the 1 million mark. There's an excessive proportion of duplicate and triplicate records as illustrated in Figure 1.

There are two other separate databases offered by the DOE, which include about 2.1 million and 3.7 million records from the ES&T database, respectively, that have far more comprehensive indexing and abstracting and far fewer duplicates. More about them later.

2. There are only 34 contributing publishers. The two dozen speeches delivered since the launch of the database mention differing numbers of contributing publishers. An article by OSTI's executive director in the Winter 2001 edition of Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship (http:// www.library.ucsb.edu/istl/01-winter/article2 .html) read, "More than 40 publisher agreements provide PubSCIENCE patrons the capability to search and access almost two million records in more than 1,300 journal titles of peer-reviewed scientific and technical information." The official pamphlet [DOE/OSTI-CO79 (1/01)] lists 42 contributors. There are no publisher-submitted records from Oxford University Press, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, or the American Society of Civil Engineers, or from a few other partners that PubSCIENCE has touted for 3 years. Marcel Dekker, Inc.'s grand total contribution of three records is not exactly a sign of enthusiasm for this partnership.

3. There are fewer than 1,000 journals. The PR materials refer to 1,200-1,400 journals for which the publishers supply bibliographic records. However, there are records for less than that. The PubSCIENCE Web site (http://pubsci.osti.gov/publishers journaltitles.html) identifies 928 titles, but there are publisher-submitted records for only some of them, and for only some of the time. The American Meteorological Society simply can't submit records for the 27 journals that OSTI credits to it (as well as to the genuine contributor, thus double counting) because it publishes only 10 journals, not counting its abstracting-and-indexing publication-which it will certainly not offer for free to PubSCIENCE. …

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