A challenge to Google

June 29, 2007

Your report about the dangers of the "Google grab-bag" ("Web threatens learning ethos", June 22) leads me to think that we need an academic Google equivalent with an academic bias in its searches.

If found on every university website, it would quickly become the search engine of choice for students and academics. Besides prioritising .ac addresses (so directing students towards our institutional digital depositories), it should do something that not even Google can do: search "behind" Athens and Shibboleth passwords. Much valuable data is held there because copyright, commercial or personal sensitivities restrict it to educational use. This is true for much moving and still-image data, data relating to market research and commercially applied processes. Equally hard to find are the treasures behind weird acronyms such as Bopcris or Trilt. And now that the Arts and Humanities Data Service has an uncertain future there will be a rising number of orphaned digital assets lurking on university servers as the residue of past research projects. All these resources need a specialised search engine provided on a national basis. A role for Jisc perhaps?

John Ellis
Royal Holloway, University of London

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