Stay up to date the (e)asy way

June 29, 2001

Alison McNab looks at the best e-solutions for keeping pace with news, research and publications without spending hours scouring the internet.

Online access to primary and secondary sources has never been greater, but sifting through the mountain of academic and retail websites, e-journals and news groups can be a tedious, time-consuming task. Those who are established in their fields will have their tried and trusted resources, but could still probably benefit from casting the net a little further afield, while postgraduates aiming to build contacts can always use a little help. The most efficient way to keep on top of all the information available is to register with the appropriate awareness services.

Most academic libraries provide guidance on these types of resources through their webpages, and library staff can advise on the facilities offered by subscription databases, such as the Cambridge Scientific Abstracts Internet Database Service, which has a Saved Alerts feature that allows users to store search profiles. Every week, this is automatically run against selected databases and the results emailed to the user.

A particularly useful service is Mind-it. This free service enables users to register an unlimited number of webpages and emails alerts of any changes and updates.

To receive information about new journal articles, there are two main approaches. Tables of contents (Toc) services from publishers or aggregators, such as Ingenta Research Alerts, Uncover Reveal or Zetoc, can deliver details by journal title, while Uncover Reveal and a range of subscription databases can provide information by subject, based on user-created search profiles.

Since last autumn, UK higher and further education institutions have had free access to Zetoc, which is based on the British Library's electronic table of contents data.

ZetocAlert is a Toc alerting service that will email the contents pages of chosen journals.

Delivery of Tocs by email can replace and extend browsing journals in the library, and filtering options in many email packages can help manage information overload. For example, a filter can be set up to channel all Toc mailings into a folder for reference at a later date, or they can be exported to bibliographic software packages such as EndNote or Reference Manager.

Publishers still produce printed catalogues listing new and forthcoming monographs, but increasingly this information is available on their websites. But most researchers will be interested in titles from a range of publishing houses and it is tedious to search sites individually. Some services such as  Bookmark Alerting from the Institute of Physics Bookstore offer regular email notification of new titles. Amazon and the Internet Bookshop offer email alerting, while multi-publisher services are available from BOOKNews, with announcements of science, technology and medical titles. Computer Bookshops offers a weekly list of new titles.

New official publications are regularly mentioned in the press - often with incomplete bibliographic detail. Details of these can be picked up quickly. The Stationery Office produces an online Daily List of new publications as well as advance information on titles. Subscription services Bopcas and Ukop both offer email alerting in a range of topic areas.

For European Union sources, Euractiv reports on events in the EU, with links to dossiers on policy areas. The Week in Europe provides a weekly summary of events in the EU and can be delivered be email.

For those who need to keep up to date with  news items and press releases, a range of services exist to deliver headline information, including the Daily News and Press Review newsletters ( Alerts ) available to THES subscribers.

Science Policy Information News, from the Wellcome Trust, is a weekly newsletter that provides "rapid access to concise digests of articles relating to science policy". It provides excellent one-stop access to a digest of news from publications including The THES , Research Fortnight , the British Medical Journal , Nature and Science .

Ananova offers alerts by email. The Ananova alerting catalogue contains more than 2,500 subjects in nine main categories. Each has predefined groups and sub-groups: for example, an alert for universities can be found under News/Education/Universities. offers email sign-up and web browsing of a wide range of news feeds.

Northern Light is a search engine (for both the web and Northern Light's special collection - a full-text "library" of pay-per-view articles). The search alert service offers personalised email updates on chosen topics.

In order to monitor specific web pages, or even part of a page, Mind-it can help. It  offers the option of monitoring part of a page using the Highlighter feature. This service is also useful for monitoring the What's New links offered by many internet portals and subject gateways.

Tapping into appropriate electronic discussion lists and newsgroups can be invaluable and many of the UK higher education lists are hosted by JISCmail ( ) - although searching and browsing for discussion lists in particular subject areas has not yet been implemented.

Discussion lists and newsgroups often release details of calls for papers for conferences. These can also be found at websites that host general and discipline-specific services. These include listings from National Information Services and Systems, the Community of Science, the Scholarly Societies Project and WorldMEET.

Alison McNab is academic services manager at Loughborough University Library, where she maintains the website "Keeping your research up to date - awareness services":
She will be joining the Joint Information Systems Committee as collections manager for the distributed national electronic resource in July.

Individual registration may be required for some of the resources mentioned.

Where to go to get the most from the web:

Keeping your research up to date - awareness services  (includes links to all the resources discussed above)
Bookmark Alerting
Internet Bookshop
Computer Bookshops Ltd
The Stationery Office:
Daily List of new publications
and advance information on titles
The Week in Europe
Spin  (Science Policy Information News)
Northern Light
What's New links
Forthcoming conferences  (points at hosts of general and discipline-specific services)
The Community of Science
The Scholarly Societies Project

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