Brussels, 14 Apr 2004
The popular search engine Google has launched a pilot project with 17 universities around the world, including institutes in Italy and the UK, aimed at improving access to research papers using the Internet.
The initiative builds on the development of so-called superarchives, first pioneered by project partner the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and since adopted by many other leading institutions, which are used to store the research papers, reports and other work of a university's academic staff.
Google has indexed university web pages for some time, but the new project aims to allow Internet users to limit their searches to these on-campus libraries of research material. It is hoped that this will help people find relevant results from among the ever-increasing tangle of information available on the web, as well as promote the free publication of research and the circulation of ideas.
MacKenzie Smith, associate director of technology for MIT's libraries, said: 'A lot of times the richest scholarly literature is buried. As more and more content is on the web, it's harder and harder to find the high quality stuff that you need.'
The participating universities have all electronically labelled the material in their archives with metadata tags, which will allow Google's search engine to sort through the information and present the most relevant results.
The UK partner in the project, Cranfield University, got involved in the hope that the new system would create a higher profile for its mainly industry-oriented research. 'It is a means for us to spread the word about Cranfield, for business to buy into our work and find out what we do,' explained Simon Bevan, the university's systems information manager.
Having already established and used their own superarchive at Cranfield University, Mr Bevan admits that some staff remain reluctant to publish their research in the repository before it has been subject to peer review in a scientific journal. However, it is precisely through the information being made available before publication in subscription journals that the partners hope to promote the free circulation of research.
'A lot of universities found resistance by academics to doing this work. Hopefully this will encourage our academics to submit their work, and they will benefit,' added Mr Bevan.
If all goes well with the pilot project, the new search feature could appear in the advanced search section of the website within a few months.