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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Google closes off free, public access to scholarly literature

The official Google Blog today makes exploring the scholarly neighborhood sound like a walk in the park. They have improved the service by providing links to related documents.

What they don't tell you, however, is that the search service now only links to front-end citation pages for article archives that charge membership fees or download fees.

Many of these scholarly articles have been freely indexed on the Web in the form of .PDF files and .HTML pages. If they are still there, Google has apparently now helped to bury them deeply back in the "invisible web", that segment of the World Wide Web that surfers mostly cannot reach through search engines.

Since the interface for Google Scholar has just been redesigned, one can suppose that maybe an entirely new crawl is required to repopulate the index. However, relying on fee-based article archives is hardly the best way to bring humanity's knowledge closer to people's finger tips.


Blogger dancing bear said...

Marching foreward....into the past. Shades of 1980 and command line tools for dumb terminals tied into the unix powered military-tech school network. Now that browser searches have pretty much killed gopher and wais searches for info, Google has to join in the commercialization of the net, even though they are currently the most profitable business to leverage it's technology. This goes counter to tewenty thousand years of human history; all information wants to be free. Not just as in freedom, but as in free beer as well. All human technology and knowledge has been acquired by being able to build on the knowledge and experiences of our predecessors and contemporaries. Patents should not be a stranglehold on thought or innovation, just as 'intellectual property rights' should only cover instances of plagarism without attribution. History shows that innovation and increases in knowledge have come at an exponential rate when it was freely shared, and slowed to a crawl, or was lost when it was kept secret. Placing 'scholarly' (read: technical)articles in a proprietary archive, and obfuscating simple searches for this information, is equivalent to the mindset of medieval clerics who destroyed the accumulated knowledge of the classical European civilizations, while keeping selected revisions of this information for their private use. It could be argued that this was responsible for the Dark Ages in Europe, we don't need to make the same mistake twice.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Nortius Maximus said...

It's sad.

But it's also an invitation for someone else to become the science paper search engine.

I would guess that none of the other commercial players will make any such position public. But a few anonygeeks with a few bucks ought to be able to run a small pool of crawlers-on-a-t3, it seems to me. And perhaps have a presence in (say) .fi ...

Just thinking out loud here. Is anyone listening? :)

11:36 PM  

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