A review of the Scopus iPhone App

A little while ago I downloaded the new iPhone app from Scopus, called Scopus Alert Lite.  I have finally had a chance to explore it.

A screen shot of the search screen from the Scopus Alerts Lite iPhone App

The app is free, although your institution will need a subscription to Scopus in order for you to use it.  Theoretically, you should be able to register using your Scopus user id and password, plus the email address from the institution that provides your subscription.  This may encourage some users to sign up for an account.  Most of the users I know (faculty and students) don’t realize the benefits of creating a user account with the databases they use.  This simple authentication didn’t work for me, and it took several emails to Scopus support to resolve the issue.  The app does provide a button to contact support if you fail to authenticate, which was how I got in contact with the folks that resolved the problem.

Despite the challenges of registering, I believe that when it works, this is one of the better ways of authenticating subscription content for the iPhone.  You can use it anywhere, you don’t have to be on your campus WiFi network or use VPN (like the ACS app) or go through a proxy server (like some database mobile websites).

The app is rather slow to load, and several times I received an error message asking me to log in again.  Restarting the app seemed to solve the problem.

Because the app is focused on setting up citation and search alerts, not general searching, there are some limitations.

The biggest limitation is that, for any search, you can’t see more than 50 results, although it will tell you how many total results are available.  I think this is a badly needed feature.  I kept feeling like I was being short-changed.  You can change the sorting order of the results list.  The default is by date, but you can also sort by relevancy and citation count.

The second limitation seems to be with author searches.  Scopus.com has a very nice author ID feature, which helps you identify all works by the same individual no matter what permutation of their name each article uses.  The Scopus Alerts iPhone app doesn’t seem to take advantage of this feature.

Affiliation searches are very easy, allowing you to find publications from a particular institution.

For each of the articles found, you can get their citations and references (number of each and item information).  However, the app doesn’t provide links to publisher websites or institutional link resolvers to help you locate the full text (some publishers are providing their own apps for that.)

Unfortunately, alerts don’t transfer between web and iPhone – there is no way to access alerts you have already set up at Scopus.com, and it doesn’t appear that you can get your iPhone alerts on your computer at this time.

I am happy to see this first attempt at an app from Scopus.  Despite some challenges, I think their method of authentication is actually one of the easiest I’ve seen (once you set it up once, you are all set, and you don’t need to re-authenticate each time).  I hope to see some increased functionality in the future, especially access to additional search results.

You can read the complete official description of the iPhone app from Scopus (including an FAQ) on the Scopus website.

iPhone Apps for the Scientific Literature

There is no shortage of useful apps for scientists.  From compasses to calculators, the iPhone/iTouch has become a very useful tool for many scientists.

An increasing number of scientific literature producers are now offering Apps to let you search and read the scientific literature.  Here are a few:

 

iPhone sunset in the Andes
iPhone sunset in the Andes, courtesy of Flickr user Gonzalo Baeza Hernández

 

  • Nature.com – Free – From Nature Publishing Group, the folks who bring you the journal Nature.  You can search and browse journals, and read articles for free (until April 30, 2010).
  • ACS Mobile – $2.99 – From the American Chemical Society.  Browse and search across all ACS publications, get the latest news items from C&E News, and read full text articles for institutional subscribers via institutional WiFi or VPN.
  • PubMed On Tap – $2.99 – One of several applications available for searching PubMed, this app allows you to easily view PDF documents from PubMed Central and email them to yourself for future use.  Advanced searching techniques are also supported.
  • arXiview, ArXiv, ArXivReader – $0.99, Free, $0.99 – Multiple apps allow you to search papers deposited in the arXiv.org e-print repository for physics, math, computer science and quantitative biology
  • iResearch – Free – Browse and search journal articles from American Institute of Physics publications.  Access articles via institutional subscriptions.  Download articles for offline reading.
  • IOPscience Express – Free – Browse and search articles from the last two years from Institute of Physics publications

While there are a lot of useful apps for geologists, including a host of statewide geologic map applications, I can’t find any apps to search the geoscience literature.  In addition, there are notable gaps from some of the big science publishers including Springer and Elsevier.

Update (5/5/2010): Scopus (the citation database from Elsevier) now has an iPhone app.  They launched a “lite” app a couple of weeks ago, and so far I can’t find a paid app, but I’m guessing one might be coming.

Data, Data, Data – ScienceOnline2010

The other major theme to emerge from the sessions I attended at ScienceOnline2010 was data.  All kinds of data.

Data storage - old and new
Data storage - old and new. Courtesy of Flickr user lan-S

Data about articles and journals.  Data about oceans and fish and climate.  Data about scientists, their DNA, their babies (and their babies DNA too, I suppose).

20 years ago, getting your hands on a data set meant knowing someone who knew someone who might be able to send you a disc.

These days, more and more data sets are being shared on the open web.  Sometimes they are easy to find and use, and sometimes not so much.  Sometimes the data require a bit of skill with Excel, and sometimes the data require multiple servers and extensive programming skills.

But it’s out there.

I attended a very interesting session led by John Hogenesch about cloud computing. Some of this was way over my head – I’m not as familiar with bioinformatics as I’d like to be one day, and I only have minimal knowledge of how geneticists are actually using this information.  None-the-less, it was informative to learn about the various trends in cloud computing.  Some of them I am already very familiar with – like wiki’s, Gmail, Google Docs.  I learned more about some services that I only know a bit about.  For example, Google Knol is being used by PLoS to write and publish their “Currents Influenza” online.  Since the authoring, editing and publishing is done online, the journal can quickly get items published and available.  I learned about some services that allow for remote storage and query of information, and how these services can be less expensive (and easier to run) than hosting your own servers.

Jacqueline Floyd and Chris Rowan presented a session on “Earth Science, Web 2.0+, and Geospatial Applications”.  Since my background is in geology, I was particularly intrigued by some of the resources discussed here.  The discussion at the end of the talk centered around some of the difficulties of finding spatial information (some of which I have discussed before).  For example, the USGS provides a wide range of spatial data – geophysical data, hydrological data, geologic data.  Some of this is easier to find (and use) than others.  For example, recent earthquake data is available is an easy to use Google Earth format, but data older than one month requires more complicated searching  (including detailed latitude and longitude coordinates) and the search output requires manipulation to create a visualization.  It could be easier.

One of the last sessions I attended at the conference was a presentation by PLoS managing editor Peter Binfield about article level metrics.  Peter discussed some of the things that the PLoS journals are doing to attempt to measure the impact of individual articles, not the entire journal.  The new metrics were announced in a blog post last summer, and you can see the metrics at work on any article in any of the PLoS journals.  They are using open data and API’s from lots of sources: social bookmarking (like CiteULike and Connotea), citation information (from Google Scholar and Scopus), page views and PDF downloads and lots more.  I think that this is an exciting new way to shed more light on what is going on with individual articles, but there are some challenges ahead.  How will tenure committees analyze this stuff? (Will they bother?)  What does it mean if your article was only downloaded 300 times but your colleague (in a larger discipline like genetics) had an article downloaded 3000 times?  And all of this data they are collecting can lead to lots of analysis.  Librarians have traditionally used citation analysis as a way of understanding the literature of a community, and hopefully these new metrics will give them more tools to use.

Libraries and the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013

The ever popular Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013 has been published, once again making me feel old and young at the same time. Several items on the list pertain specifically to libraries:

4.  They have never used a card catalog to find a book.

This is excellent! Despite the many deficiencies of our current OPACs (and the deficiency of the acronym OPAC), our online catalogs are infinitely superior to their paper predecessors.  We have spent a lot of time in our library trying to our OPAC, and we will soon be directing our users to Worldcat Local instead of our own catalog because Worldcat Local has a much better search interface.

14.  Text has always been hyper.

For our incoming freshman, born in 1991, the internet has pretty much always existed.  They didn’t have an A ha! moment when discovering Amazon.com for the first time, thinking about how it changed book buying.  These students have probably always assumed that information could be found online, and the idea of a CD-ROM encyclopedia is probably pretty funny.

34.  They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.

Although eBook readers have taken off in recent years, especially with the introduction of the Kindle, the ability to read a book on a computer screen has been around for ages.  Recent developments in book standards from SONY and other eBook manufacturers, Barnes and Nobles release of an eBook store without a stand alone reader, and many other recent developments in the eBook market make this a time of quick change in how books are accessed and read.

72.  Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.

I think that students will have less tolerance for the way that different types of information are segregated.  We have traditionally segregated books, articles, reference materials etc. physically and online by telling our users to use different search tools to find different materials.  Why?  How often does it really matter?  Certainly some assignments ask students to find X number of articles, books etc., but often they just need appropriate information.  Shouldn’t we be able to search across all kinds of material and make decisions about appropriateness of the format once we find it?

Read the list – it will make you feel old as you think “I remember that!” and you may feel young if you look at items and think “Hmm, I didn’t know that existed.”

Libraries and mobile devices

Our new mobile web page
Our new mobile web page

Today is the Handheld Librarian conference. You can follow the tweets from the conference.  Around 11am I wish I had registered for it. Looking at all of the tweets about the technical problems, I’m not so disappointed. I am hoping that some of the information will be made available later on, because this is a subject I have been thinking about a lot for my library.

Recently, I created a very basic mobile webpage for our library.  At the moment, it contains three main pieces of information:  library hours, contact information, and links to a (very) few databases with mobile interfaces.

In my search for databases to include on this list, I was surprised by the low number of vendors with such interfaces.  I also wondered exactly how users would use these mobile resources.

In addition, we have been paying attention to what is happening with Kindle eBook readers.  There seems to be a lot of debate about how/if libraries can lend these out or take advantage of the eBook market in anyway.

I am an avid reader of eBooks on my iPhone, through the Kindle reader for iPhone and now the new Barnes and Noble eBook reader.  So far, the Kindle reader is easier to use.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other libraries are doing with mobile devices to provide content and services.

A day in my life as an undergraduate science librarian

I decided to follow along with a librarian blog meme, the “library day in the life“.  Since it is the summer, my day today is much different than a day during the semester.  The most notable difference is the lack of meetings.  Although the summer is a great time to make changes and get projects done, it can be very difficult to pull together all of the interested individuals.

Photo 4

7:55am – Arrive at work, Make tea.  The day can officially start.

8-8:30am – Check email, calendar.  Lots of folks are on vacation this week, which seems to account for my lack of meetings today.  Accept some future meeting invitations, decline others.  Realize that one librarian who had reference desk hours today won’t be here.  Email colleagues to see if we can split her hours.  Wishing Oracle calendar could actually interface with other things (esp. iPhone)

8:30am – Write up a blog post about our switch from SciFinder Client version to SciFinder Web.  Checking to see if appropriate URLs have been added to our proxy server so folks can get to SciFinder off campus.

8:50am – Got distracted by Explored Barnes and Noble’s new eBook reader for iPhone.  I already have the Kindle reader for iPhone, which I love.  I’d like to encourage some competition in the eBook market, though, so I think my next few purchases will be from B&N.

9:00am – First reference shift of the day, substituting for an absent colleague.   With very few students on campus, and even fewer in the library, this is very slow.  One person asked for tape, but no reference questions.

10am – Another hour of reference for absent colleague.  I will have three hours of reference today, one more than usual.

While at the reference desk this morning I manage to:

  • Catch up on a few blogs
  • Chat with our Sys admin to get some ezproxy settings changed for the switch to SciFinder web
  • Resolve a broken link in the blog post I just wrote
  • Smile and wave at a tour group as they point out the research help desk
  • Review a list of action items for a campus wide committee I’m on
  • Figure out why a link won’t work in our Resources by Subject lists
  • Explore possible ways of fixing that link, which is being problemmatic.
  • Finally fix the troublesome link
  • Smile and wave again at another tour group
  • Added google analytics to our new mobile webpages
  • Answered 1 reference question (How to find a copy of Civilization and its Discontents)

11:00am – Make tea, get a snack.

11:10am – Start cleaning desk.  Constant distractions as I stop to look up interesting things from the pieces of paper I should be throwing away or filing.  Some of the interesting things:

  • Math books from the MAA
  • IOP Librarian Forum on Facebook
  • Articles from sample copies of magazines I picked up at SLA 2009 in June
  • Finally figured out how to import our library blog to our library Facebook page. Did the same thing for my own blog on my own Facebook page. Also claimed the vanity URL for our library page.

12:15pm – Read an article about “making chat widgets work for online reference” from Online magazine (not freely available online).  Passed it along to a colleague who is on the committee working to implement web chat here.

12:30pm – Lunch.  Tried to read a Barnes and Noble eBook on my iPhone, but spent 15 minutes trying to “unlock” the book with my credit card number.  Why can’t I just log in to my B&N account?  Kindle reader wins this round.

1pm – Committee Meeting – “Creating a Collaborative Research Center”. I am on a campus committee here to look at ways to increase collaborative research (and the funding for that research).

2pm – Back on the reference desk, updating the Geology subject guideDistracted by Explored the neat search options on Mindat.org.  Finished adding some excellent resources.  Emailed faculty to inform them of the changes and to ask for additional suggestions.

3pm – Finally answered a real reference question just as my reference shift was ending.  Student was looking to see if we had any of the movies she had to watch for an assignment (most were checked out, but one was still available).

3:30pm – Head home.  I’m leaving early on Monday and Tuesday of this week to spend some time with my family.  This helps balance out all the times during the semester where I will stay late.

Finding Geologic Maps Online

New (or New to Me) from the USGS

Try finding a geologic map of a specific location, and you may run into some trouble.  Not because these maps don’t exist, or because they aren’t online (many of them are), they are just very tricky to find.

The recently updated Geologic Map of North America
The recently updated Geologic Map of North America (2005)

Traditionally, users needed to be able to search for a term that describes the geographical area covered.  Sometimes this is straightforward:  “New York State” or “North America”.  But sometimes it can get confusing: if you would like geologic information about Chautauqua County in New York State, would the New Your State map give you enough detail?  What about a geologic map of Western New York, or the Appalachian low-lands, or the Lake Erie Plain?  There are many, many ways to describe a geographical area in words, often making it difficult to find what you want.

The National Geologic Map Database Data Portal from the USGS attempts to take the guesswork out of this, by allowing users to use a map of the United States to identify the area they need information on, and connect them to a relevant geologic map (either online or in print).

It is still a bit quirky (it is still labeled a prototype) but it is a huge step in the right direction for ease of use.

The National Geologic Map Database Catalog can also be searched in a more traditional manner, allowing users to locate print and online maps.

Additional resources for geologic maps.

  • About.com has a fairly good page linking to images of state geologic maps.  Some of the links don’t work anymore, but those that do images could give users a good overview of state geology.
  • Texas A&M University Library has digitized the Geologic Atlas of the United States, a series of maps and information published by the USGS between 1894 and 1945.  These maps sets offer great detail, in an easy to use online interface, although they are older.
  • The OneGeology Portal is a world-wide project hoping to provide easy online access to geologic map information from around the globe.  It is a partnership of national geologic surveys.  Additional information about the project can be found here.

Of course, all of this assumes that you are simply looking for an image of a map.  If you are looking for GIS geologic data, that is a whole different story!