New Online Tools for Scholars: 2

Science  20 Sep 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5282, pp. 1637
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5282.1637


The scholars of today's Internet-intensive community are on a constant quest for more and fresher information. It seems as though no matter what has already come across our monitors, we yearn for that particular high-impact fact that will open new vistas, provide new options, or confirm our ideas. Bearing this in mind, Science is making some major additions to the ways our information is distributed to readers. As most readers of this column will be aware, Science On-Line (now carried on the World Wide Web at http://www.sciencemag.org/), jointly developed with HighWire Press of the Stanford University Library (http://highwire.stanford.edu/), began 10 months ago (see Science, 3 November 1995 or find it online at http://science-mag.aaas.org/science/home/search.html) to provide the full Table of Contents (organized by subject area with links between related features), the weekly Editorial, and This Week in Science, along with the abstracts of all original Research Articles and Reports and summaries of all other features including News items. Science On-Line has also provided access to Science's Electronic Marketplace, the Science Professional Network, and Science's Next Wave, all of which seem to have attracted a loyal and growing readership through the Web.

Effective with this week's issue, Science On-Line will contain the full text and graphics of all scientific Articles and Reports, as well as the Letters to the Editor and Policy Forums. The online content will contain links from cited references to their electronically linkable sources—abstracts and sometimes even the full text of cited articles—when available. Within a few weeks, the full text of the entire News section of each weekly issue of Science will also be available. The remaining editorial sections of the printed magazine (Perspectives with enhancements, Book Reviews, and Technical Comments) will join Science On-Line over the next few months.

What does this mean for our readers? First, these additional resources should be highly useful tools for all scholars, especially those who are already overloaded with information. We will soon be enhancing our existing search engines to provide still faster recovery of specific items selected by authors, dates, or key words. The search results will not only indicate if the item is an Article, Report, or News story, but for all issues after this week, search “hits” will link to the full-text item. Of course, the search results will continue to reveal threads that weave together our coverage of related topics, including, for example, links from scientific papers and news stories to letters that comment on them, and vice versa.

Second, Science On-Line will be a tool that can make the international playing field of information delivery somewhat more level. Distant readers whose access to Science depends on mail delivery have previously been at a disadvantage, but now all the full-text online materials will be available each week around 5 p.m. Eastern Time, after the news embargoes are lifted. This means that all readers who use the electronic distribution will be able to read online or to print out the full text of all reports, not just those selected by the news media for special attention. Another important benefit of electronic distribution is the opportunity for readers to provide feedback to us. As the end of the year approaches, we request that readers tell us what novel results of 1996 they would rank as having major impact within their fields or on science generally (see the nomination form at http://www.aaas.org/Science/Nomination/1996.html).

Science On-Line is not quite boldly going where no other journals have gone before, but it is the first weekly scientific newsmagazine and journal to offer electronic delivery of the full content every week. The Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Neuroscience, who share our cyberspace travel guides at HighWire Press, have preceded us in this full-text launching, as have the Journal of Physical Chemistry and many others. Additional journals have announced plans to do so. As more and more information becomes available for online recovery, it will become less important to try to filter printed journals for interesting items. Those interesting items will be waiting online for you to retrieve when needed, if you have the access. Aha, you ask, how long will this free access last and how can it be ensured? Our plans are—naturally—online at http://www.sciencemag.org/science/home/faq.shtml. We seek your feedback.