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October 24, 2008

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WorldWideScience.org: The Global Science Gateway

This search gateway provides free federated search access to science databases from government agencies worldwide. The links to this gateway and the Science.gov gateway are available on the library's Science Web Resources page.

Selected highlights (from Online Databases: Science Info Without Borders by Carol Tenopir):

WorldWideScience.org includes government-sponsored science content from more than 50 member countries and 40 international portals, as well as everything covered by Science.gov. With the addition of China as a member in August, the portal, Warnick says, “will soon reach a billion pages.”

Coverage varies quite a bit by country and region. The main source from Africa is African Journals Online, a collection of 320 journals covering medical, agricultural, and other science topics either by African authors or with an African focus. Brazil offers Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciElO), which includes 211 Brazilian STM journals.

Material available from the United States and Canada is quite extensive, including technical reports, books, conference proceedings, and journals. The Indian Institute of Science provides access to electronic theses and dissertations, though some countries, such as New Zealand, offer (as of August 2008) only historical or limited data.

The federated search architecture used by WorldWideScience.org allows access with a single query. Upon execution, the system contacts the partner sites all over the world, runs the search on each database in real time, and returns the results to the U.S. server.

The system then ranks the returned search results by relevancy and allows the searcher to select which documents to display.

The results screen also includes a link to the Wikipedia entry on the search term to give an overview of the topic, which especially helps laypeople or scientists searching outside their primary area of expertise. Finally, WorldWideScience.org also presents results divided into clusters, so searches can be refined by topic or date.