When you're looking for basic info, standard web search results are fine. But searching the web at work, we (researchers, writers, managers, and other professionals) deserve better, both in terms of what information is searched, and how the results are presented. I've been experimenting with Infovell, a site with a unique take on searching scholarly information (they currently offer free trials). Although Infovell now emphasizes life science and medicine, I believe their approach could include other relevant information on the so-called deep web. This screen shot is an example of how they're different: As described below, I've done some testing on my own.
Worth a look. I searched Infovell for findings on 'blood pressure fish oil' -- and was quite impressed. As these screen shots show, rather than return an ordinary list of links, their site:
- Allows users to create folders and save searches,
- Provides a visual indicator showing the source of the information (such as the journal name), and
- Groups results by data source (such as "Clinical Trials").
What are others saying? According to EContent, "Infovell’s new research engine is based on its KeyPhrase algorithm, which indexes words and phrases. The technology works in any language and can handle queries up to 25,000 characters. Infovell also comes with filtering and visualization features." Read/Write Web described Infovell this way: "The engine scours through open-access repositories of information like PubMed Central and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Claims, but it also allows access to scholarly journals such as those from Oxford University Press, SAGE, Taylor & Francis, Annual Reviews, Mary Ann Liebert Publications, and more."
PhysOrg.com offers a good explanation of the basic deep-web problem: "While many popular Web sites are specifically designed to be search-engine friendly, a lot of deep Web content is unstructured, making it difficult for keyword-based search engines to index. Further, the deep Web does not receive much traffic, meaning these pages don´t have many incoming links and therefore aren´t ranked highly by systems such as Google´s PageRank. And for private sites, barriers such as registration and subscription requirements also make it difficult for search engines to access them."
Why hasn't Google done this? Google Scholar offers relevant results, but the presentation isn't very good -- no visual indicators, and just a traditional list of results without sophisticated management such as grouping. Here's what I got for 'blood pressure fish oil':
Compares favorably to the status quo. Infovell saves time by searching lots of publishers at once -- and its display of results is better than what you'll get from a traditional journal. Here's my fish oil* search on the Sage site (which offers free access during October, as I wrote about recently). Note that this result also appeared in my Infovell search, because Sage journals are included.
Should information be free? Dean Giustini on the Open Medicine blog expressed enthusiasm for improved search results, but was not thrilled about Infovell's subscription fee. I have no doubt that access to academic research and other peer-reviewed pubs will eventually be free -- it's just a matter of how the business models will change, and when (not sure I'll live long enough to see it!). In the mean time, I expect many people will find that Infovell's subscription fee is worth it.