USTLG Spring 2000 meeting – Research support

Tuesday 9th May 2000, UMIST


*Report by Lindy Wilson, Durham University
**Report by Biddy Casselden, University of Northumbria at Newcastle

SciFinder Scholar
Diana Leitch, University of Manchester

Diana Leitch began by lamenting the decline in use of subject specific products in information gathering. The HE sector within the UK appears to be increasingly reliant on a single database for its information needs. Use of the Web of Science (WoS) and BIDS-ISI databases comprises 85% of total JISC database usage, with a combined total of only 15% for the remaining JISC databases – Biosis, Embase, Compendex, INSPEC etc.etc. Diana suggested that we need to consider whether individuals are using the services most appropriate to their needs and whether WoS will be able to cope with demand once BIDS-ISI is withdrawn.

Diana described the position at Manchester regarding the major information source for chemical information – Chemical Abstracts (CA).

Minimal use of paper copies of CA, determined by monitoring usage over several years, and an analysis of the costs involved in buying and binding the publication, eventually led to the cancellation of the paper version. Manchester already subscribed to a networked version of CA on CD-ROM and became the first university in the UK to subscribe to SciFinder Scholar, which provides online access to Chemical Abstracts Service data ( Manchester’s initial subscription did not allow substructure searching and had restricted hours of access, but this has recently been upgraded to 24 hour access including the substructure searching option. Paper copies of CA, although no longer updated, have retained a prominent position in the library collection to remind users that science did not begin in the 1960’s.

The computer network within Manchester University is accessible to members of UMIST. Such shared access is against the terms of the SciFinder Licensing Agreement, as a result SciFinder has not been made available across Manchester University’s network. Despite the resulting restricted access the service has been exceptionally well received.

Around 150 universities around the world have subscriptions to SciFinder. However, only four universities within the UK (Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Oxford) have agreed to participate in the offer negotiated by CHEST. The cost of the service to the UK is comparable to that offered to institutions within Australia, New Zealand and the USA, where use is widespread across the academic community. Diana suggested that the major difference is, that unlike the UK, the ISI database does not dominate within these regions. Some new pricing models have recently been sent to CHEST contacts of institutions that participated in trials of the SciFinder service last autumn. A yet to be negotiated multi-year deal may be the key to attracting more UK institutions to this vital resource for chemical information.

Lee Burrows

Lee Burrows presented an overview of PSIgate ( PSIgate will form the physical sciences hub of the Resource Discovery Network (RDN) and will follow a similar model to other JISC funded gateways, EEVL, Biome etc. Information professionals with expertise across the physical sciences will work towards providing a comprehensive catalogue of evaluated Internet resources. Dublin Core Cataloguing Rules will be used to aid accessibility. The majority of the material covered will be in English, with summaries provided for items in other languages. User support will be provided via e-mail. The service is being developed and managed by the Consortium of Academic Libraries in Manchester (CALIM).

Landolt Bornstein
Diana Leitch, University of Manchester

Diana Leitch described free web access to another major source of chemical data – Landolt Bornstein. This service is a large chemistry, physics, and technology data collection, consisting of basic research data for elementary particles, nuclei and atoms, physical chemistry, biophysics, geophysics, astrophysics and astronomy. Free Internet access, for the year 2000, for volumes published before 1990 is available to users who complete an online registration form and receive a personal access code.

ISI Chemistry Server & Derwent Innovations Index
Paul Meehan, MIMAS

Paul Meehan (standing in for Helen Schofield) provided an unbiased overview of two databases that are currently on trial across the UK – Dewent Innovations Index (DII) and ISI Chemistry Server.

DII is a patent database covering around 18 million patents issued by 40 different patent authorities, with some material dating back to 1963. Patents have a vital role to play in enabling researchers to analyse trends and ensure that work has not been done before but this is often overlooked because of the expensive nature of patent searching. DII is comprehensive and easy to search. Added features include descriptive patent titles and links to other patent services eg. the European Patent Office. The service is competitively priced (cf. traditional patent searching) and was highly recommended by Paul.

The ISI Chemistry Server claims to be a comprehensive chemical database covering organic chemistry and synthetic methods. However, its coverage is poor in comparison with other chemical databases – around 350 journal titles compared to the many thousands covered by CA. Structure and substructure searching is possible, but the drawing software is difficult to master. The service does have a number of good features – patent searching, reaction searching and search speed. However, the service is let down by a lack of coverage, poor software and an uncompetitive price.

ISI Web of Science Service
Ross MacIntyre, MIMAS

Ross MacIntyre described the timetable involved in launching the ISI Web of Science (WoS) database. Usage of the service is growing, but remains relatively low when compared with BIDS-ISI (which will be withdrawn on July 31), 27% WoS / 73% BIDS-ISI for April 2000. Comparisons of the percentage use of the two services within individual institutions will shortly be available from the MIMAS web site. Improvements to the service, including set searching will be introduced when version 5 is released, this will be towards the end of 2000. Ross is currently working towards obtaining funds to upgrade the WoS server. The service does not turn users away but response times decline when under heavy use. This was last seen in February, after which server capacity was improved. However, a server with four times the current power will be necessary to maintain response times for the next expected surge in demand during September 2000.

WoS does not offer an alerting feature. ISI will soon be offering a trial of Current Contents Connect. This is ISI’s standard alerting product, but it offers additional features and this is reflected in its price. Ross revealed that the British Library is currently considering offering free access to its current awareness product, Inside Alert.

The Wos Linkage Service allows the display of links within WoS to full-text documents when an institution’s subscription status permits access and where an agreement has been reached between WoS and the publisher concerned. Nineteen institutions have so far subscribed to the service. provides details of the service and the growing list of publishers involved. This product is unique to the UK , MIMAS have produced all documentation. Subscribing institutions are expected to add their own links to the database (although MIMAS can offer limited help) and conduct any subsequent maintenance. The service currently relies on IP recognition , but this will change at some stage in the future.

Research Support and Current Awareness at Loughborough
Alison McNab, Loughborough University

Alison’s talk focused on research support at Loughborough University and the importance of not only ‘doing it’ but also ‘being seen to be doing it’, that is making such support as obvious to its users as possible. This was set against a context of reduced library funds.

Loughborough University achieved a recent research score of 4 and is ranked 32nd, and intends to improve on this score in the next Research Assessment Exercise. In order to support this aim, the library service has had to maximise existing services and resources, by making the service apparent to its users.

In order to achieve this the following strategy has been adopted by the library to support research:

  • A seminar on supporting research was held for Associate Deans for Research and Departmental Research Co-ordinators. The services offered were discussed, and useful feedback was gained from the academics.
  • A webpage on supporting research was produced.
  • Links were established with the Research Support Office at Loughborough.
  • Links were established with the Departmental Research Co-ordinators.
  • A research Assessment Exercise (RAE) Working Group was set up.
  • The Library input into the seminars held by the Staff Development Office on devising a research publications strategy.

Alison noted some room for improvement on the part of Loughborough University Library in supporting research. The fact that the ISI Journal Citations Report was only available on microfiche and not electronically, was hindered by lack of funds. The CoS Expertise Database was also felt to be of importance, together with continued contact with Departmental Research Co-ordinators.

Alison also discussed the issue of Current Awareness, a passion of hers for a decade, originally nurtured during her time at Hull University. She had produced a handout on Information Skills, and decided to make this available as a web page in 1996. This has been kept up to date, and is available to the wider academic community, should people wish to make use of it at In addition to a web site, training courses are now provided (Powerpoint slides), all helping to encourage the use by researchers of the library electronic services. A current awareness user survey was also conducted in 1998.

Current awareness issues discussed included the demise of AutoJournals, the restructuring of the Loughborough website, and the provision of bibliographic software.

Document Delivery for Researchers: An Access Model
Ian Young, University of Leeds

Ian talked about the Document Direct Service, an inter-library loan service for researchers at Leeds, which offered an alternative to the established collection development model. A project was set up to investigate current awareness and linked document delivery services, which could be used as a possible alternative to current subscription to collections of journals. The project offered a ‘just-in time’ policy, and enabled the costs and benefits of on-demand single article supply to be assessed.

At a time when periodical prices are increasing and information publishing is increasing drastically, a favourable economic climate, and the availability of commercial suppliers and improved web technology meant this was an ideal time to test it out.

The project involved 4 trial schools: Biology, Chemistry, Civil Engineering and Electrical and Electronic Engineering – and researchers and academics were given unmediated document ordering rights.

A number of suppliers were selected for the project:

  • Inside Web
  • Uncover
  • Technology University of Delft’s DocUTrans Service
  • AskIEEE (subject specific)
  • RSC’s 3D service (subject specific)
  • BioMedNet (subject specific)

Prior to the project, there had been several concerns:

  • Whether the research students could be trusted not to spend the budget in the first few weeks?
  • Whether they would simply use the service to obtain articles already in the Library (to avoid the physical effort necessary to get the hard copy article)? The latter concern was dealt with by the setting up of an internal article copying service from the holdings.

The results of the project were particularly interesting. Most research appeared to increase in Sep/Oct and decrease in vacations (most researchers seemed to spend this time on holiday!) The British Library Inside Web service was used for 61% of all orders. Only one researcher used the service to excess, most researchers were quite restrained with their document ordering (?120 per researcher), which amounted to 1467 orders from 846 different publications (June – February). The project was a cost effective alternative, and users were ‘thrilled’ with the convenience and control of the document delivery service, which enabled them to track their orders from the comfort of their own desktop.

In conclusion the project established the Inside Web service as the clear winner, providing a high quality reliable service. This service was now being trialed to 10 schools within the University using project funds (to widen the subject scope). The big message from all the schools was that they wanted desk top access and didn’t want to visit the Library!

Ian explained about the current awareness aspect of Inside Web, and the fact that he had found there to be very little take up of this facility, users being more interested in the document delivery service.

Ian concluded by detailing the next steps for his institution. It was necessary to evaluate the trial service (end Aug/Sep 2000), and consider how such a service would be funded in the long term, and discuss with the schools which periodicals they would be happy to discard. He also mentioned news that the British Library is considering offering the Inside Web service free to Higher Education users.

Birmingham BUILDER Project
Ruth Jenkins, University of Birmingham

Ruth talk focused on the BUILDER project , which is part of the eLib programme, and funded jointly by JISC and the University of Birmingham. She detailed the background to the BUILDER project, products and demonstrators and benefits of the project for users.

She explained the concept of a hybrid library, whereby a range of technologies for different sources are brought together in the context of a working library, and inter-linked systems and services are explored in both electronic and print environments. The BUILDER project aims to develop a model hybrid library, whereby users access the library and its materials via their web browsers. The middleware necessary for this to happen was explained quite nicely as ‘glue’, sticking the users and the services together.

The outcomes of the project were outlined, there were to be no panaceas, but instead technical developments, and ways of thinking.

Products developed by the project focus on digital texts, including electronic short loan, the exam paper database, and electronic journals.

The electronic short loan collection is available on and on campus (via a login screen) and involved digitising and making available 200 texts from 15 courses as part of a pilot. The exam paper database incorporates 2 years of 3000 papers, and can be viewed on and off campus. Two in-house journals, ‘Forensic Linguistics’ and ‘Midland History’ have been digitised and made electronic.

Copyright clearance for documents in the electronic short loan collection is obtained using the HERON project at Stirling and Napier (a copyright clearing house project for reading lists text digitisation). This saves time and work, and the process takes about 7 weeks at present, but should improve as a larger collection of texts are copyright cleared and digitised.

Ruth also mentioned other products developed as part of the project including:

  • A thin client demonstrator, which enabled an Internet browser to access applications, such as CD Roms on the central server.
  • On-line ordering demonstrator.
  • Talis tools.
  • Institutional search engine demonstrator.
  • Hybrid library projects search engine.
  • Documentation

Users had indeed benefited from the BUILDER project, having additional services available including past exam papers, short loan items and CD Roms via the web. The project had given the library the ‘clout’ to get things done, and had enabled stronger links with service users, and provided a models which could be applied elsewhere.