Engineering information improves socially

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Social networking, RSS and new open-access options are just some of the developments that have gathered pace in engineering information over the past year, writes librarian Roddy MacLeod

Social networking has become a hot topic over the past year. Everyone seems to be doing it, and it is transforming the way that many people work. Engineering information is no exception and there are several initiatives from publishers, professional associations and others in this area.

One example is Emerald, which recently launched InTouch, a social networking site for academics. It’s not specifically for engineers, but Emerald does publish a number of titles in engineering, so some engineering groups are likely to take advantage of it. It lets you create and join online communities, use a wiki to share information and collaborate, store files and course lectures, create blogs and more.

ProQuest’s recently redesigned website also features social networking tools. Firstly, the company’s COS Scholar Universe makes brief versions of nearly two million scholar profiles freely available to the public from the ScholarUniverse site, as well as using these profiles within CSA Ilumina, Serials Solutions, and RefAware. Users can also view social network information of individual authors, such as their co-author network. The company has also launched a private beta version of a graduate student question and answer portal called GradShare. This integrates relevant library resources and will be made available on the public web at no cost to any college or university. GradShare aims to help students get answers and share advice and also increase awareness of the local information environment.

Scenta, an engineering and technology news and careers information service, also now provides space for groups, with blogs, forums and discussion boards.

Another social-networking development is the ACS Network from the American Chemical Society. This enables members and affiliates of the society to create a personal network of friends and colleagues, highlight their publications and citations in a searchable profile, search for colleagues and generally collaborate on research.

We are also seeing the big, more general social networks being used in various ways by the subject community. For example, BSI British Standards has a network group on LinkedIn for anybody who wants to discuss issues around standards. And the Taylor & Francis Built Environment team now works with its authors through its Facebook site.

Sharing bookmarks

Social bookmarking is another Web 2.0 idea that is growing in popularity. A recently-developed example of this concept that is likely to be heavily used is IET Discover, from the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology). This social bookmarking service for engineers is free and not just limited to IET members. It enables tagging and also allows users to create their own homepages and join collaborative groups. A new addition to the service is the commenting function.

Another social bookmarking service is 2collab from Elsevier. This collaboration platform enables users to store and manage bookmarks, tag them or add comments and share information within a group of researchers or with students. It is also a reference management tool linked to other Elsevier products such as Scopus, ScienceDirect and Engineering Village.

RSS is being featured on more and more sites now and is an excellent current awareness tool. Notable additions in engineering include Scitation, the sci-tech Online Journal Publishing Service, which now allows any search query to be saved as a dynamic RSS feed.

The NTIS (the US National Technical Information Service) has also recently introduced RSS feeds for each of its 39 major subject areas. Each feed includes a list of all new titles added to the NTIS collection within the past week. Another example is BSI British Standards, which now has RSS feeds for new and amended British Standards, as does ASTM.

This is good news, according to a recent white paper from research funded by Annual Reviews, PNAS, MetaPress, and Nature Publishing Group. The paper, entitled ‘How Readers Navigate to Scholarly Content’, pointed out that RSS feeds provide an important access point for material from publishers.

Journals and books

Aside from all these technology developments, publishers have not forgotten their core business activities. In particular, plenty of new journals have been launched in the engineering sector, especially in areas relating to environmental and medical research. In fact, according to figures from STM, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, the number of STM articles increases by three per cent each year and the number of journals published increases by 3.5 per cent each year. Currently about 23,000 scholarly journals are being published, by about 2,000 publishers and this equates to about 1.4 million articles being written each year.

E-books are also becoming an established part of many publishers’ businesses, with plenty of new e-book launches in engineering.

On the open-access (OA) front there have been a few new developments over the past year too. The IEEE has been a leader in green self-archiving policy for some time, but like many other publishers, it is now considering a gold open-access option, where authors could pay a fee to make their articles freely-accessible to anybody online.

There have been more mandates requiring authors to deposit their publications in OA repositories. The OA mandate released last May by the Irish Council for Science, Engineering and Technology, for example, stated that ‘All researchers must lodge their publications resulting in whole or in part from IRCSET-funded research in an open access repository as soon as is practical, but within six calendar months at the latest.’

One of the UK research councils, EPSRC, also recently launched DReSNeT (the e-Science Network on Digital Repositories in e-Science environments), to develop synergies between e-science and digital repositories.