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April 12, 2006

We don’t usually like using the ‘M’ word, but…

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Microsoft has officially released its Windows Live Academic Search beta into seven English-speaking markets, including the United States. The service will allow students, researchers and nerds alike to easily scour the pages of academic and scholarly journals.

CNET reports that MS Academic Search is designed to index ‘library-subscribed content’ and supports OpenURL, the current standard for linking subscription-based material. MS Academic Search uses information given to them by libraries and/ or research facilities regarding their OpenURL links and then Academic Search provides the researcher with direct access to links and full text material.

Results are then displayed in a split-panel view with articles titles and info on one side and a preview pane – used to show article excerpts — on the other. Users can sort and cluster results by author, conference, date and journal, as well as perform quick and easy citations.

Though the search results are free, users can only access journals to which they have a subscription. If a researcher comes across a pertinent article found in a journal but they don’t have a subscription, they will receive a message asking them to pay a per-article fee to access the full-text results.

Academic Search and Google Scholar seem to have one main difference: the way they retrieve information. Google Scholar crawls the web looking for academic-based content. Academic Search works directly with publishers to build its academic index, making users confident they are reading trusted, expert material. Also very cool, is that users can get keyword-based RSS feeds. How great is that? Where was this technology when I was in college?

Another thing I like about this: no plans for sponsored listings. That’s right, no ads! Microsoft says there are no plans to make money directly from the service; instead, the service is about building loyalty. Don’t tell Bill, but it’s going to take a lot more than an academic search to make me start trusting Microsoft.

Right now MS Academic Search only includes articles related to Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Physics. A Microsoft exec said other topics would be available in the ‘near future’ but could give no estimate as to how long that would be. There was also no mention of how often the academic index would be updated: Daily? Weekly? Monthly? What? We don’t know – guess we’ll have to wait around and see.

Ask’s Gary Price has an excellent review of the service over at Resource Shelf.

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