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After 2 years of planning, development, and initial testing by a select group of about 20 university libraries, Elsevier has finally made an official announcement of the first fully functioning version of Scopus, its highly anticipated, full-text linking, abstracting-and-indexing database. The company is now providing access to another 30 academic libraries for final testing and user trials, will add more libraries over the next 6 months, and expects to have the commercial release available by Q4 2004. Scopus is designed to be an all science, comprehensive access point for a library, with coverage of 13,000 titles from over 4,000 STM publishers, plus coverage of over 100 open access journals by the summer. Scopus also simultaneously searches the scientific Web using Elsevier’s science-only Internet search engine, Scirus. The company aimed to make the Scopus service “as easy to use as Google,” with fewer clicks to the full text than any service available.

Marshall Clinton, director of IT Services at University of Toronto Libraries, a participant in the first testing group, stated: “At the University of Toronto, there is no question that Scopus will not only become a key information source for science, technology, and medicine but also supplant some of the more traditional information sources.” According to Clinton, “The Scopus interface clearly reflects the value of the user-centred design approach used in its development. The system works the way researchers use abstract and citation data, not the way we think they should use it.”

The company said it developed Scopus by modeling testers’ cognitive patterns. “We recorded every detail of testers’ reactions when using Scopus,” says Jaco Zijlstra, director of Scopus. “Now, users can find their way immediately. With Scopus users can expect the unexpected—helping to find results they didn't even know they wanted.”

The search form is similar to ScienceDirect, designed to minimize the amount of training necessary and to highlight the interoperability of the products. Scopus aims to provide both comprehensive and targeted search results, so it allows users to start with a broad search and quickly narrow down to relevant results by using a number of refining options, including limiting by dates, journals, subjects, document types, authors, etc. Linking options based on journal entitlement show in the results (not requiring an extra click to check for full-text availability) and libraries can customize this. Users can save searches, e-mail results, and set up alerts.

Elsevier’s ScienceDirect product covers 1,800 full text journals from Elsevier only, while Scopus opens access to other STM publishers—and 13,000 titles. This broad scope is what Elsevier’s Scopus developers say will make "dead-links" a thing of the past. It provides complete backward and forward linking of citation references. By the beginning of 2005, there will be 10 years of back references.

Scopus draws from all major databases, including EMBASE, Compendex, MEDLINE, etc., as well as from individual publishers. An Elsevier representative noted that Scopus would complement but not replace the unique search capabilities of the specialist databases. For example, a researcher would still need to use EMBASE to use the EMTREE thesaurus; a researcher would need to use PsycINFO to limit by gender or age.

Scopus will also provide a complete service package that includes local customer support, customer-specific usage reports that will be COUNTER compliant, as well as on- and off-site training. Scopus is OpenURL compliant.

Cited reference searching logically raises the question of competing with Thomson ISI’s Web of Science. While they will surely be seen as rival services, Elsevier representatives stated that Scopus was not designed to go head-to-head with ISI’s products, and pointed out the different functionality and the additional content in Scopus—13,000 titles versus 8,500 titles in Web of Science (which includes social science and humanities titles in the 8,500). However, Web of Science has back files to 1945. Thomson ISI has also recently announced it will collaborate with NEC to create a comprehensive, multidisciplinary citation index for Web-based scholarly resources. The new Web Citation Index, due out in early 2005 following pilot testing in 2004, will also include citations and links to open access resources. (For more information, see Barbara Quint’s NewsBreak: http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040301-1.shtml.)

With the recent backlash against the high cost of Elsevier’s journals and its “big deal” pricing models, Elsevier will clearly have an obstacle to acceptance of its new product, no matter how good it is. An Elsevier representative admitted that the perception of pricing inflexibility was an issue, as was the notion that academic libraries do not want to spend any more of their budgets for Elsevier products. But, she said Elsevier would be looking at installment plans and discount programs, and would try to work out customized pricing plans. She also explained that the advantages offered by the single platform product would allow libraries to make savings elsewhere, such as through integration with other services and the local linking capabilities. And, she said the product was developed in direct response to what libraries said they wanted and would be willing to pay for.

- "Elsevier Announces Scopus Service," Paula J. Hane, Information Today, Inc., March 15, 2004 http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb040315-1.shtml

Paula J. Hane is Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks. Her e-mail address is phane@infotoday.com.