Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, January 22, 2007

Searching tables, graphs, and illustrations

Marydee Ojala, Searching Scholarly Tables, Figures, Graphs, and Illustrations with CSA Illustrata, Information Today NewsBreaks, January 22, 2007.

CSA Illustrata is a new resource from CSA that provides deep indexing to the tabular and other graphic information published within scholarly articles. Running on the CSA Illumina platform, CSA Illustrata allows researchers to explicitly search for information presented in tables, charts, graphs, maps, photographs, and other figures. Users can view the full object (including all caption and label text), save marked results, and import the illustrations into presentations, lectures, or research. The first database available in the Illustrata product line is CSA Illustrata: Natural Sciences. Journals from Blackwell Publishing, CSA's development partner, contribute the bulk of the scholarly articles, although other publishers also contributed articles.

This is a product that has been in development for at least 2 years. It was extensively tested, with a "proof of concept" research project headed by Carol Tenopir, Robert J. Sandusky, and Margaret M. Casado (The University of Tennessee-Knoxville)....Their executive summary is online and the 90-page CSA Illustrata White Paper can be requested....

The sticking point, most agree, is price. As one science librarian from a large public university said, "It's seductive, but I wonder if I'll be able to afford it."...

Comment. It's not free to use and apparently it's not even close.  I post the news here mainly to show what's possible.  On the one hand, I hope there will be a free rival one day, optimized for OA literature.  On the other, that's just the flip side of saying that this seems to be a very useful tool.  (I hedge only because I haven't used it.)  CSA is to be commended for taking on this hard problem.

Update. Here's a comment by Matt Cockerill, publisher of BioMed Central. I post it with his permission.

It may be worth noting in passing that CSA Illustrata includes BioMed Central content.

And that this is an interesting example of the value of CC Attribution licenses (such as those used by BMC and PLoS). Unlike the OA options of some other publishers, our CC Attribution license explicitly allows commercial use such as this.

'OA' content from several other publishers cannot be included in Illustrata since they use a non-commercial variant of Creative Commons, making it impossible or impractical for the data to be included in a product without the publisher's consent.

It's seems clear that limiting commercial use in this way is likely to reduce the scope for commercial innovation in developing better tools to access that OA content.