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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Look out for expert-generated information

This one could be a double edged sword. SciTopics describes itself as "Distilled, authoritative and up-to-date information for researchers on scientific, technical and medical topics." Folks like members of the ABSW might see it as a substitute for science writing .

The press release from Elsevier, a part of Reed Elsevier Group plc, owners of such fine publications as New Scientist, until it can find someone to take it off their hands, says that the new service is "Designed as a perfect starting point for scientific research, the website integrates a content publishing platform with search functionalities and community features."

Taking a positive view, this could be invaluable for science writers seeking a crash course in a subject that they suddenly have to write about. "The site creates a starting point for researchers to gain an introductory overview of a particular scientific topic and serves as a collaboration resource where users can share their views and engage in discussions with other SciTopics members."

SciTopics has a couple of dozen RSS feeds. The "grab the lot" feed that might be worth sampling to begin with.

The feeds cover many areas that will mean a lot to science writers plus a few for less familiar subjects, such as nursing, "decision sciences" and arts and humanities.

It seems that Elsevier decided to put this release out now because this is really a rebranding Scirus Topic Pages. Scirus, "the most comprehensive scientific research tool on the web," powers the search facility behind SciTopics. This explains why the newest story in the "Most popular SciTopics pages" appeared last November. The oldest dates back to February 2008.

The RSS feed has article that are much more recent. The newest item we saw, "Scientific support to the establishment and validation of agrometeorological services" is just a day or two old.

You can even leave comments on the articles. But only after you have signed up. The handful of items I looked at were comment free.

The editors, billed on the front page, are all working scientists. Many of the authors come with the "Prof" label. Each item comes with a set of "Web search results" related to the article in question.