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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Spring 2000

URLs in this document have been updated. Links enclosed in {curly brackets} have been changed. If a replacement link was located, the new URL was added and the link is active; if a new site could not be identified, the broken link was removed.

Journal Reviews and Reports

Synergy

Ann C. Glenn
Biology/Chemistry Subject Specialist
University Libraries
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois 60115
aglenn@niu.edu

Synergy is from the Greek synergos -- working together, combined action or operation. A synonym, synergism, is the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements. To these definitions another can now be added: the online journal service from Blackwell Science and Munksgaard.

In a pre-launch press release of October 1998, the service was described as "a full-text online journal service [representing] a major investment in online publishing [encompassing] over 200 journals...and making over 30,000 articles available to the research community." As of April 5, 2000, 239 Blackwell Science and Munksgaard journals are available online through Synergy. Many of the titles are in biological and medical sciences, including veterinary science, and are published on behalf of professional associations and societies. The list of online titles for Blackwell Science and Munksgaard is available through hypertext links from the Synergy menu. Begin at {http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/}. From the menu, select Access and Pricing. The final line provides the necessary links.

An online subscription provides web access to the full contents of a journal, with the latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator browsers recommended. The design and presentation is identical to the paper version. Subscribers are permitted to download, view, and print individual articles. The PDF (Portable Document Format) files include text, figures, and tables as in the printed version. The quality of the graphics examined in both HTML and PDF was excellent. Adobe Acrobat viewing software is required and can be downloaded at no cost. There is free online searching of all journals, and browsing article abstracts is also free. Access to the free services is possible either through Synergy or through links from the publishers' journal lists.

Institutions subscribing to Synergy are required to sign a license agreement. The agreement includes the following: paper copy printed from the electronic copy is permitted for interlibrary loan purposes; course pack use is permitted, as is walk-in access; remote user access is permitted for authorized users. Authorized users are defined in the license agreement as

Current members of the staff of the Licensee (whether on a permanent, temporary, contract or visiting basis) and individuals who are currently studying at the Licensee's institution, who are permitted to access the Secure Network from within the premises of the Licensee and from such other places where Authorized Users work or study, including without limitation halls of residence and lodging, and homes of Authorized Users, and who have been issued by the Licensee with a password or authentication.

A secure network is defined as

A network (whether a stand-alone network or a virtual network within the internet) which is accessible to Authorized Users and Walk-in Users approved by the Licensee whose identity is authenticated at the time of login and periodically thereafter consistent with current best practice, and whose conduct is subject to regulation by the Licensee.

These and all other definitions and terms of the license are found at a License Agreement link at {http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/aboutus/institutionalCustomers.html?}

Institutional access is by IP (Internet Protocol) address. Individual subscribers have access through user name and password.

In addition to features already mentioned, Synergy creates a personal homepage for every registered user. Through the personal homepage it is possible to set up e-mail table of contents alerts and run saved searches. The table of contents service is free, and there is no limit to the number of titles included.

Searching on Synergy is straightforward. As of this writing (April 5, 2000), one of the titles can be selected from the list of many, and words from the article title, keywords, and the authors name can be entered. A particular year, volume, and/or issue of the journal can be specified. If there are matches resulting from the search terms, the total number of citations will be stated, followed by a list of the citations. From hits resulting from a search, the researcher may select from a variety of options: looking at an abstract or (if a subscriber) full text of an article, performing a new search, returning to the Synergy Homepage, going to Your (personal) Homepage, seeing the List of Journals, or selecting Help. The latter four options are available from most selections.

Selecting Help at any point in a search does not provide context-specific assistance. An e-mail address for support is provided together with several telephone numbers. No information was found which would clarify aspects of a keyword search, for example. Are keywords taken exclusively from the list that appears with each citation? Are terms in the title also searched? The abstract? The full-text? When the term "shrubs" was entered in the title field during a Journal of Ecology search, two citations appeared. While the word "shrubs" did appear in each title, it was not among the keywords for either article. When "shrubs" was entered as a keyword in a search of the same journal, two citations were again retrieved, but they were two different citations than the first set. The term was included in the list of keywords for the first citation. However, the second citation consisted of book reviews for which no keyword list was provided. The term did not appear in the citation for any of the reviewed books, and the individual reviews were not searched for the term.

As with most things in the electronic world, change is imminent. Synergy is soon to have a new search engine. The problems indicated above may be addressed by the change in search engines. There will be new search pages: a simple search and an advanced search. Searching of journals within a subject group will be possible in both. Other search refinements will also be available. Blackwell Science has also partnered with OVID, Healthgate, PubMed, ISI, and others who will act at intermediaries to provide online access to Synergy journals. Consequently, there will be a variety of search engines used to produce citation lists, and linking to the Synergy full-text articles will be facilitated.

The cost of subscribing to Synergy is -- according to general policy -- 90% of the print subscription cost for access to the online version alone and 110% of the print subscription cost for print and online access. This policy applies to both individual and institutional subscriptions.

The intellectual challenge to keep pace with the providers of electronic full-text articles continues. With the addition of Synergy to the mix, science and technology researchers and librarians have a richer pool of resources available.

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