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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Fall 1997

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.

Scientific and Medical News on the Internet

William Loughner
Science Library
University of Georgia
Athens, Georgia 30602

Go directly to the table of Scientific and Medical News URLs.

OVERVIEW

"Where can I find out about the Mars Sojourner that landed last weekend?" "I heard on the news yesterday that there is a new treatment for arthritis? Can you help?" "I need to know about the latest Ebola outbreak in Africa that was reported last week." In the good-old-days the science librarian had limited resources for questions like these. Newspapers and weekly scientific publications were good sources for breaking science news and yet the search for specific information sometimes had a needle-in-the-haystack quality.

Those sources are still available and are better than ever, but one of the many things that the Internet does very well is deliver quick, accurate and reliable information about fast-breaking topics, scientific and otherwise. Of course, information that doesn't have these attributes is available also, which is why the world will always need librarians.

The Internet is flooding us with such a plethora of high-quality sources that if the term 'information explosion' didn't exist we would have to invent it. Finding scientific news and breaking stories has never been easier, at least if, like the proverbial librarian, we know where to look. The sites here are bright shiny needles.

CRITERIA FOR INCLUSION

But first a few ground rules. We will concern ourselves only with sites that are updated daily. Those web sources updated weekly or less often, most of which are maintained by familiar print publications, provide excellent supplementary material to the daily sources. Our needs here are more urgent, and weekly is too slow for us. We needn't despair about familiar faces left behind, however, since some of them are adjusting nicely to the web. Also, as we'll see, their material shows up on many of the daily sites.

We also will consider only sites with comprehensive scope. Information about only, say, AIDS/HIV or agriculture is not what we're after. This is not as narrowing as it might seem at first since information from these specialized sites often appears (instantaneously!) on the sites covered here. These comprehensive sites usually self-define themselves as covering science, medicine (or health), technology, or combinations thereof. Most often, unfortunately, what is meant by technology is a navel-gazing interest in computers, networks, the WWW itself and its relevance for investors. If a site is only about technology in this sense, we'll pass it by. We will also require our pages to organize their science information in a convenient way so that a lot of searching is unnecessary.

Finally, the sites here are also free and full-text, though registration might be required. No teaser headlines for us needing subscriptions or credit cards to view complete details. But this is not to elevate the adage 'information wants to be free' to a truism. As librarians we know that the link we maintain in the information chain carries an often hefty cost. Like almost everyone else, though, we haven't yet come fully to terms with paying for web information. These sites, providing a service not available in the past, will convince many of us that fees might be appropriate. And those fees will come.

It might seem that we are being overly restrictive, but our original plethora has only been reduced to a generous overabundance. We will discuss 36 Internet sites that between them will allow no late-breaking scientific or medical news escape untouched.

The primary distinction we will make in organizing these sites is between those that produce the information they present - those that have actual writers on their staff - and those that 'parasitically' only hyperlink to those that do. The first group is clearly essential, but paradoxically the second group, 'the aggregators', is arguably more useful. Why, after all, read the news from just one site, as good as that site might be, when you can have the news from a half dozen or more sites listed on one page? And indeed, even the organizations that write the news will themselves sometimes hyperlink to other producers.

THE PRODUCERS

The only print media that meet our requirements (other than not being free) are newspapers. It's difficult to generalize about the thousands of local papers, but most of them are disappointing in their science coverage. (The American Journalism Review NewsLink provides hyperlinks to local newspaper web sites.) We can usually expect only one or two stories a day in either their printed or web editions unless they link to other sites. Note, though, the NewsWorks web site, mentioned below, that attempts to alleviate this problem. (The e-journal {HMS Beagle}, in issue 14, has an article "Who killed the science section?" lamenting the decline of press coverage of science.)

Among the larger papers, the New York Times has an excellent science staff and can be relied on for in-depth coverage. The Los Angeles Times also provides science material from its own staff, as well as 'cutting edge' technology. USA Today has the three archetypal sections: Science, Healthline, and Tech Report. The top-notch web-only Nando Times makes available most of each day's wire service reports in its Techserver and Health & Science sections. Silicon Valley's own San Jose Mercury-News was an online newspaper pioneer and continues to provide good science and technology coverage.

The national wire services take widely differing positions about distributing their services on the web. Yahoo! has an arrangement to make available Reuters news reports on its pages. The index includes health and technology sections. (See below for more on Yahoo!.) Reuters also displays health news on its own site, where it differentiates between professional and consumer news. Associated Press (AP) stories are available only through local newspaper web sites. These sites can hyperlink to AP's own national site, but do not always do so. (A local paper is listed here that does, but it may not always be available.) AP's site has a health & science section. United Press International makes its stories available to ClariNet, which is a subscription service.

Science, the premier American scientific journal, provides daily editorial content to two sites. ScienceNOW is maintained by the journal and has three or four new stories each weekday. If the story is about research actually published in Science, subscribers can also hyperlink directly to the full text of the original paper. Academic Press maintains inScight, with two new stories from Science each weekday. Unlike ScienceNOW, the web editors at inScight provide hyperlinks to many other sites that are relevant to their articles, including the labs of the authors if possible. They also hyperlink to definitions of scientific terms as well as to Academic Press publications pertinent to the subject matter. This is a very fine site that others could use as a model.

Broadcast and cable networks do a better job on their web sites of presenting science news than do the newspapers. CNN, as one would expect, is in the forefront with its sci-tech, health and earth sections (including some video) as well as separate pages devoted to ongoing stories such as the Mir space station. It also provides transcripts of special-interest programs like 'Science and Technology Week.'

The ABC News Sci/Tech page is also extensive and well organized, and some stories include video and sound. Particularly funky is a weekly feature highlighting a scientist 'whose work deserves recognition' and which asks you to vote if 'the professor is Mad or Rad.' MSNBC has a small number of in-depth articles from its cable programs, and Fox News carries mainly wire service reports. The EXN : Exploration Network from Canada carries a good range of news articles each day written by its own staff. These networks, like CNN above, also carry video and audio from their broadcast shows. The latest broadcaster addition to the Internet is the BBC, a formidable competitor with a large number of their own science stories.

One source that science news producers use to generate ideas for stories is the humble press release - the device that scientists and their employers, in their turn, use to get the media's attention. Before the Internet these were not readily accessible to the general public. Humble the press release may be, but packed with information designed to grab one's attention it surely is also. Three net sites specialize in the scientific press release: EurekAlert! ('Your global gateway to science and medical news,' sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science), ScienceDaily ('Your link to the latest research news'), and UniSci ('Research news from American Universities').

PR Newswire ('The leading source of immediate news') is a site that makes available all press releases from corporations, and it has subsections for energy, healthcare (including biotechnology and pharmacy), and technology. NewsWise ('Search tools for reporters') is another site oriented to the media and claims a comprehensive database of press releases in science and medicine.

Two sites that offer only medical news are worthy of notice. Your Health Daily is a service of the New York Times Syndicate and relies heavily on the Medical Tribune News Service. Doctor's Guide to Medical and Other News is another commercial site and has about 10 stories a day based mainly on the medical journal literature. Both sites have content appropriate for the general reader and the medical professional.

THE AGGREGATORS

Hyperlinks help make the WWW as useful as it is, but it is disconcerting to see the lengths to which the process can be carried. If it is useful to make a link to CNN or the Nando Times, why not list all their current stories instead, providing dozens of hyperlinks? Wrap one's own frame (and perhaps some advertising) around those links and produce a tempting news page using a small amount of computer processing and no original news content. Why not indeed?

It's clear that this type of aggregating is useful to the news reader. She gains access to more stories with minimal searching. With a little reflection will come the realization this might not be so bad for the news producers either. The stories still reside on their own web sites, and once the reader is at a site, having been tempted there by headlines (not just a uninformative link), perhaps she'll stay. And if those headlines are all over the web, well, all the better. Maybe.

So it is no suprise that some major search engines are also in the news business. They already have the searching expertise and know how to put together an interesting site. Lycos, for example, integrates science headlines into its science guidepage by pulling stories mainly from individual newspaper sites. (It does similarly with its guides for health and technology.) Yahoo!, as already mentioned, provides Reuters stories, but it uses other sources as well. The Excite News Channel has a sci-tech section where current news is displayed as well as links to a number of pages where news on particular scientific topics (such as AIDS) has been collected. (WebCrawler, a subsidary of Excite, offers another version of Excite's news.)

Integrated Newswire is one the larger aggregators of news. Its science & technology, health, and information technology sections gather stories from many of the producers above as well as from weekly and monthly web sites as their stories become available. Publications such as Discover magazine, New Scientist and Nature are represented. 30 to 40 stories a day is not unusual but only the stories from the last week can be accessed.

Updatenews.com, from Britain, is another large news aggregator but it only uses a few producers in its science section and only lists the current day's headlines. Science Guide lists science news only and uses an extensive list of producers including weekly and monthly publications. It has sections covering, for example, physics, chemistry, and psychology and also adds value with hyperlinks to other sites of interest to the scientist. Helios is an excellent science-only aggregator offering 'daily science news.' Besides its top news section it offers tech, space and biomed news.

NewsWorks is a partnership of nine large news publishers, tapping into, it claims, 'the collective intelligence' of 125 American newspapers. The sci/tech section (which includes subsections for computing, medicine and space) is updated on a daily basis but is not oriented around headlines. Instead, broad subject categories (like cloning, Lyme disease, or comets) hyperlink to numerous articles from various papers attempting (and accomplishing) in-depth coverage. The headlines section does give the current breaking news, including Sci/Tech, and on every page is a search box that will search the archives of the participating papers.

InteliHealth News, in partnership with Johns Hopkins, provides Reuters and UPI top daily health stories as well as information originating from the University. NewsBot has recently started to display science news stories on its site. (See below for more on NewsBot.) And who could resist Positive News, a site that delivers 'good news every day.' Its Health, Science & Technology section searches the web, mainly newspaper and magazine pages, for the latest breakthroughs and advances. Ones, we assume, that have no downside.

A site in a category all its own is Haiku Headlines of the Day. Each day the visitor is treated to one or two haiku sci/tech headlines. ('All the news that's fit/ to print in 17 syl/ lables and three lines.') The headlines are hyperlinked to real stories. Don't miss this one.

IN YOUR FACE

Many of the sites discussed so far want to 'push' their wares to the computer on your desk. Automatic e-mail or web delivery of the latest headlines or stories is popular. Some sites offer specialized search profiling to make this delivery more meaningful.

Sites with attitude don't always bother to list the current news on their web sites, though some realize that it might be a good advertisement for their service. PointCast and NewsBot from Wired both offer to be your 'personalized agent', continuously searching the web - filtered according to your specifications - for the latest news. Whenever they find it you get it using custom software (downloaded from their sites) running on your machine. Crayon (Create Your Own Newspaper), InfoBeat ('news without any teethmarks') and NewsPage promise the same intelligent searching from a profile, but deliver your own personal, individualized issue to you each day on their websites or by e-mail, requiring no extra software.

THE LATEST NEWS ABOUT THE LATEST NEWS

As this guide demonstrates, providing the latest news is an Internet publishing growth area. New sites are sure to arise and a few old ones fall by the wayside. The author, on the University of Georgia Libraries website, maintains a list of these sites (and others) that he hopes you will find useful and up-to-date: Science News on the Internet. The technology news sites so disparaged above are listed there also.

SITES DISCUSSED

Each resource's asterisk in the left column of the table is a hyperlink to the paragraph in the text where that item is discussed.

Web Resource URL
* ABC News : Sci/Tech

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/

* {American Journalism Review NewsLink} http://www.ajr.org/
* Associated Press Wire (AP)

http://customwire.ap.org/specials/bluepage.html
www.sj-r.com/news/wire/apwire.htm

* {BBC News: sci/tech} news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/
* CNN (Cable News Network)

www.cnn.com/TECH/
www.cnn.com/HEALTH/
cnn.com/EARTH/

* CRAYON www.crayon.net/
* Doctor's Guide to Medical and Other News www.pslgroup.com/MEDNEWS.HTM
* EurekAlert! www.eurekalert.org/
* Excite News Channel
  • {Sci-Tech News}
  • {WebCrawler Sci-Tech News}

nt.excite.com/162/page.html
http://www.webcrawler.com/news/162/

* {EXN : Exploration Network : Science Wire} http://www.discoverychannel.ca/dailyplanet/

* Fox News
  • {Sci-Tech}
  • {Health}
foxnews.com/scitech/
www.foxnews.com/health/

* {Haiku Headlines of the Day: Sci/Tech} www.coolwebsite.com/haikus.htm

* Helios
  • {Top News}
  • {Tech News}
  • {Space News}
  • {Biomed News}

www.helios.org/
www.helios.org/tech.html
www.helios.org/space.html
www.helios.org/bio.html

* {InfoBeat} http://www.infobeat.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/IBFrontEnd.woa

* {inScight} www.apnet.com/inscight/

* Integrated Newswire
  • {Science and Technology}
  • {Health}
  • {Information Technology}
www.artigen.com/newswire/scitech.html
www.artigen.com/newswire/health.html
www.artigen.com/newswire/infotech.html

* {InteliHealth News} www.intelihealth.com/ih/ihtNewsSummary/
* Los Angeles Times

www.latimes.com/news/science/
www.latimes.com/technology/

* Lycos
  • {Science Headlines}
  • {Health Headlines}
  • {Technology Headlines}

www.lycos.com/science/
webmd.lycos.com/health_home/default.htm
www.lycos.com/technology/

* MSNBC msnbc.msn.com/id/3032076/
msnbc.msn.com/id/3033063/
msnbc.msn.com/id/3032118/?ta=y

* Nando Times
  • {Health & Science}
  • {Techserver}

www.nando.net/nt/health/
http://www.nandotimes.com/technology/

* New York Times www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/
www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/news/national/#science

* NewsBot
  • {Science and Health}
  • {Technology}

www.wired.com/newbot/html/4/
www.wired.com/newbot/html/6/

* {NewsPage} http://www.individual.com/

* NewsWise www.newswise.com/
* NewsWorks
  • {Sci/Tech}
  • {Headlines}

www.newsworks.com/NewsWorks/scitech/
www.newsworks.com/NewsWorks/contents/

* {PointCast} www.pointcast.com/
* {Positive News : Health, Science & Technology} http://www.positivepress.com/news/news.php3?cat=5
* PR Newswire

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/energy-latest-news/
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/health-latest-news/
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/business-technology-latest-news/

* Reuters Health Information Services
      (See Yahoo! and Onhealth also)
www.reutershealth.com/

* San Jose Mercury-News

www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/
www.sjmercury.com/scitech/

* {Science Guide} www.scienceguide.com/

* ScienceDaily www.sciencedaily.com/

* {ScienceNOW} sciencenow.sciencemag.org/

* {UniSci} unisci.com/
* University of Georgia Libraries
  • {Science News on the Internet}
www.libs.uga.edu/science/curevent.html

* Updatenews.com
  • {Science}
  • {Computing}
www.updatenews.com/science.html
www.updatenews.com/computing.html

* USA Today
  • {Science}
  • {Healthline}
  • {High Tech}

www.usatoday.com/news/health/front.htm
www.usatoday.com/news/health/lhd1.htm
www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/ct000.htm

* Yahoo!

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=index&cid=751&/
http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=index&cid=738&/

* {Your Health Daily} yourhealthdaily.com/

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