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Scholar Updates: helping authors to make new connections?

30 Aug, 12 | by BMJ

A common goal of academics is to read all relevant publications within a particular field of expertise. Locating these materials is a challenge (to say the least) and the task is becoming more and more difficult as the number of papers published annually increases year-on-year.

Earlier this month, changes were made to Google Scholar to encourage the serendipitous discovery of new research during a scholar’s routine activity. The new service, Scholar Updates, conducts a search on the author’s behalf and provides a list of recommended publications. It builds upon existing research alerts offered by Google Scholar, similar in nature to those of ISI Web of Science and other academic databases.

Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist, explains that an author’s Google Scholar Citation profile (and therefore publication history) is scraped by the Scholar Updates service in order to determine their research interests and relevant keywords.

We analyze your articles (as identified in your Scholar profile), scan the entire web looking for new articles relevant to your research, and then show you the most relevant articles when you visit Scholar.  We determine relevance using a statistical model that incorporates what your work is about, the citation graph between articles, the fact that interests can change over time, and the authors you work with and cite.

Ideally, the recommendations generated during this process will be relevant to the author and help them explore new resources in fields that they may not have been aware. According to Eisen, Scholar Updates are surprisingly relevant to his interests. Other researchers, however, are not so sure.

Multidisciplinary scholars, in particular, may find the results less useful.  Peter Webster, an historian, reports finding only a few new articles of interest within his recommendations but does recognise that the diversity of his past publications may make the analysis more complicated than the average author.

In addition, there are already requests for extra functionality to be added by Google Scholar. The Semantics etc. blog recommends a weekly digest feature with email notification of updates, as currently the service is yet “another page to check out once in a while.”

Setting up a Google Scholar Citations profile

To get article updates relevant to your work, you will need to create a Google Scholar Citations profile. Once you have populated the profile with your publication history, article updates will automatically start to appear within a few days.  It’s free and easy to set up, which is evident by the 5,115 users at Russell Group universities who have already claimed their profile.


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