Re: Interoperability - subject classification/terminology

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2003 21:03:01 +0000

On Sat, 15 Nov 2003, Prof. Tom Wilson wrote:

> Stevan Harnad says:
>s> Please remember that most researchers currently search their abstracts databases
>s> and their toll-access journal content databases without the help of any subject
>s> classification taxonomies. This will continue to be the case for the open-access
>s> full-text database, once it grows to a significant size. Journal articles --
>s> especially when they include inverted full-text -- are not, and never
>s> were, searched via prepackaged subject classifications or taxonomies
>s> or aggregations.

> I think that Stevan is a little too sweeping in his generalisation here. In the
> days before machine searching, pretty well all abstracting journals were
> organized according to some subject specific classification scheme: Chemical
> Abstracts, Metallurgical Abstracts, Nuclear Science Abstracts are among those I
> searched on behalf of scientists in that dim and distant past. At that time
> users certainly relied upon those classification schemes to help them to reduce
> the volume of material they needed to search.

I agree completely. But we are now in the days of machine searching, done by the
researchers themselves, for themselves, google-style. When search is restricted to
the inverted full-text corpus of the annual 2.5 million articles published in the
planet's 24,000 refereed journals, there is no need whatsoever to rely on
classification schemes.

> Those classification schemes
> continue today in the print versions and online versions generally offer the
> possibility of a search by class.

Yes, but does anyone bother to use them (online)?

> The debate about the cheapness of simplistic
> Boolean searching (which puts the costs on the user to disentangle the useful
> from the useless) versus the cost (to the producer) of high quality subject
> indexing and classification has never been settled - and doubtless never will
> be.

But one thing is sure: It is irrelevant to the issue of open access, and certainly
not something to wait for!

Stevan Harnad

> ___________________________________________________
> Professor T.D. Wilson, PhD
> Publisher/Editor in Chief
> Information Research
> University of Sheffield
> Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
> e-mail:
> Web site:
> ___________________________________________________
Received on Sat Nov 15 2003 - 21:03:01 GMT

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