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Publish and Flourish with WOS

By Joan Chamberlain

Writing a scientific article used to involve hours in the library tracking down publications, searching through indexes and printouts, and learning the whims of every photocopier in the building. Then the World Wide Web came along, and computer users suddenly gained access to tools and databases that revolutionized the information-seeking process. Now, the NIH Library and the Center for Information Technology are providing two new desktop tools, Web of Science (WOS) and Porpoise, at, that make retrieving scientific information even easier.

WOS gives Web access to an expanded version of the ISI Science Citation Index database, a collection of 5,300 journals in chemistry, physics, computing, mathematics, cell biology and other sciences. The Web interface to SCI Expanded, newly available to NIH staff under an NIH Library licensing agreement with ISI, provides access to these journals published from 1987 to the present.

The team that brought you Web of Science and Porpoise: (from l) Suzanne Grefsheim, Nancy Terry and Stephanie Publicker of the NIH Library, and Peter FitzGerald, Charlene Osborn, and Steve Bailey of the Center for Information Technology.

Using WOS, you can search the footnotes, references and bibliographies published in all journal articles in the SCI Expanded collection, which is updated weekly. If you see an article you want, submit an online request and the library will photocopy it for you.

Searching is based on keywords. Each article links to its own bibliography and to other articles that cite it or that share common references. One of WOS's strengths is the ability to search cited references, so you can find out who has cited an author's work and where.

Porpoise, the companion to WOS, enables NIH staff to tailor search criteria of the SCI database and get weekly email updates of journal articles matching the criteria. To receive the updates, all you need is an NIH email address registered in the NIH email directory (call 594-3278 for help), and to set up your search profile. Both WOS and Porpoise search by topic, author, source and address (or institution).

"It's a valuable service, especially for bench scientists," said CIT's Dr. Peter FitzGerald, who led the CIT team that developed Porpoise. "You can keep up with what's going on in your area of interest, and which competitors, colleagues, grantees or institutions are publishing without leaving your desk."

Introduced in February, WOS and Porpoise already have a large following. About 5,000 NIH staff have visited the WOS/Porpoise site, and Porpoise now processes more than 2,600 search profiles each week for approximately 900 NIH users. For help using these tools, visit the WOS Web site or call the NIH Library at 496-1080.

The collaboration between the NIH Library and CIT, which purchased and maintains the WOS hardware, updates the database and developed Porpoise, has been "a win-win partnership," says NIH Library Director Suzanne Grefsheim. "We've truly become an electronic library. NIH staff can access information when they need it, not just when we're open," she notes. Recent innovations such as online document ordering from the NIH Library Web site at, and now from the Web of Science, are rapidly becoming popular services. "The next generation of improvements will be to deliver those articles electronically. Our goal is to break down as many barriers to services as we can."

Does the shift to electronic services mean the demise of the NIH Library as a place to browse and seek a librarian's help? Not at all, says Grefsheim, who saw a 40 percent rise in library use by walk-in patrons last year. "People still need a physical place where they can read, study, meet and contemplate. If the library didn't exist as a physical place, we'd have to reinvent it."

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