Open search

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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 5 August 2014


See also Data science portal | Discovery Tools vs. Google | Google scholar | Information technology topics | Open access | Open data | Research Portal for Academic Librarians

Open search refers to websites and search engines that are openly-accessible and free-to-use for the purposes of searching across the web. Although open searching is not defined, it can be thought of as any tool or search interface/website that makes it possible to search freely and openly on the web. Typically, these search tools do a very superficial search over the top layer of the web. For academic papers, there are several ways the open web can be searched. For example: there are two major tools used in the sciences and medicine, first, Google scholar and second, Scirus. In addition, proprietary databases such as EBSCO and OvidSP are widely used. Some content can also be found in tools such as ERIC and of course the free interface to Medline, PubMed. Is there one all-purpose search engine to search all freely-available literature? No, not on the open web or in a subscription-based database. Needless to say, this causes a major problem in cumulating the scholarly literature. How do academic librarians plan to deal with this problem? A good first step is to acquaint yourself with the range of open resources in searching listed below.

Seventy (~70) Open Search Tools

4-star.gif 4 stars denotes Top Ten (10) Repositories of information. Starred sites are great places to begin your research.'

Get at the grey literature in the deep web

  1. ACM Digital Library Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) provides the computing field's premier digital library
  2. Archive of European Integration (AEI) archive for research materials on the topic of European integration and unification 4-star.gif
  3. AgEcon distributes reports of research in agricultural economics 4-star.gif
  4. Agricola agriculture and allied disciplines
  5. Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL) peer-reviewed web-based discovery materials in the analytical sciences
  6. Arctic Health (NLM) links to full-text journal articles, reports, newspapers, conference proceedings, grey literature
  7. arXiv physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology and statistics 4-star.gif
  8. Astrophysics Data System (ADS) 8.6 million records in astronomy and astrophysics, physics
  9. BASE - Bielefeld Academic Search Engine search engine for academic open access web resources
  10. Canadian Association of Research Libraries / Association des bibliothèques de recherche Open Archives Metadata Harvester 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png
  11. Canadian Nursing Index comprehensive web guide to Canadian nursing resources 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png
  12. Canary Database @ Yale Animals as Sentinels of Human Environmental Health Hazards
  13. ChemXSeer environmental chemistry
  14. Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS)
  15. Circumpolar Health Bibliographic Database
  16. CiteBase currently an experimental demonstration
  17. Citeseerx computer and information science 4-star.gif
  18. clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world
  19. CogPrints self-archived papers in psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and computer science
  20. CORE (COnnecting REpositories) aims to facilitate access to scholarly publications distributed across systems
  21. Directory of open access journals (DOAJ)
  22. Discover Ed @ Creative Commons
  23. Drug Industry Document Archive (DIDA)
  24. Ejournals.Org
  25. E-LIS preprints, postprints, documents in library and information science 4-star.gif
  26. Entrez Life sciences search engine meta-search tool
  27. ERIC Education Search education research
  28. Europeana meta-catalogue of cultural heritage collections
  29. FUSE business research engine 728 open-access business ejournals, and open research texts
  30. Google Book Search
  31. Google scholar largest open tool searching across academic disciplines
  32. GoPubMed knowledge-based search engine for biomedical texts
  33. HealthEvidence at McMaster University
  34. HighWire Press Repository of Free Full-Text Life Science Articles
  35. IngentaConnect a range of items across academic disciplines
  36. JURN curated academic search-engine, indexing 3,674 free ejournals in the arts & humanities
  37. LactMed peer-reviewed database of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed
  38. Lalisio literature (Q-Sensei) arXiv, PubMedCentral & IngentaConnect
  39. LibSearch federated search engine harvesting 146 digital libraries & providing access to 1996105 documents new2.gif
  40. Mendeley social bibliography tool that can be used to search for papers
  41. Native Health Database HSLIC Native American Health Information Services
  42. OAIster Worldcat open access and institutional repository meta-search tool
  43. OpenGrey Repository
  44. OpenJGate 7742 Open Access Journals (4635 Peer-Reviewed)
  45. OpenSIGLE reports and grey literature (GL) produced in Europe until 2005
  46. free repository of theses, dissertations, and other academic documents
  47. Organic Eprints papers related to research in organic agriculture 4-star.gif
  48. PhilPapers directory of philosophy articles and books by academics
  49. Policy Archive digital archive of global, non-partisan public policy research 4-star.gif
  50. POPLINE reproductive health literature 1970-present (selected citations back to 1886)
  51. Project Gutenberg e-books in the public domain
  52. PubMed biomedicine and allied fields
  53. PubMedCentral open access repository in biomedicine 4-star.gif
  54. PubMedCentral Canada 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png
  55. RePEc: Research Papers in Economics RePEC collaborative effort to enhance research in economics 4-star.gif
  56. Science Commons data trapped, locked up by contracts or lost in databases is meant to be in the 'science commons'
  57. ScienceDirect 10 million+ articles across science and humanities
  58. Scirus (phased out in 2014) Elsevier content, PubMed
  59. Scitopia science-technology, plus patents and government data
  60. Scopus 435 million scientific web pages; 23 million patents
  61. SumSearch evidence-based meta-search tool, U.S.
  62. Scienceroll personalized medical metasearch engine
  63. Social Science Research Network (SSRN) 4-star.gif
  64. Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) Database - 650,000 records of published research
  65. TRIP Database evidence-based meta-search tool, U.K. content
  66. WolframAlpha Computational Knowledge Engine curated data and millions of lines of algorithms
  67. WorldCat - network of library content, acting as a search tool and index to articles and monographs in libraries worldwide
  68. Yovisto Video access to academic video by providing granular, time-dependent metadata
  69. Zetoc monitoring and search service for global research publications

Open access journal sites

Open source

"Open access to open search in medicine? tools, issues and possible solutions"

  • open search gets to the idea of being able to search academic literature without barriers
  • naturally, there are many 'shades' of open ...(see shades of Open Access)
  • even the least open content locked in the deep web may be findable using open search tools
  • see related shades of Grey literature
  • metaphors: open sesame; key unlocking door; freedom; liberation; entry
  • findability is a problem in a web universe of one-trillion pages, searchable by keyword-only
    • metaphors: fragmentation; million little pieces; everything is miscellaneous
  • search is defining activity of web; search is not comparable to find


How will health librarians find materials on the web in the future? In the excitement of open access to research materials in biomedicine - due to open access journals, for example - health librarians should devote some intellectual energy to examining how articles will be found in the evolving scholarly search space. Do we plan to rely on Google scholar? Will commercial databases like OvidSP and EBSCO offer federated or meta-search options to search beyond their silos? How will we locate scholarly materials in institutional repositories worldwide? Will we expect users to engage in repetitive searching to find these materials? There has been some early discourse around the principles of web 3.0, and its role in improving findability in this uncertain OA universe - what kind of potential does the semantic web offer to academic librarians? Perhaps some as-of-yet unannounced academic search tool is in development at Yahoo to compete against Google scholar?


When first released in 2004, Google scholar caused a stir in academic circles as the first open search tool dedicated to searching the web's scholarly literature. The idea was so appealing, in fact, that the software giant Microsoft launched its own competitor a few short years later, in 2006, called Windows Live Academic Search. Academic search never caught on with the same excitement or approval of the Google brand despite offering a useful functional option for searchers. By 2008, due to less than stellar performance, Microsoft announced it would retire Academic Search, opting out of its book digitization project as well. For its part, GS has remained sui generis in the academic search space. Its primary impact seems to reside in its simple interface, cited by searching and offering access to content that might otherwise not be found. Some critics charge that Scholar has not improved much since its launch in 2004, and web statistics suggest its popularity may be dropping off with time. For many searchers, even in academia, Mother Google - with its ease-of-use, unprecedented reputation and speed - is a worthy alternative. However, for many librarians and scholars, GS is indispensable for finding grey literature and Open Access material.

What is needed for open search in medicine?

See also NNLM Super Searcher: Enhancing Your Online Search Super Powers


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