Open search

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Do you have a few favourite "open search tools" that you use regularly? Do they cover your academic interests? If not, try some of the ~70 search engines below...
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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, July 2017


See also Data management portal | Google scholar | Information technology topics | Open access | Open data | Research Portal for Academic Librarians

Open search refers to websites and search engines that are open to search on the web i.e., "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, PubMed. In addition, proprietary databases such as EBSCO and Ovid 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 (~72) 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. see also US Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Library (NAL) PubAg 4-star.gif
  6. Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL) peer-reviewed web-based discovery materials in the analytical sciences
  7. Arctic Health (NLM) links to full-text journal articles, reports, newspapers, conference proceedings, grey literature
  8. arXiv physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology and statistics 4-star.gif
  9. Astrophysics Data System (ADS) 8.6 million records in astronomy and astrophysics, physics
  10. BASE - Bielefeld Academic Search Engine search engine for academic open access web resources
  11. Canadian Association of Research Libraries / Association des bibliothèques de recherche Open Archives Metadata Harvester 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png
  12. Canadian Nursing Index comprehensive web guide to Canadian nursing resources 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png
  13. Canary Database @ Yale Animals as Sentinels of Human Environmental Health Hazards
  14. ChemXSeer environmental chemistry
  15. Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS)
  16. Circumpolar Health Bibliographic Database
  17. CiteBase currently an experimental demonstration
  18. Citeseerx computer and information science 4-star.gif
  19. clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world
  20. CogPrints self-archived papers in psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and computer science
  21. CORE (COnnecting REpositories) aims to facilitate access to scholarly publications distributed across systems
  22. Directory of open access journals (DOAJ)
  23. Discover Ed @ Creative Commons
  24. Drug Industry Document Archive (DIDA)
  25. Ejournals.Org
  26. E-LIS preprints, postprints, documents in library and information science 4-star.gif
  27. Entrez Life sciences search engine meta-search tool
  28. ERIC Education Search education research
  29. Europeana meta-catalogue of cultural heritage collections
  30. FUSE business research engine 728 open-access business ejournals, and open research texts
  31. Google Book Search
  32. Google scholar largest open tool searching across academic disciplines 4-star.gif4-star.gif
  33. GoPubMed knowledge-based search engine for biomedical texts
  34. HealthEvidence at McMaster University
  35. HighWire Press Repository of Free Full-Text Life Science Articles
  36. IngentaConnect a range of items across academic disciplines
  37. JURN curated academic search-engine, indexing 3,674 free ejournals in the arts & humanities
  38. LactMed peer-reviewed database of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed
  39. Lalisio literature (Q-Sensei) arXiv, PubMedCentral & IngentaConnect
  40. LibSearch federated search engine harvesting 146 digital libraries & providing access to 1996105 documents new2.gif
  41. Mendeley social bibliography tool that can be used to search for papers
  42. Native Health Database HSLIC Native American Health Information Services
  43. OAIster Worldcat open access and institutional repository meta-search tool
  44. OpenGrey Repository
  45. OpenJGate 7742 Open Access Journals (4635 Peer-Reviewed)
  46. OpenSIGLE reports and grey literature (GL) produced in Europe until 2005
  47. free repository of theses, dissertations, and other academic documents
  48. Organic Eprints papers related to research in organic agriculture 4-star.gif
  49. PhilPapers directory of philosophy articles and books by academics
  50. Policy Archive digital archive of global, non-partisan public policy research 4-star.gif
  51. POPLINE reproductive health literature 1970-present (selected citations back to 1886)
  52. Project Gutenberg e-books in the public domain
  53. PubMed biomedicine and allied fields
  54. PubMedCentral open access repository in biomedicine 4-star.gif
  55. PubMedCentral Canada 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png
  56. RePEc: Research Papers in Economics RePEC collaborative effort to enhance research in economics 4-star.gif
  57. SafetyLit: Injury Prevention Literature Update & Archive Database Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence
  58. Science Commons data trapped, locked up by contracts or lost in databases is meant to be in the 'science commons'
  59. ScienceDirect 10 million+ articles across science and humanities
  60. Scirus (phased out in 2014) Elsevier content, PubMed
  61. Scitopia science-technology, plus patents and government data
  62. Scopus 435 million scientific web pages; 23 million patents
  63. SumSearch evidence-based meta-search tool, U.S.
  64. Scienceroll personalized medical metasearch engine
  65. Social Science Research Network (SSRN) 4-star.gif
  66. Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) Database - 650,000 records of published research
  67. TRIP Database evidence-based meta-search tool, U.K. content
  68. US Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Library (NAL) PubAg 4-star.gif
  69. WolframAlpha Computational Knowledge Engine curated data and millions of lines of algorithms
  70. WorldCat - network of library content, acting as a search tool and index to articles and monographs in libraries worldwide
  71. Yovisto Video access to academic video by providing granular, time-dependent metadata
  72. 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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