Open search tools

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See also Discovery Tools vs. Google | Google scholar | Information technology topics | PubMed Alternative Interfaces | Open access | Research Portal for Academic Librarians

Open search tools can be defined as search engines that are free to use and openly-accessible on the web. There are a number of ways the open web can be searched for academic literature: 1) Google scholar or Scirus 2) proprietary databases such as EBSCO and OvidSP and 3) freely-searchable databases such as those below. 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?

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

Sixty (60+) Open Search Tools

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 - most 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. Circumpolar Health Bibliographic Database
  15. CiteBase - currently only an experimental demonstration
  16. CiteSeerX - computer and information science 4-star.gif
  17. - clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world
  18. CogPrints - self-archived papers in psychology, neuroscience, linguistics and computer science
  19. Directory of open access journals - DOAJ
  20. Discover Ed @ Creative Commons
  21. Drug Industry Document Archive (DIDA)
  22. Ejournals.Org
  23. E-LIS - preprints, postprints and other documents in library and information science 4-star.gif
  24. Entrez - Life sciences search engine - meta-search tool
  25. ERIC Education Search - education research
  26. FUSE — a business research engine - 728 open-access business ejournals, and open research texts
  27. Google Book Search
  28. Google scholar - largest open tool searching across academic disciplines
  29. GoPubMed - knowledge-based search engine for biomedical texts
  30. HighWire Press - Largest Repository of Free Full-Text Life Science Articles in the World
  31. IngentaConnect - a range of items across academic disciplines
  32. JURN - curated academic search-engine, indexing 3,674 free ejournals in the arts & humanities
  33. LactMed - peer-reviewed database of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed
  34. Lalisio literature (Q-Sensei) - arXiv, PubMedCentral & IngentaConnect
  35. LibSearch - federated search engine harvesting 146 digital libraries & providing access to 1996105 documents new2.gif
  36. Mendeley - social bibliography tool that can be used to search for papers
  37. Native Health Database - HSLIC Native American Health Information Services
  38. OAIster - OCLC via - open access and institutional repository meta-search tool
  39. OpenGrey Repository -
  40. OpenJGate - 7742 Open Access Journals (4635 Peer-Reviewed)
  41. OpenSIGLE - reports and grey literature (GL) produced in Europe until 2005
  42. - free repository of theses, dissertations, and other academic documents
  43. Organic Eprints - papers related to research in organic agriculture 4-star.gif
  44. PhilPapers - directory of philosophy articles and books by academics
  45. Policy Archive - digital archive of global, non-partisan public policy research 4-star.gif
  46. POPLINE - reproductive health literature 1970-present (selected citations back to 1886)
  47. Project Gutenberg - e-books in the public domain
  48. PubMed - biomedicine and allied fields
  49. PubMedCentral - open access repository in biomedicine 4-star.gif
  50. PubMedCentral Canada 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png
  51. RePEc: Research Papers in Economics RePEC - collaborative effort to enhance dissemination of research in economics 4-star.gif
  52. Science Commons - data trapped, locked up by contracts or lost in databases is meant to be in the 'science commons'
  53. ScienceDirect - 10 million+ articles across science and humanities
  54. Scirus - science, Elsevier content, PubMed
  55. Scitopia - science-technology, plus patents and government data
  56. Scopus - 435 million scientific web pages; 23 million patents
  57. SumSearch - evidence-based meta-search tool, U.S.
  58. Scienceroll Search - a personalized medical metasearch engine
  59. Social Science Research Network (SSRN) 4-star.gif
  60. Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) Database - 650,000 records of published research
  61. TRIP Database - evidence-based meta-search tool, U.K. content
  62. WolframAlpha - Computational Knowledge Engine - trillions of pieces of curated data and millions of lines of algorithms #WorldCat - network of library content, acting as a search tool and index to articles and monographs in libraries worldwide
  63. Yovisto Video - access to academic video by providing granular, time-dependent metadata

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 late 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?

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