Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Elsevier Introduces SciVerse

I've mentioned that information and academic publishers are starting to open up their data to third party applications providers and, in the process, enable greater utility for their subscribers and users. SciVerse, announced today by Elsevier, is a platform for doing just that. For a publisher of this size and importance to academics, professionals and institutions this initiative should be considered quite important as it represents a significant (and logical) step in the evolution of information database publishing.

As the press release states, SciVerse is "an innovative platform that integrates the company's key products and encourages the scientific community to collaborate on the development of customized search and discovery applications. Elsevier has committed to releasing the APIs (application programming interfaces) for all of the content on SciVerse and will offer application development support tools on the site."

SciVerse will be impressive from the start and will incorporate ScienceDirect, Scopus and targeted web content from Scirus, Elsevier's science-specific Internet search engine. Built into the platform will be some basic but useful technology which will enable efficient cross database searching and other functionality, but what Elsevier is banking on (and, it seems a pretty safe bet given the quality of this content) is that third party application providers will provide significant ingenuity in building applications that Elsevier's subscribers will find useful. As Jay Katzen, Managing Director, Academic & Government Products, Elsevier notes,
"SciVerse is a start of a new journey for Elsevier where we plan to provide customized search and discovery solutions and increase interoperability within our products and third party services. We recognize that it is critical to involve the researchers and librarians in the creation of solutions as they are in the best position to identify and address their search and discovery challenges. By providing our content APIs later this year, we will empower researchers and developers to build custom applications to enhance their workflow and share these applications with the scientific community within SciVerse."
Elsevier will open up SciVerse to the developer community (many of whom are likely to be their subscribers) later in the year and the mechanism for doing this isn't clear; however, it is likely that their will be some type of registration and/or approval process similar to the Apple apps store process. Whether or how Elsevier will share in revenues that may be generated by some of these new apps is also unclear; however, should this be a practical outcome of this initiative it may end up driving some substantial incremental revenue for Elsevier. Most importantly though, this initiative will ultimately tie Elsevier content even firmer into the workflow and processes of their customers as these applications address specific problems for customers. This aspect shouldn't be under valued as an important contributor to the continued growth of the Elsevier product line. It will be interesting to see how other information and academic publishers react to this news.

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