A hot take on discovery system results
Here's an example of Google doing better then a discovery system. First and foremost your mileage may vary. This is a very specific example but endemic of the landscape we find ourselves in.
Since I have some tiny amount of domain knowledge now this doesn't come from an abstract Librarian assessment of what results are best. Last summer I read some work on an aspect of a mathematical process named after Pollard written by a someone named Teske. So with a simple keyword search:
I tried to get back to those readings using two different tools
- The paper I wanted. Full text, in postscript to boot. Hosted at the affiliated school's departmental website. (Author's hosted copy)
- Second great result. Full text and hosted at affiliated schools deparmental website (Author's hosted copy)
- Abstract (in PS format) of conference paper described in result 4. Once again hosted at school's website
- Conference paper published two years after what I was looking for. Probably a combination of paper 1 and 2
- A paper citing the paper 2 and 4
- The paper! Yeah, but hosted through JSTOR, ie a link I couldn't share with anyone who wasn't affiliated with a school that has a subscription.
- A paper on a similar topic but not what I was hoping for about 2/3 relevant
- Perhaps some research in a similar topic but not what I was hoping for, about 1/3 relevant
- Just the citation (not full-text) of result #2 from Google. A novice searcher would presumably give up at this point as the OpenURL/ native full-text didn't lead anywhere
- Not close enough for me to click on.
Putting this together I was stewing in my mind over what sort of scathing indictment I could levy again the discovery system... It was out of touch with reality, didn't understand the topic, missed the point of what I was trying to find. Ultimately though I think discovered what I was. The discovery system is constructed / predicated on respecting the formal publishing lifecycle such as it is. Things don't count here unless it is birthed through the process. Case in point Google Result #1 and #2 are not the formal copy of a finished product but it is what I wanted. Extrapolate a bit, if we as a profession are pushing OA via Repositories then our discovery systems should reflect that in some respect though, right? The utility of pre-press/author copy will be different for different disciplines but full-text is full-text and when it comes to it I'm happy that I have the PS files I was gunning for with 13 keystrokes.
Oh you bet. However anytime this happens that is one more tiny bit of preference felt towards Google. Happens enough times and it leaves a lasting impression. Our edge/utility/je ne sais quoi/differential errodes and people go to the G first. In my year-ish doing a Master's degree this scenario has come up again and again.