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Microsoft reveals answer to Google Scholar

Beta of Windows Live Academic Search currently covers physics, electrical engineering and computer science research.

Microsoft has released an English-language beta version of Windows Live Academic Search, a service for searching academic journals.

The release is available in Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as in the United States, and is positioned as an alternative to Google Scholar or SciFinder Scholar.

Academic Search indexes library-subscribed content and supports OpenURL, the library standard currently used for linking to subscription-based content. In order for Academic Search to work, libraries or research facilities must provide Microsoft with information on their OpenURL link resolver, a vendor that creates and manages the customized links to content. Academic search can then provide the researcher with direct access links to the full text materials, based on their institutions' subscriptions.

The expected sorting and citation-compiling features common to academic-journal searching are included. Researchers can control the amount of immediate information that comes up in search results in a variety of ways. Search results link directly to full articles from the publisher, if the user is researching from an institution that subscribes to that publishers' content.

Material that is not subscribed to by the searching institution still comes up in a search, with abstract and all pertinent publication information available. Depending on the publisher, users who click on a link for the full text might get a message offering a single-article purchase.

RSS feeds are available to inform researchers of new material as it is published or cited. A researcher can also create macros for customizable searching needs.

The service currently covers only physics, electrical engineering and computer science, Microsoft said in a statement, but the software giant is working with publishers to expand content access. Upon testing, however, the system does seem to link to humanities journal portals such as the Oxford Journals' Forum for Modern Languages Studies.

In addition to academic returns, the current version of Academic Search provides search results for portals named "Web," "News," "Local" and "Feeds." The service is undoubtedly a direct attempt to compete with Google Scholar.

Academic Search can also be integrated into Windows Live, the new online desktop service Microsoft released in beta earlier this year.