Physics/Astronomy "Virtual Libraries" Join Forces to Offer Powerful, New Personalized Web and E-mail Alerts
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Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 8:00pm

The NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), headquartered at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., is a virtual library that offers "one-stop shopping" for physicists and astronomers seeking the latest research. ADS provides free access to a huge database of abstracts and full-text papers in those scientific fields. Many of those papers reside within the arXiv.org e-print server, which is owned and operated by Cornell University.

Sifting through these huge research archives presents an ongoing challenge. In April 2005, ADS and arXiv will join forces to improve the services they offer scientists by implementing three separate customizable Web and e-mail alerts. Now, scientists around the world will be automatically notified when preprints or journal papers relevant to their research field are published.

"A researcher essentially can get a customized front page of a newspaper with all the breaking news in their field," said Smithsonian scientist Michael Kurtz (CfA), who originally conceived the ADS system. "You can see who's interested in you and read the latest work by people you're interested in. You also can follow your favorite topics and see which topics are most popular with everyone else."

These changes will apply to an existing Web/e-mail notification system called "myADS." This personalized service has been available for about a year, and approximately 20 percent of astronomers use it. The planned upgrade is expected to draw a large influx of physics users as well as more astronomers.

"The capabilities of myADS are unique and rather powerful," said Guenther Eichhorn (CfA), ADS project scientist. "We use advanced AI [artificial intelligence] techniques to deliver exactly the information that scientists want and need."

According to Kurtz and Eichhorn, ADS uses complex statistical evaluations of use patterns and of article reference lists to help select the most interesting and significant recent literature for a given search request. When combined with the state-of-the-art AI techniques used by myADS, these search techniques offer a fast and highly effective method to find papers that are most important to an individual scientist.

"It's the best thing since two pieces of sliced bread were assembled to make a sandwich," said Paul Ginsparg, Professor of Physics and Information Science at Cornell University.

MyADS now will offer three e-mail notifications, containing information on new preprints, astronomy journal papers, and physics journal papers. Preprint notices will be distributed weekly, while astronomy and physics notices will be distributed each time those databases are updated, roughly every two weeks. The same information also will be available via custom web sites for each myADS user.

The ADS is the largest non-commercial database of scientific abstracts and articles in the world, containing more than 4 million records. It can be accessed online at http://ads.harvard.edu.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

David A. Aguilar
Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Christine PulliamPublic Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics