Pubget Speeds Up Science Journal Searches, Provides Marketing Tools

6/23/09

Ramy Arnaout, a clinical pathologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, believed he and his colleagues were wasting precious time performing Web searches for scientific journal articles. Time would be better spent curing diseases and treating patients. So he developed an application at first to use on his own computer to speed up his online queries for medical texts, but his efforts have evolved into a Web-based search tool for life sciences research papers and a company to market the technology, Pubget.

Cambridge, MA-based Pubget was founded in 2007 and recently disclosed that 50 research institutions have adopted its search service. The six-person startup’s search engine is designed to retrieve full-text research papers on PDF files with a single query. This is intended to be an improvement to previous science research paper search tools such as the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed and Google Scholar, both of which often require people to click through multiple links to get to a full-text version of a journal article. The company boasts that its search engine can retrieve some 20 million articles from 20,000 life sciences journals.

I gave Pubget a whirl last week, having had some troubles of my own finding life sciences texts with PubMed. I started my search with a toughie, “natural killer T cells,” and found that Pubget found 23,371 documents, with the first 100 results listed on the left hand column of the webpage. (Ryan Jones, president of Pubget, gave me a quick primer on how to use the startup’s search engine.) As Jones had told me, Pubget only displays the full-text PDFs of research papers if they are either free or your institution has a subscription to the journal that publishes them. Of the few NKT cell articles I clicked on, the most I was able to get was an abstract. Unfortunately, only about a third of the articles Pubget is able to retrieve are free. (Our tax dollars pay for lots of the research published in subscription-only journals, but that’s a debate for a different time I suppose.)

Yet there are a few innovations that Pubget appears to bring to the table. First of all, other search engines that I’ve used are not able to retrieve a full-text PDF file—the kind that make for easy, readable printouts—in a single search. Second, Jones tells me that Pubget is programmed to know whether your institution has a subscription to a journal that publishes the article you want, using single sign-on technology the firm developed to enable full articles to be displayed without asking for additional passwords and such. Even researchers at Harvard, which has subscriptions to many journals, can’t easily retrieve articles online with previous search engines because of this need to keep re-entering passwords, he says.

Pubget’s business model is to provide the search service for free, and to make money by … Next Page »

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