Overcoming technical problems for accessing vital research: progress report
SUMMARY: A progress report for how to maintain a large and freely accessible research library for use by an international group of researchers
DATA BASE (Sculpture; letters are laser cut into an Oxford English Dictionary.
Image: Michael Mandiberg (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States).
Last week, I sought suggestions for addressing the technical problems faced by an international group of researchers as they try to maintain and use their online research library. Since I received such an overwhelming number of responses, I am sharing part of my progress report that I sent to my research group.
Thanks to your suggestions, I've had a lot of options to investigate and think about. I have recommended Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs) to my group to store, access and organise our library PDFs.
- Google drive can be accessed from anywhere in the world using any online Mac/PC device including from desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, to any of the various smart phones (Google is still working on iPhone interface).
- Google Drive uses a web browser, which means that blind users can access the library, too (although I don't think we have any blind researchers in our group!)
- The database is searchable and Google Drive can even recognise text in scanned documents, which opens up more options to us as we expand our library for completeness to include newspaper and magazine articles, book chapters and other material
- Google Drive is still being developed, so it may not be as streamlined and as functional as we wish it to be right now, but it should improve over time
- Google Drive will cost us a nominal fee each month, as follows:
5 GB: free
25 GB: $2.49/month
100 GB: $4.99/month
1 TB: $49.99/month
In my opinion, this expense is not excessive, and seriously, how much space is required to store 1500+ PDFs, anyway?
Because our group of researchers is comprised of people who speak a dozen languages, we have been plagued by individuals accidentally deleting the library. One particularly useful feature of Google Drive is the overall difficulty of accidentally deleting files. This is because permanent deletion is a 2-step process where (1) the article is "trashed" and it is then stored there until (2) the trash is purged. If an article is accidentally trashed, it can be restored from the trash unless the trash had been purged first (as described here). Look familiar? This process is just like that for most computers!
During the course of my research, I ran across this interesting plain-English comparison between Google Drive, Dropbox (which we use now), and another service, SkyDrive. I link to this because others may find this information useful.
As an aside, one of my commenters, Patrick Anderson, suggested this interesting website; Free full PDF. This site claims to "contain" 80 million scientific PDFs, which anyone can access, free of charge. I've been playing with this site and I think it actually is a search engine for scientific PDFs that are accessible from somewhere in the world, free-of-charge -- similar to Google Scholar except it only returns links that are open access. On one hand, this is a wonderful resource, IF you know the title of what you are looking for. Unfortunately, the search algorithm is a bit sloppy, so if you use keywords for your search, it will return literally hundreds of search results, some of which are not related in any logical way to what you seek.
At this time, I am suggesting to my group that we seriously consider adopting Google Drive for our library needs. However, if anyone out there knows of low-cost (free?) options that may serve us better, feel free to chime in. In addition to our accidental deletion problems, my group is especially concerned about privacy due to potential copyright issues.
If you are using Google Drive now, I'd be interested to know what your experiences are and what you think of it so far.
NOTE: slightly reformatted from the original, which was published on The Guardian.
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