Searching scientific papers online

Scientific publishers that partner with CrossRef are to allow seaching of their online content using Google. If they'd made the articles available for anyone to index this could probably have been set up in about half an hour, with open access hosting for all the papers and reference linking thrown in for a bonus. As it stands, you'll be able to search the papers but probably won't be able to read them.

Here's some more forward-thinking ideas: Analysing the scientific papers in their online context (free to read, as it's part of Nature's Access to the Literature debate).

The free versus fee debate over access to the scientific literature is a lively one, but it is also important to keep in mind the bigger picture, that the Internet is bringing about a much broader evolution in the way scientists work and communicate. Information and value increasingly lies not just in the published article but in relationships between articles, in the links among authors and papers, and in less formal communication among users and communities through Weblogs (or 'blogs'), listservs, home pages and other sources on the Web.

Understanding this wider context requires not only thinking on substantially larger scales, but also handling very different levels of heterogeneity. Going beyond journals and articles, making use of the nodes, links and complex interconnections in this scientific information space, in turn requires new Web-scale tools and algorithms.

The scientific literature is a mechanism for the dissemination and archiving of research, but it has also an been an object of study in itself: techniques for analysing the scientific literature have a long history and remain the subject of active research, drawing on methods from citation analysis, information retrieval, machine learning and data mining. These techniques in turn have led to a number of tools for helping scientists track topics and new developments in their own research areas.