Papers Software and Tools

Google Scholar Citations and Microsoft Academic Search: first impressions

There’s been a lot of chat in my scientific circles lately about the recent improvements in freely-available, easily-accessible web applications to organise and store your publications. Google Scholar Citations (my profile) and Microsoft Academic Search (my profile) are the two main contenders, but there are many other resources to use which are mighty fine in their own right (see my publication list on Citeulike for an example of this). Some useful recent blog posts and articles on this subject are:

  • Egon Willighagen’s post includes lots of good questions about the future of free services like GSC and MAS, and how they relate to his use of more traditional services such as the Web Of Science.
  • Alan Cann’s impressions of GSC, including a nice breakdown of his citations by type.
  • Jane Tinkler’s comparison of GSC and MAS, together with a nice description of what happens when a GSC account is made (HT Chris Taylor @memotypic for the link to the article).
  • Nature News’ comparison of GSC and MAS, and impressions of how these players might change the balance of power between free and non-free services.

While I do like each of these technologies for a number of reasons, there are also reasons to be less happy with them. Firstly, their similarities (please be aware I am not trying to make an exhaustive list – just my impressions after using each product for a few days). They both allow the merging of authors, a feature that was very useful to me as I changed my name when I got married. Neither service has a fantastic interface for the merge, but it worked. Both provided some basic metrics: GSC has the h-index and the i10 index, while MAS uses the g and h indexes. Both tell you how many other papers have cited each of your publications. Both seem to get things mostly right (and a little bit wrong) when assigning publications to me – I had to manually fix both apps. Both provide links to co-authors, though GSC’s is rather limited, as you have to actively create a profile there while with MAS profiles are built automatically.

Things I like about Microsoft Academic Search:

  1. Categorisation of publications. You can look down the left-hand side and see your papers categorised by type, keyword, etc.
  2. Looks nicer. Yes, I like Google. But Microsoft’s offering is just a lot better looking.
  3. Found more ancillary stuff. It found my work page (though the URL has since changed), and from there a picture of me. Links out to Bing (of course) and nice organisation of basic info really just makes it look more professional than GSC.
  4. Bulk import of citations in Bibtex format. I really like this feature – I was able to bulk add the missing citations in one fell swoop using a bibtex upload. Shiny!

Things I don’t like about Microsoft Academic Search:

  1. Really slow update time. It insists on vetting each change with a mysterious Microsoftian in the sky. I’ve made a bunch of changes to the profile, updated and added publications, and days later it still hasn’t shown those changes. It’s got to get better if it doesn’t want to irritate me. Sure, do a confirmation step to ensure I am who I say I am, but then give me free rein to change things!
  2. Silverlight. I’ve tried installing moonlight, which seemed to install just fine, but then the co-author graph just showed up empty. Is that a fault with moonlight, or with the website?
  3. Did I mention the really slow update time?

Things I like about Google Scholar Citations:

  1. Changes are immediately visible. Yes, if I merge authors or remove publications or anything else, it shows up immediately on my profile.
  2. No incompatibilities with Linux. All links work, no plugins required.

Things I don’t like about Google Scholar Citations:

  1. Lack of interesting extras. The graphs, fancy categorisations etc. you get with MAS you don’t (yet) get with the Google service.
  2. No connection with the Google profile. Why can’t I provide a link to my Google profile, and then get integration with Google+, e.g. announcements when new publications are added? This is a common complaint with Google+, as many other Google services (e.g. Google reader) aren’t yet linked with it, but hopefully this will come eventually.
  3. Not as pretty. Also, I’m not sure if it’s just my types of papers, but the links in GSC to the individual citations are difficult to read, and it’s hard to determine the ultimate source of the article (e.g. journal or conference name).

I will still use Citeulike as my main publication application. I use it to maintain the library of my own papers and other people’s papers. Its import and export features for bibtex are great, and it can convert web pages to citations with just one click (or via a bookmarklet). It has loads of other bells and whistles as well. While I’m writing up my thesis, I visit it virtually every day to add citations and export bibtex.

So, between Google and Microsoft, which do I like better? They’re very similar, but Microsoft Academic Search wins right now. But both services are improving daily, and we’ll have to see how things change in future.

And the thing that really annoys me? I now feel the need to keep my publications up to date on three systems: Citeulike (it’s the thing I actually use when writing papers etc.), Microsoft Academic Search, and Google Scholar Citations. No, I don’t *have* to maintain all three, but people can find out about me from all of them, and I want to try to ensure what they see is correct. Irritating. Can we just have some sensible researcher IDs in common use, and from that an unambiguous way to discover which publications are mine? I know efforts are under way, but it can’t come soon enough.