So, here's the story:
It’s just past seven on Friday night. You’re finally sitting down after a long, hard week and then, it hits you: your boss is expecting your report on alternative fuel vehicles to be on his desk first thing Monday morning. Your research and notes are on your laptop and, flipping it open, you Google. You come up with close to two million results – not good. You start to scroll down the results, hoping that something will jump out at you and, eureka. You strike pay dirt. You come across Canada’s scientific and technical research library and best kept secret: National Research Council Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI). You’ve discovered a wonderful new service that allows you, for a small fee, to access for one view, one print, over 11 million articles in their database–you have a goldmine at your fingertips!
With over 600,000 requests for information annually, NRC-CISTI, also known as Canada’s national science library, provides assistance to over 5,500 clients worldwide. The Pay-Per-Article (PPA) service is another example of the innovation and leadership that the National Research Council is known for. The PPA service, launched officially in July 2007, enables users to quickly access an extensive selection of STM articles held locally in NRC-CISTI's electronic and print journal collections. Coverage from NRC-CISTI's print journal collection includes articles from over 10 000 journals published in 1993 or later. NRC-CISTI's electronic journal collection covers articles from major publishers. This material dates from the present back to the 1950s, depending on the publication.
Getting back to your report. You access several journal articles by leading researchers in the field of alternative fuel technology. You finish your report before the cartoons finish Saturday morning and you are able to spend the rest of the week-end relaxing – or learning about alternative heating systems for your house. I wonder if there are any articles on green roofs in the PPA system…
A common enough story, I think. As much as we all wish that everything were available for free on the Internet, we're just not there yet. Getting the scholarly and professional literature to go Open Access is going to be a long and bumpy road.
In the mean time, The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information has launched a Pay Per Article service to help people get access to the information they need at a reasonable price -- $12 Canadian. There's a plug-in you download that makes sure you can only download and print an article from their online collection once.
This is an interesting and useful service, one that I hope finds a useful niche among small businesses and independant researchers. I just hope not too many students and others end up paying for content their institutions already subscribe too. On the other hand, being a person that hopes that the various Open Access publishing models become the norm over the next decade or so, I wonder what the longer term future is for such a service.
(And just so you know, CISTI approached me to blog about this service.)