IEEE Xplore and the Google Box: What’s in the function machine?

I’m a huge fan of Google Scholar. It’s a fantastic tool for finding papers when you have the citation. Much faster than using using the OPAC or some other databases when you know exactly what you’re looking for. The problem is that Google is very opaque with how it works. I liken it to a function machine: you input something and hope the output is what you want. Usually that’s the case, but what to do when the function changes and the output shifts?

IEEE Xplore just found out about that the hard way. From a recent email they sent to subscribers:

We learned that the majority of IEEE Xplore article metadata records had been eliminated from Google search results. This means that anyone attempting to search for IEEE articles by using Google or Google Scholar would be less likely to find IEEE content. Because half of all IEEE Xplore traffic comes through Google searches, particularly among our corporate customers, this could result in a significant drop in your IEEE Xplore usage.

In investigating the current issue, we learned that Google had changed its indexing policy regarding IEEE Xplore. In April 2010, Google decided to discard their previous IEEE Xplore metadata index and completely rebuild an index of over 2.5 million IEEE Xplore metadata records.

How long had this been an issue before IEEE or its subscribers figured it out? How many people were using Google or Google Scholar after being told it’s OK, only to be disappointed or confused by not finding what they need? I hope Google re-indexes things quickly, and as the SLA Gov Info blog points out, searching IEEE Xplore directly is the still the best way to access the material, I know most people will still just try Google first off. The question is, will they then try Xplore or just give up?

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