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Mobile Apps for Searching the Scientific Literature

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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I recently taught a fun workshop called “Mobile Apps for Research and Education.”  We talked about some apps to access library databases, then shared some favorite apps for getting work done.

The mobile apps for accessing library resources are always a bit weird.  Because libraries and institutions pay lots of money for access to databases from Proquest, Ebsco, Elsevier, etc., their mobile apps and websites need to have a way of figuring out that the mobile user is associated with one of those institutions.  They do this in a variety of ways, some of which are annoying all the time and some of which are annoying just once in a while.

iPhone screenshot of apps for research

Some of my iPhone apps

Some of these apps or websites allow you to search for and find out that an article exists, and perhaps learn a bit about the article (an abstract): The PubMed mobile website is like this.  Other apps allow you to access the full text content of a particular article, but aren’t very good at searching: The ACS Mobile app allows you full text access to current research.

I’ve seen various methods of authenticating users.  Some require you to sign up for an account via your desktop computer while on your institution’s network, then sign into the same account on the mobile platform.  Hopefully they don’t make you sign in each time.  Others require you to be on the campus network with your smart phone, or to use a mobile VPN to access content.  I’m seeing less of this lately, which is great because this is a really annoying way to use these apps.  I really liked the way that Ebsco handled authentication: From the desktop app, you click on a link and Ebsco sends an email with an authentication link.  You open the email on your mobile device and get access for 9 months to the app – no need to sign in over and over, and you don’t even need a user account if you don’t want one.

Of course, doing big time research on these apps isn’t the main goal – it would be slow and cumbersome to do your research primarily on a tiny handheld device.  But for quick look ups in meetings and while out and about, these apps and websites can be incredibly useful.

Here is a small list of apps and mobile websites for accessing scholarly information on your mobile device.  All of the apps listed are free to download, but may require a user to be affiliated with an institutional subscriber in order to access content. (Note that this list tends to be iOS-centric because I don’t have an Android device. Sorry.)

  • Ebscohost
    • Platforms: iOS, Android, Web
    • Description:  Access full text articles and article abstracts from a large number of library databases that use the Ebsco platform (GeoRef, Business Source Complete, Greenfile, etc.).  To get access, visit one of your library’s Ebsco databases (like Academic Search Complete) and click the “EBSCOhost iPhone and Android Applications” link at the bottom of the page.  You’ll get an email that you need to open up on your phone/device and tap the authentication link. The app will work on campus and off campus, no matter which network you are on.
  • Sciverse Scopus Alerts
    • Platforms: iOS, Web
    • Description: Search the Scopus database for article abstracts and citations.  Get search and citation alerts. Users must register first at Scopus, then log in on the app with the Scopus username and password.
  • arXiv
    • Platforms: iOS
    • Description: Free full text access to the pre-prints available at the arXiv.org website in Physics, Mathematics, Nonlinear Sciences, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance, and Statistics.
  • iResearch
    • Platform: iOS
    • Description: Full text access to American Institute of Physics Journals.  Requires an individual subscription or an institutional subscription to access full text.
  • PubMed
    • Platform: Mobile website, iOS apps (PubMed On Tap, PubMed4Hh)
    • Description: PubMed is a free index to the biomedical literature, with links to publishers websites for (paid) full text and links to PubMedCentral for free full text (where available). Several apps can be used to access PubMed and create lists or do more complex searching.
  • SciFinder
    • Platform: Mobile website
    • Description: For those affiliated with an institution with access, you’ll need your SciFinder username and password to look up journal literature or look for chemical information by substance name or CAS registry number.  Chemical structure searching isn’t available on the mobile site.
  • ACS Mobile
    • Platform: iOS
    • Description: Access recent articles from your favorite ACS publications. Requires the user to be on the institutional network or VPN, or requires an individual subscription for full text access. Non-subscribers can still browse article abstracts.  Good for discovering recent work, not great for searching the archive of ACS publications.
  • GeoScienceWorld
    • Platform: Mobile website
    • Description: Users from institutions with a subscription can browse and read the geoscience literature.  Read the HTML version of an article (much easier on a mobile device) or download (or email) the PDF.  Authentication requires users to get an authentication key while on an institutional network before using the site off-network, which is a bit confusing.
  • Google Scholar
    • Platform: Mobile website
    • Description: Any mobile user can search Google Scholar for free, and often get access to freely available documents.  If you are using your mobile device at your institution, and if your institution has configured their Google Scholar library links, you will also see links connecting you to library resources.  You can set up these links for yourself under “Settings” (for the mobile and desktop versions).  This website is great for discovering content, but when you click on an article title you enter the publishers website that may or may not be mobile friendly.

Obviously, I’ve left a lot out – apps and mobile websites for individual publications, apps for collecting and analyzing scientific data, etc.  Do you use your mobile device to read or search the scientific literature? What apps or mobile websites do you use ?  Leave your suggestions and recommendations in the comments below.

 

Bonnie Swoger About the Author: Bonnie J. M. Swoger is a Science and Technology Librarian at a small public undergraduate institution in upstate New York, SUNY Geneseo. She teaches students about the science literature, helps faculty and students with library research questions and leads library assessment efforts. She has a BS in Geology from St. Lawrence University, an MS in Geology from Kent State University and an MLS from the University at Buffalo. She would love to have some free time in which to indulge in hobbies. She blogs at the Undergraduate Science Librarian. Follow on Twitter @bonnieswoger.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Florian_HH 11:57 am 03/28/2013

    Hello,
    I’m using EconBiz of the ZBW.
    This app is also on FB: http://www.facebook.com/DieZBW/app_186268111422317

    I’m searching for similar FB-Apps from US-Libraries, are you aware of those kinds?

    Link to this
  2. 2. brownwr 9:25 am 06/24/2013

    Great

    Link to this
  3. 3. Fisher King 10:02 am 06/24/2013

    Science.gov Mobile http://m.science.gov/scigovmobile/, http://www.osti.gov/sciencegovapp
    Platform: Mobile website, Android
    Description: Find science information and research results from 13 U.S. federal agencies. Get quick answers from over 55 scientific databases and more than 2100 website

    WorldWideScience Mobile http://m.worldwidescience.org/wwsmobile/
    Platform: Mobile website
    Description: Search approximately 80 scientific databases and portals from leading libraries and information centers around the world. Enter a single query and let WWS.org combine, rank, and translate the results.

    OSTI.gov Mobile http://m.osti.gov/ostimobile/
    Platform: Mobile website
    Description: Get energy-related full-text documents, citations, patents, multimedia, data files, and more. Narrow results by document type, download and email results. Get the OSTIblog, twitter, Facebook, videos, and news.

    Link to this

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