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Google – an Imperative Tool for Research Scientists

April 13, 2010

Two months ago in the midst of the Google-China fiasco, Nature published a survey on the search engine usage by research scientists in China. Of the 784 respondents, more than three-quarters of the scientists said they use Google as the primary search engine for their research. “Research without Google would be like life without electricity,” said one respondent. More than 80% use the search engine to find academic papers.

Of course there is nothing special about China in google usage; the findings are very typical of most countries in the world. Google is definitely an essential tool in an information age for everyone, scientists included. Google’s services are free, which sets it apart from other mega databases like ISI Web of Science. As one prominent physicist and an Academy member told me “I just Google in key words and ideas” implying that the search engine use is an embedded task in his workflow. That is also the conclusion of a published study on the search engine use behavior which in addition provided some important recommendations for future implementations; but……that is material for review for another day.

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