Press Release

Physics/Astronomy “Virtual Libraries” Join Forces to Offer Powerful, New Personalized Web and E-mail Alerts

By SpaceRef Editor
April 17, 2005
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Cambridge, MA- The NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS), headquartered at the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., is a
virtual library that offers “one-stop shopping” for physicists and
astronomers seeking the latest research. ADS provides free access to a huge
database of abstracts and full-text papers in those scientific fields. Many
of those papers reside within the e-print server, which is owned
and operated by Cornell University.

Sifting through these huge research archives presents an ongoing challenge.
In April 2005, ADS and arXiv will join forces to improve the services they
offer scientists by implementing three separate customizable Web and e-mail
alerts. Now, scientists around the world will be automatically notified when
preprints or journal papers relevant to their research field are published.

“A researcher essentially can get a customized front page of a newspaper
with all the breaking news in their field,” said Smithsonian scientist
Michael Kurtz (CfA), who originally conceived the ADS system. “You can see
who’s interested in you and read the latest work by people you’re interested
in. You also can follow your favorite topics and see which topics are most
popular with everyone else.”

These changes will apply to an existing Web/e-mail notification system
called “myADS.” This personalized service has been available for about a
year, and approximately 20 percent of astronomers use it. The planned
upgrade is expected to draw a large influx of physics users as well as more

“The capabilities of myADS are unique and rather powerful,” said Guenther
Eichhorn (CfA), ADS project scientist. “We use advanced AI [artificial
intelligence] techniques to deliver exactly the information that scientists
want and need.”

According to Kurtz and Eichhorn, ADS uses complex statistical evaluations of
use patterns and of article reference lists to help select the most
interesting and significant recent literature for a given search request.
When combined with the state-of-the-art AI techniques used by myADS, these
search techniques offer a fast and highly effective method to find papers
that are most important to an individual scientist.

“It’s the best thing since two pieces of sliced bread were assembled to make
a sandwich,” said Paul Ginsparg, Professor of Physics and Information
Science at Cornell University.

MyADS now will offer three e-mail notifications, containing information on
new preprints, astronomy journal papers, and physics journal papers.
Preprint notices will be distributed weekly, while astronomy and physics
notices will be distributed each time those databases are updated, roughly
every two weeks. The same information also will be available via custom web
sites for each myADS user.

The ADS is the largest non-commercial database of scientific abstracts and
articles in the world, containing more than 4 million records. It can be
accessed online at

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA
scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin,
evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

SpaceRef staff editor.