Google, Microsoft fight science-citation cyberwar online

The war between Google and Microsoft has penetrated the world of biotechnology research, with the two giants releasing free tools that make it easier for scientists to see which publications are cited the most and to visualize research networks, Nature News reports. The systems could place paid services, such as Thomson Reuters' Web of Knowledge and Elsevier's Scopus database, in a bit of a bind.

The two companies are not new to the world of academic search. Google Scholar has been around since 2004, and Microsoft's Academic Search was launched in 2009. Last month, however, Google upped the ante with its Google Scholar Citations, which can become a kind of clipping service for scientists who want to gather all of their research in one place. The system plots the number of times that research has been cited by others. In addition, it measures the h-index, which tries to assess a scientist's productivity and influence on other researchers.

For its part, Microsoft has added visualizations of citation networks, publication trends and rankings of leading researchers. But analysts say that while Microsoft's network might offer more features, Google still has "enormous size advantage," making it more accurate and reliable. "Microsoft Academic Search is still a nascent offering to the community," notes Microsoft Research's Lee Dirks, although he adds the system's content surged from 15.7 million to 27.1 million publications between March and June. That gives MAS "great potential," the University of Melbourne's Anne-Wil Harzing tells Nature News.

However, other critics say that for really accurate citation statistics, an actual human needs to clean up and check the data somewhere along the line.

- read the report in Nature News