The rather strange decision by Google to shut down Google Reader has caused some alarming speculation. What if they next shut down Google Scholar? Here’s Farhad Manjoo, and here’s Joshua Gans. (via the Dish)
Google Scholar has truly revolutionised research by:
- Making it easy, and fast, to search for relevant literature
- Making it easy to export references (including in bibtex)
- Showing up multiple copies of the same paper, including pdfs archived on personal webpages — especially useful if the official one is paywalled (I’m sure people like Elsevier aren’t happy about that)
- And, of course, giving citation statistics for free.
Would Google really close Scholar? Hard to imagine, but it was hard to imagine they’d kill Google Reader (and keep Orkut alive!) The nearest free alternative I can think of is PubMed but that’s mainly bio-med and, even there, falls far short of what Scholar offers (but also offers things Scholar doesn’t, like full text for many papers).
Besides, Google’s day won’t last forever. Right now they are obscenely rich and powerful, and can afford to subsidise these unprofitable things with the idea of attracting mindshare among academic types. But what if Google’s other businesses decline significantly?
Manjoo says Google isn’t a public utility. Very true. He also observes that this is a risk of the “cloud” — if the software doesn’t live on your hard disk, it can be pulled anytime. He therefore advocates paying for any online service we find useful. In general I agree, but only when they ask for money, and I didn’t notice Google asking Reader users for any. But it is imperative to build a public version of Google Scholar. PubMed is good for its field, but too narrow. It needs to be replicated on a larger scale, by many countries.