Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Future of Federated Search

I stumbled upon a very interesting and predictive article by Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, over at Federated Search Blog. He was the first runner up in the federated search writing contest. The aim of the contest was to predict the future of federated search. Below is Steven’s bio and his essay, in its entirety. Excerpt:

"Early on, convincing students to use federated search was no easy task. For too long these complacent searchers limited themselves to the one database they knew well or the one some professor told them to use. What’s the point of having 400 or 500 databases with hundreds of thousands of full-text articles if you have no idea what they represent, when to use them, why they are useful or how to get at them? Federated search was supposed to eliminate this what, when, where, why and how conundrum, and replace it with who cares – just get good results - fast. The point was to focus energies on the results and engaging with it for research and learning. But in 2008 federated search was often less effective than what it was supposed to replace or supplement. It was clunky, slow and limited. Who could have expected it would improve so vastly over the past 10 years."


"For hardcore librarians the big knock against federated searching was always the loss of features found in the native databases. Even something as simple as a limit to any group of database’s controlled vocabulary was exceedingly difficult. These losses were just a tradeoff one made for the ease of federated searching. It took until 2014 to eliminate this barrier to creative search. Of course it helps that in Web 5.0 the translators are no longer limited to the most basic fields, but can now rapidly process searches targeting multiple fields across databases. With the addition of predictive search in 2015 it became even less necessary for the end user to even know what search fields were or how they contributed to better search results. They could simply enter their search, using either hand or voice input, and the system would visually present multiple search field options. Want to search by author, image or words in article titles? With just a touch of the screen or voice command any combination of search fields, across any number of different search systems, could be combined to produce precise results. We were finally reaching the stage where consistently reliable and accurate federated search results were on the cusp of becoming reality."

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