A free 3-year-old government information service and Web site for the physical sciences has lost out to commercial publishers in a battle for eyeballs. On 7 August the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it intends to pull the plug on PubSCIENCE, which provided access to bibliographic records in the physical sciences, because it overlapped with similar projects by private publishers.
DOE created PubSCIENCE in 1999 as part of an effort to disseminate and improve access to scientific information (Science, 6 August 1999, p. 811). But Walter Warnick, director of DOE's Office of Scientific and Technical Information, says it quickly became superfluous. "We think that portion of our mission is adequately filled by Infotrieve and Scirus," he says. These free-to-search databases are owned by the Los Angeles-based Infotrieve corporation and Amsterdam-based Elsevier Science.
PubSCIENCE was modeled after PubMED, the National Institutes of Health's popular online collection of journal citations and abstracts. Although publishers such as Elsevier Science, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (the publisher of Science) cooperated with DOE, PubSCIENCE never gathered the momentum that its medical counterpart did. "I think one of the advantages PubMED always had over PubSCIENCE was that it was always very comprehensive in the disciplines that it covers," says Warnick.
The diversity of the physical sciences made it hard for PubSCIENCE to gain a toehold in a competitive market. Frank Vrancken Peeters, the managing director for Elsevier's ScienceDirect service, which includes Scirus, speculates that the difference between physicists and medical researchers might have contributed to PubSCIENCE's demise. "The physical sciences are much more fragmented, more niche," he says.
Monica Bradford, Science's executive editor, says that PubSCIENCE "wasn't around long enough to establish itself." Although she says she's "personally disappointed" that it failed, "I don't think it will be missed."