Scientific-journal group Nature, long a staple of academia, moves into the cloud with an online database research site called Scitable. Designed to be used by both students and educators, the collaborative-based site will face competition from Google's Knol and Wikipedia in the online-research category.
Nature Publishing Group has long been a staple of science-based publishing,
but it only recently decided to make its peer-reviewed information on genetics
available online to undergraduates and educators through Scitable, an online
site found here.
Scitable pulls information from over 30 different Nature journals, and also
includes new peer-reviewed content. The site features a substantial
social-networking element, allowing members to form groups, add comments and
recommend changes to content, and share information.
But in an online world that's already seen the shutdown
of Microsoft Encarta, which had lost the information-reference battle
against collaborative online encyclopedias including Wikipedia and Google's
and the Encyclopedia Britannica trying to gain on its middling online market
share by introducing a wiki-style collaborative element, how does a site like
Scitable potentially succeed?
For Vikram Savkar, the publishing director of Nature Education, the division
of Nature Publishing Group that has launched Scitable, the answer lies in
focusing on a niche-in this case, genetics-instead of trying to compete on all
fronts against Wikipedia and similar sites. Only gradually does he plan to
expand into other branches of the life and physical sciences.
At the same time, the site's social-networking and cloud-based collaborative
aspects make it quicker to update than most scientific and peer-reviewed
"We can react quickly if there's a need for an upgrade," he said.
The collaborative elements of Scitable were considered essential from the
beginning of the process, seen as necessary for the site's potential growth.
"Britannica didn't pivot fast enough," he added, to face the rise of
collaborative-based sites such as Wikipedia.
Plus, unlike other cloud-based
platforms that require five-nines uptime in order to deliver their services,
an academic site doesn't need to serve quite that degree of reliability.
Just as with the enterprise, Savkar views smartphones as playing an
increasingly vital role in education; his road map for the medium- to long-term
sees the development of applications designed to deliver educational content
from the cloud onto peoples' devices.
Such steps, he said, could allow Scitable to potentially "scale up to
millions of users."
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.