Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Scientific American: Great Magazine, Awful Website

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The scientific method is about continual improvement towards greater accuracy and understanding of our world.  A similar method of improvement can be applied to all endeavors in all areas where improvement can be used.   Thus, it seems strange to me that Scientific American, which is on the vanguard of scientific innovation, is paradoxically one of the worst websites when it comes to how that scientific information is shared.

Here are the major problems as far as I can see:

Lack of Integration between ScientificAmerican.com and SciAmDigital.com

When I subscribe to the digital version of a magazine, I would like it to be smooth and easy to access.  The Economist does a great job with this, where all articles are on their main website, and those that are only available to subscribers, only show the first few paragraphs, and then require a log in.   With Scientific American, not all the content is on their main website, there is a different login between their 2 websites, and it is difficult to know what is from the magazine, and what is from their other content.  I want to be able to just log in to one website, and easily find whatever was in the print magazine, or search the archives to find all articles that might deal with a topic I’m researching.

Poor or Non-Existent Embedded Metadata

Properly citing previous research is one of the bedrocks of scientific writing.  With websites becoming so critical to sharing scientific information, it is important to be able to quickly get all the info from an article, including author, issue of magazine, etc.   Websites can provide this via a few technical methods including Embedded Metadata, COinS, etc.  While ScientificAmerican.com has Embedded Metadata, it doesn’t include the author, or issue that an article is from.   The SciAmDigitlal.com doesn’t have any metadata that is easy to import into a citation tool, such as Zotero.

No Digital Subscription Option for Scientific American Mind

While this might be a business decision on the part of Scientific American, it still annoys me.  Since my major field of focus is Education which is an applied social science and applied neurology, many of the articles I want to read are in Scientific American Mind.  But my digital subscription doesn’t have this!  Nor can I seem to buy it, and I have to pay nearly as much per article as I would to buy the print edition.  But I don’t want the print edition, as I can’t search it as easily.

I can’t be the only one who sees these problems

I am sure I am not alone in being annoyed and dismayed with Scientific American, and these issues seem so blaring, it truly surprises me that they haven’t been fixed.  I am interested in hearing comments about others experience with their website, and I’m going to send this blog posting to them, to maybe get their response, and hopefully get better future improvement.

 

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Written by Jacob Walker

October 1st, 2012 at 6:33 am

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  1. […] implementations.  I have written in the past about what I don’t like about the web site of Scientific America.  Today, I’m going to kvetch a little about The Economist‘s attempts at using […]

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