From the Financial Times: Google’s ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: “The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as ‘What shall I do tomorrow?’ and ‘What job shall I take?’ ”
To test the plausibility of this idea it is worth translating it into special type of professions. Instead of focusing the current bunch of revitalized Google products and features (iGoogle, personalized search, universal search) backing a distant aim as described in the FT article I’d like to ask myself what type of platform and information would be proper for me as an experimental stem cell researcher to have the ability to tell me what I can measure next, which cells and concentration to use and what hypothesis to test? What various Google products are good for in the present situation for the experimental scholar is quite general and profession neutral: hunting the literature partially, finding contact info for cooperation, visiting conferences.
What I perceive here is a kind of reality distortion field concerning Google’s aims and its present usefulness for the whole scientific community. I mean Googlers can do a whole lot more for organizing the world’s scholarly information and making the life of a scientist easier and no doubt they’ll do it. They are just not there yet.
The Google Scientist Beta, intended to be the default scientist type of the web age, is painfully in Gamma mode. The time, when scientists can lean more heavily (ad absurdum: only) on Google products seems far far away (hope I am wrong).
Yes, Google Scholar gets better and better, but it is not working as the main information source in academic knowledge and peer-review articles, with individual searches, with topic searches, with journal searches. Is there a way to get RSS feeds of specific Google Scholar searches and put them into Google Reader, just like in the case of PubMed feeds? I don’t know. Is there any cross-reference between Scholar findings and Google Patent results? No idea. What about some special Google Docs and Spreadsheets, a Google Office for scientists with a reference organizer, an online laboratory notebook, a peer-review article maker and text editor?
It may sound as too critical, but with Google, your expectations cannot be too high.
At this moment, Google products are aimed for general users and for commercial users. It’s perfectly acceptable as the source of the billions/year revenue is the business world, not the science world. But as Google’s core mission is making the world’s information more easily accessible, they’d better concentrate a little bit more on the critically reviewed high-end scientific information part of it.